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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

What's in a Word? IWSG January 2023


Welcome to 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 haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of  Alex Cavanaugh.  To find other contributors, click here. Thank you to this month’s co-hosts:
 Jemima Pett, Debs Carey, Kim Lajevardi, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and T. Powell Coltrin.

January 4 question - Do you have a word of the year? Is there one word that sums up what you need to work on or change in the coming year?

The fear of over-promising and under-delivering means I’m not keen on resolutions. The first word to hit me was “complete” because I want to get done already with my current project. As a goal, it’s achievable. I finally figured out the backstory and motivation for one of my primary characters, the lack of which was making the story one dimensional. I’m pretty sure I can plug that in and get myself to the finish line of a decent draft soon, so maybe “complete” as a word for the year isn’t challenging enough.

Perhaps the word could be “decide.”

While still working at the job I’ve had for 11 years, I’ve qualified to retire a bit early with my little pension and lifetime medical insurance intact. While it’s nice to know I can go when I want, I worry I’ll fall into a slump if I don’t have a reason to get up five days a week. When you’ve been a part of a couple for thirty-five years and then you’re not, it takes time figure out how to navigate alone. Throw in two years of Covid isolation and you can understand why I may be behind the curve. I’m still trying to discover who I am without my wingman. Work offers a steadying influence. 

That said, I envy my retired friends who can do things on their own schedules. One is taking a trip to Australia. Another takes a pottery class. A third loves her poetry group and travels when she wants. Yet another friend has begun a photography business. She shoots and sells the most stunning pictures. I’d like to accompany her a time or two. 

While scary, when I decide to retire, I think I’ll find the time to explore things that bring me closer to the next iteration of me. 

Huh. It's official. 

My word of the year will be “onward.”

Happy New Year to all.


Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Back to the Essence - IWSG December 2022

 


Welcome to 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 haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of  Alex Cavanaugh.  To find other contributors, click here. Thank you to this month’s co-hosts: Joylene Nowell Butler, Chemist Ken, Natalie Aguirre, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

No optional question for me this month, instead, you get a story.

I’ve mentioned earlier that my current writing project is not going fast, or easily, or well.

Now, pack that thought into a cupboard for a bit as I share the following.

As a teen, I spent two summers working and living in a country inn in New Hampshire where I made friendships I still treasure. That first summer, I met “K.” a writer who’d already published a memoir by the time I arrived on the scene. My autographed copy retains pride of place on my bookshelf.

As time went by in those pre-internet, pre-email, pre-just-about-anything-technological years, Christmas communications included long letters. Cards from K. and his wife contained essays he’d written about their young son and how as a dad, he learned life lessons while fielding his inquisitive boy’s direct questions. The stories were always sweet, sometimes whimsical, mostly funny, and if he compiled them into a collection, a suitable title might be, Parenting is Not for Sissies.

Fast forward to few years ago. Our major daily publishes a Sunday magazine section featuring a personal essay on the last page. Ages ago one of my own essays was featured, so each week I read it with interest to gauge the quality of the writing. One Sunday, I was drawn into a lovely piece and before long found the voice so familiar, I stopped mid-read to search for the byline. Sure enough, it was written by K.

Last week, K. emailed me that he would have another essay published in the upcoming Sunday supplement. When the day arrived, I made myself read the news methodically, savoring the anticipation of what I would find at the end. It didn’t disappoint. His essay about overcoming nerves while taking flight beside his son, a newly licensed pilot, made me wince, chuckle, and ponder a universal truth. It never feels like our adult children are grown up until they prove us wrong. I read it again and again.

So where am I going with this?

Well, the thing of it is, I’m not feeling great about my fourth attempt at a publishable novel. For months, I’ve been trudging up a mountain of slog, trying to develop one of my characters which is changing everything I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half writing. For the first time ever, I'm allowing myself to procrastinate (writing blog posts helps with that), and worse, can picture not finishing. But shortly after reading the piece by my old NH friend, I was inspired to sit in front of my computer and bang out my own story, about not hosting Thanksgiving for the first time in thirty years. How the holiday I’d expected to feel strange and altered turned into a memory I will savor.

Like K. I used real life examples and wrote from the heart. For the first time in a while, my fingers flew to catch up with my thoughts and when I was done, I felt that dopamine buzz that let me know I’d done something good.

I walked away from the computer with a six-hundred-word piece and a big fat reminder that what I love about writing is just that. The writing. No matter how unforgiving the slog, they can’t take that away from me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

How it is Now - IWSG November 2022.

Welcome to 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 haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of the amazing and generous  Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other monthly contributors, click here.  Thank you to November co-hosts: Diedre Knight, Douglas Thomas Greening, Nick Wilford, and Diane Burton!


The writing hasn’t been kind to me lately. Back in the day when I felt stuck, I took an artist’s date which I learned to do while completing the lessons in The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. The writer suggests taking regular time-outs from your "art" to pursue an activity that might spur creativity. For me, that usually involved going on a walk with a camera. I’d click images of scenes around the area I love so much, then go home and write about something I'd photographed. Once I wrote a vignette about a house blurred by fog and it ended up inspiring my third novel.

But because of life (and cell phones), I haven’t taken a walk with my actual camera in a long time. When I took it out of the cupboard recently, the last photo on the memory card was from 2019.

A few days later, I took a ride down to the harbor with the camera in the passenger seat, just to see how it felt. In truth, it felt weird. Who uses an actual camera now, anyway? But really the issue was something biggerI didn’t grow up near the ocean. After almost 40 years of living by the sea, I’m still in awe of  my surroundings but as in every other realm of my life these days, there's something missing. 

Before two years ago, my walking habit was to keep my eyes open and frame picture after picture trying to capture the essence of what made me feel so joyful. These days though, what used to feel fun is hard work. Nevertheless, as flat as I felt that afternoon at the harbor, I was there. The egrets were, too. My heart wasn't in it much, but it gave me a little peace when I got home and downloaded the pictures to find my eyes still work.








Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Ye Old Red Pen - IWSG October 2022

 

 

Welcome to 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 haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of the amazing and generous  Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other monthly contributors, click here. Thank you to October co-hosts : Tonja Drecker, Victoria Marie Lees, Mary Aalgaard, and Sandra Cox.


I am always impressed when someone tells me they write their first drafts longhand. Imagine a 19th century author composing a manuscript with a quill pen, tying up the draft with string to deliver to a publisher (my imagination at work here). It’s more than I can fathom. Even ball-point pen on a lined legal pad feels daunting to me. Without the arrival of the personal computer, I’m confident I would not be a writer. My practice goes something like this. Stare into space for a while. Write a sentence. Write a paragraph. Decide the paragraph doesn’t say what I want it to. Delete most of it. Start again. In longhand, my drafts would be page after page of scratch outs.

That said, there’s nothing like printing out a draft and editing by hand. For the past year-and-a-half, I’ve been revising the first novel I ever tried to write. All those years ago I stopped working on it because the thing was such a complete mess, it was beyond my skills to fix it. I’m a better writer now. I pulled it out a few months after my husband died because the gosh-awful draft required focus. Focus provides distraction. Distraction helped me cope.

Now, I’ve gone through two revisions based on a fair bit of critiquing, which has helped improve the story to a point where I kind-of-sort-of thought maybe it was getting somewhere. With that in mind, I printed it out to read it from a different perspective.

Ugh.

Can you spell o-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-e-d? I'm only eighty pages in, and the majority of them look like this. 


 

Have you ever drafted out a story longhand? 

Do you print your stories out to edit them?

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Nope, Nope, Nope, and I Wish

 


Welcome to 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 haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of the amazing and generous  Alex CavanaughThank you to September co-hosts:  Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise - Fundy Blue! To find links to other monthly contributors, click here.

This month’s optional question: What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

In real life as well as fiction, I stay away from anything that might lead to a sleepless night, which means no horror for me. I write because I love getting lost in other worlds (and words), not to increase my heart rate. Somewhere on this blog I wrote about a summer roommate who wouldn’t leave me alone until I agreed to read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. About a third of the way through, I tossed the book across the room. It sat in the corner until we weren’t roommates anymore. As with my reading, so goes my writing.

As for other genres, well, erotica is out, I don’t feel like I have the voice in my head for YA and, being the ultimate panster, it’s unlikely I could write a mystery because that would require making a plan. (In high school I wrote my papers before the required outline since it was the only way I could figure out what to write.) Other than moon-to-earth big picture, I don’t have much of a clue as to where my stories are going until they get there. Once they do, I spend eons editing the the heck out of them, paring them to final form. Not the most efficient way to write, but here we are…

In that regard, I have the utmost admiration for authors of historical fiction. Most recently, I read The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn, whose story portrays British civilians trained to break German military codes during the war. If I dove into something that complex, I doubt I’d resurface from the research, never mind demonstrate the skill to write about it. It takes a lot of organization and confidence to embark on a story with such depth.  

Sometimes, I wish my wiring worked that way.

What would be the most difficult kind of story for you to write?

 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Giving What They Want/Getting What I Want - IWSG August 2022


 


Welcome to 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 haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of the amazing and generous  Alex Cavanaugh. Thank you to the August co-hosts: Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery! To read other contributors to IWSG click here.

August optional question: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original, or do you try  give readers what they want?

Confession? I set out to write a story, all I want to do is get something readable onto the page!

That said, it seems to me anyone who writes in a specific genre is trying to give a reader what they want. I write women’s fiction so in each of my stories the main character is a woman who has encountered some significant life-challenge she needs to overcome. That’s what my readers should want to read. To keep them immersed, though, the details need to be unique and compelling.

Recently, I was reading The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave, and something completely unexpected happened in the action.  “Oh. My. God." I said. Apparently my exclamation was on the energetic side because my daughter poked her head in from the other room.

“What’s wrong?”

“Sorry. It's all good. I’m  reading and the story surprised me.”

My daughter may have rolled her eyes, but I thought, Holy Moly, that's some writing! 



On a non-IWSG-related topic, my neighbors took down a bunch of dead hemlocks on their side of the property line and I'm tickled beyond belief. Now, rather than scraggily bushes, there's a clear view of  summer sunsets. I haven’t included many of pictures here lately, but the other day I took about fifty shots as a storm started to muscle in. Unbeknownst to me,  my daughter took a picture of her own.

 


Here's what I got.








Do you have a view of summer sunsets? What do you consider when you begin to write a story?

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Tap, Tap, Tap - IWSG July 2022

 


Welcome to 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 haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of the amazing and generous  Alex Cavanaugh. Thank you to co-hosts for July: J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton! To read other contributors to IWSG click here.

July optional question: If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?

In high school, I read a book called Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow, the fictional story of a young woman in Charleston during the American Revolution. It left me with a yearning to visit the South Carolina low country. Over the years since, I’ve read so many southern authors, Pat Conroy, Cormac McCarthy, Anne Rivers Siddons, Dorothea Benton Frank. If a book had the potential to mention a low country sunset, I was all in.

By the time my daughter moved to Charleston for a period and the chance came to visit, I could name the places I wanted to see –Trad Street, Rainbow Row, the Battery, Fort Sumpter, Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach. She ended moving back there for a few years and through subsequent visits, I became familiar with the area. How I loved driving Route 17 from Charleston to Savannah and seeing kids casting shrimp nets by the side of the road, or slow trawlers waddling out to sea. I witnessed sunsets over winding creeks that were so beautiful they made me want to cry— it was all there everything I read about in those books I so enjoyed.

But would I want to live there? Well, no, but not because the location doesn’t speak to me. It’s just that I lean equally toward books that feature New England. Perhaps it’s the familiarity that draws me in. I feel blessed to live less than an hour from a metropolitan city, but also close to lobster boats, farmers, apple orchards and tumbled stone walls, plus so much history almost everywhere we walk we mark famous footsteps. Case in point, two participants of the Boston Tea Party are buried in my town cemetery.

The other morning, I sat at my computer drafting this piece and looked out the window to see a truck from the local dairy farm delivering fresh milk in glass bottles to my neighbors. Where else does this happen anymore? When I read books that take place in this world, it’s like my oldest best friend, coming to visit.

So, to answer this month’s question, I can only say this. I'll always welcome an opportunity to visit the low country, but as Dorothy  said so famously as she tapped her ruby slippers, “There’s no place like home.”




If you could live in any book world, where would you live?