Co-signer Blues

31 07 2012

It seems only slightly ironic to me that I’m paying for my own college education (thus the reason for working full-time while attending college online) and I’m taking out very small student loans, but I just had to co-sign for my youngest son’s privately financed student loan. When you choose to attend a private college that costs more per year than what your mother earns per year, it’s likely that Uncle Sam’s student loan limit won’t cover things.

Another happy moment: “Mom, my books are going to be $700 so I need you and dad to pay for those.” Great. I just spent less than $150 for the three textbooks I’ll need next term, but English and Literature textbooks are cheaper than Macroeconomics and Accounting textbooks. Actually, he did visit one of my favorite finds (chegg.com – see it on my links page) and Amazon and get the final bill for his books under $500.

All this makes me wonder why higher education is so expensive. In socialistic societies (thinking most of Western Europe), college is state sponsored just like primary and secondary education. It’s not mandatory, of course, but why wouldn’t you choose to attend college (called tertiary education if you want a cool new vocabulary word) if it was paid for? Well, I’m sure Oxford and the other private colleges will cost you a pretty penny, but isn’t a degree a degree? Probably not, but a free degree is better than being $60,000 in debt when you graduate from college. Those spendy schools are for the wealthy.

If you think signing your own promisory note for a student loan is delightful, you should become a co-signer. When the first line is something like: “If the signer of this note defaults, you could be required to pay the full amount of their indebtedness,” you definitely ask yourself how much you trust your child. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t co-sign for anyone who I didn’t have mortal control over. (Did she just say “mortal control”? Yes, and that means I hold his life in my hands. I am his mother, after all.)

“I’ll just run to Switzerland,” he tells me. Is this engendering confidence for any of you?

“Now that your dad’s a world traveler (more on this later), he’d hunt you down.”

“I’m joking, Mom. Can’t you take a joke?” Let me tell you I’m going to make you pay $19,000 for something you didn’t buy and see if you think it’s funny. I’m guessing not so much.

It just amazes me that tertiary education is touted as invaluable to live at the middle class level in America, and yet college is made unattainable for many even in the current middle class because of the continual increase of tuition. If you can afford to attend (by putting yourself into debt for 20 years), you may end up ruining your credit when you can’t repay the loans because the job market is in the tank. You have a college degree? Awesome. That’s no guarantee that you’ll get a good-paying job. Or any job.

Is it any wonder so many kids are just giving up on the idea of college? Should American government do more to help them? Yeah, because the American government isn’t on the verge of bankruptcy. Is there an answer to this issue? Maybe I’m making an issue of a non-issue. What do you think? I’d love to hear what your thoughts on these topics.





Self-Publishing: Lame or Legitimate?

23 07 2012

It seems like there are more opportunities for becoming self-published than ever before. With all the internet social networking sites, it sounds like marketing your books should also be easier.

 

There’s still a big part of me that thinks that’s the way to go – if you can’t get an agent or publisher to look your way. Check out this post from writer and social networking guru Kristen Lamb. The Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors.

I downloaded a Kindle from Amazon that was self-published. It’s the first book in a fantasy series by a friend on WANA Tribe (Ms. Lamb’s social networking site for artists). It was well-written and a good story. She hired a professional editor and someone to create the cover art. The rest of it, she did herself – and the book is available in Kindle or paper.

What do you think, readers? Do you think self-publishing is a cop-out? Or do you think the new trend is all about e-readers and cutting out the middle man by “doing it yourself” seems like good business? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this dilemma.





Writing Woes

22 07 2012

 

This fiction writing workshop might kill me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say it might kill my vision of myself as a writer. Once upon a time (obviously in my fairy tale world), I thought I had a talent for writing. I was told that the more I read, the better I would write. I’m having a hard time believing either of these things for several reasons.

Reason #1

I’ve read young adult fantasy for more than 10 years and with voraciousness the past two. This doesn’t make it any easier for me to write my first YA fantasy novel. In fact, my characters seem too perfect or not conflicted enough, according to the professor (a published author) and my fellow workshoppers.

Reason #2

I had to redo an assignment. I know! The thought of it is – unthinkable! My short story synopsis didn’t have a theme and the plot and conflict were weak. This could be because it was one scene from the fourth chapter of the novel I’m working on. Or it could be because I stink at writing. What’s your vote? I’m sure you can decipher what mine is – Pee-Yew!

Reason #3

Even though I can hardly think of anything else but this story, the words aren’t flowing out of my fingertips onto the page. I begin to type and my inner critic screams so loudly that my brain can’t get the message to my fingers. This isn’t a block. I think it might be a message. Maybe from someone Higher Up than even my delightful inner critic.

Reason #4

My writing ability is better than half the people in my critique group and it looks like child’s play when compared with the other two writers. Needless to say, they are the two who I want to like what I write. Do I need to tell you what they think of my writing? It has potential – but right now it’s weak. Aren’t I too old to write so poorly? Especially since I’ve dreamed of being a writer since fourth grade?

Reason #5

I’m sick of getting nowhere. I wrote a whole novel, revised it and sent it out only to get rejected. Twice. There wasn’t any feedback which I’m told means the editors didn’t think my writing style (or the story idea) had potential. When I look at that novel now, I see many of its flaws – too perfect main character, too many tangents, not enough emotion, conflict too shallow.

Reason #6

I feel too old to keep feeling so insecure. I used to think I was confident enough to do what I knew was right no matter what. Then I started writing and people started criticizing it (and this is supposed to make me a better writer, which I’m open to) and I just wanted to run away. What that looks like: me reading a book written by someone else. More specifically, me reading a fantasy novel written by someone younger than me that I felt was pretty good, but not perfect. Shouldn’t that give me hope?

As usual, you just get to listen to me while. Come tomorrow morning, I will probably rewrite (yes, that means start from scratch) the story for the workshop. It will be my third rewrite. Will the third time be the charm?

 





Colorado Calls to my Creativity

15 07 2012

We did eventually see this buck and his family…on our way out of town

Today marks the end of my “vacation” for this summer. We’ve spent the past week in Delta, Colorado, helping the minister who performed our marriage ceremony with the Vacation Bible School at his church. It meant mornings with the kids, afternoons with set-up and evenings of preparation for the next day. Friday was our “touring” day.

With the sunshine that had heated every day above 90 being shaded by thickening clouds, we set off in their tiny Toyota Matrix to see the mining town of Ouray, Colorado. Even though it was less than a two hour car ride, it’s amazing how tired sitting in a car can make you.

Stopping in Ridgeway for lunch, we finally got to experience the wildlife. In this case, it consisted of ants and flies circling our table on the patio, and a lovely garter snake slithering in the flower bed beside us. Our host Judy, has firsthand experience killing snake families. We settled for just chasing this unsuspecting snake away.

In Ouray, a water park supplied by several nearby mineral hot springs was packed with families on vacation. The main street (also the highway) of town boasted colorful storefronts reminiscent of the earlier boomtown days. Later, we would wander through town and enjoy the ambience of souvenir shops.

A winding road seemed to lead straight into the mountains. Our guide took us to the summit of Red Mountain Pass, stopping at several points along the road to photograph the incredibly diverse terrain that surrounded us. The first stop was an overlook of the town of Ouray.

After viewing the summit and seeing that Red Mountain was indeed red, we returned to Ouray to take a slight detour into Box Canyon and see the falls. It was a short hike to a series of metal walkways and stairways that wound to the base of the falls. A natural overhang shielded us from the sudden cloudburst. Roaring from within its hidden tunnel,  noise from the falls made conversation difficult, deafening the audio senses with its powerful pounding. The view of the surrounding mountains was glimpsed through a crevice formed by the water.

An alternate trail took us up 200 feet for a view of the top of the falls. Hiking this trail took more effort and reminded me that the air at 7,300 feet was thinner than I usually breathed when exerting myself. Grand vistas unmatched by any artistic renderings bombarded my visual sense like a tidal wave.

Fresh air and physical exertion zapped all of us and we were a lethargic group on the ride back to Delta. Now, I’m in an airplane heading back toward “real life,” the mountain air and stimulating surroundings just a fond memory. All that beauty has inspired my muse.

Too bad the topic for the paper I have due on Tuesday continues to elude me.





Checking in from Colorado

12 07 2012

Surprisingly, I still have my voice. I’ve been leading the singing at the VBS here in Delta, Colorado all week. Today is the final day.

The weather has been hot and sunny. Promises of afternoon thunderstorms (which I adore) haven’t come to fruition in our neck if the woods. When we were flying in on Saturday, we could see the black, stormy areas on every side of the plane and see the infrequent flashes from the lightning. That isn’t the most relaxing way to enjoy a storm, I must admit, but it was a distinctly unique view.

Today, Jeff and I will be teaching the lesson and helping the kids with their worksheets. I had to organize the closing program, which is this evening. It looks like everything is on track for success.

My personal chef just informed me that breakfast is ready, so I’ll get back to this a little later,





Summer Term

3 07 2012

Yep, my keyboard might be put to better use as a pillow just now

I sit frozen with my hands poised over the keyboard. I’m supposed to be writing a trio of story openings. I’m supposed to be writing my novel so it can be read to real live teenagers in the fall.

The sun occasionally peeks from behind the mountainous heaps of gray clouds. It’s like a tip of the lips from your neighbor in response to your smile. The weatherman promises predicts a warm, sunny Independence Day, but in the great Northwest, we’ve learned to give as much credence to that as a politician’s campaign platform.

Where has my inspiration gone? Is it hiding with the sunshine? Did it flee to avoid the pounding inside my head? Whose bright idea was it to give up coffee anyway? My doctor said one cup per day would keep my migraines away.

I’ve actually written two of the three opening scenes. One is the opening of my novel and the second is the opening for chapter two. I was going to try to start one of the assignments for later in the term, but my mind is swimming with Aura’s quest.

Of course, we leave on Saturday morning for a week in Colorado and I know I’m not going to get much writing accomplished while I’m there. It won’t be because the friends we are visiting won’t allow it but because I want a break. I deserve a break (don’t I?)

Now Jeff tells me he’s going to Munich, Germany in August for his job. I really want to go with him. Aside from the fact that we can’t really afford a $1500 airline ticket, he’s going during finals week. Hurray! That really isn’t the best week for me to be side-tracked from school work (supposing I actually get ON track with it at some point).

I keep telling myself that at this time next year, I’ll be done with college. I’ll be able to take a vacation from anything resembling work. Sometimes relaxation is the most muse-inspiring activity of all. However, just thinking about relaxing isn’t helping rev me up for writing.

Positive words of encouragement anyone?





5 Common Writing Blunders that Can Annoy or Bore Our Readers

3 07 2012

5 Common Writing Blunders that Can Annoy or Bore Our Readers.

Even if I am fighting to find my inspiration, I can still find plenty of creative advice from Kristen Lamb. Check out her blog! While you’re at it, you should check out WANA Tribe, a great new social networking site for artists.








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