Haiku Workbook and Contest!

Are you (or do you know) a middle, high, or home school teacher? If so, I’d love for you to check out a new user-friendly classroom resource with the added bonus of motivating students to do their best work for a chance–a very good chance!–to see their work published in an anthology!

Hai CLASS ku provides 90 haiku “starters” (a full semester of warm-ups, prompts, potential homework assignments, substitute teacher lessons), and it’s only $5.75.

teacher tool

Hai CLASS ku
90 classroom warm-ups and a 2017 National Contest for student work to be published!

Check out this Press Release for more details, or contact me directly.

Let’s have some fun with this!

Hai CLASS ku example page

Example page from Hai CLASS ku. Finish the haiku, draw a sketch, write about your inspiration!

Toilet Rules

… heed ’em if you need ’em.

Toilet Rules posted in public toilet, Delicate Arch parking area.

Toilet Rules posted in public toilet, Delicate Arch parking area.

“Keep this Toilet Clean” reads the sign directly over the open-to-the-bowels-of-hell pit into which I will pee before our hike to the largest freestanding arch in Arches National Park.  Delicate Arch stands 64 feet high by 45 feet wide—nothing short of breathtaking!—and there will be no place to cop a squat along the heavily touristed 3+ mile round-trip journey over powdery-sand-coated stone punctuated by the occasional dead tree or struggling juniper.

I’ve never seen this sign before, and since it looks quite clean and new, I assume the following rules have recently become an issue for the brave folks who keep our comfort facilities usable. I laugh, take a photo, and break the first rule:

“Sit on the toilet during use.”

Nope. Not going to happen. There’s no way I’m going to allow a speck of my skin to touch the surface of something thousands of strangers have abused before me. Not even lining the rim with toilet paper will do in this case. I’ll squat, thank you very little, and hold my phone and the crotch of my pants away from danger as well. I’m pretty sure this is what I’ve trained for all those years in the Army. The perfect squat.

I have to think about the second rule because it takes me back to my childhood years:

The fresh air of Delicate Arch!

The fresh air of Delicate Arch!

“DO NOT stand on the toilet.”

While this might sound like a ridiculous rule—why would you stand on a toilet unless you needed to reach something high above it?—I do recall a youthful time when I had to “go” after hours of shopping with my Mum. There were no rules posted in public restrooms back then, and I remember being instructed to place me feet on the seat (I was young enough to be lifted onto it) and squat to do my business. It was awkward, for sure, and I remember fearing I might slip into the bowl.

I couldn’t have imagined the horror of an open-pit toilet at the time, and the thought of losing my balance and sliding into the Delicate Arch toilet—even just a foot, my foot—gives me the willies as I write these words.

I also remember my three months in Korea supporting a military exercise and wonder if this rule is meant to assist the predominantly Asian tourists we’ve encountered this week. The public restrooms along our bus route in 1989 had holes on the floor with footprints painted on either side. You can read about how I almost started an international incident one day in my story Battle-Dressed Breasts (in Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Woman).

In any case, the rule makers don’t need to fear my feet, or hands, or any other body part coming in contact with their toilet.

Mike at Delicate Arch

Mike at Delicate Arch

The third rule is—hands down—the best (but there will be no hands down, either):

“DO NOT use the floor. Use the toilet.”

I glance around me and am happy to note this rule has been followed, at least so far today. Then I look down the hole into which I’m preparing to pee (don’t ever look down those holes!) and wonder if peeing in a corner might be preferable after all. But I do follow this rule.

After I say “Eeeew!” out loud, the fourth rule makes me laugh because I start to imagine other creative ideas:

“Put used toilet paper in the toilet.”

I envision a 3-D collage lining walls and ceiling in varying shades of brown. I will say no more about this rule. I have said too much already.

The last rule, the rule that is likely the bane of every honeysucker’s existence, is one I’m quite certain many users won’t follow:

“DO NOT put trash in the toilet. Use the trash can.”

 They won’t follow this rule because they’ve already done unmentionable things. And they’ve looked down the hole. They may even have forgotten to secure things in pockets pulled down too quickly.

They’ve seen things, things that will haunt them the rest of their lives. Things they’ll write stories about someday. They’ll make the trek to Delicate Arch and try to forget what they’ve seen. They’ll take pictures, many pictures, and post them on Facebook and send them to friends who wish they could be there breathing the clean air and watching the birds float on air currents overhead . . .

But the picture that will forever clog their internal hard drives will be the horror . . . the horror, of what they’ve seen in that hole! *

Mike and I make the trek to Delicate Arch!

Mike and I make the trek to Delicate Arch!

* Thanks to Joseph Conrad for inspiring my final words.

Mike completes Day 14/22 push-ups at Delicate Arch for the #22kill veteran suicide awareness campaign

Mike completes Day 14/22 push-ups at Delicate Arch for the #22kill veteran suicide awareness campaign.

If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!

“Deep Work”

I’ve done it before. It’s time to do it again, but I’ll do it differently this time, and I’ll ask you to join me.

In the summer of 2014, I deleted my Facebook account. Wiped it clean out of the interwebs and then blogged about my decision. Sadly, my story Seven Days to Sanity: Regaining My Life after Killing My Facebook Page went unnoticed by my hundreds of friends, many who complained they didn’t know where or why I had “gone.”

I’ll explain myself better this time, this first day of October 2016, this first full day of our fall trailer vacation in Moab, Utah. I’ll try to ignore the incessant whining of a snarf-dog left behind by its family in the Battlestar RV parked next to us.

Mike and I enjoy listening to podcasts. He’s downloaded hours of them on every topic onto his iPod, which makes travel time pass quickly and gives us lots to discuss. Yesterday, on our journey to our favorite campground, we listened to James Altucher’s interview of Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Before the podcast ended, I knew what I had to do.

I’ve been telling everyone I know that I’ll finish Waterwight II (at least in beta) by the end of this year, and although I’ve made great strides in outlining and noting spectacular scenes, I’ve not yet written beyond the first chapter.

It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing while ideas and dreams sneak up on me. Marketing Waterwight: Book I while re-releasing “Miss?” and publishing Haikus Can Amuse! and writing my first spooky novella during a 3-Day Novel Contest over Labor Day weekend have kept me as busy as anyone with a full-time job, yet I know I can do more. People have convinced me I need to keep in touch with my audience to maintain interest in my work, yet after years of daily Facebook/Twitter/Instagram interactions with daily (hourly!) “Likes,” I’ve not seen the same numbers translate into sales and reviews.

At some point, people who want to sell their products need to reevaluate the time and money they spend on marketing. My time is now, and my evaluation tells me the time I spend on social media is distracting from the time I should spend working on my craft.

Newport points out the lingering effects of distractions, especially those we delude ourselves into thinking we can handle. Of course I can multitask! I’ll just take a quick peek at my Facebook, my gmail, my Instagram, and then get right back to writing my next chapter. So why does it take me so long to refocus my attention? Because I can’t. I can’t multitask without consequences, and the consequences of taking my attention off of a big project—even for just a moment to count the number of new “Likes”—are significant and detrimental.

I know this is true because of my 3-Day Novel experience. I wrote The Hare, Raising Truth: A Naughty Tail in 32 hours. It’s 19K words, a fast-paced novella, and I never once opened my social media while writing it. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written. Check out my post about my write-a-thon experience: “Feeling Lucky?”

What does that experience tell me? It tells me I could finish an 80K novel in about four long weekends of focused work, and that’s pretty darned exciting. It’s what I must do. Pigs will never fly until you color their wings.

Would Samuel L. Clemens have completed Innocents Abroad if he’d had a Facebook account? Well, probably, because I’m attributing far more maturity to him as a writer than I have, but it might have taken him longer. When I think about the time I’ll retrieve by stepping away from my media-crack, I might actually be able to finish reading Innocents soon!

So while I’m not going to delete my social media presence, I am going to step away from three platforms that distract me horribly—Facebook (my strongest crack), Instagram and Twitter—until I complete Book II. I will continue to create and distribute my mid-monthly newsletter (let me know if you want to be added to my list) and will post blogs like this one on my website ( www.leadvillelaurel.com ), and I will check my email each morning before disconnecting, so you can still contact me if you’d like. I suppose I’ll still post my 22 push-ups on the 22nd of each month because I vowed to do that to keep alive awareness of veteran suicides (and I’m posting Mike’s 22 because his phone can’t), but that’s it.

My goal? I want you to be totally excited about reading my next novel, and that means I have to write it! I have to do the “Deep Work,” which I cannot do if I’m constantly posting trivial things.

And boy-oh-boy, will it be a relief to step away from all the political animosity choking social media this election year. Yes, it will.

And here’s where I’ll ask you to join me. Join me in stepping away from your greatest distractions. You’ll need to be honest about them, and you’ll need to be strong. If you want to produce something noteworthy, you must focus on it with your heart and soul. Are you ready? I am.

Laurel, OUT!

If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!