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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Taking the Online Offline - IWSG May 2021

 

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. IWSG is the brainchild of  Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Thank you to May co-hosts: Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine.

This month’s optional question: Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?

One of my earliest published pieces appeared in print and online. The essay, called “His and Her Unemployment" was a lighthearted look at the different ways in which my dear late-husband and I reacted to unwanted unemployment. His experience occurred earlier than mine when the company he worked at for 17-years went out of business. As for me, I wrote the essay real time, a few weeks after my position was eliminated in an economic downsizing.

All that time ago, my husband had been business-like about searching for employment. When he wasn’t focused on that, he used his free time to complete projects around our house. Because there had been anticipation his company would go under, he’d had a mental lead-up to his change in circumstances. While it wasn’t easy, when it happened, he got down to work, both job-search and otherwise. I, on the other hand, had zero warning. After 23 years, I was called to a meeting at two o’clock one afternoon. By four, I was out the door, dizzy with the speed and awfulness of it.

Like my husband, I updated my resume, attended outplacement meetings, (started this blog) and networked like crazy. But unlike him, I didn’t pick up a hammer or paintbrush. Once I completed my job search work each day (even now I feel the need to italicize that), I walked to clear my head. I met friends for hikes or coffee (picking their brains for career tips, I may add, as I figured out what would come next). I made trips to the city, visited family and, recognizing my husband’s diligence, wrote the essay acknowledging how much he’d done around the house when he was off work— admitting (wink, wink) the same couldn’t be said for me. I ended it tongue-in-cheek with something like, “There’s no escaping it. Pretty soon, I think I’ll have to paint the front porch.”

Along with the walking and the coffees, I was actively seeking employment and I believed the essay made that clear, until one anonymous reader wrote what felt like a scathing comment suggesting if I was collecting unemployment I didn’t deserve to. Let's just say the tone was— unpleasant. The outrage shocked me. All I’d intended was to poke a little fun at myself while comparing my husband’s home improvement diligence to—ahem—my lack of home improvement diligence.

I was darn tickled to get that essay published, but the comment tempered my pride. Eventually, the piece was archived, but for longer than I wanted, anyone who read it online could find those negative words, which to me, implied I was a slacker. It was my first real lesson in being wary of what I write for publication—you never know what will set someone off—and it landed a proverbial gut punch once I realized jobs come and go, but online comments last forever.

 What feedback or comments have you received about your writing that surprised you?

Also, for anyone seeking a good book, may I recommend Little Matches, a Memoir of Grief and Light by Maryann O'Hara? Hopeful, heartbreaking, warming and real, her beautifully written message comes through loud and clear. Grief and joy can coexist. They're both elements of love.

 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Risky Business? IWSG April 2021

 

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. IWSG is the brainchild of  Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Thanks to our awesome co-hosts for the April posting of the IWSG: PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton

April’s optional question: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically differing in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I’m about the least controversial person you know, so eliminate the last clause right off. As for trying a radically different style, lately, I find myself more likely to do that when writing a poem, rather than fiction. You can always play games with poems, spacing, tone, voice, wording rhythm. I cut and paste, delete and repeat all over the place until finally, whatever the form, I get what's in my heart onto the page.

Perhaps I need to transfer some of that creativity to my other writing. With my recent novels, I’ve written in third-person POV, but dangling out there in a risky-for-me kind of dream, are two projects I began in first-person. One is a draft novel I wrote a several years ago I ponder giving a total overhaul. The other is the first twenty-pages of a maybe-novel for which I have yet to grasp the story.

Neither is what you’d call radically different, but in both cases, when I go back and read those samples of first person POV, I experience a “Wow, I wrote that?” kind of revelation. My challenge will be to sustain that voice. I’m a little worried I can’t, but I’m happy for this IWSG question, because it’s reminded me to go back sometime and give it a try.

 What’s the most radically different style or controversial topic tried with your writing?

 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Never Too Late

 

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. IWSG is the brainchild of  Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Thank you to the March co-hosts: Sarah - The Faux Fountain Pen Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose

I have a quote typed on a piece of paper, which may be, but probably isn’t by George Eliot, sitting on my bureau where I see it every morning

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

I read it recently while pondering my changed status in life. Now that I’m not what I used to be, what is it I want to be? —other than what I used to be, but that’s a never-ending loop. That day, clear as crystal, the quote reminded me of one big want that hasn’t changed. I want to see my name on the spine of a book.

Those of you who visit here regularly will understand why sending out queries slowed to a dry-stream trickle these last long months. But the quote reminded me. There can still be forward progress in my life. To that end, I made a goal to get one or two query letters out every weekend for the foreseeable future. I want to think it’s a numbers game. If (note I underlined that word), my writing is good enough, eventually I’ll find the right agent for it. That won’t happen if I am not sending out queries.

The fact is, I have two completed books. One for which I’ve sent out something like seventy queries over the course of a few years (even stopping the querying and working with an editor to perform an  overhaul in the middle of it). I received requests for partial and full manuscripts, but sadly, nothing more happened and I let the querying drift away while working on another book.

Now that I am researching agents for the second book (while writing yet another), I seem to be finding more agents who would be interested in the first one, which I’m not ready to toss aside. So, last weekend, once I challenged myself to get back into full query mode, I sent out three for the first book, and two for the second. I don’t advise doing it like this. Anyone who has queried knows it’s not an easy task. My brain was churning. But still, on we go.

The quote, which George Eliot may or may not have authored, says so very much. Regardless of where we are in life, we can move forward. We can set goals and we can chase them. It’s never too late. All it takes is a willing heart— and in my case, a fair bit of brain-scramble.

What goals have you put on hold? What are your plans for re-energizing them?