Cross-Eyed in Editing


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Let me talk about my writing. I haven’t done that in a while. I’ve noticed when writers blog about their writing in any detail my eyes glaze over. I like knowing what they are currently working on. I love knowing what their latest MSes are about, but I don’t want to read the details. You know, like what the main character is evolving into in the writer’s head or how the plot has taken an interesting detour. Hey, I’ve blogged about it, too. I know their pain, but I have my own details to slog through. So how do I tell you my struggles without boring you with something I know would bore me? Hm… I’ll give you one paragraph and let that be all.

burnt paper sxc (gerbra...)My manuscript Dragonfly Prince—the one I thought was the one? Yeah, that one. I’m ready to take it out of its binder and stomp on it. Or burn it. I’m not picky. It’s not a bad story, it just hates me. I think my decision to be rebellious and write my YA in third person was all wrong. It’s a whole lot of work to change it from third person to first person because perspective changes everything.

What if I go through all this trouble and it’s not right? Again.

Have you ever worked so long on something you can’t even distinguish what it really looks like anymore? I don’t want to give up, but this is the bazillionth edit. I still haven’t queried the manuscript! I want to do the best I can so I can say, “It’s done. Whether it’s accepted or not, it’s done.” It’s killer being a perfectionist…and an amateur.

Was that more than one paragraph? Oops. My frustration refuses to be contained in one paragraph today.

Photo from gerbrak at

Your Local Automated Library


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Being Library Lovers’ Month, I thought it only proper that the kids and I should head to our local library. Seriously, to go a whole month without a library visit is unheard of for us, but moving and sickness set us back. When we walked in, our new library felt all wrong to me. For one thing, it had one of those really high ceilings with lots of columns and windows in the roof with an office section in the center like a super column. Maybe the architect was going for openness. It was certainly impressive, but I felt like an ant. There were two librarians on opposite ends of the circulation desk. There I was, at the front of that massive desk, wondering which one to walk over to.

We toured the building to get acquainted with the layout. One of my kids commented on how loud it was. I’m not sure why it was loud—no one was talking. It didn’t have that cozy, considerate “Shhh! People are reading in here!” quality.

The kids wanted to know if they could check out books on Pokemon, graphic novel biographies, Lenape Native Americans, President Taft, horses, and princesses. So, we went to what I assumed was the online catalog, which was actually one of many kiosks where you scan your library card to check out books. Did I feel embarrassed when I figured this out? No because, at that point, I’d been to three different computer stations and none of them gave me the option of the library catalog. I was annoyed. I finally gave up and walked over to a corner of the deserted-looking circulation desk again to ask where the catalog was. Fortunately, they did have one. (I was beginning to wonder if I needed to use my phone to look it up.)

The whole library was impersonal. That’s what it was: impersonal. A library is a symbol of community. It’s the access point for local information on programs and services. It should exude a feeling of connectedness, friendliness, humanness. It’s so easy to log in to the online library and, with a few clicks, check out that electronic book for a couple of weeks. Easy, but impersonal.

I’m used to going to community-focused libraries with friendly librarians who greet me and my kids by name when we walk through the door. I’ve grown accustomed to checking the little exhibit shelves, advertising local talent of all sorts. If the alarm goes off in one of these community libraries, no one thinks anything of it. The patron just goes back and has the books scanned again—because, obviously, one didn’t scan properly. When the alarm went off in this building, everyone’s eyes went to the man walking out. I wanted to tell him, “Run! Flee with your books before they decide to do a pat down!”

Goodbye, community library! Goodbye, librarian who likes to wear the bright sweaters and waxes his mustache into curly cues! I’ll miss you. I’ll miss how you used to grin using one side of your mouth so that your mustache looked uneven. I’ll miss how you always slipped a bookmark into my latest selection and how you knew everything there was to know about hummingbird-watching—which I had no interest in at all until you showed me pictures of your returning hummingbirds. I’ll miss you because the library is now automated.

Photo from:

Words With Two Letters


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Since getting my smart phone, I’ve been playing lots of Words With Friends. I don’t play my friends because I’m embarrassed at how terrible I am at the game. I’ve played, oh, about 30-50 games against Realm. I’ve won one game. One.

Words With Friends via flickr:

Words With Friends via flickr.

The resulting ego plunge has left me less than confident in my vocabulary skills. (Disclaimer: Though I recognize a ton of words and know their meanings, I cannot pronounce them properly to save my life. I’d blame this on society, but provides an icon to listen to any word you look up…which I forget to use.) I mean, how can a writer who knows the correct spelling of omphaloskepsis go wrong? I think the answer lies in the amassing of little-known two and three-letter words, such as “qi” and “xu” and “qat.” My mom, whom I have yet to beat, uses the ingenious method of placing random letters together until she comes up with something like “vang” for an astronomical amount of points. Then she messages me, “I didn’t know that was a word!” Yeah, play innocent, Mom.

Realm knows I’m playing for serious. I want to beat him so badly. So, he’ll tease me while I’m making dinner.

“I played. Just to warn you, this one’s brutal.”

I let the green beans burn to check my board. Yep, he played “brutal.”

I’m desperate to master the skill of winning WWF. As hard as I try, I can’t seem to place my tiles on the right squares and find that perfect two-letter combination. And I don’t want to think about the time I waste on this ridiculous game, shuffling tiles and dragging and dropping nonsense combinations on squares. The blip of the “not an acceptable word” replays over and over in my ears as I try to come up with something remotely close to 10 points, a feat that draws me nowhere near Realm’s 60+ point lead. I think I’d fare better staring at my bellybutton in mystical contemplation of the cosmos. (In case you’re wondering, I pronounce it “cause-moss” now. Thank you, Joe Kurtenbach, for clearing that up in your post last week.)

One good thing could come of this. If I learn enough of these two-letter babies, they could replace the longer ones in my manuscript, reducing the word count considerably! I’ll be one with qi then.

Rilla Saves Space


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I think I should wear a cape while finding places to put things in our new house. It takes super powers to organize all this stuff! Granted, I’m no neat freak. On a scale of one to five—five being “slob”—I think I’m about a 4½. I’m okay with that. Not that I want to document my mess for anyone who happens to click on my blog post…

We have smaller closets, so I’m attempting to maximize closet space. I was very spoiled in our last house because I had a closet to myself. (You might remember, I liked to hide out in there to write.) Now that I’m sharing a closet with Realm, I refuse to give up having my dresser in my closet. Keeping my clothes in one location truly saves time. Unfortunately, there was no place to put my shoes.

Until… (Ta da! Ta da!)


I try to be sensible about my shoes…except for the ones with the mismatched shoelaces. Those were free.

I found this little shoe rack at Walmart. (Dear Walmart, You can always send me $15 for this plug. Your cheerful little consumer, Rilla Zerbert.)

In the bathroom I wanted to set out towels and toiletries for guests.

20140129bI bought the little white shadow box bathroom scene for 99 cents at the thrift store, along with the little pink tray holding the hand towels and wash cloths for $1.59.

20140129aI found the two-section shelf at another thrift store for $5.

Notice the magazines in the bottom section. You can tell from the lifted toilet seat that a male uses this bathroom. A couple of years ago, I learned a fascinating tip from Sheila Butt, a Christian mom of three Christian men and currently a TN State Representative. Here it is:

If you want your son to read something, put it in the bathroom.

Wisdom from a pro. That’s the reason for the stack of Discovery magazines from Apologetics Press in our bathroom. If you don’t think it works, try it. I cannot count the times my son has told me an interesting scientific fact and stated, “I read it in Discovery.”

Now to the guest bedroom closet, where I store items for welcome baskets to give to new members of our congregation. There are ladies who help me by donating gifts, so I needed a place for all these goodies. This is what I came up with:

100_1251I found the blue and green containers at the dollar store. I already had the shoe rack, which was too bulky to work in my closet. There is space behind the shoe rack to keep the rolls of cellophane for the baskets. I omitted a row to get to the rolls easily. I’m so motivated to see these containers empty!!

All this space-saving means I can sit down amidst my usual piles of stuff and write without the frustration of a dozen waiting boxes staring me down. Waiting boxes do stare. I saw one out of the corner of my eye while writing a poignant death scene the other day. And it shut its eyes in a flash when I looked up to catch it.

Next, I’m thinking craft center and a board game center. (Board games don’t get played if you can’t see them.) I just need to get a round tuit. :)

Clinging to the Ledge


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I went ice skating for the first time on Monday. Well, I tried to ice skate at least. For a gal who has very little coordination, I was simply thrilled to stand up in the skates. I was pulled toward the rink, where kids and adults flew past me in effortless abandon. It took me back to junior high, when I’d tried to roller skate. It wasn’t a good memory. Balance is not my strong point.ImageI slipped into the rink. Slipped, yes. I held onto the side of the rink. There was a narrow–I wouldn’t call it a rail–edge of the wall just below the plexiglass. I think I made claw marks.

I froze. My legs would not move.This is impossible, I thought. I am going to die. Those were my thoughts. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Much.

I looked at my daughter, holding onto the puny ledge ahead of me. She looked back and grinned. “Come on, Mom!” she encouraged.

If she could cling to the sides and find joy in it, then certainly I could make myself do something. I pushed my heavy foot forward. Both feet decided to slide around.

Yep, I’m going to die. More claw marks. More petrification.

I looked up to see daughter number two a quarter of the way around the ledge. She was a pro in my eyes. My other daughter was waiting for me. “Are you coming?” she asked.

‘No,’ I wanted to say. ‘I’m high-tailing it back to the warmth of the snack counter.’ Then I looked toward the snack counter and met my husband’s eyes. They were laughing eyes. That irked me. He wasn’t even getting on the rink! How dare he laugh at me? That’s when I decided I would skate. I would skate plastered to the ledge for one whole lap.

I’ll show him, I thought.

So, around the rink I dragged myself, gripping the ledge for dear life and moving with snail-like velocity. Then the inevitable happened: I found someone as terrified as I was. She was moving in the opposite direction.

“It seems we’ve come to an impasse,” I said, looking at her–the fear on her face mirroring my own. You might be wondering why I made such a stupid observation, oozing with social ineptness. She didn’t. She could care less what I’d said.

“I’m horrified,” she got out.

I tried to nod in understanding and almost lost my balance. I backed up until she could reach an exit, looking forward to using the grooves her nails had etched in the ledge. I felt like a hero when she escaped.

I met a man on the other side of the glass who kept thwacking his knee. “My knee is fine!” I assured him, but he couldn’t hear me. I finally realized, halfway around the rink, he was trying to tell me to bend my knees. I tried it. I almost died.

But I made it. And would you believe I kept going? I slip-skate-slid around the rink five times. I even let go of the ledge for short, slippery intervals. My girls skated around and across the rink. They were my heroes.

I want to go back.

photo credit: <a href=””>Anomalily</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Here’s the Catch…


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You guys know I love to cook. My daughter likes to cook with me. So, when a program came up to learn more about cooking for the girls in our church, I thought she would love it. Her twin sister wasn’t so enthused.20130604b20130604d

One of the criteria in the program was to gather 100 recipes for a personal cookbook by asking members of the congregation to contribute. Here’s the funny thing: My not-really-into-cooking daughter excelled at this. Her apron-donning sister, on the other hand, hardly collected any. Why? It was all about talking to folks. She said it was too embarrassing and hard to go up to people and ask for recipes. She’s good at cooking, but that wasn’t what she needed to succeed in the program.

This is so much like the writer’s dilemma! Joshua A. Sipper discusses the things a writer has to do to in his post, Life of a Non-Salesman, and gives some great tips to help a writer get his/her work out there. The bottom line: It takes more to excel as a writer than writing the story. Hey, we all know this! Unfortunately, that doesn’t prompt me to leap out there and take risks. Rather, I’m like my daughter, stepping back and shaking my head.

“You’re ruining the joy!” I wanted to say to the cooking program creators. “Why can’t you just let her cook?” But that wasn’t the sole purpose of the program, and we had to reevaluate.

It’s the same with writing. Every time I get to the point where my craft requires me to do something I absolutely hate, I have to remind myself, “Why I am doing this? What will I get out of this? Is it worth the end result?”

The answer is it’s worth it because it means more opportunities to write, which is all I want to do!

Lost in the Move


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Doesn’t it feel great when you’re unpacking a box and you reach in to find the box is empty? That you unpacked it all? Yeah, I start humming, “Another One Bites the Dust.” Of course, there are about 5 bazillion more to go, but that’s okay because I am so in love with my new house! The storage and rooms are smaller. I’m finding that’s a good thing. I’m having to declutter. Be warned: I’ll probably go rogue for a few posts and tell you some neat little tricks I found for saving space. I might find it on Pinterest. (Did I really break down and join Pinterest after that rant about ridiculous Pinteresters? Yes, says the ridiculous Pinterester.)

Trashing all the things I didn’t have the courage to trash before is quickly becoming my favorite perk of this move. You know, like that book about how to decorate your entire house using nothing but household junk, such as gum wrappers, lens caps, and old toothpaste tubes. Okay, so I made that up. But I bet a book like that would sell! And someone would end up giving it to me for Christmas. Seriously, though, there are things people have given to me—which I do not intend to name because some of those people read this blog…or so they say—that I chucked during this move. I cannot tell you the freedom I felt when those things hit the wastebasket. It’s the whole “I’m never gonna do that! And as long as I have that [name of item concealed to protect me, the culprit], it will dangle in my brain as that completely useless project that I, maybe, should’ve done but never did!” I know this is totally me. No one else has niggling reminders all over the house that they never get around to.

The beauty of tossing these things is, if someone asks, “Hey, what happened to that electric ponytail holder stretcher I gave you?” I can say, “Um… I think that must’ve gotten lost in the move.” And it’s totally true! It was trying to make its way over and took a detour to the local dump instead. It’s in ponytail holder heaven now.

Well, I better get back to the boxes. They seem to multiply when I’m not looking.

2014-01-07 12.36.22P.S. Here’s the view of the backyard from my desk. Do you see houses? Me neither. I feel spoiled. The kids said they heard a rooster crow this morning. That could be interesting.

Our Ray of Sunshine


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Last week started out as a disappointment. My kids were supposed to spend the week with Realm’s parents while I went south and spent some time with my aunt and grandma. Due to sickness, we had to stay home. The kids and I stared at each other glumly until sunshine beamed down upon us in the form of a phone call from Realm’s mom, asking, “What if I come visit you for the week instead?”

I texted Realm the good news, and he responded, “She’s the best mother-in-law, isn’t she?”

Oh, she is!

A classic fairy with a wand

A classic fairy with a wand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes I think I live in a fairytale world when I consider the fact that my mom-in-law is my best friend. It’s true!

When Realm and I were in college, he made plans to go to a football game with his dad. His mom wanted to visit with him, too, but didn’t care to go to the game. Realm asked me if I would hang out with her, and that’s when I met Mom O (that’s what I call her). I would not have had such an excellent opportunity to know what a jewel my future mom-in-law would be if she’d been an avid football fan. It was fate that brought us together! Or the fact that neither of us gets a thrill out of a pigskin tossing. We spent the whole afternoon talking. I thought she was the nicest person. Where I was opinionated and rash, she was conscientious and thoughtful…and she was funny. On the way back to school, I told Realm, “I’d marry you just for your mom.” Looking back, my statement was pretty telling because I was dating someone else at the time. Realm and I had broken up.

Mom O and I share our joy of reading. I grew up in a house with bookshelves filled with books. She has bookshelves all around her house, too. So I feel right at home. Anything she reads and thinks I’ll enjoy she sends my way. She’s opened new worlds up to me, especially in fantasy.


CassandraAusten-FannyKnight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And she supports my craft. This isn’t an easy one because, as a writer, I’m always half-finished. Mom O will still read the first chapters with no ending and tell me what she thinks. She’s beta-ed many, many, many stories for me. She’s been my Cassandra, and I love her for the hours she’s spent on me and my scribbles.

She’s taught me a lot about cooking. I’ve watched over her shoulder many a time, asking all types of questions, trying to figure out what her secrets are for the best, fall-apart baked ham, the best cheese cookies, and the moistest pound cake. She says her secret is experience. She knows what she’s doing, and she’s good at it.

In the first years of our marriage, I was not shy about confrontation with Realm or with his family. There are many moms-in-law who feel it’s their duty to set an opinionated daughter-in-law straight from the beginning. There have been a ton of times that I’ve been set straight by my mom-in-law, but not by any harsh word of hers. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that her middle name means “peace.” Every word of advice she’s ever given me has been with wisdom and with love. Her reproaches have come in the form of her own patience and gentleness with me. It’s humbling, and I look up to her more each time I realize how often she’s been proven right without saying a thing.

I get so much from her example. Her principles are formed by God’s word. And when she sees how her grandchildren are being raised, how Realm and I are trying to bring them up with God’s precepts, she lets me know she’s proud of both of us. It’s a God-given blessing we enjoy every day of our lives as a generational family.

This is why the kids and I spent last week sniffling, sneezing, but smiling. We had Mom O to cheer us up.


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