Category Archives: Thoughts

Things Fall Apart

There are days where things fall apart. I work hard to make something work only to get multiple signs from all angles that maybe I should let it go. I’ve had this happen a number of times.

For example:

Busting my buns to get to a play date, despite a broken down car, bad directions, and fussing baby who’s missed a nap—then when I arrive the kid we’re set to play with is super sick with chicken pox or something equally annoying. Yes, that’s something I’d like to know before agreeing to a play date, thanks.


Doing everything I could to get a job promotion, despite failed hard drives putting together the paperwork, shady interactions with potential bosses, and staining my dress shirt right before the interview. Then when I get the job, find out it’s for less pay and more hours. Not exactly the promotion it was advertised to be.

In either case, the universe is trying to warn me against something and I’m so determined that these are just hoops to test my strength (sometimes they are), but a lot of the time it’s exactly what it is: a huge blinking caution sign.

I ran up against one of these caution signs this weekend. I absolutely can’t believe I’m going to blog about shoes, but here it goes.

When I had my son about seven years ago, I had some major nerve damage. Long story short, I had to do several months of physical therapy to re-learn how to walk (I had the ability to stand, but the signals to pick up my legs and set them back down was not activating). Maybe someday I’ll blog about it, but not today. (A year later I had to do another year of PT, for a re-occurrence of the same problem—again another blog post). During the course of the PT, my physical therapist explained that I should wear a certain type of shoe for my safety. I just don’t have the same muscle control as I did before in my legs. And I could never really walk in a heel to begin with . So I need shoes with tons of grip, wider bottom for stability, and preferably something that supports around the heel, so I don’t have to fight for balance (not a slip on, not a flip-flop, not a pump).

I got rid of my worst offenders (Good-bye Dansko). I figured I’d get by and cheat with the rest. I wore my dress shoes so infrequently, I figured I’d walk carefully and slowly and make it work.

I was born without the girl shoe obsession gene. I don’t really like to shop, especially for shoes.

Then this last year, my black dress shoes stopped cutting it. The leather has become so stretched out; it’s hard to wear. So I thought rather than buy new shoes, I’d use my Eddie Bauer gift card and buy a new dress and a new skirt. I only owned one dress before and no skirts. I swapped out my black shoes and thought I should start wearing my brown dress shoes instead. My daughter begged me to wear my new skirt around town and I did.

The black shoes are too stretched out and I’m sliding around in them. The foot bed of my sandals (which are fifteen years old) are crumbling and falling apart between my toes. And I thought I was being smart to save money by re-discovering my brown shoes, but they fell apart while I was walking around the house. No, really. They LITERALLY fell apart. I’m not mis-using the word literally. I’m not creating a hyperbole. Here is a photo of my brown Clarks shoes:

I was just walking and the rubber started crumbling

I was just walking and the rubber started crumbling. My husband is holding the shoes in these photos (in case you’re creeped out by my incredibly manly hands :)


Here is an angle where you can see a string of hair. Excuse me while I go sweep the floor again...

Here is an angle where you can see a string of hair. Excuse me while I go sweep the floor again…


So you can see, for once, I’m not exaggerating.

Things fall apart. Stories I’ve spent months perfecting don’t sell, despite the personal rejections piling up. Plotlines lose their logic and stop making sense, the kids get sick when I have a deadline, and I settle for last minute get-togethers with friends than the planned out parties we used to throw. It’s like I’m duck tapping a plastic chair together that is not safe to sit in anyway, or scrambling to keep a paper tablecloth from blowing away in the wind. Maybe I need a new chair. Maybe the table underneath is fine. Maybe that story that won’t sell is not my best and I have to dig deeper.

I’m pretty sure the universe is trying to tell me to let the world crumble a bit. And then search the remains, because something interesting/more beneficial/more healthy always comes out of the pieces. Instead of holding on to the old things around me (keeping status quo), it’s time to take action. It’s time to go the directions I’m being pointed toward.

And it’s time to buy a new pair of shoes.

We love comments! Every time you leave a comment something someone tried to make work that didn’t will turn out to be better than originally planned.



The Day I Was Accidentally Racist

UPDATE: Another friend has joined us in our humiliation. Rebecca Birch bravely has shared her story about The Day She Was Accidentally Religiously Offensive. 

My friend Andrea Stewart just wrote this amazing blog post titled: The Day I Was Accidentally Sexist and before you read my story you should probably read hers and get some context for why I’m sharing my story. I thought it was extremely brave of her to tell this story (even though she was totally not being sexist and it was an innocent mistake–which I believe because she is my friend and I refuse the idea she was sexist for that one innocent moment). I’ve forever wanted to write about a similar experience and I’ve never had the courage, because I was so very afraid of being judged.

First of all, I believe we all have these moments that we wish we could take back, do differently, or just spend the extra second to observe a little closer before speaking or acting. And here’s mine:

It was my second year of college and my boyfriend (now husband) and I met after a class. When I found him, he was talking with a friend of ours who was on exchange from Africa getting an Agriculture degree. We were all hungry and decided to go to a restaurant downtown and chat some more. He was interested in talking with us about our experiences on growing up in agriculture families. We decided on a Chinese food restaurant–of which I’m an addict.

We sat at our table immersed in a nice meandering conversation where I mostly quizzed my friend on Africa. I’d never been outside of about a two-hundren mile radius at the time and Africa was on my bucket list, a place I’d fantasized about as a child. Aside from the water we got when we first sat down, our waitress hadn’t returned. It had now been a while and we’d not given our orders. Noticing this, I gathered up our menus and set them on the edge of the table as a hint.

We continued talking, at this point I was more interested in the conversation to care about the service just yet. When I ran out of water I set my cup to the side, hoping it would be noticed and refilled. I worked in a restaurant when I was in high school and I remembered how hard it was sometimes to know if someone wanted to be bothered. I loved it when the cup was easy to access.

More conversation and still no hint of service. All our glasses were drained now and I was fiddling with my backpack wondering if it would be rude to pull out a snack. I have a poor concept of time, something I was told later in graduate school is a side effect of dyslexia, so fifteen minutes could have gone by or an hour–I’m not really sure. All I knew was that I was hungry and thirsty. I started glancing around the restaurant looking for our waitress when I saw a woman walking by with a pitcher in her hand. She set the pitcher at the window to the kitchen where the waitresses pick up the plates. She headed back toward us. I flagged her down, first attempting to make eye contact, then holding up an curled index finger and wagging it.

She kept on walking by headed to the large table where there was obviously a party of some type going on. The group was alternating between English and some Asian language that I didn’t recognize. Up to this point I’d only really heard Cambodian (Khmer) and Mandarin (I think more of a Beijing dialect that a few local families spoke where I grew up). We had very little diversity in the small community where I was raised.

She passed our table and I whipped around and called out “Excuse me! Excuse me, Miss!” to get her attention. I was really polite, but also there was probably some desperation in my voice since I was hungry and thirsty.

She turned around and blinked at me and I held up my water glass. “Can we get more water?” She gave me a confused look and I added. “Also I think we’re ready to order.” I felt sort of proud that I was helping everyone at our table.

The conversation at the table stopped, while our African friend examined me with a look of horror as the girl explained, “I don’t work here.”

Immediately our friend leaned in and asked. “Did you think she was our waitress because she was Asian? We’re in a Chinese food restaurant so you assume anyone who’s Asian must be a waitress?”

“No.” I fumbled around for the best explanation and all of them seemed to point to the fact I was an awful human. “She had a pitcher. I saw her walking with a pitcher.”

I kept my voice low, but then thought maybe I should be a bit louder so the girl would hear me and know why I’d made the mistake.

But our friend was examining the table where the girl sat down. Our friend explained to me that the family was speaking Korean and then grinned, shaking his head, more in pity than in amusement.

I wanted to crawl under the table and die, right there. I froze, no words or intelligent explanations forming. My face heated, I swallowed against my heart beating in my throat as if it wanted to escape as badly as I did. I wanted to explain that the girl had a pitcher again, so he’d understand my context. But he didn’t seem to take this as a reasonable explanation, so I stewed over other answers in my head to make me seem less racist, all of which I was afraid to say out loud because what if it made me look even more like and idiot trying to explain it away?

I was enrolled in a Multicultural and Gender Studies class and we were currently learning how sometimes explaining away and reasoning dug a hole revealing more racism, prejudice, assumptions, and sexist thoughts/ideas. My boyfriend wasn’t saying anything (He’s never done well in situations of conflict), so I had no idea how my little incident really looked. My only judge was our friend who seemed pretty shocked I’d flagged down a lady of Asian decent and expected her to be our waitress simply because we were in an Asian food establishment. I wanted to offer up that I grew up in a town with two Chinese food restaurants and most of the waitresses were white (because we didn’t have a lot of diversity–so I didn’t assume she worked here based on her race), I also wanted to explain that I often get stopped in Mexican restaurants by people asking me to clear their plates, get water, or order (since then I’ve also been stopped at an Indian restaurant, because I also look Middle Eastern). But again all those explanations and little asides would have been flawed, it didn’t excuse the fact I’d done it, that I couldn’t reason away since NOBODY else saw she walked by with the pitcher. For the love of chocolate, did anyone see she had a water pitcher???!!!

So somewhere out there I hope someone else at that restaurant saw the same thing I did and will confirm for me that I’m in fact not making a racist conclusion. And if that poor lady I mistook for a waitress is reading, then I’m so sorry. Even though I think I said it then, I don’t remember if I did. Although amusing when it has happened to me, deep down it’s not pleasant that someone drew a conclusion based on the color of my skin, hair, or features.

(PS and for those who have flipped to my About page to see a picture of me. I do look totally white, and yes that means I do get a white privilege pass most of the time. In case you’re wondering, or it makes a difference on how racist I am, I’m part Native American Indian (Shoshone–Wyoming area), Portuguese, and yes I have a great-grandmother who immigrated from England about a week after the titanic sank. My maiden name is apparently on some sort of terrorist watch list (it’s a Middle Eastern last name and I got stopped in airports pre 9/11 before I took my husband’s name. I’ve been detained at boarder crossings to verify my passport/heritage. I tan really well in the summer). I’ve been racial profiled and it makes me so upset I did it to someone else.

I love comments! Please share your equally horrifying, embarrassing moments or just heckle me in mine. 


In Which I Bombard You With All Sorts of Cool News

It seems every year I vow to update my blog more regularly, but such is the curse of most fiction writers–when I have a spare moment there’s always some other story demanding my immediate attention.

First bit of cool news:

My minion…er…I mean husband took it upon himself to create me an official–we’re talkin’ fancy-schmancy professional looking author page. It’s good he’s talented in these sorts of things.  I’m pretty worthless around a computer except to poke my way around Word or Scrivener like a toddler swinging a stick at a piñata.  Anyway, it’s gorgeous and wonderful and you can view it here:

Then he also insisted I have a separate Facebook page, too. What? It’s not good enough to hang my name on a cyber door–I have to engage in social media too? I’m beginning to think this is how he will drag me into the modern era (kicking, screaming, and begging for my candle lamp and washboard back, so I can get some chores done. And while you’re at it my ink well is dry!) Anyway, if you have Facebook and you want to be updated on my writing news and publications you can ‘like’ me here:

And the last bit of cool news is that the results for the Daphne du Maurier Awards are in annnnnnddddd….

I won first place!!!!

~throws confetti~

Okay, so the required story on the win follows:

I didn’t attend the National Romance Writers of America Conference, because it was in Atlanta GA and I’ve been saving my money to go to WorldCon this year (my first writing conference ever… I’ve done workshops, but so far no cons). I knew the results were being announced at the Death by Chocolate Ceremony thrown by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA. The ceremony was at 8pm Eastern time and I knew by 9pm Pacific time the ceremony must have been done and winners announced. Thinking, huh, I never got an email nor could I find any announcements anywhere that I must not have placed, but I was curious who won. I emailed the contest coordinator with a short note that I wanted to know when the results would be posted. She emailed me back a few minutes later wanting my phone number. Turns out she also was not at the national conference and on Pacific time. I sent off my number and went back to the short story I’d been working on all day. Ten minutes later my phone rang.

She played around with me a bit. “So you entered the Paranormal category, huh? Tough category.” I could hear pages flipping in the background, she was most likely searching for my name thinking, ‘did I file that under Tina, Smith, or Gower…why does this girl have so many names? Jeeze, pick a name already.’

“You sent in the chapters from your novel Identity?” she asked.


“We had some rearrangements with editor judges and some of the judges were different than the ones advertised.” Long dramatic pause. “Nothing wrong with your category though. Everything was in order.”

“Oh good.” She was talking business now, letting me down easy.

“So you’ve not heard any of the results? Not any?”


“Well, Tina, then I guess I get to tell you…” Her voice lifted and my heart sped up, because I could tell by her tone she had something good. Maybe I placed? “You placed.” Holy Cow! “Not only did you place first in your category, but the editor who served as your judge wants the full copy of the novel for publishing consideration.”


I’d been told at my first RWA chapter meeting that sometimes an editor will request a copy of a full manuscript from a contest, but I’d heard it was never a guarantee. And since I’d spent years banished in dyslexia hell, teachers shaking their heads at my scribbles, friends giggling at my misspellings–I always assume I’ll get nothing more than a pat on the head for most of my writing attempts. But I like this turn around in my career. I’m starting to really like it!

Plus, I’m really excited for a chance to work with this particular editor, if the publishing house does like my story.

So that’s where I’m at now. Again, it’s just a request to see the rest of the novel, and it’s not a guarantee for a sale, but I’ll take it. This will be the first editor to see my novel and I’ve not sent it out to any agents, so if it’s a ‘no’ I still have a lot of other options. I’ve been busy rewriting some of my novella for the Stellar Guild project and now I’m going to do a few more re-reads and polishing of my novel before I get the packet with the information on how I’ll submit to the editor.

Okay, that’s all! You can take off those flack jackets now. I promise I’m done bombarding… for now 😉

Some People Run Marathons

Right now I’m staring at 300 pages and 62,000 words. I haven’t written a blog post in a very long time and those 300 pages and 62,000 words are why. On top of that, I’ve completed about ten thousand words of short-short stories (under 5,000 words) for a total of another 15,000 words and started several more. This is in only the last six months.

Why am I even talking about this? Am I bragging?


Let’s call this what it is. I’m flabbergasted I’ve made it this far. I’m betting this is what it feels like for people who run marathons. They sign up for a fun activity, they need a hobby, but secretly they’ve always wanted to push themselves past some imagined limit.

Can you imagine yourself achieving the one thing you’ve dreamed about your whole life? The dream people scoff at as if it were the equivalent to winning the lottery?

How about smaller dreams? You just want to better yourself or stay in shape.  When you make your goals smaller and achieve them then it’s time to move them up, keep raising that bar.

And that is all I’m doing.

Some people run a marathon and I’ve chosen to write a novel. But just like a race I don’t expect to come in first place the first time. My goals are not connected to success. Instead I connect them to something measurable: completion by a certain date.

This is the time of year people start thinking of resolutions and yearly goals. Several years ago I didn’t wait for New Years I just started. I think this worked for me. So do whatever it takes to make it work for you.

So this concludes my update post.

I love comments! Every time you comment rainbows and glitter will appear, you will save a puppy or kitty. Not realistic? This post has been all about pushing yourself to believe the impossible and you might as well start now :)

The Trouble with Tribbles (and Rejection)

I started watching Star Trek when I was ten. The thing is, I would have watched it sooner, only we didn’t get that channel. Once we finally moved to an area that got CBS, my life changed. Up to that point, I only had Star Wars to keep my creative mind flowing and my parents indulged me with the required Ewok stuffed animal toy I cherished until the day I lost it. Anyway, Star Trek was the show that actually stimulated my sudden appetite for reading. If it had Data on the cover then I probably read it.

The first episode I watched was the Trouble with Tribbles, from the classic Star Trek series. This was before the internet, so I didn’t know that so many people actually hated that episode, but I loved it. Those silly tribbles were so cute, I didn’t really understand the trouble with them, the more tribbles the merrier. After that first episode, I penned my first (incredibly bad, as in bada$$) fan fiction story based in the Star Trek world.  So in a way we now have Star Trek to blame for my delusions of grandeur that I might one day write fiction that sells.

About a year ago, I stopped writing non-fiction and engaged full thrusters on writing fiction and, knowing it will take years, didn’t really get too concerned when I didn’t even get a bite on my first few attempts.

The first rejection is like that first furry, darling, unexplainable tribble. “Isn’t this little guy cute! Hey, my first tribble, I mean rejection! Wonder what he’s doing here? You must have rolled into the wrong inbox.” Then you turn around and there’s ten tribbles, er rejections, none of them bothersome, just sort of amazed so many can rack up on one story and still have more opportunities out there. Then there are so many rejections you start to avoid sending the story out in fear of getting too many tribbles. You start to wonder what makes them fodder for tribble feed.

The tribbles have ruined my ability to see rejections clearly and reasonably.  The editor sends something like this:

Writer –

Thank you for sending your story to (name of magazine). We have reviewed over a hundred amazing submissions for this issue and your story was no exception. However, we feel it is not a good fit for our publication. Good luck in the future with this story. Keep writing and we look forward to your next submission.

And my brain only sees:

Writer –

Thank you for sending your story to (name of magazine). We have reviewed over a hundred amazing submissions for this issue and your story was no exception. However, we feel it is not a good fit for our publication. Good luck in the future with this story. Keep writing and we look forward to your next submission.

When I stare long enough the tribbles really mess with me and a hidden message appears:

Writer –

Thank you for sending your story to (name of magazine). We have reviewed over a hundred amazing submissions for this issue and your story was no exception. However, we feel it is not a good fit for our publication. Good luck in the future with this story. Keep writing and we look forward to your next submission.

Which is just wrong. Even the ones that are much more personal, telling me how close I was or praising the story make me feel really happy at first, until I remember it’s another tribble destined to multiply.

I think rejection letters would motivate me if they had some sort of insult attached that I could work really hard to prove wrong.  Something like:


This was voted the worst submission this month. We posted it in the water cooler room to remind all the editors what we’ve spared them from. We don’t think you’ll ever sell this story or any other in at least three years, or until you take a basic level writing class.  Thanks for the laughs.

We look forward to your next submission.


I’ve started to panic and panic makes my imagination run wild. I see a list of reviews next to my future novels.

See what Editors are saying about Tina Smith’s work:

“Wasn’t a good fit.”
-Hacks Magazine

“Not quite right for our publication.”
-Magazine of Mediocre

“Didn’t win me over.”
Rejection Weekly

“Couldn’t hold my interest.”
Daily Doubt

I’m a psychologist, so I was sure I could reframe my thinking on rejection. I wish I could think like other writers that rejection doesn’t mean I’m not awesome yet. I could be close and just need more stories out to up my chances.

But working on more stories doesn’t cure my fear of rejection. Thinking of rejections as a stepping-stone to an awesome sale doesn’t really help either. Ignoring the rejections definitely doesn’t work. Even thinking of rejections as adorable fuzzy rodent-like balls of cuddle hasn’t worked so far.

Now I finally see the trouble with tribbles, you get enough of them and they can start doing some damage. Some can even alter your self esteem by their sheer crushing volume. The problem is, it takes those balls (you know tribbles) to get anywhere worth traveling, so bring them on.

I love comments. Every time you leave a comment a poor deserving starving writer sells a story.