Literary Mood Board (adapted from Entertainment Weekly)

The January 2021 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine — yes, I still get the print copy — contains a short, pop-culture-y interview with Barack Obama, asking him about the things that sustained him while writing his recent book A Promised Land.

I love these kinds of interviews. Not only do they provide a lighter look at writers and their process, I like to fantasize that someday, someone might want to do one of these with me. That I’ll have a book successful enough for anyone other than my friends to care what I eat or drink or listen to while I’m writing.

Hey, a writer can dream.

Since no one ever asks me, I just take it upon myself to respond to the questions posed in the interviews I read. I’ve done this a few times on this blog, if you want to check out my other answers.

The drink I need to get through a day of writing

I am sorry to say that I have yet to shake my love of soda. I tried seltzer — yuck — and iced tea — fine, but where’s the bubbles? — but in addition to the 64 ounces of water I try to drink every day, Diet Pepsi is still my go-to drink.

Back before the pandemic (remember then?), I used to meet my writing group once a week at a local McDonald’s. We had started out by meeting at various coffee shops around town, but they can get expensive and overcrowded. McDonald’s has ample seating and large tables (our group has five people) plus lots of power outlets. And I’m told the coffee is really good. I would get a large soft drink cup for $1 and refill that baby all afternoon. I’d go home a little wired but happy and productive.

And before you say, “But McDonald’s doesn’t have Diet Pepsi,” yes, this is true. There, I blend Coke and Diet Coke to get just the right taste. Yummmmm

The TV shows I put on when I need a break

I can’t speak for what I used to watch, back before the world went crazy last year. Now, during this pandemic, I have trouble concentrating on anything (see my last post about how I’m not reading). I’ve tried and dropped lots of series, How I Met Your Mother and Psych being the latest. Fun, but not hitting the right pandemic mood, I guess.

Lately, I’m enjoying documentary films and series because I feel like I’m using my brain in a relaxed, low pressure way. My latest binge has been Finding Your Roots on PBS. There are a lot of similarities across the episodes (not a bad thing in a pandemic) but the wow factor of discovering someone’s family history through war, holocaust, and slavery is undeniable.

Also, Nadiya Hussain is a gift and a treasure.

The music I played to help me while writing

You’ll laugh, but my “Working and Writing” playlist on Pandora is a combination of Baroque classical music, Spanish guitar, dramatic movie soundtracks, plus a dash of house music/EDM.

My kids cracked up when they heard me listening to Dead Mau5.

The person I called most often for advice

Before the pandemic, I had my writing group once a week to share with. We met outside through the summer and into the fall, but while the Colorado winter allows the occasional lunch or cocktails outside in the late afternoon, it’s hard to write with gloves on.

Even though we can’t get together in person, I have been doing weekly writing sessions remotely with my friend Lisa. We video chat for ten minutes or so to catch up and then we write separately in ten, fifteen, or twenty minute sprints, checking in at the end to see how much we drafted (or didn’t) and to support each other to keep striving.

Since the pandemic, I’ve also relied more on people far away. Two of my City Owl sisters (authors who are also published by City Owl Press) Negeen Papehn and Willa Ramsey have been my rocks and my cheerleaders during this time when I simply have been unable to produce any words that I can stand.

The first thing I did after I finished the book

See, the thing is, despite having written tens of thousands of words, I haven’t finished this one yet. It’s one of those one step forward, two steps back situations. More like one step forward, ten steps back.

But I’ll get there. My friends support me, my day job allows me the flexibility, and every time I think, “This is too much. I’m quitting,” the creative spark within me, one that’s been there for as long as I can remember, whispers, “You can’t quit. You still have stories to tell.”

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