#FridayFlash: Box of Rox

 

Diamonds are Rocks

 

“Dumb as a bag of hammers.” Harvey Feasler snorted, pointing at her.

“No, dumb as a box of rocks!” The other kids howled laughter when Monte Lyman spoke up.

Roxanne heard them in the distance. They weren’t far away, but if she listened, she’d hearseefeel everything. They stayed in the distance like all the other stimulation. Mr. Sattler called her name, but got no response. He waved from a few feet in front of her and waited there. He was safe that way.

Easing him into a space of her awareness, easing him out of the miasma of colornoiselight, Roxanne took a slow breath and prepared to engage in conversation. “Good morning, Mr. Sattler.”

“You having a good morning, Roxanne?” She searched his face for cues. A slight smile, widened eyes that might be happy rather than scared, hand palm up. That last one confused her, but he seemed to be friendly. He always did.

Trying to mirror his expression, she looked a little frightened when she responded, “It’s good.” She was busy making the colornoiselight absorb the children’s continued laughter and chanting. Was that concern on Mr. Sattler’s face now? “Thank you for asking,” she belatedly finished. His face slackened into what she recognized as calm. Filing away the information, she tried to offer a calm smile back.

Knowing better, he didn’t chatter with her on the way to her classroom. His position of authority quelled most of the abuse heaped on the poor girl. She seemed oblivious to it, even when a rowdy jock called out, “Lookie now, here comes the box of rocks!” Sattler didn’t understand her lack of reaction, not really, but decided it was a small mercy. When he held the classroom door open, Roxanne hesitated only a moment before awkwardly sidling into the room. That’s progress. He nodded, waved to the Spectrum Class Block, and quietly closed the door.

“Dumb as a box of rocks, my butt,” he muttered before shooing late students toward their classrooms and sending the rowdy jock to the principal’s office. Not a very glamorous job, being middle school vice principal.

Standing at her locker in the SCB, Roxanne peered into the shadowy space and frowned. Miss Emily watched her shrug her shoulders and knew it had nothing to do with dismissing a thought. Roxanne didn’t do that. She couldn’t do it. Giving the girl a wide berth so she didn’t startle her, Miss Emily waited patiently to be noticed. Roxanne stopped shrugging and shaking her head. She waved to her teacher and waited.

“It’s too warm for a sweater or jacket, Roxanne. You don’t have one to put in your locker,” she explained patiently. Watching the girl process the information and then light up with relief made happy bubbles dance in Miss Emily’s belly. It’s times like this when Roxanne gave a spontaneous smile, eyes alight with understanding and connection, Miss Emily knew Roxanne was meant for more than the SCB had available.

Settling in at her seat alone at a table, Roxanne began her customary decompression with paper and pencil. Miss Emily left her to it and circulated in the classroom. Nearly each student had a personal teacher’s aide who helped with monitoring and helping them with their tasks. Roxanne was able to work with little supervision, only a reminder to focus on the worksheets or computer from time to time. As she passed Roxanne’s table, Miss Emily noted the girl wasn’t writing equations as expected. Words filled the page.

She got Roxanne’s attention with a little wave from several steps away. After getting a wave back, she sat across from the girl. “May I look at your paper?” Roxanne looked blank and nodded. Nearly every line of the page held the words “box of rocks.”

“You are writing very well, Roxanne. I have a question.” She paused until Roxanne tilted her head slightly. “What is a box of rocks?”

“Dumb,” the girl replied flatly.

Miss Emily caught herself, stopping the frown before it could form. “May I show you something?” Roxanne tilted her head. Extending her hand over the table, Emily showed her rings. She pointed to her engagement ring. “Do you see this?”

“Shiny.”

“It is shiny, yes. It’s called a diamond.”

“Diamond.”

“Diamonds are rocks, Roxanne. They’re bright and shiny.”

Roxanne tilted her head one way and then the other slowly before her shoulders relaxed and she put down her tightly gripped pencil. “Diamonds are bright.”

“Right. Diamonds are bright. Diamonds are rocks,” Miss Emily nudged.

“Bright as a box of diamonds,” Roxanne said slowly.

Miss Emily smiled, her head tilted slightly to engage Roxanne more closely. “That’s very good. Bright as a box of diamonds.” She gave a little nod. After a moment, so did Roxanne. “Would you like another sheet of paper?” Another nod, another piece of paper. This time, the equations flowed.

When Mr. Sattler walked her to the bus as he did at the end of each school day, she walked along quietly as always. The colornoiselight was thick. “Dumb as a box of rocks,” Monte shouted from down the hallway, ignoring the vice principal’s presence in his enthusiastic delivery.

The voice squeezed out of the colornoiselight and Roxanne heardsawfelt it. She stopped after a couple steps. In an even tone, she commented, “Diamonds are rocks. Diamonds are bright.” Continuing on her path, she was unaware of Monte’s face turning red as the other kids heckled him about getting burned back.

Mr. Sattler didn’t understand, not really. He decided he didn’t have to understand. “Very good, Roxanne,” he told her.

 

~

Inspired by my younger son, who has autism, this story is presented for Autism Awareness Month. The character of “Miss Emily” is a tribute to one of my son’s favorite teachers. Although he’s an adult, he remembers his elementary school teacher often.

Everyone on the autism spectrum is different, but all face challenges, as do their families and friends. Please know your kindness is deeply appreciated. 

 

Casting Call

 

My Cast Was Pink

 

 

Our heroine got her cast off Wednesday after breaking her wrist six weeks ago, dear Reader.

Very lucky in that it was my non-dominant hand. I could type well enough with the first cast to keep up occasionally on Twitter. The second one was tighter and went further up my hand, keeping the knuckles from bending enough to type. One handed typing was possible, but frustrating. Naturally, I found speech to text in Windows this past Monday. Grf.

A better, more determined writer than I would have overcome it all, no doubt. Between the pain and hurdles typing properly, writing seemed out of the question. I touch type rather quickly. Many keys on my keyboard are blank now, I discovered. Picking about on the keyboard for the right key, backspacing repeatedly, and muttering curses added up to me giving up on the idea of writing. Writing anything, really. The few emails I wrote, always late, were merely a few lines with little capitalization. Writing a story or, even worse, trying to edit one? Right out.

Suffice to say I was dreadfully aware of what I could not do in all areas of my life. Not an boon given a bad mood already going on and bad stuff in local and world events.

Now I’m in a hard brace which was custom molded and is held on with a velcro strap. I’m home from the hospital for the… fourth? fifth?… time since I broke my wrist and am feeling more optimistic. My larger challenges for right now are a) figuring out what to write and/or edit and b) resting my wrist often enough that I don’t overdo it while writing. Maybe a timer for when I’m at the keyboard? I’ll borrow Son’s R2D2 kitchen timer. Excellent idea, dear Reader. Thank you.

What sorts of excitement have I missed in your lives? Any wtg to pass on? Maybe you could use some good thoughts passed your way. I’d love to join. Please let me know. Either way, please be aware you’ve been missed and I thought of you often. In a good way, I promise.

 

 

Not a New Year’s Post

Not a New Year's Post by JC Rosen

This is not a New Year’s resolutions post. Really. It’s just bad timing, so it looks like one.

It’s been a rough patch. I didn’t complete NaNo because of rolling illnesses, not the least of which had me hospitalized for over a week. I’m not going to complete the final total rewrite of a certain novel as I planned. My home is a pit. Granted, given the circumstances, all these things and more are understandable. They contribute to my general sense of discouragement, though.

Rather than wallow (okay, so I wallowed – I’m moving on), I tried to look at my life with realistic expectations. I figured it was the springboard for any goals and plans. Makes sense, right? Easier than it sounds.

When being brutally honest with myself, I focus on the brutal part or shy off the realities as they are. Happy mediums are challenging. When I feel like being brutal and I rein myself in, I feel like I’m being a Pollyanna. When I’m ignoring things and I try to be more aware, I become a stubborn ostrich. Either way, my natural instinct is to fight being dragged out of my ridiculous truculence.

As I write this, I feel weak from a combination of illnesses and the side effects to a medication. It would be easy to put off dealing with this issue. I’m starting to think perhaps this is an opportunity to make the most of a bad situation, though. My natural instincts to fight against logic are fuzzy from exhaustion. It may be a slog, but I’m coming up with what seem to be realistic expectations.

Problem I keep tolerating: Son is fixated on playing online video games during his holiday and I can do little, so the apartment is becoming even messier.

  • Proposed Solution: Change tactics. He likes to cook, so I got him an R2-D2 kitchen timer. I’ll make an agreement with him to set the timer for a one hour block of work a couple times a day. It’s amazing what he can get done in a short time with his music blasting. I can do a little bit at the same time and then do little things he missed along the way.

Problem I keep tolerating: Finances are out of control.

  • Proposed Solution: Get organized and get them the hell under control. A recent huge reduction in our monthly budget will create huge problems if I don’t stay on top of things. I’ll get a few inexpensive tools and create a system for keeping track of bills and payments rather than the haphazard system known as barely controlled chaos.

Problem I keep tolerating: I’m not writing.

  • Proposed Solution: Write. Gee, that sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Yes, I’ve been sick and it often makes writing pretty impossible. Even when I could push myself to write something, anything, I didn’t write because it wouldn’t be good enough. Good enough? By whose standards? Who the hell am I, some literary phenomenon who churns out awe inspiring prose every day? Feh. Okay, that was a little of the brutality sneaking in. In simple terms, I must write whatever I can, when I can. I must set goals and be prepared to make them fluid enough to both challenge me and respect conditions as they exist.
  • I will work on the final rewrite of the novel with an aim to completing its first draft by the end of January 2015. Beyond that, I will set first edit and send to betas goals as appropriate. I’ll also try to blog again, perhaps even doing a flash fiction or two in the next month.

My energy reserves are used up for the moment, so no more. It’s more than enough to begin the process of decrapifying my life.

As for New Year’s resolutions? I don’t do them. Really.

photo credit: andres.thor via photopin cc

#NaNoWriMo: How I Survived My NaNo’s Death

 

Embracing the Spirit of NaNo

 

Our heroine is plagued by an annual NaNo Curse, dear Reader. Everything from pneumonia to chronic migraine has hit me in November, making me work all the harder to reach my goal for NaNoWriMo. Despite the Curse, I have always hit the goal line, sometimes by the skin of my teeth.

This year? Not so much.

The Curse started early and stayed late this year. I cleared several hurdles, but the biggest obstacle came in the form of extended ER visits and hospital stays. Since I’ve been home, I enjoyed an ambulance ride, had to go back inpatient briefly, and am giving myself IV antibiotics at home. A barrage of home nurses visiting and the expected journeys to doctors’ offices take up much time.

It leaves little time for writing.

I talk and post about “The Spirit of NaNo” every year.  I tell wrimos they’re winners because they write what they can when they can as they navigate the obstacle course of their busy lives. I believe it to my toes. This year, I embrace it on a personal level. For the first time in years, I got nowhere near the 50k. Sure, I could have cheated and got my 50k of nonsense validated. That isn’t why I participate in NaNo, though. I do it to enjoy the balls-to-the-wall writing experience. I may not have had a lot of that energy writing this year, but I dove in when I could.

That’s the Spirit of NaNo. My NaNo novel died, but I survived. I feel like a winner because I held onto the philosophy behind NaNoWriMo. That’s the basis of any goal I set going into NaNo each year.

How did you do?

#NaNoWriMo: The Spirit of NaNo

 

The Real Spirit of NaNo, by JC Rosen

It’s November 10th. We’re now in the thick of NaNoWriMo.

Many shook their heads and threw up their hands during that first week. I can’t blame them. NaNo is a big challenge. The first few years I peered down that trail toward the goal line, it was so far away, it was nearly invisible in the distance. I miserably gave up within days the first two years and just plain skipped it the third. It was so bad, I don’t even remember the years – I repressed the whole thing.

Doesn’t sound like much of a pep talk, does it?

Here’s the pep part: I won the first time in 2008 when I finally tried again. I won a week early! I almost put away my keyboard five days into it, though. I was sick and miserable. The last thing I wanted to do was write a million words each day. A good friend refused to let me give up. “Just write something today. I don’t care if it’s 300 words. Write something.” So I did. Then I crawled back into bed with my cold medicine and my teddy bear. When I woke up, I hazily did it again. A few days later, I was healthy. I was behind, sure, but I kept writing. With a little extra each day, I could catch up.

Need more pep? All right, you asked for it: my NaNo Soapbox.

Ladies and Gentlemen, behold the Spirit of NaNo!

Look beyond the fifty thousand word goal. It is not that shininess. No indeed, it is within you already. You have only to let it free and let it flow.

Does that sound ridiculous? Stay with me a minute.

It’s the Power of Writing, my friends. Just feel The Power of Writing, let it flow through you, let it catch up your imagination and run out your hands without the demon of the Inner Editor making you second guess it! That is indeed the Spirit of NaNo. Grab that and you’ll JUST WRITE. Here’s the secret: write every day, make a habit of it and you’ve won the real shiny prize.

If you commit to writing when you can, writing around your obstacles toward a goal you set for yourself – that’s how you embrace the Spirit of NaNo!

 

Stick with it, everyone, and may you all win the Real Shiny Prize.

photo credit: Anant N S (www.thelensor.tumblr.com) via photopin cc

#NaNoWriMo: Beyond the Words

 NaNoWriMo: Beyond the Words by JC Rosen

 

Whether prepping for or deep in the depths of NaNoWriMo, we tend to focus on word counts and stifling the inner editor. Don’t get me wrong. These are important issues. The latter helps with the former and the former is what gets you beyond that official finish line.

Let’s talk about what you can do to improve your experience. These are techniques which have little to do with plotting and wrangling words. These are meant to rejuvenate your energy stores, to lift your spirit, and to freshen your sense of purpose. They make it so much easier to do the stifling and the writing.

Simply put, I’d like you to consider what you can do for your comfort and pleasure. Self-care is greatly overlooked, especially during NaNo. We wrimos tend to develop tunnel vision and I’m telling you, it’s easy to feel the walls crowding you when you’re in a tunnel. What do you do when you’d like to treat yourself? Not a spa weekend, but rather a small pick-me-up. How do you like your environment so that you’re not distracted by it?

If I didn’t make lists for these situations, I’d get lost in the tunnel vision. I make two lists: Get and Do. I enlist my kids in helping me so the Getting and Doing don’t become chores themselves. Asking those close to you to help prepare you for and refresh you during NaNo also reinforces how important it is to you. One stone, two birds there.

I’m wary of stereotyping genderwise, so my disclaimer is these are examples which work for me. YMMV. I hope some of them inspire you to finding your own way out of the tunnel vision.

Under GET:

  • Crepes on NaNo Eve (at least!)
  • Good coffee and creamer
  • Warm socks
  • Fingerless gloves (I tend to write when it’s cold.)
  • Peppermint lotion (It’s as invigorating on the hands as it is on the feet.)
  • Good microwave meals and/or easy meal supplies
  • Incense
  • New nail polish

When you make your list, keep in mind the little incidentals. Will you need change for laundry machines? Getting quarters means one big step I can skip at laundry time.

Under DO:

  • Fresh linens on the bed
  • Clean bathroom
  • Do laundry (Yes, these are chores, but they make my life easier and more pleasant.)
  • Find comfy sweaters
  • Give myself a manicure (or go out and get one)
  • Crank up the music and dance and/or play air guitar (or a real one!)
  • Spend some time with family and pets
  • Watch some entertainment (WARNING: Do not start a tv series. Far too easy to binge.)
  • Read a book. (I strongly recommend setting a timer, but this is one of my favorite items.)

What helps you cleanse your writing palate? Maybe cooking a special meal or going for a run? Just as important, you can list items just for fun, ones which aren’t really options.

  • Buy that Jaguar and take a ride down the mountain to see the leaves
  • Have a fun evening at the local with <insert celebrity name here>
  • Pitch a no-hitter during a crucial game in the World Series

When you feel a little frantic about writing, your writing gets bogged down. Lighten the mood and your outlook by looking at your list and picking something you enjoy. Taking a little time away from writing may be just what you need to get your head back in the game.

What is on your list? Please share and inspire other wrimos at the same time.

 

 
photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

#NaNoWriMo: Stop with the Waffling!

This originally appeared on the #amwriting site a couple years ago, but bears repeating.

No More Waffling about NaNo by JC Rosen

Photo by TheCulinaryGeek

November 1st is just around the corner, a mere handful of days away. For wrimos, Halloween / Samhain is spent in anxious anticipation of the stroke of midnight. Wrimos spending this time alone talk to themselves, coaching themselves to jump through that midnight gate with vigor. Those at write-ins with other wrimos? Well, they experience a group dynamic I like to call hooting crazitude. (Come on. It’s fun to say.)

You – yes, you – can still be caught up in the excitement that is NaNo. Have you been compiling pro and con lists? Perhaps you think you just don’t have time for it. Maybe the idea of writing that much in one month is too daunting to contemplate. Are you in the midst of a work-in-progress and simply don’t wish to step away from it to start something new? Do you sigh and wistfully say you just can’t do it?

There are so many reasons people state to explain why they don’t want to do NaNo. Don’t get me wrong: I respect another’s choice in the matter. A simple “I don’t want to do it” makes me nod and back off. NaNo’s not for everyone. It is, however, for many people who think it can’t work for them.

  • The spirits of encouragement and camaraderie during NaNo are not to be underestimated. Put those on your pro list and underline them for emphasis. Whether you’re in it to be utterly nuts and compile a novel full of “plot bunnies” and challenges (see nanowrimo.org Forums for more info) or you’re working on a more conventionally legitimate project, you’ll find people ready to support you and keep you going.
  • The NaNo Rebels group is going strong again this year. Check out this link about NaNo Rebels on the nanowrimo.org site for official info about the Rebels. If you’re in the middle of a WIP and don’t want to set it aside, write nonfiction, or write in formats other than novel-sized ones, you can participate by being a NaNo Rebel. The goal is the same: 50k new words on your project(s).
  • Consider setting a different goal for yourself. No one says you have to write 50k words. No, you won’t “officially win” NaNo by writing 20k words. You may write your heart out during the hours you have available, though. You may be pushing yourself in ways you never have in order to reach the goal you set for yourself. That’s NaNo, baby!

The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to push yourself and just write. Gag and tie up that inner editor who makes you go over everything you write as you write it. Just. Write. No matter what, it’s a great exercise for anyone who gets into ruts because of that inner editor. If you need to set a different goal for word count, no matter. The exercise and purpose for it are the same.

So no more waffling! Whether you’re a pantster, a plotter or somewhere in between, it’s time to stock the cabinets with food for easy meals and snacks, get your favorite source of caffeine ready and clean off your writing space. (Trust me, it’ll become cluttered enough during November.)

Write on, wrimo!

I have done NaNoWriMo for several years. It’s a huge reason I began writing after a 15-year hiatus. On the NaNo site as JC_Rosen (isn’t that clever?), I’m open to buddy listing. I usually use the #NaNo hashtag in addition to #amwriting during November. Join us! We do sprints. Progress measurement is up to you.

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