Everyone has a right to make an ass out of themselves

You can’t let the world judge you too much… Maude

This weekend I watched Harold and Maude with my kids. It’s been many years since I have seen that movie, and those words still resonate with me. The last year and a half have been a journey of rediscovering my creative self. Many of my creations will see the light of day soon. I find myself paying more and more attention to those feelings of self-doubt, stemming from a fear of judgment. The words of Maude were a timely reminder that I do have the right to “make an ass out of myself.”

I am a quiet person. I love people, thoughts, and ideas. I hold the belief everyone has a right to their voice and opinion, even if I disagree. Sometimes, I am afraid to use my voice, and along the way, my thoughts have gotten stuck in my brain because I’m too scared to let them out. I’m terrified that my space may accidentally trample someone else feels, and I would never want to do that.

When I finished the second draft of my novel and sent it off to an editor, it was not what I expected I would write. Sophie is my protagonist and a small part of me. She now exists in the world. Some people will love her; some people may find her simple, too dangerous, or think her story is stupid. I hope she resonates with at least someone and makes a small difference in their life, like “Maude” made in mine. I don’t know what happens next, but she exists!

Creating makes me feel empowered, brave almost. When I was younger, I wanted to become a bartender because I thought it would be a great way to connect to people and listen to their stories. Of the many jobs, I’ve had, that never ended up being one of them. I decided to create a bar instead. I’m am starting an Audio Drama podcast featuring short stories that have been adapted into a stand-alone episode. You can check it out here: https://crossroadscantina.captivate.fm/. My original intention was to reach out to friends and writers I know and ask if they wanted to contribute a story. I ran into two problems with this idea. 1.) I don’t have a lot in the way of friends. (Don’t worry, this is not a sad thing!) 2.) I suck at asking for help.

So far, I have one episode based on an author’s novel, for which I have narrated. I have also written a few episodes of my own. However, I would love to have more stories with which to work! (You would receive full credit for your work.) I am also looking people that may want to play around with voice acting (you can even voice your characters!)

If your interested in acting or writing for my podcast, please please please reach out! Of my ten followers, I know at least two of you are writers hahaha!

Now go out, enjoy the day. Make an ass out of yourself, create, and be free.

The Soul of a Story

My attempt at a review

Usually, when I sit down to write, it starts with a prominent and straight path. I have my idea, it is going to get on the page, in a great and exciting way, and then I’ll be done.  What ends up happening, however, is, I wander around in the woods, lose my path, and stare at an interesting tree for an hour. I was initially going to make an attempt at some sort of book review or synopsis or something. Since discipline is eluding me, my thoughts will have to suffice.

Now, believe me, I can be disciplined. I can focus like its nobodies business.  That being said, discipline is not my ideal state of being. The last job I had before going to full-time self-employment,  was for a large corporation.  I was in Tech Support, helping employees in the field.  Okay, okay,  I worked in a call center.  Do you know how they say these calls are recorded for quality assurance?  Well, they are.  There is a whole line of work that involves listening to calls and rating them.  Those scripts that are so annoying? Employees get docked if they do not follow them. 

I rocked the call center.  I worked in the technology field, and tend to be a pretty good problem solver.  Not to toot my own horn, but I was the voice you would want to hear,  I got stuff done.  Results baby!

Sometimes, however, I didn’t say the closing line correctly, or some other thing that was off the parameters of what I should do.  When these calls were reviewed, and I didn’t get my perfect five stars, it would crush me.  Seriously, it would bug me for days.  

I ended up leaving this company after my Dad passed away.  Going back to that just didn’t feel right.  I hated the feeling that I was trapped in a box (or cubical).  He had suggested I get back into the Arts or Education, I may be happier there.  I ended up writing and Audiobook Narrating.  

Come to find out, this world is based on stars and reviews and likes and the whole works.  Ugh!  I have learned that it is essential to get reviews of your work out there in the world of the internet.  Good reviews mean more people read or listen, right?  

Well, how do you put a number on something subjective? Not every movie, story, or piece of art is going to resonate with everyone.  Some reviewers are great, they point out what is disrating to them or what they like.  Some are just downright cruel.  How does “It sucked?” help anyone.  

Working with indie and self-published authors on their audiobooks has been amazing.  It has given me the chance to rethink how I read (and listen) fiction.

When I first read Much Needed Sunshine, I appreciated it, but it wasn’t my favorite book of all time.  The genre was not my ideal choice, and the story had a happy ending.  Everything was tied together into a neat little bow.  I was a bit cynical.  The real world didn’t have happy endings, and no one was beheaded! Even so, it was my Fathers first novel, and I was proud of his accomplishment. When I got the opportunity to narrate it, something strange happened.  I feel in love with the characters, the story, everything.  There was something almost magical about it.  I could see my father in the writing, feel like he was right in the room with me.  The essence of who he was on each page.  It made me feel closer to him, even though he was gone.  What really rang true was his optimism and perseverance.  His early life was a challenge, and yet he was still able to become an amazing, gentle, kind (and stubborn) person.

Another Novel I recently narrated, was All the Stars That Ever Were, by Robert John Jenson This was a fun read. It’s in that science fiction and fantasy genre that I love, so that certainly made it easy to enjoy! It was unique because it focused on relationships and family and how our reality could be changed by the smallest differences.  It made me feel both insignificant and lucky.  

After narrating these two books, I found myself fascinated by the idea of the author’s voice.  Being a narrator allows me to work closely with the Authors.  Some like to be really hands-on and involved, others just let you run with your creative self. With Robert John Jenson, we touched base most days I woked.  He would review my content as I went.  I really appreciated this because it gave me a chance to make corrections and get to know him.

I found myself looking forward to the nightly corroboration.  I would get funny anecdotes on the inspiration behind some of the characters and insight into the author’s personality.  As I went through the narration, I subsequently had a second more intense read through.  I found I could really start to hear the essence of who he was coming out in his writing.  His love for his family and the people in his life he cared about spoke to me.   

As we wrapped up the project, he mentioned, “Thank you for taking care of my baby.”  It got me thinking, isn’t this how we all think of our writing or any creative endeavor for that matter.  We put a little piece of ourselves in everything we put out into the world?

When I started writing Sophie’s story (click here for an unedited version of chapter one), I didn’t intend it to be anything but a fiction story.  When I wrote the last sentence, I have to admit, I shed a tear (or thirty).  Okay, I flat out bawled…I heard my own voice in her hope, fears, and joy. I don’t think I had paid attention to my own voice in ages.
Knowing this, how could I ever put a rating on someone’s soul?  All I can do is apprise how it touches me, and hope it speaks to you somehow as well.  So if you decide to give All the Stars That Ever Were, or Much Needed Sunshine a read or listen, or any other work, you realize the fantastic gift a story can be.

A Letter to my Dad

Happy Fathers Day Dad,

It has been a little over a year since you’ve gone, and I still miss you every day. I was never very good at putting my feelings in words. This is ironic because I am writing now. I just finished the first draft of my first book. This one hurts a lot. I wish I could share it with you. I never realized how much of your self you put in your writing. If I could go back and read it when you were alive, with new eyes, I would have been better at telling you how proud I was.

Instead, I end up narrating it. I never remember you being one for audiobooks, but I think you would have LOVED the idea. I tried to do Sunshine and Meme justice. I could even picture you giving me acting tips during the process. Regardless, you would have been so very supportive of the process. When I work with authors now, I remember how “you” came through in your story and try to treat theirs with respect and honor.

The world is a strange chaotic place right now. There is a virus that shut everything down in most areas for months. You would have been miserable (not saying that Mom isn’t good company!) It would have been twice as bad if you were still in treatment. Your health being compromised would have made you even more susceptible!

Right now, there are protests everywhere. It feels different then protests in the past, perhaps it’s just the difference between my adult brain and my younger brain. Growing up in N.H. did not expose us to much diversity! I feel that a lot of people really do want to change. There is a lot of anger, hope, as well, I think.

Looking back, I appreciate how you and Mom tried your best to expose us to different people and communities. I remember one of our summer vacations. We drove through Harlem one day, Lancaster, PA, another, and D.C. the next. You were always a teacher, even if you thought you were being subtle.

I talk to Mom and Jamie on most days, mostly just a text or two. This is way better than my calls that ended up once or twice a month at best. Right now, that’s what I miss most. I wish I could pick up the phone and hear your thoughts on the world right now. I love you and miss you immensely.

Love,
Me

Setting an Intention

I like to begin each day practicing yoga. Does that mean I actually do it? No, but when I do, my day has a flow to it. Part of my practice includes setting an intention. I often use peace, calmness or serenity. It tends to be a bit cliche, but it works for me. Lately, my yoga practice has been a bit remiss. Something about everyone being at hom

I like to begin each day practicing yoga. Does that mean I do it? No, but when I do, my day has a flow to it. Part of my practice includes setting an intention. I often use peace, calmness, or serenity. It tends to be a bit cliche, but it works for me. Lately, my yoga practice has been a bit remiss. Everyone is at home, doing schoolwork, and going about their lives all around me affects that. Today, forgoing yoga yet again, I decided to set the intention for my day.

Tenacity 

te·nac·i·ty

noun

the quality or fact of being able to grip something firmly; grip.

the quality or fact of being very determined; determination.

the quality or fact of continuing to exist; persistence.

It is not an intention I usually set, but perhaps it should be. In some aspects of my life, I ooze tenacity. As a parent and a spouse, I am firm, reliable, and persevering. When it comes to my own goals, I am lacking.

I am trying to pursue audiobook narration. I have one book under my belt and know I will only get better. I’ve got the mastering and editing down, and continue to improve with training and classes. Now I need to prove myself. So I audition, again and again, hoping for at the very least, some feedback.

At the very least, I can learn that its okay to be tenacious for myself. What’s your intention?

5 projects I’ve started (and some I’ve finished)

1.) I am about halfway through a first write through of a novel about a young gal named Sophie- a bit of a coming of age, with a hint of scfi/post apocalyptic that is woven in. Probably fits best in YA or Middle aged fiction.

2.) I am at the beginning of a novel that is a bit more fantasy based. Micah’s my main guy here. Again, YA fiction or Fantasy. I think I live here and feel most comfortable writing to that age because of the many years volunteer/teaching hanging out with teens. Either that or its because I have never matured beyond that.

3.) I started a website trying to tie things together a bit more. Its a work in progress, because I get distracted easily. If you are interested in the two books above, there are samples on my site, however, no promises that I will ever finish them. If you happen to like either let me know- it may be the inspiration I need! https://bethconnor.com/the-wall or https://bethconnor.com/namless

4.) I’m trying to put together a “Dramatic Reading” of Peter Pan. My poor musical kids will not be able to perform their hard work due to Covid 19. More info soon on that.

5.) I’ve been working mostly on my Audio-book Narration stuff. Turns out I really enjoy it! I did some volunteer work on Librivox, but the biggest achievement was completing my first Narration project for ACX. It is currently in Audio review, but once its approved, I’ll give a link and the backstory on how it came to be.

New normal, or temporary pause?

Today, I got out of bed, just like any other day. I had some coffee on the deck, did some yoga, and walked the dog. When we got home, I nagged my 17-year-old until she finally got out of bed. (She does online community college, and its finals week). My husband was at the kitchen table, looking focused and intense. He often chooses to work from home and is lucky to work for a company that utilizes online meeting software. Everything as it should be.

So, why does it feel like I am at the beginning of some Apocalyptic Thriller? Why does the quiet seem so much more ominous? I look at the stack of bills, and under that the taxes, I still need to get around to doing. Should I even bother? Then turning back to my screen, I continue with my workday, trying to ignore the barrage of media reminding us to stay home, wash our hands, people are dying.

I feel the weight of my privilege, heavy on my shoulders. I am thinking of the people that surround me, who’s lives will be changed regardless of getting sick, or this blowing over. The restaurants; forced to close, and even if they were not, who is going? Is my favorite server at my favorite restaurant, okay? I would love to offer food or supplies, but I do not even know his last name.

I think of the arts and recreation teachers I know. Their businesses depending on human interaction to succeed, now forced to shut down, flinging their lives into the unknown.

I also see beauty. I see people reaching out with offers of food and the ability to run errands. I see friends helping others navigate the murky waters of keeping their children learning. I see support for the arts, and artists trapped by uncertainty.

Will we emerge from this time, a stronger, more united society, or will we just fall apart? Time will tell.

My Morning Coffee

Its been a while…

Its been a while since I have posted anything thoughtful or otherwise. I’ve had the opportunity to get some traveling in. Best trip so far has been Ireland:

My newest project is my Audio Narrating Business. I am starting with an audiobook version of the Novel my father wrote before he passed away. I will give more details soon. For now, this is my studio!

Finally, I am still working on my writing. It is slow going, due to my many “squirrel” moments, however, I was recently inspired by a friend I had growing up. She recently finished her first novel and self-published. It gave me the push I needed to pick up the pencil again (ok- keyboard, but you get it!) You can find her info at http://amyfillion.com/

I am also working on cleaning up this website, and possibly transferring over to a different.

Please contact me if you are interested in reading a few chapters of my works in progress!

Embracing Conflict

I have been writing since shortly after my Dad passed away (five or six months now). As someone who has explored the many facets of my creativity, I find myself getting caught up with the same pitfalls in each medium.


What I have to say has no value and is not good enough compared to what others have to say.

I am great at starting a project, not so good at finishing.

Putting my work out there feels exposing and raw.  

I dislike conflict, and it reflects in my writing.

I wanted to take a moment to explore number four before I got into working on one of my many projects today.

I have always swayed between wanting to stay in the shadows and wanting to be heard. I think everyone wants their voices heard. However, if no one hears me, no one can judge me. I like things to be simple, with little conflict. I want to live in a world where everyone respects each other and has grace for rough spots. I love affirmation.

Today, as I was taking my husband to his work shuttle, I was driving down the road at the speed limit, and some big truck speeds in behind me and gets right up on my ass. My first instinct is to be super annoyed and angry. I comment on what he (not even sure it was a he) was compensating. When the road breaks into two lanes, the big truck pulls out and zips forward, passing me on the right. About 1000 feet later, we are both stopped at a red light. I hang back a bit because I do not want to be window to window. He can zip ahead of me if that floats his boat, and I’ll move on with my day.  

My husband, on the other hand, rolls down the window and tells me to pull forward, so our windows align (I don’t.) He is much more confrontational. I run down the list of reasons why the truck man was a jerk: He could be late for work, Maybe he is distracted, perhaps his dog died. My husband, on the other hand, thinks he is probably just an asshole.

This interaction illustrates where I struggle most in building a story. Conflict is where we grow, and it is what teaches us lessons. It doesn’t have to be angry or messy, but often it is. People understand conflict. They recognize it in themselves, and when seeing conflict in a piece of art, or story, sometimes they grow with it.  

I want my writing to bring introspection to my readers. I want my audience to read something and be able to see the conflict in themselves. (I also want to be exciting and intriguing). I have set a goal to try to introduce conflict into every chapter one way or another. As a dancer, I learned repetition, muscle memory, and practice improves our weaknesses. So I am hoping that translates to my writing as well.   

Two Wolves

Many have heard or read the Cherokee story about the two wolves. It goes like this:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”

I read this and love the thought it provokes. At the same time, it is evident to me which wolf I would want to feed. The problem I end up having is that my wolves are not always as apparent to me. Sometimes, it also feels as though there are about 30 of them.
The primary two wolves that battle in me seem to exist as follows:
One is conformity. It represents authority, burden, duty, guilt, obligation, liability, importance, power, and perfection. Also, loyalty, steadfastness, and devotion.
The second is a bit of a separatist. It is an iconoclast, an individualist, malcontent, a maverick, a rebel, unconventional, eccentric, a hermit, adventurous, and drifts through life. It is full of freedom, joy, and independence.
The wolves in the story the Cherokee speaks of are natural for me to choose. I see a clear path of the qualities I want to feed.

The problem I run into is that I love both the wolves that live inside me. Unfortunately, they don’t always play nice together. They both love and cherish the people and world around them. They see through very different glasses. The first one fits in better with society. It has a more comfortable life; it is content. The second truly lives and has so many qualities I want to share, especially the joy that can exist in our lives. It is an adventurer.

I love qualities in both of them. So I feed them, and they fight, and that’s just the way it is.

Love, Loss, and Reevaluating Life (part 3- who am I?)

Do I know who I am?

Recently, as my mother-in-law was leaving after a visit, she asked me if I believed in God. The question caught me off the guard.

To give you a little background. My mother-in-law believes in the literal translation of the Christian Bible. I, on the other hand, do not like labels. At first glance, these statements may seem to have nothing to do with each other. However, throughout my whole life, having to define myself has made me feel a bit trapped.

It is not as though I have a fear to commit to something; it is more the fear of judgment. I do not eat meat, and for a significant period, I did not consume any animal products. The minute my family started describing me as “Vegan,” I panicked. What if I messed up?! What if one day, I just really wanted a juicy red meat hamburger. I would be a hypocrite and ruin the good name of vegans everywhere. The world would come crashing down in flames, all because I ate a hamburger after being defined this way.

Yeah, sounds a bit crazy when written out this way, but there is a point. I recognize the irrational nature in those feelings, so I try very hard to always give understanding to those around me (especially to those who think differently than me). Sometimes, I struggle with finding grace for myself. Its easier to be free of labels.

So when my Mother-in-law asks me about my belief, I panicked a bit. Part of me wanted to sit her down, and spend hours speaking to my philosophies on a higher power, and how each aspect of “God” is as individual as the person who has a relationship with it. However, I suspect what she was asking was, do you believe in “my God.” I did not dare to verify this is the answer she wanted.

In the wake of my Father’s death, it brings many questions to mind. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Is there an afterlife? Does it matter?

I deeply admired and looked up to my dad. He was a teacher (quite literally), but it was also the essence of who he was. My sister and I were both raised as Catholics, but my Father always taught us to think for ourselves. He never preached, he asked questions. When one of us “believed” something, he argued the opposing belief. His actions have always given me the ability to look deeply at things.

When I have a belief, I need to understand it, and all sides of it thoroughly. So when my thoughts on God were questioned, it is not such a simple answer. Is it my job at this point to teach? If I take on the role of Devil’s advocate my Father so loved, am I disrespecting the background of someone who was not raised to question everything?

I ended up answering her with “yes, but not the literal translation of the Bible” ( Hopefully that is enough for her to rest well, believing that her Grand kids will not go to Hell.) It was a safe answer. I tend to choose safe more often than not. How is it that I can argue something I do not fully understand? How can I expect a book written by someone else’s relationship with God to instruct me (divinely inspired or not.)

I believe that God is something bigger than ourselves. That is my faith. I think my Father is part of this bigger. He always has been, and always will be. Will, I ever see him again in the way I understand now? Probably not. Will I seek guidance on how to process that? I hope so.

The next time anyone asks me what I believe, or who I am, maybe I will answer: “I am growing and evolving, and I hope each day I continue to do so.” and genuinely mean it.