Four Ways to Turn Weekend Negatives into Writing Positives

snow in MayWow, what a weekend. It started with snow. In May. In Arkansas. I ask you, what’s a die hard northerner to look forward to in the south if not nice weather? We’ve already opened our pool, for Pete’s sake. And now we have snow! It couldn’t have come at a worse time—it was the first tennis tournament of the season. So here I was, missing a writing conference that I’d love to attend because of my kids’ sporting events, and the weather was not cooperating. I had planned for sun and heat and instead I was worrying about precipitation and wind chill factors. Not the weekend we had planned.

It was not a good weekend for us. On Friday, as I said, we woke up to snow. I was too cold to even get out of the car to take a proper photo of it. The tennis matches were all backed up and rescheduled, as well as operating under amended scoring protocols. By the time my son was used to the tournament and thoroughly warmed up, his match was over. Sadly, he lost, which isn’t unexpected for the first match ever, but he took it hard. By the time we ate and went home, the Penguin game had started. Luckily, we recorded it. Sadly, they lost too. It was a bad day for us all around.

Saturday started out as wet and cold as Friday. Tennis was still on amended schedules. My daughter’s match was delayed several hours, and they didn’t even bother telling us, so we just hung around for, oh, I don’t know, ever, until our turn. She made it into the semifinals, so we thought things we looking up. We were wrong.

Sunday dawned warmer and partly sunny. After Mass, we headed over to the courts and I checked in my daughter while my husband left with my son to go get some practice time in before his match. Everything was looking up, right? Wrong. They took my daughter ahead of schedule, so my husband missed the beginning of her match. He didn’t miss much. She lost. My son played a couple of hours later. He had a great match, but he also lost. We decided to grab something to eat and call it a day.

We headed out to a Mexican restaurant. I usually cook a special Mexican meal for Cinco de Mayo, but we weren’t home for me to make it, so we were at the mercy of the restaurant. The first piece of bad news: we walk in and the television above the bar has the hockey score on. No point in watching the game now. At least we won. Then the waitress who took our drink order never came back, so we were abandoned for a while. The good news was that we ended up with a really good waiter when he figured out that we weren’t being served. The meal wasn’t that good because they were super busy and using a modified menu, but we were together, so that’s all that really matters. I’ll just make our “real” meal later in the week.

So what’s the take away from this weekend?

  1. They don’t cancel tennis tournaments for snow.
  2. The kids are resilient when they lose in tennis matches.
  3. It doesn’t matter whether my kids (and my pro sports teams) win.
  4. Only four more years until I can make it to the writing conference in May.

And how these things impact fiction writing?

  1. Sometimes weather is inappropriate for the season.
    We’ve all seen storms thrown into stories, or cowboys riding into sunsets, but consider the weather as part of the setting when it’s not traditional—like snow in the summer, or a heat wave at Christmas. How can that impact your characters and your story?
  2. How characters handle adversity defines them.
    My kids didn’t make it into the finals this weekend, but they left the tournament as champions because of how they handled themselves. There were no McEnroe-sized temper tantrums, there were no tears. There were no blaming bad calls. There were no varsity limps. My kids shook hands with their competitors and held their heads high as they walked off the courts. How your characters handle losses helps readers know who they are.
  3. Heroes can’t always win and villains can’t always lose.
    There’s something to be said for the successful villain or the down-on-his-luck hero. If the hero is always on top, he’s going to be boring. He needs to face adversity and not always win. If the villain doesn’t score a success or two, he may succumb to new lows of depravity and evil, but he’ll be one dimensional. No one loses all the time. Mixing it up makes it more real.
  4. Writing conferences will help you improve your writing.
    There are times that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. This weekend, the first weekend in May, is always our first tennis tournament. It’s also the OWFI Conference. I can’t do both, and my family needs my support more than I need to go to the conference. There are other conferences, and in a few more years, I’ll be free to attend this conference, too. That doesn’t mean that I don’t find conferences important. I do, and I suggest writers find a conference and attend it. In fact, I found my agent at a conference, so I can’t say enough good things about them. Do your research, prepare, and attend. It’s a great way to network in addition to learn about your craft.

So no, this wasn’t the best weekend the Troilo family has spent in recent history. But we took our lemons and made limoncello out of them. (We’re Italian, what else would we make?) I hope you had a better weekend than we did, but if you didn’t, hopefully you found a way to get the positives out of the negatives. Good weekend or bad, why not share it with us below? Especially if you have a tip for a fellow writer.

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19 Comments

  1. I’m proud of your children for displaying such humility, many professionals would stand to benefit from your parenting. I think you covered the tips so may I just say kudos.

  2. Staci – Great way to turn it around into a wonderful post. You didn’t miss much Sunday in the game – they really didn’t play at their best despite the overtime win. But I believe tonight they’ll be back on their sticks and pucks and skates – Penguins-style.

    • I broke down and watched the recording, despite knowing the outcome. I had to know how my boys played. You’re right; it wasn’t their best game. I’m hopeful tonight will be better. Maybe Neal will be back? I can’t seem to get any news on his status. You can bet I’ll be watching the game tonight. I don’t think I’ll be wearing my jersey, though. So far the only game we lost was the only night I wore it. I don’t want to jinx them!

      • Bylsma has kept a tight lipped organization regarding injuries during the play offs. The local news even showed interviews with players saying they’d been told to not say anything. Crosby is on the cover of Sports Illustrated for June. I agree about the jersey – they seem to lose every time I wear mine, too. So it’ll be an old gray T-shirt for me tonight.

        • I have several Pens t-shirts and I will be wearing one. Most teams during the playoffs are tight-lipped regarding injury. They don’t want to give away any information that could hurt their team. I too am one that watches games that I have recorded even if I know the results, but they are definitely not as appealing.

    • Well, we’ll just have to wait and see who’s on the ice tonight. And we’re agreed… no Penguin shirts for me and Patricia! Michele, you can only wear one if they win when you do; otherwise, you better boycott them too!

    • It’s time we bring that cup home again!

  3. Hi Staci,
    Here in upstate NY, we only think we are out of the woods with snow maybe in June. We’ve had April blizzards and May flurries in the past. The only positive is it tends to melt quickly and things get back to normal. The last two weeks here have been an incredible stretch of weather, brilliant sunshine and warm temps. Looks like rain is coming for Mothers’ Day weekend, but we do need it. Hopefully you’re enjoying nice weather now as well!

    • Hopefully you’ll get soft rains and no nasty storms, especially for the holiday weekend.

      Yeah, things here have turned around again. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I’m used to weird spring weather. My birthday is in April, and as a child, I never knew if I’d be in shorts or sweatshirts. But I never in my wildest dreams expected that in the south. In fact, the weather reports said this was the first May snow on record. I think we brought bad weather with us when we moved here. Arkansas has had a few record snowfalls in the last three years. If this keeps up, the state may evict us!

  4. Traci, I can sooo identify and sympathize with you. Before I retired from teaching, I was also a high school girls tennis coach. Every year, there was a conflict with the conference. AND every year we had no idea what kind of weather to expect on the first weekend in May. Some years, we came home with sunburns. Others, we wore our ski suits and still froze!
    I enjoyed your post. Good luck to both your children in their tennis endeavors, Despite the weather situations, it’s a great sport.

    • Thanks, Dee Dee. Maybe in a few years I’ll see you at a conference. Until then, I’ll take the good luck wishes for the kids, and keep preparing for any eventuality with the weather!

  5. Staci, I feel your weather pain; however, not last weekend, our weather was sunny and 75. It did make for quiet the interesting weekend. I had planned to meet a friend on Sunday to do a little writing research and more importantly have a lttle fun, but forgot about a family event. I was going to move my friend visit to Saturday, but she had an evening committment and I had a 21st birthday party in the afternoon for my son. My entire family advised my son of the perils of drinking and driving, he received several lectures and much family abuse (we needed to have some fun at his expense). After all the parties were over, I sat in my favorite spot and did a little writing. For those of you that know my family, you know that they make for some interesting reading.

    • I hope you have a few stories coming our way featuring your family. I happen to know them quite well and know for a fact that many (if not all) of them would make delightfully humorous characters. It sounds like you had an enjoyable, albeit busy, weekend. Now get to writing and share with us!

  6. Bravo, Staci, for taking what appeared to be a lost weekend and turning it into something positive. It’s no wonder your kids are champions. I look forward to seeing you at OWFI . . . when the time is right! 🙂

    • I would have loved to have been there. Knowing who was in charge, I’m certain it was a raging success. You’ll all have to tell me all about it this week.

  7. Laura Hedgecock

    May 6, 2013 at 7:04 am

    We were some of those northerners going south last weekend. No snow in SC, but we did have to make a TJMaxx run for additional clothing.
    I was going through Hootsuite, looking for ideas this am. Thanks for rescuing me (again).
    Laura

    • My in-laws were northerners leaving SC because it was too cold! Go figure! What crazy weather, huh? Anyway, I’m glad this post provided you with some ideas. I’ll be busy most of the morning going through the hundreds of emails that somehow piled up while I was shivering on the courts!

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