Notes from Val’s Desk

May 3, 2011 by in category Blogs tagged as , , with 0 and 0
Home > Writing > Blogs > Notes from Val’s Desk

………gee, this desk is a mess! I had it Saturday. It was there on my memo board, held fast behind a ridiculously cute magnet. Now, when I need it the most, where IS it? I really wanted to share this news with everyone. Let’s see, when did I have it last? Of course…..I was working on the May Orange Blossom Newsletter………………found it!

Saturday, October 8, 2011
(Embassy Suites-Brea)

“Romancing the Pages”
Orange County Chapter/RWA Celebrates 30 Years!

OCC/RWA Honorary Member and New York Times best-selling author SUSAN MALLERY
Mary-Theresa Hussey, Executive Editor—Harlequin

$40/person (includes meeting fee) for RWA Members
$50/person (includes guest fee) for non-RWA members
(PayPal links for reservations starting May 14th.)

Prizes & Surprises (so far…..)
Kindle eBook Reader, Kobo eBook Reader, gift certificates,
author critiques and baskets galore!

Watch for updates in forthcoming issues of the Orange Blossom Newsletter and on OCC’s website.
Here’s a good idea:
Why not stay over Saturday? Fun stuff is planned for the evening!! (Or, how about a “get-away” weekend—stay over Friday & Saturday nights. Discounted room rates apply for both nights.) Make your reservation today!!

Location: Embassy Suites
900 East Birch Street
Brea, CA 92821

Phone: 1-714-990-6000 (Reservations)

Event: Orange County Romance Writers
October 7-8, 2011

Code: XOR

Rates: King Suite (non-smoking)
—$119/night (plus tax)
Double/Double Suite (non-smoking)
—$99/night (plus tax) for a
—Breakfast included.

Questions? Please send an email to

  • This blog is writing related only in the sense that I’m writing it. And, (to those who know me) sometimes I like to begin with the definition of my “topic” word, which in this case is quite impressive.

So here it is:

vol·un·teer (noun)
· a person who chooses freely to do or offer to do something
· a person who chooses freely to enter into any transaction with no promise of compensation
· a person who serves as volunteer, usually without compensation
· a person who freely chooses to offer or give without being asked or obliged

I am by nature a very curious person. When I was growing up, my mother (who was handicapped and never wanted to be noticed) always made me sit quietly and watch. Watching is definitely not my idea of having fun. As a result, I became a first-class observer and an excellent listener. It took a few years to take that first step, but I finally got my butt off the bench and have been running ever since. Today I am a dyed-in-the-wool VOLUNTEER and darn proud of it.

It’s so much better to be involved than sit on the sidelines. To me, it’s like looking at sparkling Christmas lights through a window and wanting to touch. Today, and with no regrets, I think about the adventures I’ve had, the places I’ve been, the interesting people I never would have met and the wonderful friendships I’ve made. I’ve learned and developed new skills from artfully arranging goodies on a tray to getting up and speaking to a room full of people. Volunteering doesn’t have to be vocal; what you do can be done “behind the scenes” as well. But most important is the feeling of satisfaction knowing that your efforts may have contributed to something or someone in a positive way.

Maybe you say you don’t have the time or worse, you’re all volunteered-out. I took a little hiatus from volunteering just once. It didn’t take long for me to realize that a part of my life was missing—that connection with people and what was happening out there in the world. I couldn’t wait to get back in the game and I did.

I have to be honest. More than once I should have said “no” instead of “yes” and then felt burdened with a little too much to do. So do your homework. Be realistic about how much time you are willing to devote so you won’t “burn out.” What are you interested in? What will give you the greatest satisfaction? What would make your life a little more interesting? Find that event or group you’d like to be a part of—they may need you as much as you need them.

Now, get out there and volunteer for something!!!

It’s been a busy 30 days and the month of May isn’t promising any free time either..…work, family, OCC stuff, craft projects, reading list, blog posts, etc., etc., etc. The shiny magnetic board hanging in front of my desk doesn’t have an available clean space on it. I’ve created so many layers that some of my favorite colorful, eye-catching magnets won’t grip anymore. I definitely feel overwhelmed.

So, in a determined effort to “get a grip” on my time, today’s post will be brief. I removed my favorite kitty-face magnet (the first layer) and six or seven scraps of paper floated down, landing in a random pattern on my already cluttered desktop. The first message, boldly printed on a scrap of neon-orange scratch paper, reads: Print signs for OCC meeting. Here’s another, quickly scrawled on a snippet of pattern tissue: Finish hem on sundress. Number three: Work on event page for June.

Oh, here’s a good one, actually written with a gold gel pen on a glossy scrap of magazine paper: Work on writer’s block! Okay, I have to be honest. This is not the typical “writer’s block” you may be familiar with. This is an on-going craft project using a 4” x 4” cube of unfinished wood.

I think I’ll tackle this one first. But first, I have to get all these notes off my desk…..I need room.

(Maybe I’ll post a picture next month.)

Spring is here. And, so are the layers of dust that go unnoticed during the dark winter months. I passed by one of my bookshelves last weekend and actually thought I heard a little cough. Out came the Swifter.

As I concentrated on dusting the many books and putting a gleam on the rows of shelves, I picked up a small decorative picture frame. Sandwiched between a backing board and a dull piece of glass is one of my favorite little snippets of writing. I’d like to share it (the writing, not the dust) with you. This was written by Winston S.Churchill and is titled Thoughts and Adventures from “Hobbies,” a collection of essays published in 1932.

“What shall I do with all my books?” was the question; and the answer, “Read them,” sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.

I think I’ll pay my writing books a little visit…’s been a while and I need to fondle them.

I forgot how to spell commitment.

So, I’m just writing along the other day and came to a screeching halt when I had to spell the word “commitment.” I stopped and stared at the line I was typing and the blinking cursor waiting for me to continue the entry. Next I stared at my fingers hoping that they would just magically move on their own and finally, I stared at the ceiling expecting those elusive letters to be glowing like a neon sign, but nothing happened. One “t” or two “tt’s.” Nothing. I simply couldn’t remember.

For crying out loud, how could I forget how to spell? I was once a spelling champ. I know that commitment is hanging out somewhere in my brain along with judgment. They are both sitting back and laughing at me and just too lazy to get up anymore.

This happens more and more often than I care to admit. I get annoyed (and rather distressed) at all the little things that seem to be difficult to do—mentally and physically. Actions and thoughts that used to be so easy and second-nature are now becoming past history. Oh well, it’s not like I’m the only gracefully-aging person on the planet that this is happening too. I happen to know I’m in very good company. I plan to grin-and-bear it and move along.

And then there is the definition of commitment (which is what I was thinking about in the first place):

1. the act of committing.
2. the state of being committed.
3. the act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself.
4. a pledge or promise; obligation
5. engagement; involvement
…and 6 more definitions.

1605–15 (Oh, Lord.)

I intended to write this blog about commitment and how important it is for success in any of life’s endeavors. I have made a commitment to write this year and finish my book. I know I can and will do this. I’m just having a little problem with words that don’t want to come out and play anymore.

Motivation? Where art thou?

Last month (along with 50+ other writers) I attended OCC’s first special event of 2009–the very successful Diane Pershing “Plotting” Workshop. Right up to that sunny Saturday morning, I wasn’t sure if listening to Diane would help my plot problems. Actually, I only had one problem. I didn’t have a plot.

But I went—optimistic and eager and ready to absorb everything Diane planned to share with us. I was attentive and listened to every word. Not only was Diane helpful but she made sense. So much sense that I came away with a much clearer understanding of traditional and innovative plot methods used by writers of all genres. I was brimming over with new ideas for my own story and eager to get them on the page. I was charged up. I was raring to go. I was m-o-t-i-v-a-t-e-d!!

The next day or so after the workshop, while my new story ideas percolated around in my head, I re-organized my office, my writing space and my working files. I reorganized my schedule so I would have regular, uninterrupted time. I re-organized my notes and then my old, stale plot. This flurry of pre-writing activity worked because I wrote every day for a week. I got to my chair on time. I ignored the email. I steadied myself and said “no thanks” the lure of the Internet siren. I was so good.

Then, as usual, things started to happen. My perfect new writing schedule was sabotaged by unexpected “emergencies.” I ran out of cat food. I had to work late. I had to go into work early. Everyone else wanted a chunk of my time. And when I was finished distributing pieces of myself and my precious time to everyone else and everyone else’s needs, there was nothing left of me for me. I lost my motivation. Don’t know where it went, it just vanished. I’ve been looking for it for two weeks now.

As of today there are 22 posts on A Slice of Orange with “motivation” as the theme. I’m going to read them, one by one, and pray that even one piece of advice will work for me.

I’ll let you know what I learn because I really had fun writing…..for a while.

To-Do Lists, Plans, Plots (and Maps)

If you called me on New Year’s Day I would tell you that I’m sitting at my desk stacking various bits of paper into little groups. I have a cup of coffee, soft music is playing and I have gently pushed my fuzz-ball of a cat off these mini stacks of paper for the third (but not last) time. I am seriously engaged in my annual project—sorting through all the “to do” notes I made the previous year.

Some to-do’s I can happily check off as done, some are now little wads of paper piling up in my trash can, and some (that apparently were not that important) will be moved to my nice, new 2009 calendar for a second chance. However, there are a few—showing their age–that have moved from year to year to year. Although these particular “to do’s” have a prominent place on my bulletin board, for some reason known only to my subconscious, they were not given the priority they deserved.

  • Here’s one (written on a bright green 3×5 card with push pin holes in it): “plot my novel (focus on historical timeline)”
  • Here’s another: “get synopsis and first three chapters done by the contest deadline” (this note was clipped to a now-expired entry form)
  • Yet another: lose weight (that’s another story)

These three faithful notes are definitely moving to 2009. Can you spell o-p-t-i-m-i-s-t?

I seem to be a writer who can come up with a great idea, blast through the first, second and even third chapters without hesitation but then, wham! I always hit the proverbial brick wall. And, it seems to take a ridiculously long time for those little dings and bumps impressed in my forehead to smooth out. The momentum is lost and time passes by.

Why? It’s obvious that I didn’t have a plan (or a plot for that matter). I didn’t know where my story was going because I didn’t have an outline, plot, plan, map or whatever label you fancy. For a note taker and list-writer like I am, this situation could have been avoided. Why don’t I take the time to write down some simple directions? I work for an architect. I know the value of those detailed drawings and sketches—the step-by-step illustrated information absolutely necessary to get a structure built. I also love maps. I find myself in awe of intricate old/antique maps, especially the ones drawn in pen-and-ink on sepia-colored paper where the map maker/artist has detailed every single line–every twist and turn. Winding roads, streets and lanes, hills and dales are precisely “plotted” so the traveler knows exactly where to go to arrive at their destination.

So I compared this map idea to plotting. Many writers suggest creating a plot outline. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Why not keep it simple (beginning-middle-end), print it out and post it near your computer screen? Or, if you absolutely must, you can go crazy and get a big white board and cover it with brightly colored sticky notes–a different color for characters, settings, viewpoint, scenes, dark moments, bright moments and even plot lines. (Believe me, I read this once in a how-to-write article.) If I could remember where I read the following quote, I’d give proper credit: “A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.”

So…..create your “map” and start following the directions. It won’t cost a dime to revisit your old notes and files. We are all at the beginning of a whole new year with 362 unused days in it. Claim some of those days for yourself and start, re-start, edit, revise, finish, or submit your novel! (Think RWA Pro status or better yet, First Sale!) Notes from Val’s Desk will keep you posted on my 2009 writing commitment (among other things). In the meantime, what are your plans to map out directions for 2009? Is a plot in your plans?


Here’s another little slice of orange…..on Saturday, January 17, 2009, OCC (Orange County Chapter-RWA) is sponsoring its first special event of 2009..…a “One-Day Plotting Workshop” presented by our very own OCC member, multi-published author and current RWA National President Diane Pershing. Diane promises to get you there to those final climactic scenes. She will encourage you to think, she will help you to create, and she will make you laugh!

Those of us who have had an opportunity to hear what Diane has to say about the craft of writing will agree: Don’t miss this excellent opportunity to get your plot moving along (or move along and get a plot). You will see me there with my notebook and pad of sticky notes. Enroll today before it’s too late.

Visit for all the details and enrollment information.

Copyright ©2017 A Slice of Orange. All Rights Reserved. ~PROUDLY POWERED BY WORDPRESS ~ CREATED BY ISHYOBOY.COM

%d bloggers like this: