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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Listening to our Voices - IWSG August 2017



 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.

One night about seven years ago, I lay in bed in that twilight zone between waking and sleeping.  A sentence came into my mind and I liked it enough to force myself to get up and write it down. A few months later I used it as the first line in what I now call one of my practice novels. I had no idea of the story behind the sentence, but once those few words came to me, I was off and running, figuring out who said that line and to whom it referred. Before long, I had a cast of characters around which to build a tale.

A personal essay I read in Yankee Magazine triggered my next novel (I’m still praying this one isn’t just practice.) An artist’s rendering on the page featured a damaged tree branch held up by a home-made crutch. I summoned up an image of a kid sitting on the branch swinging his legs, and that’s where my next story began, with that boy in the tree.

For the next novel, I was ready to begin a new story, but I didn’t have a plot, until I asked myself the following question. “What is the worst thing that could happen to a person like me?” Before long I’d conjured up a recent widow who discovers her late husband had a previous wife she hadn’t known about, and who, as a result of his oversight, inherits the bulk of his estate while his widow remains broke. There’s some truth behind this premise. Many moons ago, I worked with a long-time second wife who was left with nothing when her husband died because he neglected to update his life insurance paperwork. 

I’m editing that story now but lately, I’ve been wondering what I’ll write the next time. So, imagine how pleased I was the other night, when again in the wee hours, an opening scene came to me:


At first Lucia thought the ringing was a part of her dream. By the time she realized it wasn’t, James had picked up his cell.  He spoke into it, his voice hoarse with sleep. 


Truth be told, I have no idea who Lucia or James are but you betcha, sometime soon I’ll figure it out.

My point in all this? Inspiration is everywhere. We have to listen to the voices that speak to us at night. Remember the thoughts that hit us in the shower. Think about what we read. Concentrate on the conversations taking place around us. We have to watch people at the store, on trains, on planes. Anything may trigger an idea for a story.

Listen to this. The other day at work a friend told me how her father had purchased an old New York taxi cab when she was a child. As a little girl she'd climb out of her swimming pool and wrap herself up in a towel. The taxi would be warmed by the sun and she climb into it to dry off while snacking on potato chips she dipped into catsup. Isn’t that a neat scene? I can’t wait to see how it plays out in a future project.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG July, Lessons Learned



It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.
 

This month’s optional IWSG question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

Hmmm, since I’m feeling generous today, how about four?

You don’t get to call yourself a writer if you don’t write. Write, regularly and often. Even if it is only for fifteen minutes a day, find a way. Five days a week I get up an hour earlier than I need to and write or edit. I write on weekends, too. It has become such a habit that when I can’t do it for some reason, I get twitchy. As with everything in life, improvement comes with practice. Comparing what I wrote eight years ago when I started my morning habit and what I produce now, there are measurable gains.

Read with a writer’s eye. Take the time to discover through other writers what works, what doesn’t, and what resonates with you. There is so much beautiful writing out there. The more we expose ourselves to it, the stronger we become at our craft. 

We are on our own timelines. Since I’ve started writing seriously, I’ve seen other writers publish book after book. Of course, I wanted my earlier projects published. I even queried agents, rushing it because I didn’t want to be left behind. But the truth was, I needed more practice, to expose myself to things that helped me learn, to challenge myself to dig deep. In other words, I had to do the hard stuff. 

And this leads to my next point, in which I quote from one of my recent blog posts:

It takes as long as it takes. Do you want to be known for being published, or for publishing something good? If you have one iota of thought that something isn’t right with your essay, article, novel, what have you, then, it’s not. Take the time to fix it. The internet is a scary place. Unforgivable really. Whether you publish traditionally or online, your work is going to be OUT THERE.  How will you feel five, ten, twenty years from now, if a poorly written piece with your name on it continues to surface?

And there you have it. Writing truths that work for me. Hope you are enjoying all that’s magnificent about summer.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wisdom from the Ages- IWSG June, 2017



 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.


A relative moved out of her home after 45 years and we spent this winter cleaning it out, which caused us to reevaluate. After spending weekends throwing out old bills, countless notebooks filed with clipped recipes and every birthday card ever received, my husband and I vowed we’d never leave a task so daunting to our daughter. 

To that end we’ve been purging our own house, one of us more successfully than the other. We grew up pre-social media and both had plastic bins holding years of correspondence stored in the basement.  Hauling them out, my husband upturned his container into the laundry basket we were using for trash.  “I can’t read them,” he said, “or, I’ll never get rid of them.” 

I don’t have his fortitude. Every night last week, I sat in front of my own box, opening and reading enough correspondence to transport myself back to a world I’d forgotten, before tossing each letter into a trash bag.
  
In the end though, I scored pay dirt. I knew for sure I’d have to save the letters from my lovely lost poet friend who died in a car accident just before our senior year in college. And, while I couldn’t bring myself to read them all, I unfolded a lined sheet of paper. Apparently, we were bored in class one day and writing notes back and forth. Sometime before that, I’d dashed off a couple of poems and submitted them to the college literary magazine she edited, knowing they weren’t my best work. I confessed in the note that I knew they weren’t good, and here’s what she wrote in response:

You must give writing the time it deserves or it will not reflect your real talent. You have the rest of your life you know – and you will always have that talent – the only thing with talent is though, you can’t just carry it around and take it out in a minute. It comes through much effort…If you don’t think your writing is good, don’t settle for things you don’t like…

The irony is, she didn't have the rest of her life. She was twenty-one when she wrote that, wise beyond her age, and gone three months later. I'm closing in on forty years without her now, but it's made me so happy to recognize she's alive again, through the inspiring reminder those long-ago words just delivered to me.