Archive for Writing Mothers – Page 2

Writing Critiques are SO SUBJECTIVE!

Writing and critiques are so subjective. I think that is the hardest thing about opening your work up to others; you NEVER know what you are going to get back, what the reader is looking for, or what he or she will respond to. To be honest, I hate this part about being a writer.

I have one long project I’ve been picking away at for several years. The feedback on it is always on one end or the other. Love it or hate it. Get it or don’t get it. Comments that are useful, comments that are ridiculous. I’ve experienced that in person, online, and through the mail. Instructors, fellow writers, published writers, unpublished writers, agents, editors. Everyone reads differently and everyone responds differently. It’s hard navigating through the extremes…at least it is for me!

For example. I received two critiques in the mail today. One loved my work and writing, gave me high scores on a variety of topics (scene, summary, characterization, plot, etc…). That person gave me a score of 90 out of 100. Sweet! But then I opened the second critique. That person didn’t care for my work and gave me lukewarm marks. Didn’t like my characters, didn’t care about them (he even wrote that!), said I had no plot, and a few other niceties. He gave me a 54 out of 100.

So what is a writer to do with THAT? Two critiques. Apples and oranges in response. Ugh. I’ve loved writing from the time I learned how, and I feel lucky to have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. But this is the part of the game I just can’t stand!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…

A few months ago, a bloggy friend of mine (Not Just Another Jen) wrote about her experience at a Bloggy Boot Camp in California and encouraged fellow bloggers to attend a camp if they had the chance. (She also mentioned that the gift bag attendees received at the end of the camp was rather amazing.) Apparently, even after four solid years of blogging, I was living under a rock because I hadn’t heard of Bloggy Boot Camp before. I immediately looked it up and was happy to discover boot camp was coming to a city nearby. Lucky, because they only go to six major cities per year! I signed up right away.

I learned quite a bit and took lots of notes, some of which I’ll share in a separate post. One thing I liked was that seating was assigned, and we changed seats about every hour or so. This gave everyone many opportunities to meet fellow bloggers and exchange business cards. For some reason I left home without even a handful of my own hundreds of business cards from my desk drawer, so I was disappointed about that. What an extraordinary opportunity I missed to network in that way!

Some of the topics covered were Growing a Lifestyle Blog, Things Every Blogger Must Know About Monetizing a Blog, How to Write Pitches that Work, The Writer’s Voice, Business of Blogging, Taming Time: Creating Calm From Chaos, and several others. We wore badges with our name, blog, and Twitter handle displayed, ate a great lunch on the top floor of the hotel, and left with a gift bag that included an ice cream scoop, measuring cup, serving spoon, wine bottle opener, chips, and other little things.

More to come on that. Off now to lick my wounds and wonder how on earth I could receive a 90 from one critic and a 54 from a second, both of whom read the exact same work. Nice!

Behind the Blog Redesign

From the moment I came up with the idea to start a blog about commercial fishing families and launched Highliners and Homecomings in 2007, I’ve consistently changed the look of the blog. Not drastically, but little by little. I’ve changed the header picture frequently and maintained a growing blogroll on writing, commercial fishing, and various other topics by friends and bloggers I’ve come across in my Internet travels.

Then, with the purchase of the CSS upgrade and studying a few books on the subject, I was able to change fonts, add borders, change colors, and add backgrounds all on my own. And of course, my favorite thing of ALL is to grab cool widgets and add them to my own sidebar. That’s a ton of fun. Sure, it made my blog busy and lose its focus a bit, but I couldn’t resist.

“Wow, Hon,” George always said when he logged in. “You’ve sure got a lot going on here!”

At the same time, though, G encouraged me to keep the theme when I complained I felt limited and to keep learning CSS. He also liked the pictures and backgrounds. “It’s all very interesting to look at,” he’d say.

Tinkering with my blog was a fun little hobby. Still, I was bored and wanted to make it better. So when I saw Keith’s ad in the newsletter for the local writer’s association about website design, I sent an e-mail. We met at a coffee shop and went over the basics.

“Basically, here’s the sitch,” I said.

“I’m a writer. So when agents, editors, bloggers, or other writers come to my blog, it needs to look good. I write about commercial fishing families. That’s my official platform, although I publish some outside of that. My family is a fifth-generation fishing family. I have two children. I want the blog to bring in the fishing wives and moms, but also the fishermen. Keeping my non-fishing readers is essential. I need to combine the masculine and the feminine. I don’t want it to look like I’m still fishing myself or that it’s written by a fisherman, but that I’m still involved, in a different capacity. What do you think?”

“I think you have a lot going on here,” Keith said. “We just need to dial it in.”

“I know,” I said. “We do.”

So, we got to work. We had more than a few laughs as Keith patiently implemented my ideas for color and borders, then let them sit on the screen for a while and worked on other parts of the blog as I studied the results.

(I’ve always loved color. I painted the walls of my first home office bright pink, I have pink hair mascara, and I love hair, body, and eye glitter. I take the white shoe laces out of new athletic shoes and replace them with hot pink and neon green and bright purple. I call it color; my sisters call it clowny. The clown factor does make its way into the things I create on a regular basis.)

“I don’t think those are working,” I’d finally say.

“I’m glad you’ve arrived at that conclusion,” Keith would reply, giving me a little pat on the back before deleting the work.

I’d never seen photo shop in action before and laughed like crazy as he piece-by-piece erased people I didn’t want in pictures. “There goes his hand, there goes his hat…”

And I was amazed again and again as we worked with the header, fonts, and looked for images and moved them around and around. Some of the words in the header are actually taken from a story I’d written, and the font for “Highliners and Homecomings” is called Lobster. Obviously our boat doesn’t fish for lobster, but it’s a fishy font we deemed appropriate. It was incredible the way Keith came up with idea after idea and moved and switched and photo shopped like it was the easiest thing in the world.

Working on the new blog design was scary but a lot of fun. Keith is a quiet and understated guy with a great sense of humor. I encourage you to bounce some of your own ideas off him and see what he can do for you. He doesn’t work with amateur bloggers often, so I am grateful he took time off from corporate websites to have fun with a chick like me and a blog like mine. His contact info is at the bottom of this post. Thanks again, Keith! I love the results. It’s calmer, smoother, and balanced.

I think we dialed it in.

Keith Turley

Writer Mama’s May Give-A-Way

I’ve been a lot of things the past couple of months.

I’ve been the wife of a commercial fisherman during the Dungeness crab season.

I’ve been the mother of a little five-year old daughter whose questions and curiosity seemingly have no end.

The mother of an almost-four-year old son who’s decided that a kick is the best way to handle his frustrations.

I’ve been the mother of a quiet, big, loving pitbull who died suddenly, and too early, at the age of seven after flourishing in cancer remission for three years.

A Jazzercise instructor and student.


Taxi driver.

The 17-Day Diet book reader.

Appointment maker.


Dish washer.

The Lit reader.

Photo album keeper.


Bed maker.

The “My tropical vacation is over” sobber.

Aaah…I tease. I’m happy and grateful to exist in all of these roles and appreciate the ups and the downs.

The one thing I haven’t been recently is a writer. Yikes.

I can hardly wait until June, when I’ll find out if I am a finalist in the non-fiction category of the big Pacific NW Writer’s Association Literary Contest. I worked hard on my submission and sent it off knowing I’d done the best I could do. But then…I balked, not working on my project further and turning my attention to other things.

It’s time to get focused again.

I figured that the best way to jump in was through Christina Katz, my longtime writing mentor. She is holding a daily writer-inspired book give-a-way on her site,, throughout the month of May. When she held a similar event in September for a few years, I actually won one time. Anyway, I will be checking her blog each day for inspiration and encouragement. If you need to get refreshed and refocused in your writing, I suggest you do the same!

Here is the information:

The Writer Mama Back-To-School Giveaway is back, only in May from here on out, instead of in September.

In the past, not all of the giveaway authors were mom authors, but this year you will meet a new mom author every day in May.

We also have a new theme this year: creative confidence. I’ll be asking each author a few questions about how authorhood has impacted her career confidence.

Imagine a chance to meet and hear inspiring stories from a new mom author every day. It’s going to be really cool. I hope you can come by and participate.

Participation is easy. I’ll post a new prompt each day when I introduce each author and book, and if you answer the prompt, your name will be added to the daily book drawing.

It’s a lot of fun, you guys. This is my fourth time doing it and I cannot wait.

Please mark your calendars for May 1st and I’ll look forward to seeing you here then!

Jen’s Friday Favorites

Too many favorites to count this week!! But here goes…

1. Family (and extended family) trip to Vegas!

2. George, the crew, and the boat wrapping up the Dungeness crab season and coming home this weekend.

3.  Eva and Vincent’s spring gymnastics show.

4. Only three more months until I find out if my submission for the 2011 Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s literary contest is a finalist.

5. Registering for the Bloggy Boot Camp! (And thanks to Mom and Dad for babysitting so Mommy can attend!)

6. My upcoming feature story for National Fisherman magazine! Stay tuned for details.

7.  The most hilarious lunch with my parents, sister, and precious baby niece today. Lots of laughs and the best way to spend an afternoon!

8. Everywhere I went in Vegas, I heard Jazzercise music. It made me feel so at home, at ease, pumped up, and ready to roll.

Have a wonderful weekend!!


One Year Ago Today (Plinky Prompt)

Absolutely none of my blog readers will be interested in this post, but I decided to take part in this Plinky prompt because I couldn’t resist. I happen to have my desk calendars saved for the past few years in a filing cabinet, so I was curious to see what I did on March 16 both last year and in some of the years earlier. Here’s exactly what I wrote in my calendars on those days:

One year ago, March 16, 2010: Teach 9:30 a.m. Jazzercise

March 16, 2004: Kennel pick up. Toby 6:15. Home. Story.

March 16, 2005: FILE. Fred Meyers/QFC. Larson’s.

March 16, 2006: Sandy.

March 16, 2007: Linens ‘n things. Meeting 5:30 p.m. Jazzercise.

Truly hilarious. I can’t help but wonder what happened during March 16 during 2008 and 2009, as I couldn’t find those calendars.

Today’s calendar simply read “preschool.” I suppose I keep writing “preschool” so I don’t somehow forget that Eva has preschool on MWF the way she has every week for the past six months. I could have also added “Boot camp. Groceries.”

And finally today…George left with the flat bed and trailer to start hauling in the crab pots out on the coast while the weather is decent. I won’t see him for a little bit now until the gear is in and we take our mini vacation at the end of the month. Until then, I’ll continue writing “Jazzercise. Boot camp. Preschool. Groceries” in my calendar.

I might add as well that I feel extremely fortunate to have such everyday normal activities and obligations on which to follow through during the week. I can’t stop thinking about the “events” in Japan or how quickly and disastrously things can change or be destroyed.

Always mindful of the blessings of normalcy and business as usual. Always.

Powered by Plinky



Jen’s Friday Favorites

Favorites of the Week:

1. That it’s finally March. I am so relieved that we are only about three weeks until spring. We made it through the dreary fall and winter months, and now we can move on. The fall and winter months never used to bother me back in the day when all I’d do is curl up with a book and read the seasons away. However…the non-stop packing up of children and hauling groceries and dealing with muddy dogs in the rain, wind, and muck for months on end is not my favorite.

2. The approaching end of the crab season. It’s been an incredible season all the way around and we’re thrilled and grateful for that, but I’ll be glad when it’s over. Then the kids and I will get George mostly to ourselves for an entire month before he goes up to Alaska for the halibut and black cod season.

3.  Jazzercise and Boot Camp. LOVING the newly released Jazzercise routines! Also loving the boot camp one of our instructors put together. It’s an eight-week camp and we just wrapped up week five. I love the combination of the two workouts. In fact, this week I ended up working out eight times in five days; five days of Jazzercise, three of those days including boot camp immediately following Jazzercise.

4. The Magicsuit from Victoria’s Secret. Why all the Jazzercise and boot camp? We’ve got our first full-fledged all-out family vacation in almost four years coming up in April. We’re going to Hawaii for two full weeks and I’ve been concerned about suits. My sister, Cassandra, sent me the link to the Magicsuit. It does everything I wanted and needed; shows off the good, hides the bad. Worth every penny! See picture and link below.

5. The Shorebreak Dress from Athleta. Similar to the Magicsuit in that it is multi-purpose and shows off the good while camouflaging the not-so-good. Picture and link also included below!

6.  George coming home for a visit this past week. G is always my “favorite”. He and his crew are TOUGH. And I mean tough. They fish where nobody else goes. They are super strong mentally and physically, and I don’t think you could find many to match them for tenacity anywhere. Congrats to G on an unbelievable season at sea, and a thank you for being so helpful, funny, and loving when he visits home! Love you, man!


The Magicsuit from Victoria's Secret really is magic!

Swim and shop in one dress from Athleta!

The Next Post is Up to You!

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on Highliners and Homecomings.

I’m going to write a post(s) from a writing prompt sent from one of YOU!

Go ahead. Send me your prompt. I’m not sure how many I’ll use, but it will likely be between one and five prompts.

Don’t be shy! Send ’em on. Let’s start March in a unique and festive way!

Bring it.

Favorite Job and a Night Away


If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What did you learn?

Oddly enough, I’m already doing both of the jobs I’d most want to have: Stay at Home Mom and Writer.

The only thing I’d add to this is that I’d do more writing. More paid writing, that is. It would be nice to have time to dedicate to additional professional projects, but that’s where my SAHM gig comes in and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The worst jobs I’ve had were in offices. I was always hired as the cheerful front desk person and while I enjoy people and love typing, I found that I couldn’t stand the positions after one week on the job.

My anxiety went into overdrive each day about 2 p.m. and I couldn’t wait to leave the office and breathe. I like office work…but I’ve since learned that I like it best in my own office!

(I can only pin the “I suffocate sitting within four walls under someone else’s thumb” on the heritage of fishermen and captains in my bloodline!)


The kids and I got to make a quick and spontaneous trip to visit The G and B&B (Brett & Bryan) this weekend. We had the best time, and the little ones and I were beyond thrilled to get in the car and get out of town!!

We shouted “Road Trip! Road Trip!” as soon as we turned onto the freeway, and we did not stop the car until we arrived in port and saw G waving at us.

We had only one night with The G and B&B, but every second was awesome.

Bowling, pizza, laughs, love all around…maybe I’ll make it to the end of the season after all.

Another Cool Commercial Fishing Blog

I am really excited today. I have no idea why, as nothing amazing has occurred, but I’m pumped.

One thing I love is that the large non-fiction writing project I’ve been working on for years has finally come together and feels perfect. Don’t get me wrong; it’s far from finished. I finally sat down last week and reviewed a ton of feedback on the work I’ve gathered so far from editors and agents all around the country, along with feedback from a few fellow writers.

Most of the feedback was legitimate and caused me to sit back and reflect upon the suggestions and insight. Other feedback was so off-base it was clear the reader did not have a handle on the material at all. That feedback I simply rolled my eyes at before depositing in both my mental and real shredders.

I decided that I will, in fact, enter the 2011 Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Literary Contest (deadline February 28) along with hundreds of other writers. I may not win a ribbon, but at the very least, I’ll come away with even more feedback to mull over.

The other thing I’m excited about today is that I’ve finally entered the “burn phase” of the 24-day AdvoCare Challenge I’m doing with a few other people. I did just fine on the first ten days and am looking forward to the final fourteen. This challenge, combined with all the Jazzercise, should help get me back on track and well on my way to feeling like myself again (as well as ready for our first real vacation in four years this spring!).

Last but not least, I discovered yet another awesome commercial fishing blog. I enjoyed the content, subject matter, and writing style so well that I’ve included a direct RSS feed to it in the sidebar to the right.

Fish Tales is written by Jen Pickett, who posts once a week on (the creatively and aptly-named) Pickfish Fridays. Here’s a bit about Jen, taken directly from her blog:

“Jen Pickett is a freelance writer, a poet, and commercial fisherman. She has spent nearly two decades in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry. Starting as crewman, she’s worked tenders, seiners, trollers, gill netters and long liners fishing Alaska’s waters for herring, salmon, and halibut from Southeast Alaska to the Copper River Flats, Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Bristol Bay.  At the ripe age of 28 she became one of the few women to own and skipper her boat on one of Alaska’s most dangerous waters, the Copper River Flats, where she fished alone for the famous Copper River Kings and Reds. Encountering storms, breakers, broken-down equipment, ripped up nets, exhaustion, whales, sharks, and close calls with giant cruise ships and many other near misses, all became the norm aboard her 28′ boat…”

Pretty cool, right?

And before I go….Happy Birthday to my one time fishing crew mate and forever little sis, Steph!!

Happy 3rd Birthday, Blog. Time for a Change?

It’s been three years since Highliners and Homecomings was born. Since then, I’ve made many changes and added several upgrades. (I won’t bore you with behind-the-scenes bloggy details.)

However, WordPress has come out recently with several new themes that allow easier creative control. By “creative control” I mean a more functional layout without knowing CSS code, which I’ve learned to enhance the blog this last year.

I’m the first to admit I don’t like change. I’ve worked hard to grow and improve this blog the past three years and have actually enjoyed learning CSS so I could keep the layout of Highliners and Homecomings fresh and interesting.

I also don’t like standing still.

So, it’s up to you guys. You answer the poll; each of you gets one vote. Whether you’re a regular reader it’s your first time visiting, VOTE!

Oh, and Happy Third Birthday, Blog! You are so much fun and every day is a new adventure. Here’s to many more years together!


Hey, this a great Third Birthday Present for Highliners and Homecomings. We just received a 96 out of 100 from a professional blog grader. Very happy!