Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Artist In Residence

How is everyone doing? It was slowly building but Oregon officially went to shelter in place today. Although they don’t call it that due to the other meanings those terms have been used for in times of emergencies. In Oregon, it’s a Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order.

My day job moved to at home last week. I teach in a hybrid online high school which is still in school. The part that I do on campus closed but the bulk of the teaching was already on line. This week is finally our spring break. It has been a long haul. I started this job seven weeks ago and the learning curve has been steep! I had planned to be at my cottage in Cannon Beach for the spring break week but due to my school going fully online and not needing to be on campus two days a week, I ended up coming out early and settled in. It’s easier to shelter in place when I have a backyard for my dog and spring is about to go full season and I can be in the yard.

One of the skills we teach our online high school students is how to block your time. It’s a good lesson and one I had to learn early in my work-from home days many years ago. Blocking your time gives structure to your day and a sense of purpose.

Some of my daily schedule doesn’t change from what I have been doing when I teach online, but some of the middle part of the day did with this week’s “artist in residence”.

So what does my schedule look like?

6:30-8:00: Greet the Day Make coffee, let the dog out, do small chores–empty dishwasher, etc. Read daily meditation books, journal a bit, check the news. (I hate to do this in that time period, but right now everything changes so fast I feel like it has to become a part of the morning check-in). This period has always been my morning routine and I put into place when I first began working from home and didn’t have to commute anymore. I don’t think well in the early morning hours and it’s not a productive time for me to work. I have held to it in my teaching online job too.

8:00-10:00: Art and Creativity Time. I signed up to participate in the Sketchbook Revival which is a fun free week long class in art and creativity. Today’s lesson was taught by mixed media artist, Carla Sonheim who I have known since 2011 and took some early classes with her at Journalfest at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. Today her lesson was box journal and blob drawings. Carla has lots of fun online classes which don’t take a lot of art supplies and can be done in short amounts of time. You can see her online classes here.

10:00-10:30: Break. Eat breakfast. I can’t eat much before this time, so at 10:00 I break and make a hot cereal, do a few more chores around the house (laundry, etc) and do a little stretching.

10:30-1:30. Writing. This week I am working on revising World is a Sniff. Luckily this morning in my email were two great FREE classes offered by Fiction University, Janice Hardy. One is on writing the novel and the other is on revision. I highly recommend these classes for either stage.

I am working through the revision class and today’s lesson was about identifying which plot structure my novel uses and identifying key points. I place this activity in this time slot because this is my most productive time of the day and revising needs a lot of my brain power.

1:30-2:30: Make lunch. Since I’m at home, I’m cooking lunch. Today was a Blue Apron meal and I made a cocoa cake which is a recipe from my Mom. It made the whole house smell great and it fuels that creativity piece for me.

2:30-3:00: Miscellaneous–email, blogging, setting up for tomorrow

3:00-4:00: Walk the dog. Cannon Beach removed all visitors for the next two weeks so we have a very quiet town to walk right now!

Evening Time: Varies: Reading, Zoom Yoga with my regular yoga studios who are doing Zoom Yoga, phone calls, tutoring an online student a couple times a week who has a different spring break, another walk.

Working from home can be challenging at first, but I have enjoyed the perks for many years now! Let us know how you are working and any tips!

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Finding the Good

Happy First Day of Spring! If we look at what is happening in the world right now it doesn’t necessarily feel like we should be celebrating spring. But, the beauty of nature is that it shows us there is a cycle at work always and after the darkest winters comes the most beautiful springs.

When I was twenty, I began attending 12-Step groups. My life had crashed to a standstill and I was being asked to look at how I did life. One of the early things I heard in those meetings was find the good. At the end of the day, name three things you are grateful for. That life crash at twenty was not the only one I’ve experienced. I recently went through a soul searching period in my career where everything came to a screeching standstill, including my finances, and I had to return to the basics of what I learned in those early 12-Step days. Lessons I carry with me thirty years later.

So I challenge you, find the good each day. At the end of the day, or at the beginning, list three things you are grateful for in this day. And one day at a time we do get through our dark moments.

Here are mine:

  1. I am finally getting to read those books in my To Be Read Pile!
  2. My Mom and sister and I started a Google Hangouts Book group in January, not realizing how important that would be now!
  3. It’s spring–and the puffins are returning to Haystack Rock! The daffodils are blooming and the magnolia trees in Portland are amazing!
  4. On my walk with Stormy on Wednesday afternoon, I saw many many families on bikes–dads, moms and kids. I saw Moms walking with their middle school daughters and one friend each. Finally! Family time!
  5. In February, I got an online high school teaching job, removing me from the substitute pool, giving me full medical benefits and a salary and thrusting me into the forefront of education right now. Our school is in session and enrollment is bulging. How I landed this job at this time will always be a moment of grace to me.
  6. I have more food in the house than I have had in years and years. I didn’t hoard anything but for the first time, I did full grocery shopping for ten days and everything is stocked. It feels very prosperous to have a full refrigerator and something I need to look at why I never allowed myself to do this before.
  7. I am so grateful to have my cottage at the beach which over the last three years became my home and community as I went through my own personal transitions in life. Those connections are priceless and the dog has his beach pals and I have my walking companions. This was the gift to come from my last period of personal crisis
  8. I live in a fabulous area–although we complain in the winter with our rain and wind, the reality is it’s an amazing area for nature and there are so many ways to social distance and yet still be outside.
  9. I have more creative projects than I know what to do with and maybe some of them might get done now.
  10. It’s nice to have the moments of stillness and not have to make excuses for why I don’t want to do something or feel guilty that I want quiet time.
  11. And finally……having gone through my own personal crisis, I know that although it can feel like everything is over in the middle of that crisis, the reality is each crisis I have gone through has birthed a new chapter of my life and they are always better fitted to who I am in that moment than the one that just ended.

So I challenge you, each day find the good!

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Fall on the Coast: A Dog’s View

A few weeks ago my story, “Fall on the Coast: A Dog’s View” was selected as one of the readings for the Cannon Beach Library Writer’s Celebration. The story is about a fall day in Cannon Beach told from the point of view of my cocker spaniel, Stormy. The story is an excerpt from my work in progress, World is a Sniff. Enjoy!

Fall on the Coast: A Dog’s View

In the middle of the night, I smell them. The dark and dank scent. I cuddle against my Human in the pillows and covers. I lift my head and stare toward the bedroom window. They are out there. The creatures who smell.

Elk.

I bury my nose against my Human and I only smell her.

In her sleepy state, she pets me. “Shhh…Stormy,” she says my name. “It’s okay.” I snuggle closer to her.  

In the morning, I leap out of bed. I retrieve my Human’s slippers and she serves my breakfast. My Human and I meet up with my dog pals on the coffee shop porch. Muffin and bagel crumbs land on the floor. My dog pals and I bump against each other in the dash for crumbs under the tables.

After coffee, my Human works on her computer and I snuggle beside her on the chair. After a while, I get bored. I use my best pleading whine and she clips on my leash. On our walk, I smell the dank and dark creatures. They are at the top of our hill. I lunge toward them.  Most turn away but one stares at me. Slowly, it takes a step toward me.

My Human tightens my leash. We run down the hill to the park. The scent of elk is all around us.

We pass by the creek. When we are far enough onto the beach, my Human slips off my leash. She throws my ball and my feet dance on the sand. When I get tired, we walk home. The dank, dark smell is gone.

That afternoon, the man in the big truck comes to the door. He hands my Human a box and like always, there is a treat for me. I wiggle and wiggle. I love the man in the big truck.

After dinner, my Human and I meet my dog pals at the end of the street for a beach walk. I am not as fast as I once was, and two beach walks a day is a lot for me now. My dog pals try to get me to play chase, but I can’t always keep up.  

Beach walking Humans always have treats. I like to walk by their sides. I whine a little until a treat finds its way out of a bag and into my mouth. Getting old on the beach isn’t so bad.

After the sun sets, Humans and dogs walk down the hill.  

I smell them again.

The dark, dank creatures.

They are close. 

Very close.

One of my dog pals is off leash. She dashes into the trees. The twigs snap. The dark, dank creatures are everywhere. My dog pal barks at them. She barks and barks.

Her Human calls to her. But she doesn’t come.

The elk lifts his leg to smoosh my dog pal.

The Humans all go silent.

I smell it.

Fear.  

And, then, I hear.

My Human is calling. A high-pitched voice that she learned at our puppy training classes. The Trainer Human told her to use that call if I ever ran into the road. She told her I would stop and come back immediately.

It works for elk too.

Suddenly, my dog pal runs out of the bushes and toward the Humans.

The dark, dank creatures clomp into the woods. Their scent lingers in the air.   

I am happy to walk back to the cottage. At bedtime, I snuggle next to my Human. 

Tonight, the dark, dank creatures do not pass by my house.

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Dog Twitter

Last weekend, I got to participate in the Cannon Beach Library Writer’s Celebration and read my story, “Fall on the Coast: A Dog’s View.” This is an excerpt from a current book I am working on told from the point of view of my dog, Stormy.

I have known for a long time I was going to write a book about Stormy but the first draft I wrote, which was a memoir about our experience working to be a reading dog therapy team, didn’t quite come out right.

Then, I landed on dog twitter. This is when dogs tweet their thoughts. I think one of the original accounts was Thoughts of Dog.

My own Twitter is filled with a lot of political commentary and I get tired of it. I also haven’t found Twitter that useful of a tool for building an author platform. But I thought dog twitter might be fun. So, I set up an account for Stormy and started posting for him. Pretty soon he started to develop a little fan base of other dogs.

After a few weeks, I noticed Stormy’s account gets more likes and retweets then my own and in the dog twitter land there are no political or world view posts. And I noticed Stormy was getting a voice. I took this voice and wrote another draft of that book about Stormy and it came out much better then when I was telling it in a memoir!

If you want to see what Stormy has been up to hop over to his Twitter account here.

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Writing the Picture Book Online Class

Join me in an online Writing the Picture Book Class! The four week class runs from February 7-March 5. Assignments can be done on your time schedule and include instructor feedback on the draft of a picture book.

You can see the class agenda here.

Class Summary: Picture Books are the most beloved story form of children’s writing. But how easy is it to write one? In this class, we’ll look at how to create a memorable child character, how to craft a simple plot to be read multiple times, explore pacing, and do a little researching into the current picture book market. The class includes instructor feedback on all assignments, and a draft of an 800-word picture book. Students will be encouraged to spend an afternoon at their local library or elementary school reading picture books. The class is designed for those interested in learning how to write a picture book story and is very beneficial for illustrators wanting to know how to write a picture book.

Writing the Picture Book is an online class which is being offered in partnership with WOW: Women on Writing.

Register here

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Reflections

At the end of every year, I always like to look back and reflect on the challenges and successes of the year. However, this year is also the end of a decade and I thought I’d look back at the last decade.

I began 2010 as an unpublished book writer. Ten years later, and I have published six books and a handful of romance novellas. I’ve had book signings at local bookstores and given talks and workshops at schools and libraries. I wrote and published my hardest book during the last decade, Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention.

The biggest challenge has been the last two years when I moved to Portland and restarted my life. I didn’t write for about a year and couldn’t even think about writing. I was too absorbed with learning a new city and trying to find a job which proved to be much harder than I thought. I have been working as a substitute teacher for the last year.  And although at times, I question what exactly I am doing, I have written a middle grade book currently on submission, two picture books and outlined fifty pages of a non-fiction memoir about substitute teaching.

During this decade, my books didn’t publish the way I thought they should. First, I published with small epublishers and as those contracts expired, I moved my books to Indie publishing and built a strong team of editors, cover artists, and book designers around each book–many of whom I met while being an author in the epublishers.

Slowly the more books I published, the more I saw results. Kids in Orange has traveled farther than any book and I’ve had readers contact me from all over the United States.

This summer I got involved in two Indie Author groups in the Washington and Oregon areas and learned how to sell my books at local art events—something which has been fun as I get to meet new readers.

As the decade closes, the hardest thing for me and so many other writers is how to make a living at doing what we love—write books. And there are no easy answers. There is no one path.

I find myself juggling a handful of “gig economy” jobs—subbing, tutoring, and contract work while trying to continue to write and find the best avenue for publication for each book.

Some days are not easy. And I question what am I doing? Yet, when I step back, I see many many pages written in teacher prep periods or at lunch.  I have done impromptu author visits in many, many classes of all grades and subbing has given me access to a whole new bank of stories. It has brought first grade alive for me and reinforced my love for writing for children.

When I look back to who I was in 2010, I see how so often the path that seems curved or out of sync has really turned out to be a straight one after all and perhaps that is the biggest lesson of the last decade.  Trusting the process and it’s a process that evolves with time.

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NaNoWriMo Progress

I got a late start on NaNoWriMo this month. I was finishing up edits on a draft of a middle grade novel and doing some querying on that project. But, I am now working on my NaNoWriMo project.

I wrote the story as a memoir about the first year in a half my Cocker Spaniel and I trained to be a Reading Dog Therapy Team. We didn’t pass the test and the story is about what I learned in the process.

I set the draft aside and Stormy and I kept having adventures–including a twelve-week surgery on his knee last fall which grounded us in Cannon Beach where I own a single story cottage. That odyssey introduced me to the world of substitute teaching on the coast as well as a lot of time to research and read for my middle grade novel.

This summer I started a Twitter account for Stormy. Stormy Cocker Spaniel @Stormyspaniel

And Stormy developed a voice of his own!

So in the second draft of my in-progress story, The World is a Sniff, I decided to try to write it from the POV of Stormy.

Stormy at Cannon Beach

At this point, it’s an exploratory draft and I’m not sure if the book will be a book for children or a book for adults in the inspirational life books–in the genre of Chicken Soup for the Soul books. But that’s the fun part of NaNoWriMo. For a month, I get to write every day and explore how this story might be told.

Here is my NaNoWriMo Project in action! I am working from a large outline of ideas told sequentially and the first draft where I wrote it as a memoir. The goal this month is to write daily on this project and get some good “clay” material to move forward.

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Name on Broadway

I had a fun time talking about Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention at the Seaside Library on Saturday.

This was my greeting when I pulled into the library parking lot! The library is located on Broadway street–so my name has now been on “Broadway.”

Thank you Seaside Library for hosting me!

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NaNoWriMo Coaching

National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo) is just about a week away. Are you participating ?

I drafted my young adult romance, WEAVING MAGIC, during NaNoWriMo and the lessons I learned in that process I have repeated for many books.

The best lesson I learned was how writing every day for thirty days kept me in the story. I was forced to keep up my word count to reach 50,000 words and keep moving forward when every part of me was screaming to stop.

It is always easier for me to write once something is on the page–even if I don’t keep much of that something in future drafts! At least I have some “clay” to mold the story on the page.

NaNoWriMo can be something that is repeated any month for any stage of your novel. It works best for an early draft because it forces you to keep writing and not edit or allow those pesky voices telling you the story isn’t good enough to creep in.

I have just completed a power revision of a middle grade novel and I used the NaNoWriMo strategy of working on it daily. It worked and I got it done without a lot of stall out moments. I was forced to sit with the story every day and figure out why scenes weren’t working, what needed to be added and what needed to be taken out.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo and would like a writing coach for the process, please contact me. I offer writing coaching at any stage of the writing process (not just for NaNoWriMo) and packages can be purchased in one-hour sessions. Writing Coaching takes place via Skype (or Google Hangouts), and includes problem solving through plot and character development, feedback and critique on a specific section of a story, and/or motivational encouragement. I look forward to hearing your stories!

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October Author Events

I have two author events lined up for October and would love to see you at one of them if you are in the area.

Kitsap Mall Author Reading/Book Signing. Saturday, October 4 from noon to six. I will be reading from my memoir, Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention, as well as set up in the mall to sign books from noon to six p.m. I will have copies of all my books at the event for sale.

Seaside Public Library Author Talk. I’m thrilled to be reading and sharing about my memoir, Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention at the Seaside Public Library on Saturday, October 26 from 1:00 to 2:00. This is a free event and I will have copies of all my books for sale and signing afterwards.

Also, if you are a teacher and would like to use Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention as a part of a social justice unit in your classroom, I do offer Skype Author Visits and would love to talk to you. Please contact me here.

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