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Cheryl's Musings

Cheryl's Musings: July 2010

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


More Character Exploration

wingsHad a blast from the past last night when the kitchen staff at my sister’s ski area got a bit overwhelmed by the influx of hungry motocrossers. I jumped in to help take orders, deliver baskets of chicken wings, and replenish the frontside coolers.

The difference between past and present was that this ski area restaurant has a bar, where I had to do crazy things like distinguish Bud Light from Budweiser and Coors Light on tap from the stuff in the bottle and discover that there is no Bat’s Blue beer.


Can you tell I’m not a beer drinker?

But tending bar…that could be kinda fun, at least if you always had as friendly and hyped-up a crowd as we have here tonight.

Maybe a bar tender isn’t the kind of character to show up in most of my children’s fiction, but I could definitely see revisiting the small mom-and-pop restaurant kind of work that I remember being such fun when I was in high school. Hard work, don’t get me wrong, but fun. I like interacting with all kinds of different people, which I don’t do as much in my safe little world these days.

And I like being able to go home afterward and decompress.

:) Cheryl


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IMG_0952Today, I discovered a whole new sport: Moto-cross. Not MOTORCROSS, as I learned this morning, but MOTOCROSS, a sport where riders of all ages navigate dirt bikes around a hilly, bumpy, jumpy dirt track in a noisy and extremely impressive-looking manner.

IMG_0953It’s a little hard to see, but the next picture shows one of the riders catching some air going over a bulldozed dirt mound on the track. 

Why, you ask, am I foraying into the moto-cross world? Because my family runs several small ski areas in Pennsylvania and New York, where the ski season runs only three months at best, so they’ve been exploring alternate ways to generate income on a snow-free ski area. This was a suggestion from a friend of a bartender’s boyfriend (or something like that), and it’s turned out to be a good one. Tonight is the second practice event—apparently, there will be a race/competition for actual money the first weekend of August, but courses often offer practice events so riders can familiarize themselves with the course.

I asked my eight-year-old nephew, Micah, if he’d like to try moto-cross, since there are quite a few kids his age out on the course on little 50 cc bikes. (At least, I think they’re kids: they could actually be hobgoblins or elves, because they’re completely hidden beneath their protective gear.) “No,” he said. “It looks like fun, but I think it would hurt a lot more if I fell over than when I fall over skiing.”

I don’t know…it looked mighty fun to me. It’s a really nice crowd of people, too, who apparently all know each other, because they all go to the same events and such.

Of course, you know where this is going: yes, I’m thinking what an interesting story premise or situation I might pull out of this sport. Maybe a book about a girl who wants to race or…

Except, of course, I would never DREAM of plotting another book while I have several waiting on my to-rewrite pile…

:) Cheryl

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Portable Prose


I’m writing from the road again, this time from PA—and I have to say, the scenery couldn’t be more different than when I last wrote. I’ve traveled from the desert sunshine of Lake Powell, Utah, to Potter County, PA, where the world is green and lush and—for my first few days here—very, very wet.


Eastern Traditional Archery RendezvousSince I was traveling here for the Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous, you’d think this would be a problem, but the rain cooperated. Mostly. That is, it cleared up long enough for some outdoor fun on Friday and Saturday, and when it rained, well, we wanted to spend some time checking out all the vendors inside, right?


My writing brain is a bit dizzy right now, though, because I have so many projects to think about. (Yes, I’m on vacation. This is what I do for fun. Think about writing projects :).) These include:

  1. Setting research for my next book, which will take place in PA. (I love Pennsylvania. I love it even more as I look at it with a writerly eye, taking note of ferns and skunks P2161089 and the smell of crushed mint along the streams and the way a sudden downpour floated a bin of t-shirts right out of the big tent at the archery festival….)
  2. Putting together a few nonfiction queries for new magazine markets I’m trying to break into.
  3. The YA rewrite (Voice), which seems a little less daunting if I look at it slantwise, like when I’m hiking or driving down a rainy road.
  4. And, of course, the miscellaneous to-do’s needed to keep current projects moving forward: reviewing an article galley, answering emails, collecting and processing manuscripts for the Rocky Mountain Chapter SCBWI’s 2010 Manuscript Critique

Maybe that’s what vacations are for: letting old ideas simmer, collecting new ideas, recharging, and playing. This is my “working” vacation, the one where I’m carrying about notebooks filled with prose and projects…but I don’t feel like I’m working. I feel kinda like I’m playing hooky to do all the writing things I don’t usually have time to do.

And that, dear readers, is a very good thing!

:) Cheryl

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Things I love about writing on the road

Summer vacation descended on my household like a flash flood: sudden, overwhelming, and somehow unexpected, even though we do live in the flood plain, so to speak. I guess I'm one of those people who gets so absorbed in the present that I perpetually forget about what's coming down the pike...or maybe I'm just a goofball. That's also a distinct possibility.

In any case, I like getting out and away from the hamster wheel of cooking, cleaning, email, errands...there are still things I have to do when I'm traveling, but it's different.

But I digress. What I really wanted to write this post about was how travel can enrich your writing life. Hope I inspire you to hit the road this summer--and bring along your pen!

Things I love:

1. Removal of distractions clears my mind.
2. Change of scenery inspires new setting details.
3. Change of scenery triggers ideas for nonfiction articles.
4. People-watching: travel takes me out of my usual Boulder circles.
5. Long car drives provide uninterrupted time to talk, think, listen to a new book on CD, or read aloud to each other.
6. Escape from the usual bombardment forces everyone to find other kinds of entertainment--like cards, photography, badminton, and practical jokes.
7. Quiet time let's my wandering mind come up with lots of ideas and frees creative blocks.
8. Ample opportunities to eavesdrop on conversations and quirky actions perfect for character development.

The key to a writing vacation, Cheryl-style, is lots of unscheduled, unstructured time--and that's what I'm getting this week. It's heaven.

Happy writing!


-- Post From My iPhone

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On the road again...

I've taking writing on the road again, as the kids and I take advantge of my flexible work schedule to do a bit of traveling.

The question is: will I actually get any writing done? Or maybe I should ask: Should I actually get any writing done? Because the truth is that I've managed to slide into that unfortunate state of overwhelm, where I'm working on so many projects in so many directions that I feel like a crashed computer.

I had grand visions of querying a couple magazines with article ideas related to this trip (destination: Lake Powell) but it didn't even come close to happening. And I'm glad. I'm looking forward to a bit of time when my only writing is deadline-free.

Time to recharge and fill up with writing inspiration! I hope to report back soon, but may be off the grid. Go figure :)


-- Post From My iPhone

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A brief hiatus... I head into the mountains for some camping, reading, relaxing, and so on. Yes, it will be tough, dear readers, but I will shoulder this burden and return to you in a few days.

:) seriously, I'm hoping to clear my head and make some progress on this danged* rewrite. In the past three days, I've decided that my story is about five or more different things, all of which seemed perfect at the time and horrific a few hours later.

Now, my head is spinning so much I'm not sure the story is about anything! Wish me luck as I seek clarity and inspiration!

:) Cheryl

*Autocorrect wants to change "danged rewrite" to "fanged rewrite". Oddly appropriate, don't you think?!

-- Post From My iPhone