The Wax and Wane of Writing

The Wax and Wane of Writing

Not to brag, but I’m the first ever winner of the Mash Stories competition. Okay, I meant to brag a little. I write this to forewarn you, the reader and likely writer. It’s not often that one finds oneself in the presence of such a contest-winner, unless you happen to be that contest-winner, as I am.  Or was, at least. We’ll get to that.

Everything was roses at the end of that first contest. My formerly fragile writer’s ego puffed and beamed. Mash Stories was one of my first writing competitions, and I inflated with the unreasonable thought that maybe — just maybe — they would all go like this.

As time passed, there was no question that I would enter again. It seemed unlikely that I would win, however. How could I? There would be outrage. Mobs of angry Mashers, talented writers in their own right, would rise up against the apparent favoritism. “No!” I would shout back. “Read the story!” And they would, and would love it, and would send in beautifully crafted apology notes and little candies. Still, I’m watching my figure, so best to avoid all that.

Reaching for my laptop, I penned a follow-up. It was a return to thematic writing, like my first story, yet with a smaller cast and larger setting. The loosely autobiographical theme was how even responsible parents can inadvertently put their children in danger. It was set in space, a location I’ve long been enamored with. I felt I had pretty good story. Then I read the word count: 1,031, more than twice the contest limit.

Little by little, I honed it down. At first the edits were exhilarating, and a better story began to emerge. I finished another draft, and my heart sank. I was still well above 500 words and felt I’d have to take drastic measures.

You come to a point in every Mash story where you feel you have it, you have the story you like, but it’s too heavy. I could have started afresh, but time had grown too short. I need to make this one fit. What to do? Do you pick out every extraneous word, like clearing a cluttered room? Or do you remove entire sections, like excising an inflamed appendix? My story appeared to require both.

Neutered but still respectable, I submitted. And waited. And wilted. The email came that I had not been shortlisted. I knew, even as disappointment gripped me, that the judges were correct. And so I had fallen. I had gone from winner to spectator in three months, washed out to sea in the tide of Mash.

I won’t pretend that I wasn’t deflated. Every writer faces rejection, but it’s never easy. It comes with a choice: does one continue on in this journey or does one resign more fully to other pursuits?

Nodding, I archived the rejection email and set my resolve. We are writers. We write. We can more easily change night into day than change that fact about ourselves. I remembered a rhyme I had written for myself:

Write not for fortune
write not for fame
write out for fictions
who whisper your name.

Every quarter, the latest Mash Stories contest brings another opportunity to write your best story. A lot of talented people are noticing Mash, and it’s becoming more than simply a competition. It’s growing into a community, and a community affords a writer many more opportunities. Like this: the opportunity to write an inspirational blog post for Mashers, to boast one more time, and to hide a secret message in the paragraphs above. Just for instance.

This post first appeared on the Mash Stories blog.

My Completely Obvious Secrets to Losing Weight

My Completely Obvious Secrets to Losing Weight

Secrets work best when they are non-obvious, but kids don’t really understand this. For them, there’s a thrill in a whispered statement. When one of our children wishes to share a hushed tidbit, they begin speaking, stop, beckon us closer, and exhale whatever little nonchalant is on their mind.

It’s adorable, and it tickles a little.

This post is my way of doing that. I lost over 45 pounds by doing what every health professional recommends: eat right and exercise. I’m breathing my completely obvious secrets into your downturned ear because sometimes it’s comforting just to hear what worked for someone else. Even if that someone is standing with their mouth way too close to your earlobe.

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“A Helping Hand” on Mash Stories

I’ve reentered the MashStories.com contest with a story called “A Helping Hand.” They liked it well enough to shortlist it! This contest has really grown in its three quarters, and it’s attracting ever more popular and seasoned writers. I’m definitely up against some great entries.

If you’re interested, you can find the story here: http://mashstories.com/shortlist/helping-hand/

Feel free to vote for it. Votes factor into the judging process. If you have issues voting, or you know anyone who’d like the story, share the link or this post with them. I’ll take all the votes I can get!

You’ll Be Selling Popcorn at the Airport

You'll Be Selling Books at the Airport

The idea was to get her to fall asleep. Ainsley was tired; we all were. Weather had delayed our flight, the final flight from Cleveland back to Sioux Falls, for at least an hour Ian was content to re-watch Frozen yet another time, whereas Ainsley, at 20 months, wasn’t so easily placated. I got her into the stroller and pushed on.

“Let’s see what’s going on,” I said, and we joined the throng.

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Short Hiatus

So, I guess I went on a short hiatus, there. Life caught up with me, sending me to a conference in the Twin Cities and then to vacation in Cleveland, Ohio. I know that’s no excuse; it’s just an explanation.

Expect posting to resume next week at a frequency of once a week or once every two week. As always, you can join my email list to get a free eBook and to get short stories sent to you that don’t end up on my blog. Sounds pretty awesome to me.

The Time Traveling Haircut

About three weeks ago, I needed a haircut. Badly. I generally prefer my hair short. my hair doesn’t look good long. It suddenly takes on an alarming amount of volume and begins to coif in a way reminiscent of the late, fabulous Lady Di.

As Ian had been asking for, then protesting against, a haircut for weeks, I decided to bring him along with me last Tuesday. My own cut was uneventful. They have my numbers on file, and I just let them go crazy. Ian had insisted on going after me, and he watched with passing interest while we both rebuffed efforts by other stylists to get his hair clipped sooner.

When Ian’s turn came, I stared in fascination at this process I’d seen several times before. I lifted my little “crazy hair” three-year-old onto the barber’s chair.  He sat with patience, his gaze steady and stern, as his blonde locks dropped like pedals upon his penguin apron. He wasn’t anxious; he wasn’t excited; he wasn’t overjoyed.

In too few minutes later, the stylist revealed a young man, a four-year-old in place of my little “Nian.” An entire year gone with a couple of clipped inches.

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Don’t Miss Out (Or Do. Whatever.)

Do you wish you were able to read the short story I just sent off to my RoOMeRs? Well, you can join them for free! Plus you get a free gift when you sign up! The only thing that isn’t free is my time and energy!

Visit my Sign Up page, let me know what kind of content you’re interested in, and watch the semi-regular emails roll in. Then you can join the nearly dozen of people who have decided to “get to reading that story eventually.”

You have nothing to lose, and you might help me become a better writer. Thanks!

Buy “Wisdom for Dad” by Hugh Weber (and Me!)

Wisdom for Dad, Hugh Weber’s latest parenting book, is on sale, and you should buy it today, April 15th. It features the bite-sized wisdom of Hugh and a number of other dad, including myself.

We’re trying to get this thing to number one, and to help encourage you to buy today, Hugh is giving out free eBook versions when you email him your receipt.

How to get the free eBook:

  1. Visit http://bit.ly/dadwisdom
  2. Purchase the book
  3. Forward your Amazon.com receipt to hugh [at] dudetodad.com

That’s it! Hugh will take it from there, and you’ll have Wisdom for Dad on any digital reading device you own. This is particularly handy when you’re having a panic attack and need to read some comforting words from men who have been there before (and had their own panic attacks).

Help this book get to #1. Buy it today!

Tiny Perspectives on the Infinite

Tiny Perspectives on the Infinite

As if it was obvious, Ian told us, “When I was a meerkat, I lived in a cave.” Being a parent means fielding strange tales from tiny people. We were driving when Ian made his announcement, and he regaled us for several blocks.

After the cave, he lived in a cage on a farm. He lived with lots of other meerkats. The meerkats fought “all over each udder.” His name wasn’t “Ian”, it was something closer to “Baseball Sandwich.” (I’ve forgotten exactly what it was.)

“What did you eat as a meerkat?” I asked him.

“Um… um… um… I just forgot.”

Stumped him, I thought, feeling too proud of my dubious victory. Of course, Ian embodied this animal identity well before he was born. He was born a human boy, but anything is possible before that. Why not a meerkat?

After all, I very distinctly remember telling my parents about my past life: as a college student.

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My Food Addiction

My Food Addiction

Watching home videos of our childhood visit to Disney World, I realized two truths about myself. The first is that I wasn’t a very good camera operator.

I’ll admit it: the camera work is shaky and out of focus. There exist long sequences of “forgotten footage,” where I forgot the camera was recording. In the final scene, we’re entering Paramount Studios. You can hear the excitement building in our voices as we see signage for the rides we can’t wait to experience. Mid-gait, the footage stops. Whether the tape ended or the battery died, I don’t recall. All that remains is several minutes of nauseating and askew footage.

The other truth was my focus — nay, obsession — with food at Epcot. One can walk a circuit called the World Showcase wherein countries of the world delight patrons in unique but methodical slices along the avenue. On tape, you can hear as I beg my parents, passing one country after another, to allow us to stop and eat. A quick glance at the prices dissuaded any such dalliance.

I regret the camera work, but I don’t regret the food. I remember how excited I was to sample the cuisine of France or Germany, to experience the edibles of Morocco and France, to taste the trappings of Japan or the United Kingdom. Imagine my early adolescent disappointment when we left unfed.

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Become a RoOMeR

One thing I’ve run into over and over in my writing research is this idea of a “Writer’s Platform.” The essential idea is that modern writers need to build a digital presence that allows people to “try before they buy,” so to speak.

I’ve had this blog for years. It’s always been a rather personal weblog, and over the next couple years I foresee it becoming more of a portal to my art whilst (hopefully) maintaining a personal voice. This website offers plenty of content, but not all of it is good (or meant for a broad, impersonal audience).

This falls into the “platform” part, and I need your help to bolster the “Writer” part. I want to create a clan of readers, people who will help me take my writing to a new level. I want readers who will fall into one of these categories:

  1. Someone who thinks I’m a good writer and isn’t afraid to tell me so
  2. Someone who thinks I’m a bad writer and isn’t afraid to tell me so
  3. Someone who thinks I’m a good writer who needs some work and isn’t afraid to tell me so
  4. Someone who is awesome

If you fall into any of these categories, please Sign Up to read my stuff. You’ll become a RoOMeR (Reader of Of Miles Rausch), which will entitle you to exactly one free gift which contains UNTOLD HOURS OF ENJOYMENT.

Visit the Sign Up page to learn (a very little) more!

Coffee Grounds: What’s Up With That?

Coffee Grounds: What's Up With That?

It began in Wal-mart. It was early days for Holli and I: newly married, recently Sioux Fallsian, and considering our morning beverage options in Impulse Buyer Heaven. We stood amongst the coffee, and my stomach twisted with conflict.

I had grown up with CDs (coffee drinkers), and my mother’s habits in particular had made a lasting impression on me. She would fill a large travel thermos every morning before driving the ten miles to St. Lawrence School, where she taught. Inevitably, all those days and all that distance gave way to accidents, spillage, and stains.

In my young memory, I recall scores of school papers with faint, caramel blotches marring them. I remember tote bags splattered with caffeinated Rorschach shapes. I recollect carpet and mats in our van permanently discolored.

To break the cycle, I had vowed never to drink coffee. Yet decades later, I found myself on the precipice of my own pitch-colored obsession pondering a common question.

Coffee grounds: what’s up with that?

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