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Advice For Writers, And Other Ramblings

I had big plans for the summer. I really did.

After I left the May writing residency at Queens University of Charlotte, this is what I planned to accomplish:

  1. Deep revision of the first 1/3 of my novel (Chapters 1-5 as it now stands)

  2. Finish first draft of the second 1/3 of the novel (it is about 80% written, but needs a lot of work, and a lot of “connections” work…)

  3. Edit and finish two short stories workshopped at the May residency and ready them for submission to literary magazines starting in September

  4. Finish submission drafts of five “older” short stories to begin submitting to literary magazines in September

  5. Read 15 books

  6. Read 30 short stories

  7. Write at least one blog per week, focused on the short stories I’m reading, promote short fiction to a wider audience

So, the middle of August is almost upon us. Schools are starting back and the lazy part of the summer is coming to an end. Since returning from the residency, Cami has gone to Florida for an interview to the school where she most wanted to teach, been offered the job, and accepted it. We have sold our house in Indiana (after ten months on the market), sold/given away/thrown away/donated over half of our material possessions, sold one of our two cars, closed the sale of our house in Kokomo, packed up all of the stuff we had remaining, driven it through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida, relocated all of our things (and our two beagles) to Bradenton, Florida, adjusted to living in a new town in less than half of the space we occupied in our house, and squeezed in several trips to the beach and an unplanned trip to Charleston, SC for a family funeral.

How did I do with my writing goals? Well, I did complete a solid edit of the first third of the novel (and with this edit, I think it’s even BETTER than it was). And I have five stories ready to send out for submissions as reading periods re-open in the coming weeks (including ONE of the TWO new stories). I’ve only finished reading 6 books, though, and roughly 20 short stories, and my blogging hasn’t gotten any more consistent.

I could be down on myself…I have a lot of work I WANT to do that I still need to do.

But several years ago, my first writing mentor, Margaret Kingery Dimoplon, gave me some advice. She said that there were times for writing, and times for living so that you could do more writing later. The living times are the times when our family comes first, or we make the money to pay the bills, or we simply experience the things that will later lead to new stories, new scenes, new scenarios for the characters that populate our minds.

This summer has been not just a summer of writing, but of living, and attempting to strike a balance. We are in a new place, seeing new things, meeting new people, and it seems prudent for me to be engaged in drinking in all of this new-ness.

One of the things we’ve made a point to do is to go to the beach and spend time on or near the water. The beach and the many recreational activities were some of the things that drew us to Florida, when we were looking for somewhere to move to, and we have tried to make sure that we aren’t going to forget that OR take it for granted.

So, we have been kayaking, at least once a week for the last several weeks (twice a week, when we can fit it in). It has proven to be a great way for us to enjoy the beautiful landscape and relax. We’ve been using an inflatable kayak produced by the Sea Eagle company. The Sea Eagle 370 (the slightly larger sister to the Sea Eagle 330) has been an amazing product for us. It is easy to transport, set up, paddle around, and pack up. We aren’t expert paddlers, and we certainly aren’t hitting any rapids here in the waterways and bays of west Florida, but we have found this boat to be an incredible addition to our recreation menu.

The Sea Eagle 370 is an inflatable kayak, with two seats and a capacity of 650 lbs. The whole thing only takes about 10 minutes to blow up and get ready for the water, and when you are done, it compresses back into a suitcase-sized bag that easily fits in the trunk (boat, seats, paddles, and all). This was the most economical way for us to have a kayak, and on top of that, the easiest to store and transport. Living in an apartment and having only one car (without a roof rack and not really wanting to install one), one of the things we had to consider was where we would store a kayak (or two…) and how we would get it out to the water. The Sea Eagle boats solve both of those problems.

The 370 kit weighs about 35 lbs, and it is easy for me to carry it to where ever we want to put in, and Cami and I work the little foot pump to get the floor inflated, and then the two side chambers. Even using the foot pump, it only takes us about 7 or 8 minutes to get it full. (You can use a battery powered air pump like you would use to blow up an air mattress, if you want to shave a couple more minutes off the time…) The boat handles well and we have enjoyed it immensely.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a pool float we’re taking out into dolphin-, manatee-, and shark-infested (?!?) water. The rubber material used in the kayak’s construction is thick and hearty and stands up to a lot of abuse. Many other Sea Eagle owners take their pets out on their boats and kayaks, without incident. (That’s something we haven’t tried with the beagles yet.) This is clearly a well-made, well-thought out boat, even if it IS inflatable and you can roll it up and store it in the trunk…

We’ve really been happy out on the water, relaxing as we watch the birds and listen to fish jumping around us. We even had a chance to paddle with several dolphins recently. Below, I’ve put together a little video with some of our first paddling experiences. More to come!

Find out more by visiting our Sea Eagle page on my wife’s new website!

(Special thanks to my friend Michael Krahn for the music I used to drown out my irritating babbling on the video…)


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