Friday, June 29, 2012
I've always thought that Morning Pages, as suggested in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, were a brilliant way to get the mind out of the way of the writer's imagination. Which is why I was tickled pink to find this much earlier positing of the same idea in Brenda Ueland's classic book on writing:
That is why I think it is good to keep a diary. I don't mean a "had lunch" diary. But do this: write every day, or as often as y ou possible can, as fast and carelessly as you possibly can, without reading it again,a nything you happened to have thought, seen or felt the day before.
In six months look at it. A drawer full of paper will ahve accumulated. You will see that what you have written with the most slovenly freedom - in those parts there will be vitality, brilliance, beauty.
IF YOU WANT TO WRITE
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Week Six in the Writerly Chronicles from my Orangeberry Book Tour:
On a warm summer afternoon in 1994, as I walked home from my job as Assistant Vice President in Corporate Finance for a Japanese Investment Bank, I paused, looked at the wall of skyscrapers that surrounded me, and had an epiphany. As much as I loved working on Wall Street, I suddenly understood that when it was my turn to retire, my absence would not be noteworthy. There would simply be someone else to take my place.
Then I thought of my mother who was retiring that year, who’d spent her entire career in early childhood education, and who, upon retirement boarded a plane to work in an international school in the former-Soviet Union. When she got up from her desk, she left a living legacy of children who had learned to read through her efforts.
Then I thought of my brother John, who is a building contractor, who could drive me around his hometown and show me the historic homes that he’d brought back to life, the clients he’d helped to create a dream home. He is an American success story. With his wife Heidi, he’s built a business that operates on principles of integrity and quality work. His legacy is as tangible as the windows that open up to a water view.
My epiphany that day was that I wanted to leave New York and find my own legacy. Of course, at the time, I had no idea of what it would be.
It was actually my other sister-in-law, Kathy, who provided a nudge in the ‘write’ direction. After I’d left New York and spent more time poolside than I care to admit, with a glass of wine in one hand and a book on ‘discovering your perfect career’ in the other, Kathy called and shared a newspaper article she’d read about romance authors and suggested that since I obviously liked to read, perhaps I should try writing.
Did I start to write just because Kathy told me to? No. Actually, I wrote my first book at the age of 5 and have had a life-long love affair with writing. However, Kathy’s encouragement was the impetus to overcome a history of what Brenda Ueland called ‘helpful criticism’, in her classic work, “If You Want to Write”. As my mother loved teaching, as my brother loved building, I have always loved books. But after one high school teacher discouraged my early writing efforts, I buried the revelation I experienced when I read a book, the singular desire to ‘do that too’, for the more practical pursuit of a career in business.
Unfortunately, recognizing a desire is not the same as creating a new life. I spent the next several years writing, submitting, getting rejected, and getting discouraged. I wrote four novels and several children’s books. And while I loved writing, my books found no home, so back I went into business.
Then last year with a desire to simply see my work in print, I took the plunge into self-publishing. I published Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure in a much edited form, changing the setting from World War Two Budapest to a dystopian European city, changing the First Person POV to Third Person, and completely eliminating the original spiritual message. All in the name of creating what I thought would be a more commercial version of the book I’d originally written. And as what happens when something is not its true self, it went nowhere.
In February of this year, I re-published Mrs. Tuesday in her original version and finally discovered my authentic writer’s voice….a cross between literary fiction and religious fiction, a contemporary woman who loves God passionately, but sometimes wonders if He’s really listening. As a result, I discovered that this was the underlying voice in all of my books and one that I was ready to share. Once I embraced this authenticity, I felt more confident about my work and my purpose.
Finally, let me leave you with two quick illustrations of why writing is my legacy: The other day I was reading Cynthia Rylant’s children’s book The Heavenly Village. Its unflinching beauty brought tears to my eyes and filled me with an overwhelming hope that I will someday write a book that will have a similar impact. And then, a week before, I was at my desk working on the final draft of my next book and as I looked up from my desk and out the window, I realized that if I had a week to live, this is how I would choose to spend it. I would want to publish my next two books. These books would be my legacy. I have finally found the answer to the question I asked nearly twenty years ago on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Today I am happy to announce the arrival of my second book.
Chester Blue is a children's chapter book consisting of ten linked stories of encouragement that will appeal to children and adults. Here's the back cover copy:
What if when you most needed help,
a blue bear appeared with a note from God?
One night, Miss Millie of Blossom, Ohio turns her face to the stars and asks God for help. The next day, a package arrives on her doorstep containing a blue teddy bear and a special note.
Over the course of a year, this remarkable blue bear travels across the country, showing up just when he’s needed most.
During his journey, Chester Blue helps a young girl trying to impress her big sisters; saves a sailor caught in a terrible storm; reunites two constantly fighting brothers; helps a cowboy become a rodeo clown; and aids a father and daughter in bonding after divorce.
If you ever needed a message from God, it's here...
Beginning July 3rd I'll be on a month long blog tour and I'll be doing a few giveaways as well.
Please help me to welcome Chester Blue into the world by sharing this post on Facebook or Tweeting about it on Twitter!
Many thanks !
Friday, June 22, 2012
Gradually by writing you will learn more and more to be free, to say all you think; and at the same time you will learn never to lie to yourself, never to pretend and attitudinize. But only by writing and by long, patient, serious work will you find your true self.
IF YOU WANT TO WRITE:
A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit
IF YOU WANT TO WRITE:
A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Week Five in the Writerly Chronicles from my Orangeberry Book Tour:
1. Do read widely. Yes, you must read historical romances if you want to write historical romances. There are familiar styles and jargon that readers expect, as well as trends in the market that you would be wise to know. On the other hand, don’t limit your reading menu to only the books you intend to write. Broaden your literary and imaginative horizons by reading widely. Think of this as you would your daily diet. Although I love chocolate (too much), I appreciate it so much more when I’ve enjoyed a widely varied palate of foods. Your writing mind will thank you if you’ve fed it a colorful diet of fiction and non-fiction, poetry and cookbooks. Okay, maybe the cookbooks are just for me.
2. Don’t talk about wanting to write your first novel. Write it. It has never been easier to become a published author. So if you truly want to be one, then start writing and don’t stop until you’ve reached the end. Attending conferences, reading books about writing, sharing your writing journey with your friends on Twitter or Facebook, are all wonderful parts of the writer’s life. But the most essential part is actually finishing that book! And do finish it. Get the first draft down as quickly as you can so that none of the above distractions will keep you from reaching your goal. Once you’ve finished the first draft, pat yourself on the back, tweet all your friends, post a pictures of the manuscript you’ve printed out on Instagram, and then go back to work. When you finally bring your book to the market, either through a traditional publisher or through self-publishing, you will win the well-deserved praise of your friends and family.
3. Don’t let the negative criticism of others stand in your way. Trying anything for the first time, such as writing a novel, can be intimidating. Most of your friends and family will be incredibly encouraging and generously tell you that they believe in you, just when you no longer believe in yourself. Savor those words and hold them in your mind when the fear of failure begins muttering in your ear. You’ll especially need those kind words when some unknowing or worse, uncaring, buffoon attempts to rain on your writing parade by telling you that there are too many writers in the world. That you’ve never been successful at anything, so why would you be able to write a book. And that self-publishing your book isn’t as valid as getting published by a traditional publisher. Those words are not the truth. They are a distraction. They are meant to keep you from achieving your dream. Which is why you must ignore them and keep writing.
4. Never give up. Or let a lack of funds stand keep you from publishing your book. Keep writing until you’ve finished your story. And then begin the hard work of getting it published. If you choose to pursue traditional publishing, start writing those query letters to literary agents. If money is a concern, go to the library speak with a reference librarian, who will gladly provide you incredible resources for finding and reaching out to agents and publishers. Many of these resources can also be found online for free, as well. If you choose to self-publish, don’t feel that you must wait until you can afford the fees associated with obtaining a professionally designed book cover, a beautiful book trailer, a professional editor, an industry recognized reviewer. Yes, all of those things are wonderful and sure to help you launch your book. But, with the help of your capable friends, and the free online resources such as Amazon.com KDP service or Createspace, you can literally publish your novel for free. One caveat: Line editing your manuscript is essential. If you can’t find a professional editor, try trading editing services with a writing friend.
5. Pay it forward. Once you’ve achieved your dream, soak up the adulation, revel in the notoriety, and then pay it forward. Share your hard-earned platform with another aspiring author. There are plenty of readers to go around, you won’t be losing yours by introducing them to your friend’s literary debut. Make it your goal to be the most generous of your writing friends and you’ll never be poor. And no, I’m not talking about money. But you knew that, didn’t you!
Monday, June 18, 2012
After a lengthy phone conversation with my brother John, I finally learned how to turn on my gas grill. And of course, as with all new toys, I'm obsessed with using it often.
I also love hamburgers.
For this hamburger, I decided to improvise using what I had in the refrigerator, a jar of green olives and a small wedge of brie. I chopped both finely.
Oh, and before that......I poured myself a glass of my other new toy this summer....rose wine. Find a nice dry one, it's perfect wine for summer red meat grilling.
I formed the patties, sprinkled with coarsely ground pepper.
Then I buttered a couple of onion rolls.
That ear of corn has also been slathered with butter and sprinkled with herbs of Provence.
Cooking. Cooking. Cooking.
Friday, June 15, 2012
"When I do what it takes to face obstacles, believing everything will work out, as it did for the Lion [in the Wizard of Oz], courage becomes the virtue that pulls me through tough situations. I believe it is not found in the opinion of another, like the Wizard, but in the core character inside of me. This is true for us all."
from Courage: The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman
by Sandra Ford Walston
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Week Four in the Writerly Chronicles from my Orangeberry Book Tour:
Actually, thanks to Amazon.com and the ease with which self-publishing has allowed anyone to enter the market, I think the publishing world is doing a great job of going through it’s own rapid evolution and requires no help from me. The gate-keepers of literary agents and publishing houses have, like the little man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, lost a great deal of their power in the past few years. While they will always play a vital and important role in the market, luckily for us, they are no longer the only avenue to publication.
The best outcome of this revolution in publishing is that it doesn’t take unlimited resources to play the game. The barriers to entry have been virtually eliminated thanks to the advent of the e-reader and the availability of venues for free publication.
Remember when you had to spend months querying agents in New York, just hoping to find one who would represent you and your book? That process was like playing the lottery. It could take months or you could win on your first try. But that was only the first step.
The next wait came when your agent sent your book out to publishers. Then the beauty contest began again. If the book was not picked up by a publisher, you might be asked to re-write the book, your agent might drop you, or she might wait around while you wrote a second book.
If you were lucky enough to find a publisher to take on your book, you had to hope that it would become the victim of the revolving door of editors moving from house to house. If you were lucky your book might see the shelves of a bookstore one and a half years after your typed ‘The End’.
Now, all of that has changed. In my mind, for the better.
Today you can take matters into your own hands and self-publish your work and get your book into the hands of readers immediately.
Yes, you do still need to have your work edited. An eye-catching book cover will help you stand out from the crowd. And working up a consistent marketing campaign will help readers to find you.
The key is that all of these opportunities and responsibilities are now in your hands.
Which is why, in my mind, today is the best time in the history of the world to be a writer. The only thing stopping you is your willingness to do the work. Which means that really, you have all the unlimited resources you could ever need!
Friday, June 8, 2012
photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxy
"There Will Be Rest"
|There will be rest, and sure stars shining|
Over the roof-tops crowned with snow,
A reign of rest, serene forgetting,
The music of stillness holy and low.
I will make this world of my devising
Out of a dream in my lonely mind.
I shall find the crystal of peace, – above me
Stars I shall find.
by Sara Teasdale
1884 - 1933
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Week Three in the Writerly Chronicles from my Orangeberry Book Tour:
This question reminds me of the old: ‘what would you wish for, if you had three wishes?’ Well, I’d wish for three more wishes.
Fame and fortune for a writer are both good things, I’d argue.
Fame means the fulfillment of every writer’s greatest desire, to not only see their work in print, but to know that many readers are not only reading the story, but by inference of its popularity, enjoying it and recommending it to others. (I’m assuming you’ve attained fame via your book’s popularity, not through other, perhaps less savory means.)
Knowing what great pleasure reading a really good book brings me, and wishing to achieve the same in my own writing has been one of my great motivators. Writing a book that gains popularity and is enjoyed by readers would be a wonderful indication that I’ve achieved my goal. And of course, that is the caveat of the quest for fame. One would want to achieve it as evidence of a book’s positive impact on the reader.
The flip side, becoming infamous for something I’ve written such as James Frey’s evisceration after the revealing of A Million Little Pieces, is a much less appealing way to enjoy fame. Although one could argue that Mr. Frey’s fortune from the same book went miles to assuage his discomfort.
Which brings us to fortune.
Wild riches, perhaps on par with J.K. Rowling, or on a lesser scale, with a New York Times best-selling thriller writer, might bring a lot of time-consuming duties that would cut into one’s writing time. After all, someone has to be found to manage all that money. But, the greatest gift of fortune, or let’s call it ‘financial independence’ is: freedom.
Financial independence allows the writer the time to write without the burden of simultaneously carrying a full-time job, while keeping the house clean, and being the primary caretaker of children or aging parents. It truly makes ‘a room of one’s own’ possible. It provides the writer with the psychological and physical space to breathe and think and dream and create new stories.
I have never wanted to be rich, but I will always strive to create enough monetary wealth to provide freedom. As for fame…only if it comes from readers who love my books. As an avid reader myself, that would be the nicest gift of all.
Monday, June 4, 2012
Last Saturday morning, I was watching Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, one of my favorite chefs on the FoodNetwork. She prepared this simple, Summer Garden Pasta (the link will take you directly to her version).
There is no-cooking involved (outside of boiling water for the pasta) that was so incredibly easy, and the best way to enjoy your summer bumper crop of tomatoes, that I had to try it. It is exactly what you want a summer dish to be...simple, light, and full of flavor.
Toss the ingredients for the 'sauce' together in the morning before you head out to the beach (so simple, it doesn't even need to be refrigerated!). When you get back, you'll have dinner ready to go...boil water, uncork a bottle of chilled white zinfandel (pink wines are my new summer favorite), take this out on the deck and enjoy!
Summer Pasta ala The Barefoot Contessa
Suzanne's Version Serves two.
1 pint container cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
12 basil leaves, chopped finely
2 -3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped finely
1/4 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
red pepper flakes
pinch sea or kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1. Combine all of the above in a small bowl, give a gentle stir, cover, and let stand at room temperature for 4 - 8 hours. (In other words, throw this together in the morning before you start your day, it will be ready at dinnertime)
2. Boil water. Cook whole wheat angel hair pasta, al dente.
3. Dump tomato mixture into a pasta dish. Dump cooked pasta on top. Toss both together. Grate parmesan cheese over top. Serve immediately.
So easy, and light, it's perfect for summer. It even tastes good cold the next day for lunch.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
photo credit: http://selfmadescholar.com/b/2009/05/15/project-start-a-commonplace-book/
Surrender. It seems to happen every time. The moment we come to the point of feeling that we can no longer meet our challenge - that we give up, that we are not invested anymore in doing it our way, apart from seeking God's way-it is in this raw, open humble place that we leave an opening for God to inspire us. he will help us not to give up, but to get up and begin again-wihout being attached to a particular outcome.
by Rick Moody
INSPIRED: The Breath of God
by Joanna Laufer and Kenneth S. Lewis