The thing I hate most about party planning – the RSVP

Throwing a party for your child can be a lot of work. I don’t mind the actual party or even the planning of my kids’ parties. In fact, I love designing their invitations. What I hate is waiting for people to RSVP.

alexa 6 invitationNowadays, so many people don’t RSVP, or they wait until the last minute. I invited 14 girls to Lexie’s birthday party at the beginning of the month. Three days before the party, I was still missing more than two-thirds of the RSVPs.

By the time of the actual RSVP deadline, I had heard from 65% of the attendees. In the past, I have ended up sending out a reminder to parents I have not heard from.

“Hi – Lexie’s birthday party is this Saturday. I know she would love (insert child’s name) to come her party. We hope you can make it.”

This typically gets me some extra responses, which are most often a “No. We can’t make it” but does garner a few “Oh. I meant to RSVP.” For Lexie’s party, I didn’t resort to sending emails as I had eight girls coming and decided not to bother with garnering responses from the others. I just sometimes don’t know why people don’t RSVP to parties or wait to the last minute. Are they waiting for something better to come up?

I only received two “No. We can’t make it” messages. I think people really don’t think they need to send a “no” reply. I admit there have been times that I don’t send my regrets when we receive an invitation. Of course, with Lexie’s party, I was a little nervous. Days after we had passed out the invitation, I saw a few of the kids walking around with the invitations at school. I began to worry that the invitations weren’t going to make it to their parents.

As it turned out, I had eight girls scheduled to come but only five of them actually showed up. One girl was sick the two days preceding the party, and I had spoken with her mom about the possibility that she might not be there. The other two were just no shows. This, in my opinion, can be as bad as people not RSVPing and showing up to a party. We had planned for those girls to be there. We had goodie bags ready for them and depending on the party place, sometimes you have to pay for those you say are coming whether they show up or not. Luckily, Chuck E Cheese gives you up to 4 no shows, so I only paid for the kids who actually attended.

For me the worst part is just waiting for those RSVPs. Because so many people do it at the last minute, I end up worrying that we won’t have a good attendance at the party. I think this fear that no one will show up is what has kept my husband and I from throwing our own parties. Of course now that we have kids, parties for them are inevitable.

I know parties aren’t supposed to be a popularity contest, but it is almost impossible for it not to be. It is hard when you go to one party, and nearly every kid invited shows up and at your party, you get only five kids.  I don’t know why there is such a difference in attendance. Maybe it has nothing to do with popularity, and some parties are just at better, more convenient times. I do know that when Jase turned 5, he had very few kids from his class come to his party. He didn’t care. He had a blast.

As for me, I just want people to respond to those RSVPs!

This is the second in a three-part birthday series. Last week was birthdays that fall during a holiday or vacation. Next week – searching for that impossible to find gift. 

Today’s Featured Author: Jenean C. Gilstrap

Today I have poet Jenean C. Gilstrap on my blog discussing her latest poetry collection, Words Unspoken.


Tell us a bit about yourself.

Having lived a rather nomadic lifestyle due to the nature of my father’s work and the very frequent relocation from state to state, I soon discovered and nurtured my free-spirit. Listening to and learning from that gypsy spirit I came to see that we all are gypsies of a sort wandering traveling through this life other lives space and time here there and yon on roads less traveled.  Several years ago when I began blogging, my blogs were designed to be written and visual journals of my own travels – imagined and/or real.  They, my blogs, are simply a streamofconsciousness rambling of words and images in which I find meaning and beauty – there is no organized order of thought or format.  That is the way that I write.  My poetry and painting and writing on love and life and things thereof are from the heart and through the eyes of this Louisiana gypsy spirit travelin’ roads less traveled.

jeneanAn individualist, I choose not to follow any pre-conceived pattern for the outlay of the words I write – rather, I allow them the freedom to forge their own path as they make their way from my heart to pen to paper.  My art work involves mixed media on large canvasses as well as photography.  Presently, I am a weekly featured poet in several online magazines.  My piece The Granite God was the winning poem in Painted Bride Quarterly Sidebar #12 [2012].   Also, my work has been featured in performance poetry theatrical productions in Louisiana and my short story, Retribution, published in the Helicon Literary Magazine there.  My “gypsywomanworld” blog and I are included as character/story elements in Ghost Key, the fictional work of award-winning author Trish MacGregor.  Having retired from a career spent in the legal field, the last few years have been focused on my love of writing and painting, together with spending time with my grown children and their children.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

The place of my birth is Sedro-Woolley, Washington, a little town in northwestern Washington, just a few miles inland from Puget Sound and a few miles south of the Canadian border.  However, the place I call home is Louisiana – Shreveport, to be more specific.  Currently, I divide my time between the East Coast and Shreveport.  Right now, I’m overdue for my Shreveport stay.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

Books and the written word were mainstays in my life from earliest childhood – earliest memory.  Beause of the nature of our father’s work, our family traveled/relocated frequently – very frequently.  Regardless of where we were, though, there was always a library and we children were always taken regularly to the library and books were always a gift item regardless the holiday or whatever.  There were also writers on both sides of our family – a number of them published authors.  So, having been surrounded by books and reading and writing, it was all just a natural course of events for me.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I was ten years old, I wrote my first major piece – a play on the life of George Washington.  This play was ultimately produced by my elementary school and I was cast in the role of Martha Washington.  That was my official debut – but even before then, I was scribbling poetry and little short stories.  It isn’t necessarily that I consider myself a writer, actually.  It’s just that I’ve always written.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Oh, well now, the poetry that I write comes from the heart – and our experiences remain embedded in our hearts forever [or so I believe] – and we, ourselves/our personality, are the composition of all that.  So, for me, I would have to say that the all of me is in my words – in my writings – my books.  Sometimes readers will say to me that they wish I would tell them more about myself – that I would tell this or that – and I am always always surprised at such remarks because to me, as I said above, the all of me is in my words.  I am who I write.  To read me is to know me.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Well, currently, I have several projects underway, either very near completion or approaching completion.  One of those, my next book, is another volume of poetry and will come out within the next few months.  This time the pieces come from “gypspywomanworld”, the first blog I began [2008].    The poems in this book are of a more eclectic nature than those in “words unspoken”; they are a mix of some “from the heart” kinds of poetry, together with those perhaps metaphysical in nature, some addressing social and/or political issues and some that are just for fun.   My third poetry book [almost finished] picks up with a bit different style of poetry than my previous ones.  There is more prose in it – the pieces take on a more contemporary feel.  My other project, which is in the preliminary stages and under contract with a London-based publisher, is still another book of poetry.  It’s what I refer to as a “generational poetry” book as it is a compilation of some of the poetry of my mother and her mother, both of whom were prolific poets in their time, together with some of my own work.  Some of their pieces date back 100 years or so and interspersed with the poems will be vintage family photographs taken of the women during the period in which the poetry was written.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

At the present time, I write two weekly [Sunday] feature columns for online e-zines: Yareah Magazine and Plum Tree Books.  My column with Yareah has been ongoing for more than a year and I am very humbled to be a part of that fabulous forum of the arts.  Also, I am more than humbled to be a part of the Plum Tree family with whom I’ve been for a number of months now.  The past few months, I have begun getting back to my painting [oils and acrylics on large canvasses] which had fallen by the wayside the past few years and I occasionally do oil pastels on paper to accompany some of my poetry.  While I attempt to spend a large portion of my days writing or doing some sort of writing-related activity, I also care for my young grandson several hours a day.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

Worst advice was from an editor many years ago regarding a short story of mine.  His style was entirely different from mine and my short story ended up being chopped into bits and pieces I barely recognized from my original manuscript.  The chopped version being the version that was published, of course.  When I saw it in print, I vowed never again to allow anyone or anything re-shape what had come from my heart – from my very soul.  Best advice is from a dear friend [even though we’ve never met in person] – a prolific award-winning author herself, Trish MacGregor, who is a staunch supporter and inspiration.  Basically, she always encourages me to write from my heart – the only way I know to write or will ever write.

What is the best thing about being a poet/writer? The worst?

The best thing about being a poet/writer is just that – getting to do what I love and having others appreciate what I do.  The worst…well, I’m not sure there is a worst.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

The fuel that allows me – pushes me – to write is simple.  It is all those voices – those inner voices – just waiting to be heard – needing to be heard – wanting/needing to speak all those words unspoken.

How did you come up with the title?

My current release, “Words Unspoken”, is my first book of poetry and is a compilation of poetry that began several years ago when I began blogging.  The poems were the basis of my blog.  When I saw that there was a theme of sorts to what I was writing, I began another blog to accommodate just this poetry.  The name of that blog is “the gypsy on words unspoken” as the poems were those from the heart, those dealing with a love relationship that could not have a life of its own for whatever reason – hence, my own words dedicated to all the words left unspoken, the acts left undone – the love unlived unfulfilled.  “Words Unspoken” is available in both paperback and on kindle at Amazon.

This is the poem that began all the others that are included in the book:

words unspoken

i cannot say aloud the words

that fill my heart

yet rip my soul apart

i cannot say aloud the words

that if i said

would leave us both dissolved instead

i cannot speak

in voices heard my love for you

yet in my silent screams i do

i cannot speak

of life within our stolen time

for we both know you are not mine

love unspoken

words unheard

i cannot live

a loveless life

so i go on in secret strife

i cannot live

in time stood still

yet all i have is life unfilled

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I’m sometimes really very shy.

Book Description

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00062]Ms. Gilstrap’s first book of poetry, is a collection of poetry from the heart – her own words dedicated to love – to a love finally found and then, out of love, relinquished, leaving all those words left unspoken – the acts left undone – the love unlived, unfulfilled.  One writer describes Ms. Gilstrap’s poetry this way: An authentic gypsy soul lives inside the poetry of Jenean Gilstrap, who writes of the unspoken, the longings in the night, the closeness of the far-away and distance of the near. Gilstrap’s words are images of love, in all its manifestations, but one should not so easily call these ‘love poems.’  Instead, the reader is invited behind closed doors to witness the passions and the gut-wrenching spirit of what love is, of what love makes possible, of that which is indeed a personal and protected space. This is a place where lovers knock down their walls of vulnerability and dance for as long as they can. We leave these interiors like voyeurs, and yet we also remain touched by the mastery of the words and the emotions they invoke. – Geoff Schutt – Novelist

You can buy Words Unspoken on Amazon.

You can find out more about Jenean on her blogs – Gypsywomanworld and The Gypsy on Words Unspoken. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Developing characters recap

I have written numerous posts giving information and hopefully some insight into the realm of novel writing. As it is Spring Break here in Texas, I thought I would take a break from writing something new and recap my posts on developing characters for your novel. If you missed these or just want to re-read them, click on the “read more” link to see the rest of original post.

What’s in a Name? Picking the right name for your characters

If you are a parent, you know how much you labored over the perfect name for your child. Now imagine you need to do the same thing for over a dozen or more characters. Yikes! Read more….

Developing a realistic antagonist

bigstock_Shadow_Man_469091As I mentioned in last week’s post, I have begun working on a new novel. Luckily for me, I began developing the premises for this novel a few years ago. But one area that I didn’t really work on is the antagonist.

The antagonist, the person that will try to thwart your hero and provide conflict for your story, is one of the most important characters to develop. Most authors spend a majority of their time developing the main character. The same amount of time and effort should be devoted to creating a realistic antagonist. Read more…

Reasons your protagonist needs a sidekick

Batman has Robin. Harry Potter has Ronald Weasley. Fred has Barney, while Frodo Baggins has Samwise Gamgee. And who could forget, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Yep, we are talking about sidekicks. Read more…

How much do you need to develop minor characters? 

So you know that you need to fully develop a background and motivation for both your antagonist and protagonist and of course, their supporting cast (sidekicks, best friends, and close confidants). But how much do you need to develop minor characters?

Well, that all depends on how minor they are. Read more…

The importance of character flaws 

No one wants to read about perfect characters that always smile, act polite and eat their vegetables. No one is perfect and readers don’t expect your characters to be perfect. In other words, everyone has flaws and so should your characters. Read more…

Cats as characters in your novel 

ToshRecently, I wrote about dragons in my fantasy writing series. Today, I would like to address using cats as characters. Now, I chose cats because I am a cat-lover. But these same ideas could work just as well if you wanted to use dogs, horses or some other animal. And much of this can be used for other genres besides fantasy. Read more…

The Character Interview: Getting to know your characters

It is important to get to know your characters BEFORE you begin writing your novel. The more familiar you are with them, the better you will be able to bring them to life.

One method of developing your character is to do a character interview. You ask your character questions and answer back as if you are that character. This gives you a chance to explore some of their background from their point of view. Read more…

Now you may notice that I have not written a post about main characters. Well, that one is coming. Next month I am particpating in the A to Z Challenge (where bloggers post daily following the letters of the alphabet). For the letter M, I will be discussing main characters. Until then, I hope you enjoy this recap.

Quote of the Week: March 12

Today is my daughter Lexie’s 6th birthday. I thought this quote appropriate as Lexie never wants to go to sleep. If you just change the him to a her in the quote, it would be perfect for Lexie.

There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep. – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Wanted: Authors for Friday Featured Author spot

Would you like to be a featured author on my blog? I host guest authors every week – any genre, both traditionally and self-published.

The post can take one of three formats: author interview, book excerpt or a guest post on any aspect of writing, publishing, and book marketing.

I feature guest authors on Fridays, on a first-come-first-served basis, though I do have a few Tuesday openings to accommodate special requests for dates related to promotions such as book tours or book releases. Right now I am booking Fridays in April and May.

If you are interested, send me a message along with any date requests, and we’ll take it from there.

Having a birthday on a holiday or during school vacation

I never wanted my kids to have a birthday in the summer or during a school break. It makes it hard to have a party when you no longer can easily get in touch with classmates. Plus there is always the chance that people will be on their own vacation during these times.

Even worse is having a birthday on a holiday. Now Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day may not matter but to have one on Christmas (or even the day before or after) has to be hard. No one is coming to a party on Christmas and the holidays are chalked full of activities that sometimes even the days before or after are too hectic. And then there is that dreaded joint birthday/Christmas gift. Instead of getting two toys, you get only one.

At an early age, many kids may not mind having a holiday birthday but as they get older, it matters. The negative of any birthday around Christmas is also that you get all your presents in one swoop. (And for the parents it makes purchases trickier as you don’t know what others are getting them. My friend Patty has had to take items back that she bought for Christmas after her twins had their birthday party two weeks before.)

Fork in slice of birthday cakeLexie’s birthday has always landed on Spring Break as it lands during the second week of March. I have been telling Lexie that the whole school takes off for her birthday. But what this really means is we have her birthday celebration spread out over at least two weeks.

We had her party with friends on March 1. You can’t have it the weekend before or after her birthday as those are part of spring break and many people go out of town or have other plans. To avoid having a low attendance, we started last year having it during the first weekend of March (though we have to schedule it around Jase’s karate tournament that is always that weekend.)

Then there is the celebration in class which we did on the Friday before Spring Break. This is where she wears the birthday crown or ribbon and gets to share treats – cupcakes or donuts – with her classmates at the end of the day. And lastly, we have a family get-together on her actual birthday.

Since her birthday lands on Spring Break, she usually gets to choose what she wants to do that day which means we will go to the museum or the zoo or a bouncy place as part of our day time celebration. That is a lot of celebrating for one little girl.

Jase on the other hand doesn’t get the two week long celebration. His birthday is mid-May. His class party and family celebration are typically done on his birthday. We usually have his party the weekend after his birthday as the weekend before is Mother’s Day. Of course being the great kid that he is, Jase doesn’t mind not having the LONG celebration that Lexie gets.

The only negative from having his birthday in May is that it is the last full month of the school year and many of the kids with summer birthdays tend to have their parties this month rather than dealing with getting people to come to a party on their actual birthday. So around here, May is a hard month to throw a party too.

This is the first in a three-part birthday series. Next week – Waiting for the dreaded RSVPs.