Where is it written?

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Writing is a portal into the deepest reaches of our imagination.  There are no rules, apart from grammar and sentence structure, so a writer is free to craft a story about anything that tickles our fancy.

I really began my writing journey when I was eleven years old.  I loved the fact that words could take me to far away places, places that I had created, and that I could get lost in those words for hours.  It didn’t matter, back then, if the story was silly.  All that mattered is that I was transported into another world by words, captivated by ideas and compelled to chase the feeling of elation I got by writing a story or a poem.

I still get that same feeling of euphoria when I write.  Some days the words don’t flow as easily, but on the days that they do my fingers can’t type the words fast enough.  I love to look back at the beginning of this blog to see just how much the voice of my writing has changed.  I didn’t know that the stages of writing included puberty but I certainly found that stage and my writing voice changed to become the one I have now, the voice that wrote my book.

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I am hopeful that becoming a published author is something that is written in the stars, for me, and not written in the sand.  But if the writing Gods have scribbled my name on the beach, only to see it washed away by the tide, I will always have my words.

 

When the voices wake you

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I’m hearing the voices again, the voices that rouse me from sleep so I can tell their story.  Those voices have been quelled since I finished writing my first book but, now that I am forging my way into my second book, a new ensemble of characters is alive and well and they are feeling extremely vocal.

I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with a simple line that seemed to be rooted in my brain.  That line wanted so desperately to be recorded so, before I was able to drift into my slumber once again, I had to blindly feel around in the dark for my cell phone and find the voice memo app that has been my late night savior.  In a voice that sounded more like Morgan Freeman narrating a television commercial, I spoke a few words into the microphone and fell back into a deep sleep.

When I woke up again at 7:30, I knew I had recorded something but couldn’t remember what the words were.  I played them back and was overwhelmed with the urge to write.  I was almost late for work yesterday because the flow of words was substantial enough to warrant an apology to my bosses for my tardiness.  Thankfully, they understand my insatiable urge to listen to those voices and they accept my erratic behavior when it comes to my creativity.

The words that I recited in the wee hours of morning could possibly help shape the antagonist in my newest creation.  Karl is slowly becoming a character I want to embrace but a character I have become slightly afraid to welcome into my reality.  I can only hope, for both our sakes, that I can tell his story and give it the entertainment value he is seeking without becoming afraid of him in the process.

 

 

Handling rejection like a boss!

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I am a people pleaser.  I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb asking the medical staff if there was anything I could do for them.  I invariably want to go out of my way to make sure everyone is happy, but my ambitious goal is not necessarily always an attainable goal.  In the words of John Lydgate, later adapted by President Lincoln, ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’.

As a young writer, back in my grade school days, I was afraid to let people read my poetry for fear they would not like it.  That same phobia applied to my poems and short stories through high school and college.  Writing, for me, is the biggest part of myself and I used to feel that if people didn’t like my writing, they were somehow rejecting ME.  It wasn’t until I began the process of seeking an agent or a publisher that I began to truly understand how rejection makes us stronger.

I received my most recent rejection last night.  It was a curt line that simply said, “Thanks for submitting, but I’m afraid this one isn’t for us. ”  Instead of feeling unsettled by such a quick and negative response, the thought in my head was more of understanding that my book was not a true fit for their collection.  I wasn’t sad.  I was merely determined to continue the quest to find an agent that would best be suited for ME and not the other way around.

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart.  Hemingway said it best when he quipped, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  My blood is now the ink on the pages that I crafted.  My skin is much thicker now than it was and I am more than prepared to deal with my overwhelming share of the writing world’s brush-off.  Those abrupt dismissals are the constant in the ‘writer seeking publishing’ equation and I am prepared to rework the problem until I come up with an acceptable answer.

To bastardize Sally Field’s 1985 Oscar acceptance speech, “They don’t like me. Right now, they don’t like me.”   And I’m okay with that because, someday, that will change.

Putting yourself out there

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Trying to find a literary agent is much like putting yourself on an internet dating site.  You spend a great deal of time stressing over how to describe yourself and your work without sounding obnoxiously confident but you have to nail that very fine line between determination and arrogance without exaggerating either of those things.  Contrary to internet dating, that agent is only looking for one very specific thing and if you don’t have it, they move on.

I have never been comfortable being the person to profess my strengths.  I can write for days about subjects that have nothing to do with me, but words vanish as soon as I have to point them in my direction.  I am extremely happy with the final product of my first novel and so are my Beta readers.  I want nothing more than to find an agent or a publisher who believes in it as much as I do.  But that process is much more daunting than staring at that first blank page, knowing that you have to string together over 80,000 words in an articulate and entertaining way.

Agents and publishers who are not interested in your work will not dangle bait in the water to see if you bite.  They are more than willing to move on to the next pond because there are so many fish and so few anglers.  An agent can’t even cast a line into a body of water without a frenzy of fish ready to fight to the death for the rare hook that shines in the distance.  In a sea of Piranhas, I feel like I am the poor carrion waiting at the bottom to be consumed by the predatory beasts with the sharper teeth.

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But there is always hope.  I know that one day, those Piranhas will have distracted themselves by something very shiny and I will be in the right spot in the pond at the right time, staring at a hook that was meant to catch only me.  And like every angler who is waiting for the “big one” knows, it’s all about patience.

 

Do good, feel good

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Over the last few years, I have found myself very driven to spend a great deal of my spare time volunteering.  I have always liked helping people so this step was a natural progression in my desire to offer my time to help those in need.  With a background in hospitality and a passion for cooking, it came as no surprise to me that I have combined all of those things about myself and I have become very active with our local Food Bank.

When you weave your way into the world of volunteering, you see just how many people are right along side of you, driven by the same aspiration to lend a hand where they can.  The faces you see in your daily life suddenly become the hands behind the volunteer work that you didn’t know they were a part of.  They don’t do it for the recognition, they simply do it because they want to help.

I have been very fortunate to become a part of a group of people with a vision that continues to grow to serve our small community.  Sure, there are a few people who need more recognition than others and an occasional public pat on the back, but there are always a few of those people in every crowd.  Thankfully our intentions come from the same place and we put forth the same effort to achieve the desired results.

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If you have ever entertained the idea of volunteering, I highly recommend it.  Just knowing that your efforts make such a difference in people’s lives, regardless of where you volunteer your time, is a truly heart-warming feeling.   And there is no shortage of places that could use an extra pair of hands or two.  The amount of time you commit to volunteering is always up to you but every second you spend helping those who struggle is well worth the time you take to show other people that you care.

 

 

Three for three

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The term “Beta Readers” is a daunting phrase for fledgling authors.  It means you trust your book to people who don’t know you and won’t be so prone to sugar-coating their review of your work.

My first reader, admittedly, was my nephew.  While he is still a teenager, he is a voracious reader so I knew his opinion of the story would be valuable.  Since I gave him the book in the middle of the summer, his reading was not as fast as his usual pace but he loved the story and he liked the twist at the end.

My second reader was a friend, but a friend who I knew I could count on to be brutally honest about her take on the story, the writing and the characters.  When she handed the pages back to me, they were filled with sticky notes that I was initially afraid to read.  When I finally got the courage to open the pages, her sticky notes were filled with encouraging messages and notes about her excitement to keep reading to see where the story went.  She didn’t want to put the book down.  Her last message had me in tears when she said she was at a loss for what to read next because she enjoyed the book so much.

My third reader is a friend of my second reader.  I have never met her so her opinion was, by far, the most anticipated because she had nothing to gain, or to lose, by telling me her honest opinion of my book.  She enjoyed the intrigue and said my book had all the elements of a good suspense/thriller and she is looking forward to my next book.  For a writer, it doesn’t get much better than that!

After those encouraging words, I followed my pattern from last year and have scheduled the suspension of my satellite service for a six-month period starting a few days after the Superbowl.  Without the mindless distraction of random television shows, I hope to repeat my success from last year and finish book number two while still pounding the internet pavement to see if I can find an interested agent or publisher for book number one.

If ever I needed patience, now is the time.  I will still be looking for a few more Beta Readers in the interim but my confidence in handing over my pages is certainly much higher that it was before.  Most of the fear is gone and has been replaced by hope.  A few positive words can go a long way and I plan on holding those words very close to my heart.

 

A little glimpse into the past

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I think about my parents a lot.  I think of the life I had when I was lucky enough to have them in my life, but rarely do I think much about the lives they led before they were married and had children.

Lately, I have been helping our local library with a very interesting project that they are creating to help commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday.  They are putting together a book with photographs and personal stories of how our senior residents came to live in our little town.  I have had the good fortune of interviewing a great number of these residents so I can write their stories.  Some of the people I have interviewed have spent their whole lives here and, as I have come to know, several of them remember my mother in her much younger days.

My mom’s side of the family have cottaged in our little village for generations.  She spent the best days of her childhood on the same shores of Lake Rosseau that I had the good fortune of growing up on at our family cottage.  During several of my interviews, I have been overjoyed with the words, “I remember your mom……” and the stories go on from there.

A project that began as a chance to tell the stories of our local residents has turned into a project that has allowed me to look into the life of my mother when she was a young girl and a teenager.  I was even told a story of my mother knitting one of our local residents a pair of blue socks with a yellow diamond and she even took the time to stitch an “M” in the diamond.  That story really hit home for me.  My mom was still knitting socks until she died.

What started as just a writing project has turned into a wonderful glimpse into my mother’s past and I am thankful, especially during the holidays, to know that little pieces of her live on in the memories of those around me.