Learning 2 B Lucky

I started submitting short stories and flash fiction about the same time I became a slush reader for an online zine. The combination brought me to a luck-is-needed realization. Getting noticed among the clamor—hundreds upon thousands of stories submitted each month—takes more than talent, smarts, and hard work. It takes luck.  

And while I’ve never considered myself to be an unlucky person, I found myself asking the universe for an inordinate amount of luck.

Now that I’m querying a novel, I’ve decided that learning to be lucky is essential.   My go-to has always been research. Heading straight for Google, I entered “learning to be lucky” and found Richard Wiseman.  

Wiseman is a British psychologist investigating the lucky and the unlucky. Based on his research, it is possible to #Learn2bLucky—or at least, luckier.

While I haven’t completed my research, I have learned that lucky people are more open to opportunity than the unlucky. According to what I’ve read, unlucky people tend not to notice opportunity when it presents itself—possibly due to anxiety or worry. When opportunity arises, lucky people, on the other hand, charge ahead and take risks.

Calls for submission, writing contests, and the like cross my computer every month. In the past, I’ve looked for prompts rather than submission opportunities. This month, I looked for matches between the calls and stories I’ve already written. Found two. Submitted two. We’ll see what happens next.

Still waiting on outstanding queries and planning to look at #pitchwars in June. Meanwhile, I’m focused on #Learning2BLucky.

Asymmetrical Parterre Part 2: The Pond

Five or six years ago, I bought a solar bubbler on one of those online auction sites. It costs $2 (free shipping) and I had a vague idea of using it in a birdbath.

When the idea of a parterre came to me I knew I wanted a “water feature.” Maybe a fountain, maybe a mini-pond.

During a visit to Iris, Daylilies, Perennials, I noticed a plastic tub, dug into the ground, filled with water. That was exactly what I wanted. One plastic tub later–purchased at our local Orschlens–it was a simple matter of digging it into the ground.

Well, not so simple. The rocks that supported the 500-gallon gas tank had sunk deep into the ground, forcing a dig through rocky clay soil. But we persisted.

Jim, of course, brought out his level. Assured that the tub wouldn’t dip more on one side than the other, we filled it with water and brought out the $2 bubbler. Amazingly, it worked. Will it continue to work? Time will tell.

I bought water plants–someday I may have a red water lily–and planted a few irises around the “pond.” With as much rain as we’ve had, the site is mostly mud and the pond is overfull.

But next week: the bench, the path, and–who knows–maybe more plantings. Or some pots. Or a statue.

Suggestions welcome!

Cloudy Sunday

Another cloudy Sunday, but will it rain? We’ve already had more than five unnecessary inches of rain this week. The backyard is squishy and marshy and full of puddles. We can’t mow.

The flowers love it. The veg do not. I doubt I’ll get a single decent tomato this season, and pill bugs–Armadillium vulgare? I’m not a bug person, so I’m never sure of proper names–have infested my lettuce.

Meanwhile, here is a photo of an old cottonwood tree stump that Jim believes will turn back into a tree. The interesting part is the nest I found while trying to cut back the suckers. Since we have broken robins’ eggs all over the yard, I suspect baby robins lived there for a time.

Here’s to another possibly wet Sunday. Wishing each of you a good week to come.

Sleep, Creep, Leap

Gardening and writing. Amazing how similar they are in process. Writing seems to also follow the old adage when planting a new perennial (a plant that returns, year after year).

In the first year, the plant sleeps. Most of the process is happening below the surface of the soil, putting in roots, establishing itself in space. The second year, the plant creeps. Slowly, new growth appears. And finally, year three, the plant leaps into the glorious beauty it is meant to be.

Writing is a lot like that. First draft, getting ideas on paper (on screen). For a while, it may seem like nothing’s happening. Words and ideas get tried and tossed. The product at the end of that first draft may read ugly. Onto the revision—maybe one, maybe more. Ideas coalesce. The right words appear as if by magic. And finally, editing polishes the whole until the manuscript is ready for publication.

Sleep, creep, leap. Gardeners and writers require the same character qualities: patience, tenacity, and enough fortitude to not rip things or discard a draft too early in the process.

Still waiting for replies to the queries I’ve sent out. Meanwhile, a new WIP is far enough along to be in the “dirty middle” of the process. The character milestones and outline are done. I’m ready to start writing chapter seven.

Asymmetrical Parterre

I love parterre gardens. For anyone who doesn’t know, a parterre is a symmetrical garden on flat ground. The design is typically formal and ornate. Maybe French. Maybe Victorian.

My parterre started with a truck frame. I’m not sure where it came from, but it lay flat on the ground for years. Finally, Jim and I supported it upright so that it forms an archway for short people–we are short–with four openings.

And that’s why the garden is asymmetrical. With four openings, we don’t have a true middle.

For another few years, I turned this space into what I called The Garden of Rusty Things. I even had a sign made.

I planted daylilies, a climbing rose, and clematis Happy Jack under the truck frame. A rock pile supported a 500 gallon gas tank (subsequently sold), surrounded by myriad rusty items–old garden tools, a wagon, a sink, a gate, an iron bed.

This spring, I decided I had enough pavers and stepping stones to create a parterre. I wanted a pond or a fountain, a bench, some plants. Keeping it simple. We surrounded a square bit of level ground with the stepping stones, creating a walkway.

We had black plastic trash bags on hand, purchased last year to cover the raised beds in hopes of killing weed seeds. Bags went under the stepping stones, again as a weed preventer. Pea pebbles are planned between the stepping stones, with rubber edging on the outside edge and pavers along the inner to keep the pea pebbles in place.

Stay tuned. Next week–the pond.

Dreary Sunday

Another cold, wet Sunday with an inch of rain over the last 24 hours, and up to five inches expected through Wednesday. The flowers are loving it, but the warm-weather veggies–not so much.

I gifted tomato plants this spring, and one recipient complained that hers weren’t growing. They will, I told her, when it warms up. But so far, warming up hasn’t happened.

My tomatoes planted in raised beds look water-logged and scraggly. I have a micro-climate near the house where I planted tomatoes in pots. They’re doing well–less water, more heat.

Even so, summer is on its way and soon I’ll have more tomatoes than I can possibly use. It’ll be time to pull out the canning supplies.

External Events and Internal Reactions

I’ve written before about taking on the Ray Bradbury 52 stories challenge. I learned a lot in that 2017 experience, including why it’s important to balance external events with the characters’ internal reactions.

Fill a story with too many external events and the characters can end up flat and stereotypical. Focus on emotions and thoughts to the exclusion of action and–uh-oh–where’s the story?

When I’m drafting a piece, I tend to stick to what’s happening. For me, rewrite is the time to ask what’s going on inside the characters. Even then, I sometimes miss those all-important emotional beats. As a fix, I play a little mindfulness game, blending the external and internal. That’s what I did in my flash fiction, The Wishing Stone.

A story with simple bones, the main character is gifted with an heirloom pendant that grants her wishes. When things start to go wrong, she moves from intrigued to worried to terrified. In under a thousand words.  

Since the physiological responses often need naming to mean anything—think sad and happy tears—I concentrated on the character’s experience of the world. In this piece, the character’s terror is shown when the pendant becomes a live coal on her chest. Her nightgown smokes when she inadvertently wishes her mother dead.

Staying mindful of how the external and internal worlds play on each other, helps me maintain that balance.