About Me

A New Year

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A new year is once again here. When I was young, it seemed like time would not move fast enough. I spent my summers wishing for school and my school years wishing for summer. IN the past couple of years, even when school has been horrible or the heat has been unbearable, I’ve tried to focus on living in the now. As a planner, that is no easy task.

2013 was amazing. IMy friends and family are good and healthy, my marriage is thriving, my home is beautiful, my puppies are happy, and I’ve been writing almost everyday. I wrote another novel in 2013, read a lot of books, and enjoyed my life.

For the last two years, my resolutions have been writing centered, and this year will be no different. Well, maybe a little different. This year, for the next 364 days, I want to succeed at writing everyday. I’m going to go through the novel One Year to a Writing Life by Tiberghien. I want to push myself in more directions than just fiction. I want to try my hand at some fiction that is short, write some creative nonfiction, and journal without feeling like I’m not writing “what I should be writing.”

So, my writing and reading resolutions for the new year.

1. Read 52 books.

  • 52 books means reading one book a week. In summer I can do more, but during school I feel this is an admirable goal.

2. Review the books here!

  • This serves a dual purpose. I want to blog more, therefor if I am reviewing the 52 books that I read, that will be at minimum one post a week. That’s a win.

3. Write everyday- for fun!

  • I write a lot, but I sometimes forget that I love to write. I make this crazy difficult deadlines for myself and forget to enjoy the process. Whether fun means a journal entry, a blog post, or words on my WIP, I want my writing to be fun.

So, there you have it. If you are interested in following what I’m reading, add me as a friend on GoodReads! Happy New Year people!

Day 21-26: Catch UP

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I know, I know. I’m behind. Luckily for you all, I’m very good at catching up. This will be a whirlwind of information that will leave you feeling like you’ve only seen snapshots of my life instead of reading my autobiography. It is what it is.

Day 21: Write about your most embarrassing moments.

In the same way that it is difficult to make me angry, it is also difficult to embarrass me. I think I am most embarrassed when I think that I am right, only to be proven wrong. When I was young, I was always right. Now that I’m a little bit older, I rarely ever take a side on anything because I realize that right and wrong aren’t always exclusive.

Day 22: What is your style?

If you had asked me this question in high school, I would have had to answer punk/goth. It’s kind of funny that I thought I was so “hardcore” when now I’m just normal. I really love the hipster look, so I would probably associate myself with that.

Day 23: Write about one of your guilty pleasures.

Chips and Salsa. Hands down. I could almost eat chips and salsa for breakfast. You all know that I am fairly healthy. I eat clean most of the time (excluding holidays, I am from the South remember). I love salty chips paired with super hot salsa. It is what it is. Another guilty pleasure is the movie Legally Blonde, but we’ve already talked about that.

Day 24: Write about your day.

Christmas Eve was a whirlwind of packing to go to Orlando. For Christmas this year my mother and father-in-law  purchased the entire family a trip to Universal Studios in Florida. That’s right, I got to go to Harry Potter Land.
PicCollageI almost cried when I walked into HP Land. It was like coming home. I know you think I’m being dramatic, but I cannot explain to you how much Harry Potter meant to me growing up and how much it means to me now as an adult. We had butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks and rode a couple of dragons. I decided that Slytherin should be my house, even though I don’t like my house’s bad name. I got a Slytherin mug and Nathan got a Ravenclaw mug, we both got scarves for our house, and we got a Hogwart’s crest blanket. It was amazing and I loved every minute of it.

Day 25: If you could meet one fictional character, whom would it be?

This is the post that will be most difficult for me, mainly because I have no idea how to choose just one. If I said Dumbledore, I would want to say McGonagall; if I said Harry, I would need to include Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. So I’m going to exclude Harry Potter from my list of characters. Doing that makes it a smaller list, but still huge. Would I meet Tom Sawyer and ask him about growing up? Or Kendra and Seth in the Fablehaven Series? There are all the characters in The Great Tree of Avalon series that I fell in love with growing up, as well as Ben and Sorrel and Firedrake in Dragon Rider by Funke. Most recently, there is Alba in The House at the End of Hope Street, so much like me and so different all at once. I just can’t decide. I have read too many books and had too many characters help me find my way to choose just one.

Day 26:Explain why you chose your username.

When I become a published author, I will still teach. I am Mrs. Bazyk at school and as an author I will be C.C. Riley.

This is where I will stop for today. Tomorrow I will catch up the rest of the way. Again, I’m sorry for all the posts all at once, but a family emergency caused me to need to leave town unexpectedly. I will happily tell you all that all is well. Happy Christmas, and any other holiday that you may find yourself celebrating.

Day 17: Write about someone or something that you miss…

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I’ve been teaching at Rogers New Tech for about five months now. In that time, I have learned that ninth graders can in fact do their own research and think their own thoughts. I’ve learned that they can, most of the time, be trusted to do their work, even when I am not hovering over them. I have learned to use my own judgement and to trust my own instincts because they are typically dead on. The most important thing I have learned is to value a Growth Mindset.

Mr. Morley, one of the most brilliant men that I have ever worked with, talks a lot about “failing up,” the idea that if you fail, just like Edison said, you have learned a new way not to do something. At our school, the emphasis is, or at least we facilitators are trying our hardest to place the value on the learning, not on the grade.

At New Tech, we are going against a lot of societal norms, especially in the school system, because we are saying NO to teaching to the test. We are saying that we value learning. We’re saying that there is a different way to learn for every child and it is our job as teachers to figure that way out. We’re saying that sometimes a kid is going to have to fall down to realize the value of working hard, and that they should be allowed to fall down as long as we are there to give them a hand up when they are ready to get back up again. That is the shift in thinking that America as a country must make before we will be able to “catch up” with our European and Asian competition in the education field.

Something that I miss is college; not college the way that I did it, but college where learning and experience took precedence over a grade. I miss learning about new things. I hate that I dropped my math major because I got a high B so I thought I wasn’t going to be successful in the other math classes. I hate that I didn’t take anthropology and philosophy classes because I would have loved them. I hate that I was so focused on that GPA, the one that no one has ever looked at, that I missed out on a chance to learn something new and become a better person.

I miss learning more than anything else. Luckily, that is something that I have control over. What do you miss?

P.S. Remember to go check out what Madi has to say on the topic and follow along with us in this December Writing Challenge!

Day 11: A Recipe and a Story

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Today is day 11 of the December Blog Challenge that Madi and I are working through, and neither one of us is in high school anymore. We decided to switch it up a bit, and since we both love cooking, we thought that sharing a recipe might be a great way to get us both into the holiday mindset. 

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My family is made up of really strong women. My grandmother, Aloma, spelled and pronounced Alamo when you want to see her get annoyed, had three daughters, my Aunt Paula, My mom, Stacye, and my Aunt Niki. As the fates would have it, today is my Aunt Niki’s birthday, so happy birthday to her! 

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There were so many different times in our lives where men just weren’t present. The only constant that I can remember growing up was Uncle Jason, Niki’s husband, and he is a story in and of himself. At one point, in a house that I really can’t remember, all the women lived together; all I really know about that house is that it was called “the house on Moses Street” and it will always be called that. 

After a few marriages, life took on a more normal routine. We all lived in separate houses and had separate lives. More children were born and I was no longer the only niece, grand baby, or daughter.  I feel like I adjusted well. 

Even though all of these normal things were happening, every once in a while, all the women would get together again. One of the houses that we lived in was gray and  on five acres. There was a gravel circle drive and a basketball goal for me. We would have horses and cows occasionally, and I really loved this house. 

Sometimes, we would get lucky and the men would go somewhere at the same time. It didn’t really matter where because the going was all that mattered. Aunt Niki, Aunt Paula, Mamaw, Taylor, and Nic (who at this point did not count as a boy), would come over to the gray house to spend time with Dallas, me, and Mom. 

Everything in the gray house was smaller than normal, except for the kitchen. My mom and I painted the bottom half of the walls red and the top half was painted to look like leather. Everything was decorated in chili peppers and the kitchen and dining room were big enough for all of us. 

Now, before this recipe will make sense, you have to understand that the men in the family don’t like a lot of veggies. They’re what I call “meat and potatoes” folk. Anytime the women got together, you could be guaranteed that whatever we were cooking would have lots of veggies in it. 

This recipe is one of my favorites because of the happy memories I associate with it. I know there was fighting and bickering and probably more than one temper tantrum from my little sister, Dallas, but these memories, the ones where we are all standing in the kitchen or leaning across the bar talking are some of the most important that I have. 

Oh , and last thing before the recipe: we don’t measure. “Just eyeball it” is going to be written on all of our tombstones. 

Ingredients:

  • Angel hair pasta
  • cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
  • capers, drained
  • bacon bits (homemade is better)
  • asparagus, fresh, not canned, and cut into a more manageable size
  • lemons
  • any other veggie you are fond of

Directions: 

In a pan with olive oil, cook the sliced asparagus, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts until tender, salt and pepper to taste. Boil water, olive oil, and salt in a large pan. WHen asparagus is tender, add all other ingredients, including fresh squeezed lemon juice. Cook noodles “until they taste right: and combine all ingredients. Top off with a few extra bacon bits. 

There you have it. This is my go to recipe when I’m feeling a little bit homesick. What is yours?

 

Day 10: Free Day!

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Day 10: Free Day!

One of the interesting things about this December Challenge is that every day I’ve had a prompt to follow, and I’ve pretty religiously followed the rules. I’ve also been finding great blog topics on my own, which is something that I’ve struggled with in the past. Today is a free day and I feel as excited as a kid whose teacher announces to the class that school is letting out early. I can’t wait to see what Madi writes about on her free day!

 

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A couple of days ago I was perusing through HuffPost Books and I found a really interesting article titled “The Daily Routines of Haruki Murakami, Freud, Jane Austen, and Other Great Minds Revealed.” The article includes excerpts from a book titled Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work.

I think this is true of most artists in general. We want to know about those who have made it. In the writing world, we call it The Writing Life, and it is this term we use to talk about a creative life in writing. Being a writer, or artist, or musician is very different from just holding a 9-5 job. It’s every day, all day commitment. I go to the store listening to conversations of those around me for inspiration; I walk or drive to see things and then ask myself how I would describe it if I were writing about it.

We, as writers, have these two really popular myths that we are fighting against. One is of the solitary writer in his sometimes basement, sometimes attic office with crumpled papers strewn about the floor. This writer is usually depicted with his hands in his hair frantically searching for the right words while Yorick provides dark inspiration from a corner of the desk. The other image is the even less appealing artist who is dependent on drugs or alcohol to induce creativity.

hate both of these images, mainly because they aren’t accurate and because I don’t fit into either of these images. I would postulate that most writers don’t fit into these two categories. And seriously, the guy in his office is never a woman. Never.

I think, and after listening to Mike Mullin, author of the Ashfall series I’m certain, that the one constant for those successful creative people is that they work their asses off. Most of the time they have day jobs and husbands and children, and yet they still write; they still produce words or music or art. They put in the hours.

In high school and middle school, I played a lot of sports, but basketball was my favorite. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit a growth spurt until the summer before eighth grade. It was so frustrating to put in all those hours of practice (at school and on my own) only to ride pine during every game. But, my frustration never caused me to miss practice. I never quit and I was steadily getting better. I started on Varsity every year from eighth grade to my senior year and my junior and senior year I was the team captain. Those hours of work that didn’t produce much gain were very worth it.

I think this hard work mindset is true in every field, not just for athletes or writers. So here is my creative schedule:

Monday-Friday: Wake up at 4:55 and pour coffee into creative mug (the mug is one of my weird-isms and I drink out of the same cup everyday), write until 6. Go to work and be inspired by my pretty awesome learners. After school, work out then cook dinner with Nathan. Second job time or reading, or just hanging out with Nathan until bed.

Saturday-Sunday: Wake up by 6:30, get coffee in same creative mug, and write until I can’t anymore. Throughout the day if there are spare moments, I spend those writing as well.

One of the things that all of the writers in the Huff Post article shared is that they had a routine that they fought to keep. Whatever your creative pursuit may be, you have to put in the hours. They are often long and grueling and without fail they will produce crap that you can’t do anything with, but that is okay by me. All that practice in 5-8th grade paid off, and I have no doubt that this will pay off, too.

What are you spending your extra hours on? Or, what do you wish you were spending your extra hours doing? Well, tell me, then get to it!

Day 8: How did you discover Tumblr?

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December Challenge Day 8 is upon us. Don’t forget to 1. follow along as my friend Madi at And So I Did and I journey through this challenge and 2. click on the button to participate with us!

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The prompt asks how I found out about Tumblr, but as I have explained to several of my learners, Tumblr just doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe one day. I did reserve my name thought.

Instead of Tumblr, I’m going to talk about how I got into blogging. At some point in my freshman year, second semester, I think, I took Intro to Creative Writing. I think that this class was where I learned that being a writer wasn’t all about writing books, it’s more about the act of writing. Writers write poetry, short stories, memoirs, music, and sometimes novels.

I was spending a lot of time writing and my friend Jerry Stewart helped me set up my blog. I’m not going to lie though, since I started the blog, I have been very inconsistent. This December challenge is probably the most posts in a row that I’ve ever done.

In June of this year, I really started focusing on what makes me really, truly happy. I have one of those obsessive personalities with things that I love, but the problem is that I often forget about the other things that I love. When I first began my getting healthy journey, it seemed that everything I did revolved around that. When I was most focused on writing, writing was all I ever did. Same with reading and redecorating and anything else that I get obsessive with.

In June, I really focused on finding balance. I started by just writing in my journal everyday, began reading everyday, and continued running. In September, I started writing a novel, but I didn’t solely focus on that. I kept running and reading, at least until NaNoWriMo time, and even during NaNo I read three books, continued my visits to the gym at least four times a week, and more than met my word count goal.

Now, I’m adding blogging back into the mix. What I’ve learned is that when I started blogging, and even why, doesn’t really matter much. Blogging gives me an outlet and an audience, even if most of them are friends and family.

Blogging, for me, is about achieving balance in my life, about writing and sharing and loving every moment in this world that I have built.

What do you do to achieve balance? What are the things that you have to do to keep yourself happy?

Day 6: My Favorite Quote

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Day six is upon us, and Madi and I are still quietly tapping those keys. Don’t forget to let us know if you’ve decided to participate, even if it’s just one day! Today is all about quotes.

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As a writer and a reader, quotes probably could have made an appearance in my obsessions post. Every book, every speech, every extended dialogue will have these moments of purity that look into the soul of the human experience and make sense of a small piece of it.

I don’t know if I could choose just one quote because there are so many that speak to me and who I am and who I am striving to be.

I spent a lot of my life taking things in, whether it was information or ideas, I just took it all in. Now, as a woman who wants to write, I realize that taking things in isn’t enough. I can’t be content to keep my thoughts to myself, they have to come out in my writing or I’m not being honest.

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The quote that most recently has had an impact on me is one that one of my Writer’s Block kids introduced me to. Carlos Fuentes said, “Writing is a struggle against silence.”

That’s really why I write, why some paint, why some capture instances on film, why some draw. We don’t want to be silenced, and we live in a world where too many people are being quiet.

What is your quote?