Monday, March 31, 2014

Failing Better, Celebrating Best: March Madness End-Of-Month Check-In #WIPmadness



Welcome to the final check-in for the 2014 March Madness Challenge! Before we get started on the celebrations, I've been informed by our fearless leader Denise that we still have a few prizes left.

The final winners for March Madness are...

Elderfox!

Akoss!


Jeanne Ryan!

Kristin Butcher!

Congratulations! Stop by our goal-setting post, and choose your prize from those still listed (first come, first serve). Email Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice and we'll get it out to you as soon as possible.

If you’ve won a prize this month, I hope you enjoy it! If not, keep checking in throughout the year, as many of our weekly hosts offer up prizes from time to time.

* * *
So, here we are at the end of another month, another year, of absolute madness. Now it's time to weigh in about how the entire month went for you. Dearest Mad Marchers, how did you do?

Did you meet your goals? Congratulations!

Did you *exceed* them? Wow, go you!

Or did you maybe not quite make them? Could you be feeling a bit disheartened about that? Don't be. Because no matter how much you did manage to accomplish, even if it was only a fraction of what you intended, you're farther than you were when March began.

However your mad month turned out, it's all valid.

This is an important thing to remember. Life often throws challenges our way. And yes, the platitudes about how "it's not the destination, it's the journey" can feel a bit wearing when we don't get to where we want to be in the time we originally planned. But it's really true. Take, for example, how my month turned out.

Confession time: *I* didn't meet the goals I set back at the start of March. Me, one of the hosts, who should be leading the charge by setting a good example to everyone involved in March WIPmadness. And yet, if I wanted to be negative about it, I could say that I failed:
  1. I completely ignored my goals this weekend while throwing my energy into an out of town convention.
     
  2. I set aside the urban fantasy I was planning to work on in favour of outlining another YA project I'm not even going to *start* writing this month.
     
  3. And then I failed at finishing *that* because I hit a major plot hole I couldn't seem to climb out of.
Yep, that's a total fail. Right?

Not the way I see it. And here's why:
  1. I took the time this convention to explore some of the writing panels that were offered. (And wow, there were some great ones.) I didn't devote my entire convention time to this, especially because a lot of them conflicted with other events I really wanted to be at, but I did make it to four. And I came away with more notes to share with everyone, which I totally hadn't expected.

  2. My goals change wasn't a cop-out. The project I'm now outlining was something I'd been avoiding because I hadn't felt ready to approach it, and didn't know how I could. Suddenly, that changed. So being able to actually finally sink my teeth into it was a relief, and for me, an even larger challenge. I'd been worried I wouldn't be able to.

  3. Fixing that plot hole now, before I started writing the story, was also rewarding. Maybe it took longer to figure out than I'd intended, but the solution I came up with stays much more true to my character than what I originally came up with. It has ramifications throughout the entire story. Not only is this going to save me major headaches later, but the novel feels stronger for it. And I'm just getting started!
My point is this: maybe my month wasn't what I'd originally planned. Maybe I didn't get quite as much achieved in a quantitative sense. But the quality of my month was absolutely astounding, and I am really happy with how it all turned out. And no matter what you managed to achieve with your goals, you should feel the same.

Most importantly, this is just one month. The goals don't have to end here. Keep going! And you don't have to do it alone, either. Most months, we gather once a week on one of our members' blogs to check in officially. On top of that, the community meets year-round on Twitter, under the #WIPmadness hashtag.  Feel free to check in with the progress you're making on all of your creative goals. We'll all be there to support each other.


Edit: Charlie Holmberg has offered to host the Monday check-ins for April at her blog, http://myselfaswritten.blogspot.ca/. Come join us!

The madness never stops. Onward, Wipsters! Let's embrace this crazy together.


So, ready to weigh in on how your month went, Mad Marchers? Let's hear it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

I Hate Salads (or, Resistance ain't Fertile) - March Madness Check-In, Day 24 #WIPmadness

Happy Monday, Mad Marchers! Still hanging in there? I am ... but I'll admit it hasn't been easy. I've hit a few bumps in the road to outlining this new novel, but I think I'm back on track now. How about you?

Today I wanted to talk about something near and dear to me: food.

The past few years for me, it hasn't been super fun, because I was gluten intolerant. Spoiler: it went away a few months ago. Great for my sanity, not so much for my waistline. Sometimes, these things happen, which is awesome, but don't ask me to explain the whys behind it all. I'm not a doctor. But let me say one thing: trying to eat out when one has dietary restrictions can be very frustrating. Even more frustrating was the question I was asked, almost without fail:

"Can't you just have a salad?"

Within weeks I was ready to bite the head off of anyone who dared suggest such a thing. Maintaining my calm, my nostrils would flare, my expression would flatten and I would growl, in a voice two octaves lower than usual,

"NO."

(Forget that I sacrificed five years of my teens and very early twenties to a certain fast food chain and was even in charge of *making* the salads on some mornings, so I know how much is just bland iceberg lettuce with some flavourful toppings and a pack of salty-sugary-fatty dressing for extra disguise. So I wasn't exactly a cheerleader for the things. But I digress.)

After awhile, people stopped asking. And I went on my merry way, trying to figure out creative adaptations of fast food and restaurant menus without resorting to gluten, which at the time was giving me trouble.

But one thing I did start to like was spinach. That was healthy and I could take it in my lunch without dressing. And then after that, in 2012, I was in Vegas as a bridesmaid for my best friend's wedding, and we went out for dinner and the menu's pickings were slim, but they did have this really nice ... you guessed it ... salad. Except that it was "chicken, mandarins, walnuts and raspberries on a bed of spinach". No lettuce to speak of. And that got me to thinking, wait a minute. I could totally try it if there was spinach involved. Spinach, at least, was reasonably healthy.

So I tried it. And it was delicious.

And when I got home, I started re-thinking what the word "salad" meant to me. Yes, it was still something I'd only be interested in when the days are warm, but trying out *my* variation, using ingredients that *I* liked, changed everything.

And suddenly I was enjoying salads.

 
So, what does this have to do with writing?

More than you'd think. Because one thing I've learned about myself is that the things I resist the hardest are the things I should give some consideration. Especially when it applies to critical feedback and my work.

I've told the story before about how when I wrote the novel I'm currently shopping around, I used first person present tense, and thought that because that's how the novel first came to me that I should keep it that way. It's a great example. So many people tried to tell me to change the tense to past, but I was so stuck on the idea that this was how my main character had spoken to me, had told the story, that I refused to listen to reason.

Luckily I have an awesome CP who found a way to get through to me and make me re-think this resistance that was really holding me back. As a result, I was able to discover my voice and make the story, IMHO, sing.

Have you ever had such an experience? Where you keep saying "no" to an idea or change, or perhaps a manuscript revision, only to realize that, "Wow, that's so much better!"? It's happened to me more than once. (I'll save the story about why I had to cut the man-eating lizards chapter for another day.) Each time, I resist. But each time, after some grumbling, I notice an improvement.

Even if it's just in my lunch.

* * *

So, how are you faring with your goals, Mad Wipsters?

Newcomers: Don't know about March Madness for Writers? I know it's fairly late in the game, but if this is the first you've heard of this crazyfun approach to achieving goals, it's still not too late to get a full week's worth of work in! Just sign up here. We've got a great community that hangs out at #WIPmadness year-round, and we always have room for more. Check us out!

And of course, don't forget to check out Shari's blog tomorrow!

p.s. The recipe, as such:
- Baby spinach base
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar
- frozen raspberries
- frozen strawberries
- mandarin wedges (from a Dole jar)
- Dressing: 2 tbsp FINI Modena Basalmic Reduction, mixed well with the juice of the thawed/jarred fruit on top  

Monday, March 17, 2014

My People - March Madness check-in, Day 17 #WIPmadness


Kerry and I were alone in the cabin that drowsy July afternoon. It was a Wednesday, the day in the week-long summer camp when you realize, crap, it feels like we've been here forever and yet I just arrived, and I've got to go home soon. I don't want this to end. I lay on my stomach on the top bunk, one hand propping up my chin, reading a book. She was working with charm bracelet floss, deft fingers knotting the strands as she sat cross-legged on the bottom bunk across the room, when she stopped and stared out the window toward the lake. The trees below blocked our view of everything leading to the water, including the water itself, but through it we could hear a group of other campers laughing and singing while someone who'd gotten hold of a set of bongo drums kept up a heady beat.

"You know what I like about this place most?" She set down the floss, stood up from the bed, and spread her arms wide. "It's that even if I never come back here, even if I never see these people again, I know that there is somewhere that I belong." Her grin was audible. "These are my people."
 
I shoved a scrap of paper in the book and closed it. I'd only just met Kerry a few days before, but our friendship had been instant, as if we'd known each other our entire lives. "Yeah," I said, that same joy surging through me. "Me, too."

It's been no-I-won't-say-how-many years since that camp. Time has passed, and friendships slip away, but one thing sticks with me: that feeling. It's a pretty awesome thing to have. To know that you have kindred spirits, others like you, a group of people who completely understand.

That's one of the things I love about the writing community. Because what Kerry said about belonging, that's exactly how I feel here. And I hope you do, too.

So, how goes it, March Wipsters? We're at Day 17 now. Where are you at?

Personally, I spent most of the weekend *not* thinking about my projects and just catching up on sleep. It's what I needed, and where I felt I had to be, and I'm glad I did so. I have a lot of work ahead of me now, but I'm ready for it. How about you? I can't wait to hear about it!

See you tomorrow at Shari's blog!

(Psst... Not part of the March Madness crew? It's still not too late to sign up!) 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Technology vs. Magic (ConCarolinas 2013 Writing Panel Notes)


Here we are, back with more notes from ConCarolinas 2013! Please enjoy this discussion on technology and magic, how they conflict, and even more interesting, how they can work together.

* * *

Technology vs. Magic
Susan Roddey, Allen Wold, James R. Tuck, Edward McKeown
Moderator: Faith Hunter


FH: Technology vs. Magic? More like Technology and Magic. In today’s market, you can’t eliminate one or another; there needs to be an appreciation of both. Thoughts?

EM: Science fiction: Tries not to break a law of physics you and I might be familiar with, unless there’s a really good reason, except for Faster Than Light which is a given. The audience can bail if what you're trying to do is too much of a stretch. It interferes with the emotional connection with the character, which is why we’re reading the story anyway.


FH: Sometimes we want our magical systems to work in today’s world. How do you do that?

SR: Leans towards mythology, gods and monsters. Not a technical person, so deals with the magical/mythological, gives her more breathing room when being told she can or can’t do a thing – dealing with gods and goddesses makes it easier.

JT: Actual magic is based on ritual. You need do do the ritual to build the energy to make it work. Magical items are like batteries to power spells, but they can run out of energy. Magic is the 5th law of physics, doesn’t obsess over that.

FH: Her character Jane Yellowrock needs to mind the mass in the shifting, because mass matters – addresses that for believability.


FH: Do you have any rules of thumb, Allen?

AW: Internal consistency. Also, if something can be explained, then it’s not magic, it’s technology. Be internally consistent. If you have explanations, you need to found your explanations on something believable. Don’t violate your own consistency.


FH: In this changing world of physics: Where do you research? What do you do to make it internally consistent?

EM: He won’t enslave science to dramatic purpose; that’s cheating and undercuts the science fiction, which is sloppy and a disservice to the reader.

JT: Would have just manipulated the time-space continuum: Research is to jog his memory. He’s done research as pleasure reading; now it’s just looking up what he’d read before to confirm details.

SR: Same as JT; she uses mythology from around world, and fits which mythology works best without bending the rules too much. It's easier to work with the original story. She twists it with her imagination to make her present fit that past.

AW: You have to do research because you don’t want to put out incorrect details. Reads a lot of science, and does research when he realizes he doesn’t have the answer. But if it’s something nobody knows (eg string theory) no one can prove him wrong.

FH: Making sure our work satisfies the reader is the most important. We’re in a commercial business and we want to sell books, not have someone throw the book across the room. How far do you go with your science, and how often do you draw back off the science? E.g. doesn’t start discussing the minute details of Jane’s shapeshifting. What Don’t you put in the books in order to show your research?

AW: Don’t include the research, include the results of the research.

JT: If main character doesn’t know it, we don’t know it either.

SR: Best example: sword and sorcery, magic, - in 8500 words, created 40 pgs of research. None of her history or backstory is ever seen. The magic/tech is only used if needed, but she lets research keep her organized.

EM: First thing he wants to know is “what’s impossible?” Wants to know why things are occurring. Sets a limit on the magic. It has to be diffiuclt to use or everyone would use it for every single thing

AW: What the character doesn’t know, the reader doesn’t have to know, either. Real magic, there are no explanation. D&D magic, that’s just physics by another name.


FH: How do you look at your own writing? What research elements do you need? Talk about your own magical systems.  What laws of physics do you adhere to and what don’t you?

SR: Lucky’s Game: ancient mythology, aspects of a culture that is dead to us except what we have written down; works on the assumption that people had these abilities but have lost the knowledge of what to do. Male character is descended from magic; Main Character (female) is human and knows none of this.

JT: Deacon Chalk books – Deacon has only the very minor ability to sense supernatural. It doesn’t make sense. Magic is based on ritual, but if you don’t do the ritual, you don’t Crowley: Magic is inserting your will against the universe.

EM: Rations magic. One vampire in a city. To overdo the magic is to take away the perils and challenges the character has to overcome. Keep it believable.

 AW: Magic is going to cost you just as much energy as you would to do it another way. – Really good magic, the price has been paid elsewhere. Any real magic, someone’s figured out how to pay the price.

FH: Wolves in small space; shows it. Just enough info as the story needs. Don’t explain everything at once. Even when writing a standalone. Layer out the disseminatinon of information.

EM: As long as the reader’s persuaded what the writer knows. E.g. the metallic taste in the mouth when firing a gun; shows that writer knows. Enough persuasive detail.


FH: The things we add and the things we leave out. How do you deal with the problem when you find you’ve made a mistake? E.g. shooting in low-cut blouse (gives a girl range kisses). When you find you’ve made a mistake, how do you address it?

JT: Just ignore it and move on.

Comment from author in the audience: Told everyone she made a mistake.

EM: A book’s like a rocket launch; once it’s out, just apologize. If you self publish electronically, just fix it, because you can upload the changes yourself. As long as the change doesn’t undermine the character, you're fine.

JT: Move on and work on the next thing.

SR: Learn from the mistake, pay attention next time. Fix it in the next book.

EM: Know the details.


FH: About the penalties of magic. Nothing can be easy. Limit the magic in the system. Even if you don’t know how it works. If you start ignoring the laws, you have a crappy system. What price do you exact of your characters?

SR: Her main character has the ability to move between worlds, but not the physiology, and it takes a toll.

EM: A guardian angel could help all the time, but it would make for a terrible story.

 JT: Always having a physical cost is a mistake. Sometimes the magic’s got to have another cost, e.g. your soul (such as the cost of using black magic in his third Deacon Chalk novel).

FH: Has left lots of openings. Questions unanswered. Doesn’t close off everything because she hopes for more novels.


Audience Question: What do you do when it seems the characters want to take the story in a different direction?

EM: He's a prisoner of his characters; more concerned about running out of something to say.

JT: He's the merciless god of his universe; the characters do what he tells them to.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Getting Through: March Madness Check-In, Day 10 #WIPmadness


Good morning, Mad Marchers! How are your goals coming along? I hope the time change didn't drain you too badly. Personally, I'm taking preventative measures and writing this on Sunday night, just in case I find myself draining multiple pots of coffee this morning.

Speaking of that. I like to take extra steps to mitigate disaster. It's part of who I am. I like to be prepared; it makes me feel better. Yes, that extra ten bucks a month for earthquake insurance seems reasonable to me, because I am quite aware of the area's geologic history. So does the Otter Box protecting my cell phone, because I know I'm clumsy. And I *definitely* know that as I actively send out queries, reading rejections hurts. So I check the query e-mail account on my phone first.

I just realized this the other day. Something Professor Faber says to Montag in Fahrenheit 451 about having just a small screen, one small enough to be able to cover up with your palm, really rings true here: because that way, rejection e-mails have less power to hurt. Yes, that may sound silly. And yes, for the most part, my skin has grown thicker. But this still helps, not having the big screen with the big scary e-mail dominating my view. 

So what's my point here? That I am trying my best to pay attention to what helps me get through the day. Especially at crazy times like this, but also in general, knowing this stuff is useful.

Speaking as a NaNoWriMo and March Madness veteran, this is the time of the month when for some folks, goals seem like distant dreams. Maybe Real Life (TM) has reared its ugly head and cramped your personal time. Perhaps you've fallen behind and see no way of catching up.

I just wanted to let you know that wherever you are at is where you need to be, and it is *not* too late to catch up. And if it helps you, it won't hurt to ask yourself, "What can I do that will help me get through?" Regardless of where you're at, think of how much farther you've come!

And that's one of the awesome things about March Madness: this community. We are all in this together. I *know* you can do this.

My weekend was once again over-committed (sigh, it feels like an unexpected running theme), so I didn't get half as much done as I wanted. The word count is coming along. I received two more rejections. And I have done more work on my querying spreadsheet and plan to send out more queries this week.

(On that note: optimism. Focusing on the positive *really* helps me get through.)

So, how's it going for you, Marchers? Do you employ any survival techniques like I do? I'd love to hear them.

Newcomers: haven't signed up for March Madness? It's still not too late to do so! Just check in here. Did we mention there are prizes?

And don't forget to check out Shari's blog tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Denise Jaden's FAST FICTION - Book Tour & Giveaway!

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the book launch for author Denise Jaden's new nonfiction writing book, FAST FICTION. It's a technique about increasing productivity and speed, and putting out a functional rough draft in 30 days. Two of her books have been written using this technique. I've certainly found it useful! Today I'm participating in her blog tour. I hope you'll participate - there are prizes to be won!

Rather than doing a traditional interview-filled blog tour, Denise is celebrating the release of FAST FICTION by dropping tips about writing quickly at every stop of her blog tour, and offering some awesome prizes for commenting on any of these posts (including this one!)

The more you drop by and comment, the more chances you have to win these great prizes:

Denise's Fast Fiction Tip: Write First Thing!

One of my biggest tips for getting through a project quickly is writing first thing in the morning. In those first moments between dream-state and waking up, our minds are often overflowing with ideas. Okay, some of them are a bit weird, but that’s okay, because another great thing about first thing in the morning is that we often haven’t had time to remember much of the self-doubt we live with . Even if the ideas are weird or wrong for what we’re writing, chances are good that they will springboard onto something that is so right that we can’t believe we came up with it. But it takes pushing through, and taking opportunities when doubt will not kill any of our initial ideas.

Besides that, getting up a few minutes earlier and writing some words, even if it’s only a few, will get our minds back into our stories and will set the stage for the rest of the day. If you write first thing, there’s a greater chance that you will write later when you have a chance as well.

The Prizes:

  • Compliments of New World Library: They will be giving away A BOX of copies of FAST FICTION by Denise Jaden and GET IT DONE by Sam Bennett (US and Canada only):
  • Compliments of Denise Jaden, TWO BOXES of great fiction (US Only). Details on Denise's blog.
  • Audiobook copies of NEVER ENOUGH by Denise Jaden!
  • A critique of your first five pages, compliments of Denise's agent, Michelle Humphrey from The Martha Kaplan Agency!
All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter for a chance to win (at the bottom of this post, I've included links to all of the other blogs where you can comment for more chances to win).

About Fast Fiction:

Writers flock to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November because it provides a procrastination-busting deadline. But only a fraction of the participants meet their goal. Denise Jaden was part of that fraction, writing first drafts of her two published young adult novels during NaNoWriMo. In Fast Fiction, she shows other writers how to do what she did, step-by-step, writer to writer. Her process starts with a prep period for thinking through plot, theme, characters, and setting. Then Jaden provides day-by-day coaching for the thirty-day drafting period. Finally, her revision tips help writers turn merely workable drafts into compelling and publishable novels.

A portion of publisher proceeds will be donated to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)



Praise for Fast Fiction:

“Fast Fiction is filled with stellar advice, solid-gold tips, and doable, practical exercises for all writers who want to draft a complete novel.”
— Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway

“Being a ‘pantser’ I have always resisted outlining, but I have to say that Fast Fiction changed my mind! Denise Jaden takes what I find to be a scary process (outlining) and makes it into an easy and, dare I say, enjoyable one. Fast Fiction is a hands-on book that asks the right questions to get your mind and your story flowing. I know I’ll be using Fast Fiction over and over again. Highly recommended for fiction writers!
— Janet Gurtler, author of RITA Award finalist I’m Not Her

“Fast Fiction is full of strategies and insights that will inspire and motivate writers of every experience level — and best of all, it provides them with a solid plan to quickly complete the first draft of their next novel.”
— Mindi Scott, author of Freefall

“Fast Fiction provides writers with the perfect mix of practical guidance and the kick in the pants they need to finish that draft. This book is a must-have for writers of all levels.”
— Eileen Cook, author of The Almost Truth

Practical and down-to-earth, Denise Jaden’s Fast Fiction makes a one-month draft seem doable, even for beginners, any month of the year.”
— Jennifer Echols, author of Endless Summer and Playing Dirty

“One of the greatest challenges any writer faces is getting a great idea out of one’s brain and onto the page. Fast Fiction breaks that process down into concrete, manageable steps, each accompanied by Denise Jaden’s sage advice and enthusiastic encouragement. And anything that helps streamline the drafting process is a-okay by me! Fast Fiction is a great addition to any writer’s toolbox — I’ve got it in mine!”
— Catherine Knutsson, author of Shadows Cast by Stars

“Forget the fact that this resource is directed at those wanting to complete a fast draft — if you’re out to get your novel done, period, Jaden’s Fast Fiction will be the kick in the butt that gets you there, from story plan to ‘The End’. . . and beyond.”
— Judith Graves, author of the Skinned series for young adults

Where you can find Fast Fiction:

Blog Tour Stops:
Comment on any of the following blog posts celebrating Fast Fiction's release to be entered to win prizes galore! 
(All Fast Fiction blog posts should be live by March 9th, or sooner. Contest will be open until March 15th. If any links don't work, stop by http://denisejaden.blogspot.com for updated links.)

GCC Blogs:

Additional Participating Blogs:

Remember, all you have to do is leave comments to get lots of extra entries to win some great prizes. 
Don't know what to comment about? Tell us the name of your favorite writing book!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/Y2QyYmEwOTMzNTUyNGRiYWY0NWE1YWE4YjBjN2I2OjQ=/
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 3, 2014

Time To Stretch! - March Madness Check-In, Day 3 #WIPmadness


Welcome to the first Monday check-in for March Madness! If this is the first you've heard of our wonderful challenge, you can learn more about it here. It's about setting wild goals and smashing them, while joining in with a community to support you as you go. There are even prizes for participants! And best of all, it's never too late to join in the crazy. ;) 

So here we are. Monday. To the dismay of some, this is the first weekday check-in. So let's start things off with a smile: our first contest winner! Denise Jaden mentioned on goal-setting day that she would give away a first prize to someone who set their goals within the first twenty-four hours.

And the first prize goes to…

Kathleen Smith!

Congratulations, Kathleen! Stop by the goal setting post at http://denisejaden.blogspot.ca/2014/02/march-madness-set-your-goals-wipmadness.html and pick your prize from those listed. Email your choice to d(at)denisejaden(dot)com and we’ll get it out to you as soon as possible.

And if your name is not Kathleen Smith and you did not win, keep checking in regularly! We will be giving away more prizes on the various blogs, but you never know where or when…

^__^

All right. "I hate Mondays" jokes aside, this is also a great day to check in and assess how things are going so far. Did you have two glorious days of productivity towards your goals? What are you looking forward to?

I let a few things take over my time this weekend, more time than I'd expected to spend on them, so I wound up woefully not getting much done until late last night. But the good news is, I have my query letter polished and ready to go, and a list of agents to start submitting to! And I also have some ideas about where I want to take my urban fantasy novel.

In other words, I'm ready to get cracking. But before I do, I thought you all might appreciate some tips to help keep the body as limber as the mind.

See, I'm under strict orders from my RMT to get up at *least* once an hour whenever possible to help keep me from getting too tense when working. And some time ago, when I asked her what I could do to lessen the tightness in my muscles, she showed me four easy stretches (done in the chair, even!) to help keep my muscles limber. So I thought I'd share them here.

Note: all of these stretches should be performed for at least 30 seconds each. Most of them involve making some space before beginning:
  1. Fix your right foot on the floor. Place your left foot on your right thigh, sit up straight, then lean forward. You'll feel a stretch in your IT bands. Repeat with the other leg.
  2. Scoot to the edge of your chair. (If it has wheels, make sure it's against the wall, first.) Fix one foot on the floor for balance, and then stick the other leg out, locking the knee. Point the toes of that foot upward. Reach forward and grab the foot, or at least as far as you can reach. Stick the butt out for extra oomph. You should feel a stretch in the entire leg. Again, repeat with the other leg.
  3. Also on the edge of your chair: grab the outsides of your legs with the opposite hands, so that they're crossed. Lean forward and take a deep breath. Move your legs farther apart for a deeper stretch. All of this opens up the thoracic cavity and spreads the muscles of your upper back. Switch the way your arms are crossed for a slightly different stretch, if you like.
  4. Sit on one hand, so that your arm is fixed. Turn your head in the direction of the opposite shoulder, then either look down (like you're sniffing your armpit) or up. Both actions help stretch the trapesius muscle in the neck. Repeat with the other hand.
I hope you find these stretches useful as the days of March go by and the madness descends. Ready to get on with the rest of the month? *cracks knuckles* Let's do this.

And don't forget to check in at Shari Green's blog tomorrow!