Category Archives: homework

How to Keep Writing When Depression Strikes


by Lillian Csernica on June 6, 2017

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Yes, it’s that time again. Life’s daily stressors combined with two or three sudden unwelcome surprises have left me waging guerilla warfare against my own depression. This comes at a particularly bad time. I have writing opportunities to make use of, commitments to fulfill, as well as organizing the celebration of my younger son’s graduation from high school.

These things are very difficult to accomplish when it takes a massive effort of will just to drag myself out of bed every morning.

I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone in suffering the crippling effects of depression, whether temporary or chronic. In keeping with the Buddhist philosophy of “taking positive action for the good,” I offer this list of helpful ideas.

Why Writers Are Prone to Depression

Writing Your Way Out of Depression

Neurological Similarities Between Successful Writers and the Mentally Ill.

7 Ways to Help You Write When You’re Depressed.

The Writer and Depression (Chuck Wendig)

The important thing is to keep writing. Make lists. Brainstorm. Letters to your imaginary friends. Anything that keeps the pen moving. Suspend judgment and blow off the Internal Editor. Just write. One day at a time. Just write.

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What do you do when depression gets you down? What helps you keep the pen moving? I would love to hear your ideas and coping strategies. Let’s see how many answers come in before Friday, midnight. I will roll the appropriate die, the winner shall be chosen, and that winner will receive a free ebook copy of either The Writer’s Spellbook or The Fright Factory.

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Filed under creativity, Depression, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, homework, memoirs, neurodiversity, publication, research, romance, science fiction, steampunk, sword and sorcery, therapy, Writing

Reblog: 6 Annoying Things Writers Are Asked To Do And How To Ask Anyway


Are you thinking of asking a writer friend for help with something? Maybe you should think twice.

Source: 6 Annoying Things Writers Are Asked To Do And How To Ask Anyway

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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, homework, publication, research, Small business, Writing

How to Escape Giving Negative Critiques


by Lillian Csernica on August 23, 2016

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Whether or not you’re involved in a writing group, there comes a time when one of your fellow writers will ask you to read his or her manuscript. If this person has already done you the favor of reading one of yours, you are more or less honor bound to return the kindness.

If you and your colleague are at a comparable level in your writing skills, this could turn out to be a very pleasant and profitable exchange of ideas and perspectives.  This is the best case scenario, and the reason why I urge anyone seriously considering joining a writer’s group to bear in mind these potential issues.

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Sooner or later, the moment will come when you are faced with the terrible prospect of reading a manuscript that is so bad that every page is absolute torture.  No amount of cheery and euphemistic commentary can conceal the fact that this particular stack of paper besmirched with little black ink marks is really, really bad.  Your eyes ache, your fingers are cramped from making copy editing marks, and you’re left with the unhappy knowledge that reading this mess has taken up hours of your life that you will never get back again.

What can we do to protect our sanity, our writing time, and the integrity of our relationships with colleagues while still sparing ourselves the ordeal of forcing ourselves to endure really bad writing?

Honesty  There are some types of fiction that do not appeal to me, so I rarely read them. Regency romance. Westerns. Space opera. Really gruesome horror. Since I don’t read much in these genres, I’m not a very good judge of what works and what doesn’t according to the usual reader expectations. Therefore I can step aside with a clear conscience.

Time  Life gets more and more crowded every day. Finding the time to do our own writing and editing can be difficult enough. Making time for additional critiquing may not be possible. If one has a standing commitment to a regular writing group, that’s one thing. That commitment must be honored. Outside of that, however, a judicious application of the word NO might be essential.

Referral  If you know somebody in your circle of writing acquaintances who might be willing to take on the burden of this critique, present your appeal with full disclosure.  If your colleague agrees, make the connection between the owner of the manuscript and the willing victim, give them your blessing, and exit stage left.

What do you think? Am I being reasonable here? Or am I being to harsh in declaring some manuscripts way too much of a not very good thing?

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How We Survived a Three Convention Weekend


by Lillian Csernica on June 4, 2016

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Hi, gang. I made it through all four days of Clockwork Alchemy, BayCon, and Fanime.I would have written this post sooner, but the sudden discovery of John being WAY behind on preparing his Final presentation/exam in one of his classes caused me to devote what energies I had to making sure he met today’s deadline. I love that boy dearly, but some days he makes me crazy.

The weekend was packed with memorable moments.  This was John’s first time really participating in conventions.  (He did make a brief appearance at the Meet the Guest Reception of one BayCon about ten or twelve years ago. We had to keep him away from the buffet and out from under everybody else’s tables.) It was a spectacular weekend!  John even won a Hall Costume Award for his steampunk attire.

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Technolo-John meets Mega Man!

John had quite a few adventures, including playing the communications officer aboard the Starship Artemis. He made a light saber in one of the DIY workshops, and he discovered the joys of hanging out in the Hospitality Suite having munchies and watching “Wheel of Fortune” on a big plasma screen.  That might sound silly, but I was pleased to see John guessing the solutions with everybody else.

At Fanime, all the people in costume blew John’s mind. He’d been hoping to meet some of his favorite superheroes. Sure enough, one man was dressed as Nightwing, and one young lady wore a Raven costume. Raven told John how much she liked his steampunk outfit. That had him walking on air!

Business was good. I sold all but one of the anthology copies I brought with me.  Gave away all the beaded space-theme bookmarks and the Japanese art print bookmarks, all of which had this here blog’s URL on the back.  Shameless Self-Promotion! John got to see people asking me for my autograph as I signed their copies.  This is my idea of Take Your Kid To Work Day. Now John knows that I really am (kinda) famous.

Yarn Doll

Courtesy of Leigh Flynn

At Clockwork Alchemy on Sunday morning I had a good time teaching the Victorian Yarn Doll DIY.  Yarn colors included forest green, wine red, and navy blue, as well as what I like to call the “steampunk rainbow.” This is a yarn made up of several jewel tone colors suitable for the steampunk era. Traditional Victorian yarn dolls are either boys or girls.  Out of respect for the gender fluid community, I wanted to provide materials that were both inclusive and diverse. If you’re interested in making yarn dolls, Pinterest is a gold mine of methods, styles, and materials.

Mixy Award

This is the Mixy Award, created by Steve Mix in honor of those people who he feels deserve recognition for their ongoing contributions to fandom and the convention community.  At this year’s BayCon, Steve granted me the honor of presenting the Mixy to none other than my best friend and co-conspirator, Pat MacEwen.  Convincing her to bring the spiffy clothes and dress up on Saturday night was a bit of a challenge, because of course I couldn’t tell her why.

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Steve Mix was also responsible for the D20 challenge.  Several of us who are gamers past or present brought our best D20s to the con.  Whenever some of us would cross paths, we’d roll against each other. Best of five was the general rule.  Whoever won got to keep all the dice involved in that particular round.  I brought five D20s with me, and I left with five D20s, so I broke even.

In the bar of the San Mateo Marriott, the tables are glass.  That meant that in the evening when we had anywhere from three to seven people rolling at once, we made a glorious racket!  (I have to give the staff of the hotel credit.  They embraced the weirdness that is fandom like good sports.  The valets were having a great time collecting badge ribbons.) Steve has the best D20.  It’s made of some kind of metal, and it rolls high and hard.  I told him he should name it the “Deathstar D20”!

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The Snow Jedi

I’m going to break one of my own rules here and post a photo of myself in my jammies. That is indeed the very light saber John made.  This goes to show how much fun I was having. I actually asked Pat to take a photo of me looking like this. This had to be my best Clockwork/Fanime/BayCon ever!

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So, How Was Your Day?


by Lillian Csernica on May 16, 2016

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My day began at 4:15 a.m. when Michael had a serious coughing fit.  Fortunately, I’d fallen asleep on the couch again, so I could dash through the kitchen to his room.  I spent the rest of the night on the couch in his room, getting up every time he had another coughing fit or I didn’t like the way his breathing sounded.

He had no fever and his blood oxygen level was OK, so I sent him to school

Took a nap.  Did my laundry.  Tried to get more writing done.  Failed miserably.

It's not the destination, but the journey that counts. Unless you're stuck in traffic. Then it's the destination.

Picked John up from school.  The usual traffic chaos ensued.  I’m not sure which I want more, an air horn or a laser cannon.

Drove to the tire repair center so I could get the new right rear tire put on in place of the spare.  Yesterday I got my first flat tire.  That was not a pleasant experience.  Had to call Chris for help.  It being Sunday, no garages were open.

The tire hadn’t come it yet.  It would arrive within the hour.

So John and I sat in the Burger King across the parking lot.  He did his homework and I cut more text out of the synopsis for Sword Master, Flower Maiden.

The Tire People called me, put my tire on, and I took John home.

Michael was not doing well.  The coughing situation continued at school.  My sister was on duty with Michael this afternoon.

I happened to go next door to talk to my neighbors, the ones on the left side, not the ones on the right who have the child I refer to as the Cute Little Hellspawn.  The man makes guitars and has forgotten more than I’ll ever learn about all the different parts and the amplifiers and speakers and all the other equipment that goes with playing guitar.  I spent most of an hour there listening to him talk about his guitars and play a few for me.

So of course, when I went back home, all hell was breaking loose because nobody knew I was next door.  My fault.  I should have said something before I left.

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We were out of Benadryl.  I had to drive to the store and buy some.  So I did.

I get home, and my sister had called one of our R.N.s, who said Michael would do better to take Tussin than Benadryl.  Did we have Tussin?  Sure, two doses worth.

So I drove back to the store.  Mind you, it was after seven p.m. and I hadn’t even managed to eat dinner yet.  I was tired, grumpy, and my vision seemed a bit blurred.

That’s when I realized I’d left the house wearing my computer glasses.

At the drugstore, there was a Perfect Storm of a new, inexperienced checker at the register, the customer ahead of me had a ton of items, and the debit card reader was acting up again.

I am home now.  I have a pile of manuscripts to read.  I have a synopsis to edit.  I have laundry to fold and put away.  And then there is the list of things I still have to do to get ready for BayCon and Clockwork Alchemy.

So tell me, how was your day?

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On Tour in My Own Back Yard


by Lillian Csernica on October 18, 2015

This weekend Santa Cruz County held its Open Studio Art tour.  The city of Santa Cruz is known as a haven for artists of all kinds.  What people often don’t realize is that up here in the mountains we’ve got a lot of artists as well.

John’s ceramics class had a serious project to complete.  Each student had to go to at least three of the studios on the tour and do what amounted to an interview.  The project worksheets included questions about what mood the artist was trying to create, comparing two different pieces by the same artist, and how the artists the student chose to visit could inspire that student’s own artwork.

John comes from a long line of artists on my mother’s side:

His great- great-grandmother ran a modeling agency back in the 1930s.

His great-grandmother wrote a society column for the newspaper, raised some amazing roses, and created artwork using textiles and ceramics and other media.

His great-grandfather was a professional photographer and filmmaker.

His grandmother sketches and paints, as well as creating multimedia artwork.

His mother (that’s me!) has worked as a professional bellydancer, and actor, and currently as a professional writer.

John is primarily a graphic artist, but he’s learning how to use computer graphics, clay, and other media.

I steered John toward three artists who live here in the San Lorenzo Valley.  John and Michael have lived their whole lives in this area.  It’s good for John to know he doesn’t have to go to a museum to see art.  What’s more, on the tour you’re allowed to see the artists’ studios where they create the pieces on display.

First Studio: Janet Silverglate.  Ms. Silverglate creates art by using found objects, many of which are what most of us would consider scrap materials or just plain junk.  Her style of art is called assemblage.  Each work of art is one of a kind.  John and I were both drawn to a circular artwork that included pieces from several different games such as Scrabble tiles, chess pieces, old Bingo cards, and even some Pick-Up Stix.  The overall look and feel put me in mind of the Kachina dolls I’ve seen in the southwest.

Second Studio: Larry and Pat Worley

Larry Worley takes basket weaving to a whole new level.  My favorite piece was a woven seashell the size of a small suitcase wound around a piece of redwood driftwood.  Simply stunning.

Pat Worley is a textile artist.  One side of her display featured long, rectangular silk scarves dyed in rich, vibrant colors such as fuschia and aquamarine.  The scarves all had leaf patterns running the length of the silk in either silver or gold.  The other side of the display showcased what I thought of as small quilts because of the many pieces of fabric arranged to form patterns or scenes.  The dominant color scheme was black, brown, and rust, with maple leaves as a frequent motif.  Ms. Worley explained the method she used to make the fabric for these as “reverse tie-dye.”  Starting with black cloth and using bleach, she would coax a variety of shades out of the material.  Impressive!

Third studio: Bob Hughes.  To say that Mr. Hughes makes wooden boxes is to say Monet liked to paint flowers.  My favorite box was shaped like the diacritical mark called a tilde, used to denote the palatal nasal sound of the “eñe” in words such as mañana. Mr. Hughes makes more than just boxes.  His vases and candle holders combine varieties of woods, or woods and metals.  Mr. Hughes was kind enough to explain to John, using a guide with step by step images, how he made a particular vase.  John is a visual learner, so this really helped him understand Mr. Hughes’ artistic process.

The artists were all happy to know I wanted John to get a wider understanding of how many ways people create art, and what’s inside them that wants to be expressed.  Getting a good grade on the project is important, but more than that, John has so much potential just waiting to come out through his drawing skills.

Take a look at your local community arts news items.  You’d be amazed what’s waiting for you in your own back yard!

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