Category Archives: Writing Stuff

We’ll See What Happens

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The view out the back of my new home studio in Indiana.
The view out the back of my new home studio in Indiana.

When I worked through The Artist’s Way almost 3 years ago, I had an idea of what the book and 12 week program might offer me in the short term – some insight into my creative strengths and weaknesses and hopefully renewed energy for my creative pursuits.

What I wasn’t sure about was how it might affect me in the long term. What would stick? What would be cast aside, like so many other creative coats I’ve tried on over the years?

Well, here it is almost 3 years later, and I am surprised to report that what has stuck with me the most are the morning pages. I write them nearly every morning. Sometimes life gets hectic (I’m looking at you, stressful cross-country move) and I set them aside for a few days or even a few weeks. There’s a lull in the conversation between my psyche and me. I just can’t be bothered, or I’m too overwhelmed, or I’m so focused on a big project that I don’t want to sacrifice that precious morning time. Those handful of magic minutes first thing in the morning where I’m most positive, enthusiastic and ready to get down to business.

But I always pick them back up.

Mostly, they are a laundry list of what I did the previous day and what I’m hoping to accomplish on that day. I list my worries, my complaints. I think the phrase I use most often (usually several times in one sitting) is “We’ll see what happens.”

And then there are days like today, where I plunge a little deeper. I shine some light on some of the darker places. I don’t just write down that I feel kind of shitty or disappointed or tired or overwhelmed. I ask myself WHY I feel kind of shitty or disappointed or tired or overwhelmed.

This move from Los Angeles to Indiana has taken my almost complete focus for the last six months or so. I knew this would happen. Which is one of the reasons why I was so resistant to it for so long. I already feel like I’m behind in my life. Like I’m racing to catch up with everyone else. I didn’t want to get even further behind.

Now that we’ve successfully packed up all of our stuff, shipped it across the country, took our two nervous and drugged cats on a plane, lived with my parents for a month, closed on a house, moved all our stuff and the cats into the house, totally redid the plumbing, painted some rooms and have mostly unpacked, I’m starting to feel a little restless.

Restless?

I suppose that’s kind of weird to feel restless after such a huge expenditure of energy. But I haven’t put any energy whatsoever into any of my creative pursuits for the last six months, and I feel it. I think that’s why I feel so shitty. I’ve been neglecting that part of myself, and it’s ready to come back out.

I’m a little overwhelmed thinking about all the pieces to pick back up again. What will I focus on? Writing? Acting? Creativity coaching? Something else? I’m hoping that as I continue to get settled, that I’ll find the focus.

In the meantime, I’ll get back into my creative routines (morning pages, weekly blog posts, sending queries out for my first novel, working on the second). I’ll start some new routines (walking on the beach, joining a local writers group, seeing theater in Chicago). I’ll see what rises to the surface, what clamors for more attention.

We’ll see what happens.

 

 

 

 

A Call to Creative Women Over 40

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Friends!

Many of you know that I’ve embarked on a journey towards becoming a certified Creativity Coach through the Creativity Coaching Association.

What the hell is that, you say?

That’s a good question, and one that I’m working to answer through this certification process and my own life experience and perspective. What I do know is that as a creative person I have faced challenges that I wasn’t sure how to address. That in my life I’ve become blocked, or bored, or hopeless, or even experienced a crisis of meaning. I’d ask myself, “What am I doing? Where am I going? Is any of this worthwhile? Am I wasting my life?”

As I get older I see I am not alone in these kinds of challenges or obstacles. I’m not the only creative person struggling to answer what seem like unanswerable questions, like, “What does this all mean?”

I happened upon the idea of coaching when I was researching ways I can expand my skill set and to use my creativity to be of service. At this point in my training I’m beginning to see not only how difficult the coaching can be, but also how valuable and rewarding – both for any potential clients and for me.

In our training, we’re encouraged to consider different ways we might specialize in our coaching. This could be exclusively offering services to writers or painters, or working with artists who have anxiety issues, or coaching creatives who struggle with marketplace problems. There are so many ways to specialize, it can be tough figuring out where to focus!

One area, though, that has come up again and again as being important to me personally and potentially valuable to others like me, is to offer coaching specifically for creative women over 40. We are a group of artists who face our own particular sets of challenges, and I’d like to be of service in this area.

If you are a creative woman over 40, I’d love to hear what some of the struggles or obstacles are that you face.

What gets in the way of having a satisfying creative life?

Where do you feel most vulnerable?

What types of struggles do you face?

What is most important to you in your life, what are your priorities?

What kind of help would be valuable to you?

What looks like success?

I’d like to begin crafting an online workshop and e-book that address specific issues related to you (and me!), so any stories or thoughts you’d like to share with me would be incredibly valuable.

Please feel free to write in the comments or send me a personal message at amy.clites@yahoo.com.

Thanks, and happy creating!

It’s Time to Go

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"You Are Beautiful" sign welcoming people to the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary, where we are planning to move. Part of the You Are Beautiful public art project https://you-are-beautiful.com/pages/public-art
“You Are Beautiful” sign welcoming people to the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary. Part of the You Are Beautiful public art project https://you-are-beautiful.com/pages/public-art

I’ve been a firm believer in trusting my intuition for many years now.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as easy as all that. There’s much hand-wringing, and forehead-rubbing, and stomachaches, and internal arguments that go on. I hear that inner voice telling me what to do. And sometimes I rationalize its arguments away. Sometimes I ignore it. Sometimes I listen to it for awhile and then get distracted by other things.

But I always end up going back to that voice. I’ve learned that it tells me what I need to know, whether I want to hear it or not. And I’ve learned (and am still learning) to trust what that voice says.

And right now that voice is telling me it’s time to go.

I know. It’s scary.

It’s been telling me this for awhile, but I haven’t been listening. Well, I’ve been listening, but I haven’t been trusting. I’ve been explaining it away. I’ve been rationalizing arguments not to go.

But I now trust that it’s time to go.

After all, I’ve chosen this life. I’ve chosen a life of creative adventure over financial security. I’ve chosen wildness over stability. I’ve chosen to satisfy my curiosity, not to stock my coffers. And because I’ve been listening to that unpredictable inner voice, that intuition, I’ve found the adventures I’m looking for. I take risks. I uproot myself and start over. I take a fresh perspective. I upend things, even when it appears they are thrumming along quite healthily.

So, now is that time. I’m uprooting, upending and relocating myself.

I am going back from whence I came.

I am moving back home.

It feels REALLY WEIRD. I’ve spent more of my life away from home than I have living there. I have loads of worries. Will I fit in? Will I even want to fit in? Will I make new friends? Will I be depressed? Will I get really fat? Will I be unhappy? Will I hate it? Will I think it’s a mistake?

Will I feel like a failure?

But, amidst all those (VERY LOUD) worries, that inner voice says, loud and clear, GO.

GO HOME.

IT’S TIME TO GO HOME.

So, hubs and I are packing it up and moving from Los Angeles, my love affair of the last ten years, to Indiana. An hour outside Chicago. On the lakefront. In Gary.

Yes, Gary.

We are moving to Gary, Indiana.

I can’t hardly believe I’m typing that, let alone DOING it.

But that voice, loud and clear, has said “IT’S TIME.” And for some reason it’s also saying “GO TO GARY,” which, if you’re from the area, you know that’s just UNHEARD OF. Who moves to Gary?

Apparently, I do. And hubs. Even hubs trusts my intuition, which is practically screaming “GARY, INDIANA!!!!!” at me all the time now that I’m listening and trusting.

I’m in for a major course adjustment. But every other time in my life it has been exactly the thing I’ve needed. But I’ve never moved away from someplace I’ve come to love so intensely.

I love it here. I love Los Angeles. And I will miss it terribly. And the friends who have become more like family. I will miss them more than I could ever possibly express. I will miss the life I have created here.

But new adventures await. I see a world of possibility before me. My spirit, even though it is scared shitless, is also exhilarated about what the future might hold.

There’s much work to be done before the move happens. I’m exhausted just by the thought of it. But it must be done. The wheels have been set in motion, and it is time to move forward with their momentum.

More to come. So much more to come.

Tidiness and Creativity

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The Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, totally gets it.
The Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, totally gets it.

There’s a polarizing topic trending in my social media feeds these days, and I don’t mean Democrat vs. Republican, pro-gun vs. anti-gun or the Great Bathroom Debate of 2016.

I’m talking about tidy vs. messy.

Normally, I don’t care too much about whether someone is a tidy person or a messy person.

OK, that’s a lie, but I’m trying.

What kind of irks me about the topic is that there’s this idea that creative types are messy while non-creative types are tidy. That might be putting it too simply, but there have been studies done and articles written about how messiness is inherently tied to creativity.

I call bullshit on that idea.

I am a tidy person. I am also a creative person. I do not think those two things are mutually exclusive.

Yet the idea persists in our culture that you cannot be tidy and be creative at the same time.

Case in point – a couple of years ago I had a smallish party at my house. As sometimes happens, a guest will bring along a friend or two.

In this particular case, my guest’s friend happened to be a rather well-known musician of the rock star variety. Very interesting, cool and friendly guy. Obviously super-creative. Accomplished. It was humbling and exciting to have him at my house in my very un-posh neighborhood.

At one point during the evening, he noticed my little workspace. I have a tiny house, and I’ve cordoned off a corner of the living room and made it my “studio.” It is very tidy. Nobody is allowed in my space. Leaving something on my desk without my permission is a punishable offense. At that time, I had a tall set of drawers next to my desk. Each drawer had been labeled with a label maker with its contents and the drawers were alphabetized.

“What’s this?” he asked me, in his perfect rock-star British accent.

“It’s my supplies,” I answered. I mean, fuck, wasn’t it obvious? They’re labeled.

He looked at me incredulously and said, “But it’s so organized. I thought you were an artist.”

The tall set of drawers in question...
The tall set of drawers in question… It looks a little messy in this picture, but I assure you, in real life it’s quite tidy compared to the rest of the house.

I won’t lie. My heart sank a little. It’s hard enough being an artist without having other artists question your credibility. And it also kind of made me a little mad. He told me how he couldn’t create unless things around him were a little chaotic. And I get that sometimes you need a little upheaval to spark the imagination and see new connections.

My mind is constantly in motion. I am always thinking of the stories I’m creating, working out plot points, figuring out the characters. Or I’m thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner with the disparate bits of this and that in the kitchen. Or I’m thinking about how I want to paint the hallway. Or I’m thinking about a craft project I’d like to do.

I’ve always got creative ideas bubbling around in my mind.

And here’s the thing – if my environment is messy, it’s distracting. I can’t fully focus on my thoughts or feelings or what I’m trying to create. A messy studio makes deep and meaningful thought almost impossible. I tame my environment so that my mind and heart have the freedom they need to explore.

So yes – I am tidy and I am creative. I can be both.

What about you? Are you a tidy creative? Or do you thrive in a messy environment?

 

 

 

 

Exploring Creativity

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creativity einstein

Woah! Where in the world have I been since April?

Sitting right here at my desk, actually, caught in a whirlwind of work. I’m afraid I had to set aside some things in order to focus and finish, and posting updates from the fray was one of the casualties.

But here we are, the first day of summer, and things have quieted down a little bit. Seems appropriate for summertime, no?

One of the things that has captured my attention these last few weeks is exploring the idea of creativity.

I’ve been thinking about its place in my life and how it affects my happiness. I’ve noticed that at times where I’m disconnected from my creative wellspring, I feel “off.” My happiness levels plunge, I feel less in tune with my internal barometer and more disconnected from the world around me.

It’s gotten me to thinking about how creativity plays into everyone’s lives, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a creative person.

I’ve been thinking back to times when I’ve connected with other people over their similar detachment from their own creativity. Talking about it and helping each other through those times have been enormously rewarding for me.

I’ve also been thinking about ways to expand my freelancing business, looking for other opportunities that align with the skills I have and how I’d like to spend my time.

Lo and behold, I stumbled across the idea of becoming a creativity coach.

What? Does that even exist? Apparently, it does. And a person can take classes and become certified in it.

I’ve signed myself up for the introductory class, and I can tell you I am blown away already. The entire thing is conducted through email (a Google Group, to be exact), and there are about two dozen creative souls taking this course along with me.

What surprised me is that the other students are from all over the world – various places throughout the US, Canada (including the High Arctic!), the UK, Australia, Switzerland, South Korea, Greece, Cyprus, and even an aide worker in Turkey who lives about 100 miles from the border of Syria.

Reading everyone’s stories, hearing about their creative lives, where they struggle, how they want to help others with their own creative struggles, is even more inspiring than I thought it would be. I feel re-energized and excited to pursue this so that I can confidently add “creativity coaching” to my skill set as an artist.

Along with the class, we need to do 100 hours of private coaching to become certified. I’ve secured my first client (yay!) and will be looking for others who might be willing to give it a go with me. For a limited time, while I’m getting certified, I’ll be offering private coaching for FREE. If you’re interested, drop me a line either in the comments or through the “Hire Me” page on this blog.

I’m really looking forward to this adventure, and I’m excited to share with you all some of the insights from the journey. Stay tuned!

How to Use Character Boards When Writing Your Novel

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I love a good collage. There is something about taking found objects and arranging them in new ways to give them new meaning that has always sparked my creativity. I’ve been making collages for as long as I can remember, and in the last few years I’ve gotten on the vision board bandwagon, which REALLY taps into my desire to rip pictures out of magazines and tape or glue them to poster board.

I’ve also used collage to some success in television development. I’ve worked on projects where I was tasked with creating boards to either evoke the mood of a show in development or to help visualize and capture the essence of the main characters in a new show. In a collaborative effort such as working on a TV show, these boards are then used by the artists who are taking these ideas and turning them into something concrete.

When I was working on the second draft of my novel, INSIDE CHANCE, I knew I wanted to go deeper with the characters. I wanted to flesh them out more, understand their back story and motivation more, I wanted to get inside their heads and inside their worlds more. So I figured, if I’ve used collage to create visions for my life, and I’ve used collage to help develop characters for TV shows, why couldn’t I do the same for my novel?

I spent a couple of pleasant hours diving through stacks of magazines at local thrift stores, and scored some truly unique titles and even found some from the 80s, which is when my novel is set. Then I set aside an afternoon and looked through them all, pulling whatever sparked my interest or spoke to me in some way about the character, even if it didn’t make logical sense. Here are three of boards I made:

Joni Chance

Character boards for Joni Chance
Character board for Joni Chance

Cash

Character board for Cash
Character board for Cash

The Bearded Man

Character board for the bearded man
Character board for the bearded man

I hung them over my desk in my workspace, and whenever I was writing, I took some time to look them over. I can tell you that there are things on these boards that made it into the novel – details I would have never included that I took directly from these images, which I think give each character more dimension, more color and more humanity.

If you’re feeling stuck or simply want another way of developing your characters, your setting or your story, why not give collage boards a try? Anyone out there ever done this before when working on a novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Music That Inspired “Inside Chance”

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The Cure, Disintegration - if Joni Chance has a favorite album, this is certainly it.
The Cure, Disintegration – if Joni Chance has a favorite album, this is certainly it.

Though I’m the type of writer who needs silence in order to hear my own thoughts, music did color the edges of my writing sessions and help me bring the characters of Inside Chance to life through their musical tastes. I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the songs that inspired me to help create and define them.

My young adult novel is a story about a 14-year-old girl, Joni Chance, who is struggling to come to terms with the strange sounds she keeps hearing in her head. She worries she is going to turn out like her mother, rumored to have been schizophrenic, who disappeared from Joni’s life when she was just four years old.

Joni lives in a small town in Indiana, and is just about to start high school. The year is 1989. I don’t know about you, but I know that when I was 14, music played a big part in my life. It helped me to experience new thoughts and feelings, expanded my universe and helped me understand more fundamentally who I was. Joni experiences that same soul expansion as music helps shape who she is and who she wants to become.

Plainsong, The Cure

Prayers for Rain, The Cure

Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac

Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine), R.E.M.

Add It Up, The Violent Femmes

Space Oddity, David Bowie

Where Is My Mind?, The Pixies

How Soon Is Now?, The Smiths (as covered by Yes The Raven)

Big Mouth Strikes Again, The Smiths

Here Comes the Rain Again, The Eurythmics

Mother, Danzig

Hey Joni, Sonic Youth

Mad World, Tears for Fears

Ring of Fire, Johnny Cash

Witchy Woman, The Eagles

3rd (and Final) Draft is (Almost) Complete (For Now)

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I’ve reached yet another milestone in the saga that is writing my first novel. I have finally slogged through a third draft. I say slogged because this draft was by far the hardest.

When I completed the second draft, I had five beta readers look it over. Each one then answered a five-page questionnaire (I found a really great one here and tweaked it a little bit for myself). Have I said how much I love my beta readers? It was a tall order but I have really good friends and the thoughtful feedback they provided was invaluable. Thank you Adam, Lita, Kristina, Kristofer and Jeff. You guys rock.

After reading through everyone’s responses, I then sifted through them again to find out what issues came up more than once, those clearly needed to be addressed. For the remainder of the feedback that wasn’t as crucial I spent some time sitting with the ideas and decided which ones I thought I should incorporate. I then made a list of all those things.

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After that, I sat down with the second draft and basically made a beat sheet – a list of everything that happens in each chapter. It was about 40 pages long. But that was INVALUABLE to me, and I’m really glad I had the idea to do. With that beat sheet and my list of notes, I went through with a red pen and marked all the places where I needed to make changes. In some cases, chapters just had a few things, details that needed to be polished or some dialogue that needed tweaking. Other chapters got a big red X through the whole thing because the entire chapter needed to be rewritten.

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Once that was completed, I took the beat sheet with the notes on it and started back at the beginning of the novel and slowly, SLOWLY, worked my way through to incorporate all the notes. It took me one month to write the first draft. It took me three months to write the second draft. Good lord, it took me about six months, on and off, to complete the third draft. It was hard. It made my brain hurt. It was time to agonize over lines and dialogue and to make them as sharp as possible. Most of the sentences were rewritten. Entire chapters were rewritten, condensed or expanded. I took out about 8,000 words but added in 15,000 new ones.

On Saturday, I finished. I printed the fucker out. Here it is. 58,000 words of a young adult novel.

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This week, I will read through the whole thing again, hopefully in one or two sittings. I’ll make notes as I go, and polish when I’m done. I’ve got someone willing to read it, so it’s time to send it off. That day will be very, very soon. Perhaps as early as next week.

I realize that if anything comes of this, I will more than likely be rewriting the whole thing yet again. And possibly several more times after that. I have come to the realization that I think most writers finally come to, which is that when writing a novel, you will probably rewrite the entire thing from beginning to end. By the time this thing is ready for publishing, I’m not sure any of the original sentences will appear in the manuscript. This is painstaking work, but I keep seeing ways to make it better, and I want to serve the story and these characters that I’ve invested in. They’ve taken on a life of their own, and I want to get their story out there.

Here we go!

The Never-Ending Hope for More

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It’s New Year’s Day, 2016.

I feel this obligation to write something beautiful and profound this morning, because that’s what we’re supposed to do today, right? We’re supposed to have a sudden clarity of purpose and concoct the perfect list of how to “get it right” this year? A guide for our collective do-over?

I don’t feel that way this morning. It feels like most other mornings.

On this day I feel the same hopes for more. Isn’t that often what it boils down to – wanting more, hoping for more? I haven’t had any breakthroughs in the last 24 hours, I didn’t dream of a perfect future last night after bidding 2015 adieu. I fell asleep as I normally do, got up as I normally do. I’m still hoping to figure out how to do better in this new year. How to get more right, to feel happier more often. I don’t have the answers, but I think it’s good to name what you want, what you’re hoping to find, in order to call it into your life.

I hope to find that clarity of purpose this year. I hope to exorcise some demons. I hope to lessen anxiety’s grip on my heart and mind, even just a little bit.

I hope to feel good about myself in my pants. I hope to eat less sugar and to take more walks.

I hope to be gentle with myself.

I hope to make more time for friends and to break out of my self-imposed isolation more.

I hope to have more courage to face down whatever discomfort, unpleasantness or calamity may visit me this year.

I hope to laugh more, to sing more, to dance more, to look at the night sky in dark places more.

I hope to show my husband in both word and deed how much I love him and am grateful for him more often.

I hope to call my parents more, and to figure out how to Skype with them more so I can see their beautiful faces.

I hope to cuddle more with my husband, because he likes it so much (the cats get plenty of cuddles – any more and I might need an intervention).

I hope to pay more attention, to follow my own deadlines more, to eat healthy food more and to avoid the foods that make me hate my pants more.

I hope to work with a sense of ease more often, to express my gratitude more and to move with a light heart more.

I hope to be more authentic – whatever that means – and to let my inner compass guide me more, even if it feels like the wrong direction.

I hope to write more and to find more ways to make more money doing what I love.

I hope for more peace among my neighbors – both those close at hand and those across the globe. Aren’t we all now neighbors in this modern age?

I hope my loved ones find more inner peace, more moments of grace and laughter and joy, more connection and more meaning.

I hope to learn more, to read more, to listen to good music more.

I hope to watch the birds flit around the yard more, to share more meals and meet more interesting people.

And even with all these hopes for more, I hope to feel more gratitude for what I already have and for who I already am. I hope to find more balance between hoping for more and being grateful for what is.

What do you hope for more of in the New Year?

tennyson

 

Projects, Projects and More Projects

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While I do make a serious attempt to publish at least one post per week here on ZeitClites, occasionally life dictates otherwise. These last couple of weeks have distracted me greatly from that purpose, but it’s all good. What it means is that November is shaping up to be an intensely creative month.

Just what does that entail? Well, for those of you who have been following my progress on my first novel, you’ll be happy to know I’m about halfway finished with the 3rd draft. I’ve given myself a deadline of October 31st to finish. Truth be told, I don’t know that I’ll make that deadline, but I do want to finish soon. Can I just say – rewrites are hard! Holy crap. My brain gets tired out easily trying to unweave and re-weave this story, but I shall persevere. My goal is to start sending out queries at the first of the year.

Secondly, I’m throwing caution, planning and an outline to the wind to begin my second novel on November 1st. That’s when NaNoWriMo 2015 begins, and I know that hitching my wagon to that steam train helps me to be uber-productive and pump out 50,000 words in 30 days. I have the idea and the world in my head, but there are many details to work out. I’ve decided to use the month of November to just write, write and write some more, so that I can get this world and these characters on paper. Here’s to shitty first drafts! (And if you’re planning to participate, let’s be writing buddies! You can find me on the NaNo site as addiechance).

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been asked to co-write a screenplay for an indie feature with some long-time collaborators whose work I greatly admire. Though I’m not at liberty to discuss any details as of yet, I can tell you – I’m excited! I was on a conference call at 8 a.m. this morning and it was an energizing way to kick off the week. I can’t wait to get started!

Meanwhile, Halloween is this weekend, and being that it’s my favorite holiday I will be devoting the day to getting my spook on, dressing in scary costumes with my husband, and terrifying the local children while handing out candy. I’ve got my fog machine, my strobe light, and my soundtrack of terror all lined up. It’s one of the best days of the year, in my book!

Thought I'd just go as myself this year.
Thought I’d just go as myself this year.