What’s Next?

“2016 was the worst.”

If you haven’t seen or heard that expression at some point during the year, I would be beyond impressed. Between dramatic shifts in the political climate, worsening of humanitarian crises across the globe, and a slew of celebrity deaths, it’s been a tough year for humanity and the planet.

Not everything was terrible about 2016, however. Renewable energy sources have grown more affordable than every, there were notable moments of compassion amidst the chaos of mass shootings and civil wars, and despite an overwhelming number of dissappointing blockbusters, surpising gems such as Zootopia, Doctor Strange, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them delighted audiences (review pending on the latter, since I may need to see it a second time).

Personally, 2016 was rough. I waded through tricky employment situations all year long, which in turn led to some serious effects on my writing productivity. Hence, my absence since early November.

I also realized I’m not nearly as well as I thought I was, mentally. Someday soon I’d like to write it all down and share those revelations to people, but not just yet. I’m still figuring it all out.

It wasn’t an awful year, though. I took several road trips to visit people and meet some new ones, connected with a bunch of incredible writers and learned a whole bunch about how the world worked.

As a writer, I took ninth place in a writing contest, finished both the first and second drafts of Elements, and started my second novel, Uncommon Eyes. Not too shabby, and there’s definitely room to grow.

Writing all this down certainly helps me look at everything anew. Yes, this past year was a challenge, but there was a lot that came out of it that I’ll be able to build on moving forward this year. A positive attitude goes a long way, right?

Since it’s the time of making goals, here’s what I plan on doing for my writing this year:

  • Send Draft 3 of Elements to an editor, possibly an agent, by March 1st
  • Submit five short stories to magazines (only one of which is written and polished)
  • Write the first draft of Uncommon Eyes
  • Publish here at least twice a week: one blog post on Monday, one review every Wednesday, and (if possible) one story or writing exercise every Friday

That’s all I can think of for right now, as far as getting things started for the new year goes. For better or worse, 2017 will be an exciting year for everyone out there. Here’s hoping it’s more positive than 2016 overall!

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Best News Ever!

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I recently participated in Jeff Goins’  ‘My 500 Words’ Challenge. One of the challenges was to write about waiting. In this particular case, I wrote about the long wait to hear back about an offer for the best job ever.

How about you? What was the best news you had to wait for? Write about it, and share it below (if you dare)!

Dorm rooms in Spring Break are creepy. Every creak and groan of the buildings are audible, and every draft echoes through the halls. Add the buzz of just finishing a rewarding Spring Break building homes in Miami with Habitat for Humanity with the impending approach of the end of the semester with no plans for the summer and I’m in one heck of a headspace.

I had applied to work at Philmont, the best place on earth. I’d been there this past summer and fell in love with it. The tranquility of the blue mountain sky and the gentle breeze on the trail did something to me that I’ve yet to capture anywhere else. I longed to be a Ranger (a backpacking guide), but I would work any job as long as it meant living in paradise, even in the dining hall.

I had turned my application in around Christmas. That was four months ago, and so far nothing. No phone calls, no emails, no postmarked letters, nothing. I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to find a job in a restaurant or a store or something mundane. I know Mom and Dad would be happy having me at home, but a whole summer in the suburbs would be the worst.

I unlock the door to my room. Even though there was maybe one guy on my floor, the habit of locking my room was so ingrained that I did it on instinct. Lunch was terrible; there was no salad bar out, and I couldn’t stand the cheap burgers and cardboard pizza they served during breaks. I shut the door behind me and reach for the frosted flakes on the top shelf. I power up my laptop, shoving a handful of cereal into my mouth. Maybe I could try to find Doctor Who on the internet. A few people had mentioned it to me, saying that I might like it. It’s some British show about aliens and time travel and whatnot. First things first, check email. Another habit I struggle to break to this day.

School email shows nothing important, just a few bulletins and whatnot. My personal email account is also mainly junk. I delete them without a second thought, wondering what websites out there are most likely to have Doctor Who-

An email from Barbara Garcia sits in my inbox. I don’t know a Barbara Garcia, but just as I’m about to delete it I notice the title of the email: PHILMONT JOB OFFER 2011. My hand shakes as I double click on the email. It reads:

 

Dear Mr. Meyer,

 

We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected for the seasonal position of Ranger 1 for the 2011 Philmont Scout Ranch Staff! The dates of employment-

 

My hands shake even more as I set my laptop down, a huge grin on my face. I rush to the door, throw it open, and take a huge breath. I sprint down the hall, whooping and skipping every few yards. I glance around sheepishly, relieved that no one else witnessed my excitement. I’m going back to Philmont!

Unusual Pair

Inspired by an exercise from The Write PracticeDialogue is super important, yet it’s tricky. This is a little cheesy, but it was fun to write.It helped me take a break from writing Elements and practice something that I’ve definitely struggled with before.  Enjoy!

“Dude, are you sure about this?” I asked.
Sal shrugged. “Yeah, I checked the map. It’s the trail to the north.”
“Alrighty then,” I said, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“Please. I’ve been hiking way longer than you. Iknow how to read a map.” She started to hike, saying “Oh, and don’t call me ‘dude’. I’m not one of your bros.”
“Yeah, sure.” I pulled out a Clif Bar and opened the wrapper. “You get out here often?”
“Not this park, no, but my Dad got me involved in Scouts when I was pretty young. I’ve hiked a lot.”
“I thought Girl Scouts just sold cookies.” I bit into the Clif Bar, peanut butter and chocolate saturating my taste buds.
“Not Girl Scouts, Venturing.”
I swallowed and asked, “What’s that?”
“It’s a part of Boy Scouts. They’re co-ed and they do more high adventure stuff. Backpacking, rafting, that sort of thing.”
“Hah! What kind of girl joins Boy Scouts?” I took another bite.
She stopped at the first switchback. “The kind that can whoop your butt on these trails.”
I shook my head. “Please.”
She punched my arm. “You wanna bet? First one to the peak decides what we do for dinner.”
I smiled. “I didn’t realize we were doing dinner. I’ll take that bet.”
Sal opened her water bottle and took a sip. “You want any before we start? I know you’re out.”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“Hey, I’ve got a question for you.” She said, taking a sip of water.
“Shoot.”
“You’re the biggest bro I’ve ever met. You party almost every chance you get, I see you at the gym whenever I’m there, and don’t forget about those polos and Sperrys.”
“So?”
“So why’d you ask me out? I’m totally not your type.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, I…why’d you say yes? I’m definitely not your type either.”
Sal shrugged. “I don’t know. Let’s talk about it at Freddie’s tonight. Best barbecue in town.”

“Freddie’s? No way, I’ll make way better barbecue.”
“You can
not be a good cook. Now I’ve gotta win.” She sprinted up the trail.
“I’ll make the best damn ribs you’ve ever had!” I shouted, hot on her heels.

Out of Place

It’s been a while since last I published anything. I started a new job a month ago and until recently didn’t have access to WordPress, not to mention being incredibly busy with training. Now that everything’s settled I’ve figured out how to get on WordPress again and I entered another writing contest (but more on that later). Here’s a story from when I first started taking writing a bit more seriously. I may turn it into a series, who knows?

The noise in the room was unbearable, and the air reeked of booze. My feet stuck to the floor, and the concrete walls of the windowless room reminded me of a prison.

During orientation week my freshman year of college, I didn’t go out every night partying like a lot of the kids. I was perfectly content to take it easy and make the adjustment to college without throwing in new things like booze and drugs. Besides, social skills weren’t my strong suit.

Partway through watching a crappy movie-I think it was Robin Hood or something-a couple people I knew from high school invited me to go out, and I thought “why not?” What’s the worst that could happen?

John thought we had to take Park Street a ways, but the rest of the group thought the house was in a different direction. I was just along for the ride; there was no point in chipping in to the conversation. After a couple wrong turns we began following the pounding bass. That had to be the right direction.

Butterflies started dancing in my stomach. I had lived a rather sheltered life, and everything I knew about college parties I learned from my friends and the media.

Finally, we stumbled upon the source of the pounding bass: a frat house.

It didn’t truly resemble a house when we got inside, more like a stylized dorm. One half looked nearly identical to my floor: a narrow, carpeted hallway with easily a dozen doors on either side. Some dude in a t-shirt and backwards hat let us in and mentioned something about the basement. I can only assume he did, since that’s where my group started meandering. That’s how I found myself in a sticky, noisy basement.

Three tables were set up with red cups on either side. It wasn’t terribly crowded- more dudes in backwards hats flirted with attractive girls while they played pong. Some people were sipping on beer, some were throwing their drinks back. Me, I just stood to the side with my friends. I couldn’t say anything to anyone, it was so loud, nor would I have known what to say. That’s when I started to regret coming.

A big guy with light brown hair and jeans walked over and started talking to us. The rest of the group engaged him with no problem. I continued to awkwardly stand there, answering questions when he asked me directly. My awkwardness wasn’t entirely my fault- more often than not the music drowned out everyone’s voices. Since joining a fraternity, I realize he was probably rushing us and asking us the basic questions such as “Where are you from?” or “What are you majoring in?” It also explained why he offered us all shots.

My heart raced. The only time I ever tried alcohol was when I was twelve. It was a sip of beer, and my uncle joked that the sheriff would arrest me that night.

However, it was college. I might as well try it, right?

I followed the group upstairs to the guy’s room. Several shot glasses lined the top of the dresser, each being filled with Southern Comfort by the guy who generously offered the shots (another rush tactic). A glass was passed to me, and I took it with my right hand. Everyone else had accepted their glass.

As we raised our glasses in a forgotten toast, I couldn’t help but wonder: is this really such a good idea?