Friday, December 31, 2010
Summarize your 2010 writing world in three words.
Forecast your 2011 writing world in three words.
mine: 2010=searching, distracted, needed
2011=finding, focused, settled
Carl Sandburg said it best: "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."
Happy 2011 from the Inkpot.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
I received an unexpected parcel in my mail last week. A column I’d written in 1995 was included in a glossy coffee table book of 20 years of “best ofs.” What a delight to open the slick pages and find my article about a man I hadn’t thought of in some time. Albert Hebbert was well into his 90’s by the time I spent one spring on a series of interviews with him. And here he was, in one condensed article on page 127.
My mind reeled back to the Nebraska Sandhills one rainy spring fifteen years and a whole other life ago. I’d pull up and Albert would be waiting for me. He’d climb in and direct me all around the countryside telling me tales of his life. I think we ended up with ten articles published in a regional magazine and collected for his loving family. He was a talker but we’d discovered he needed prompts to get him started so we drove the ‘hills he loved so much and he told me his stories.
I don’t think much about the Sandhills anymore, my leaving felt like an escape and the longer I’m away, the more myself I feel. But the book reminded me of good memories of that place, of people I love, beauty I found there.
Like the ghostly visits to Scrooge, these words, written so long ago, brought me a change of heart. Maybe a little forgiveness, for myself as much as for anyone else. Maybe a little closer to peace with my past.
Words are magic.
Have you ever been visited by your own ghosts of words past? How did you feel reading something you’d written many years ago?
Friday, December 10, 2010
Yes! Early on there was a positive correlation, on the side of publishing. Every time a baby popped out a book did too. It only happened twice, as there were just two babies--but it looked like a trend.
Then the correlation, er, shifted. My first year without a contract was 2001, the year I home-schooled my daughter to save her sparkle from the bullies. At the start of September that year, I called my agent and pushed back the appointment in New York we'd set for September 11th. That appointment was never rescheduled. While this was a setback career-wise, it was an advantage for child-rearing: it's pretty hard to fulfill two full-time career obligations at once. One thing I know for certain: it's not about quality time with children, it's about quantity time. I was blessed with just two priceless and fragile lives to nurture, whereas on the other hand, "Of making many books there is no end." (Ecclesiastes.)
Some mischievous force often seemed to present direct choices between mothering and career. In the early years of my series my agent came to Colorado for a conference. It was the exact weekend my daughter received a surprise invitation to the National Ski Team qualifying weekend at Breckenridge. Anguished, I consulted our older and wiser Brother of the Quill Jim Hester, the father of three grown sons, about which to choose. He said, "I've never known anyone who regretted choosing family over career." Another year I was asked by Dartmouth to give an alumni seminar on my own work. I was thrilled until I realized it was the exact week our daughter would compete in the bagpiping World Championships in Edinburgh. Fortunately, by then I knew which was the better choice. Jim was right: I have no regrets.
Yesterday a feature on Jan Karon in the Wall Street Journal said her hugely successful writing career started at age 50, roughly my age now. My youngest daughter leaves the nest next year; perhaps the correlation will shift again.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. My trouble began when I paid a man to read my sixth Plumtree series novel for accuracy in British English. He pointed out an unfortunate "chime" in the prose, meaning the way words sounded in proximity to each other. At the time I had no idea what he meant, and as I sought understanding, my journey began into the depths of all that I didn't know. I undertook an ambitious novel that I wanted to make truly beautiful in a hundred different ways. It's taken a dozen drafts, constructively scribbled upon by fellow Sisters of the Quill--thank you sisters and brother--to raise my awareness. I'm too horrified now to go back and read the earlier books with all their painful mistakes. In writing as in other aspects of life, we can only forge ahead and use what we learn to do better next time.
Here's cause for hope: if an untrained, bumbling neophyte can stumble (unfortunate chime?) into publication, you who have apprenticed yourselves to your craft should be shoo-ins.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
"Alas for my sisters' vast talents that lay obscured beneath the smothering velvet of their own imaginings."
"I'm having one of those days where I wonder why I'm even bothering. Frustrated. Feeling like a big loser. Just all around wondering if it's too much effort."
"Not that all the loserness has gone away, but I can see the good things, too. We must cling to the things that make us happy."
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
I say both are important and many others have said it better:
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” – Lin Yutang
“When a thought takes one’s breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence.” – Thomas W. Higginson
Inkpot says: We don't write just to show off craft or just to share our voices and hearts with others. We write like addicts when it seems we should give up. Why? Because the writing itself is cathartic and cheaper than a psychiatrist and drugs – unless they are generic.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
A Four Star Review for Soliloquy! Just have to share it!
“You’ll be hooked from page one of this mesmerizing tale, which uses a beguiling method of transport to the past. The prose is smooth and satisfying, and the characters come alive. Passion and promise fill the pages, as well as fear and deception.” Donna M. Brown, RT Book Reviews, May 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Sisters, we all have to be a half-a-bubble off to even write a book, don't you think? Then another quarter-of-a-bubble out of whack to keep pounding away in this crazy industry. But I also know that I am blessed. I'm currently traveling in space after my trip to World War II where I visited heroes of the highest caliber. I've learned from you three about the strength of family and delivering calves and the source of fine vellum, not to mention being terrified and brave and sometimes terribly amused. I've conquered evil and composed a musical lament. I've also found amazing sisters who buoy me up when I'm down, and give me a swift (but gentle!) kick upon occasion. I could go on and on. Our stories are waiting, pushing, shoving to be free. And I can't wait to visit them! Love. Folio
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Most importantly, I now view signings as a celebration, not a pressure cooker to worry about and sweat over. Even the signing that was poorly attended was pleasant as we visited with the book store owner and reminisced with the few friends who defied the slick roads to attend.
Having a "veteran" with two novices also served us well. Carol advised us as to what might work well for reading topics and she surprised us with a quick "Ten at Eight" at the end, when she posed quick questions for immediate answers - everything from "how long did it take to write this book" to "are you a pantser or plotter?" Fun for us and for our vast (Ha!) audience!
And then there were the delicious after-signing parties - champagne and pear-brie and a cupcake keyboard accompanied by conversation about books with good friends.
Hey! Who ate the A and Z and P and L keys?
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I just finished reading Spirit Lens, another incredible fantasy novel by Carol Berg. The world and characters are still swirling in my head and I am now picturing everyone in my life in hues of magic, castles, royal court and above all, character.
What if my dear sisters were players in a fantasy world such as this? One sister would be the queen. She is regal, has an unwavering sense of duty and the unflinching ability to discern right from wrong. Head high, she faces whatever life throws at her and handles it with grace.
One sister is undoubtedly the high-spirited knight. Always open to laughter and teasing, she’s the first to action, standing in front with sword raised should any of the others be threatened. Her loyalty is unwavering.
The other sister is obviously the wizard. Wise beyond earthly measure, her counsel is sought in all matters large and small. Her magic calms nerves, soothes injured hearts, and grants courage to all in her care. She is able to conjure whatever tool or weapon is needed in any battle, saving the day over and over.
As much fun as it is contemplate these roles, the reality is messier and more delightful. At any moment the crown, sword and wand can be juggled from one hand to another and the magic of friendship sparks in our hearts.
The metaphor has gone on long enough. Just wait until I read a western!
Love to all,
Monday, February 1, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Clearly amused, my husband wandered into my office yesterday, his copy of my novel, Soliloquy, in hand. He read this excerpt to me:
“I thought you did,” Daniel replied. He shifted into a lower gear to steer around the sharp curve in the road. “I visited the professor’s grave the other night, right after you and Mom were there, and Gerard praised your efforts up one side and down the other. He’s been wracking his brain, trying to figure out how to help you without endangering everyone else.”I looked at Dick, waiting for the punch line. “Up one side and down the other!” he exclaimed. “That’s my line!” We both laughed. Dick does say that frequently, to describe an abundance or excess, and since I’ve never heard anyone else use it we agreed that he deserved credit for coining that particular phrase.
Writers are advised to “write what you know,” and that brief conversation with Dick made me reflect on our patterns of speech and use of favorite words or phrases as we write. I certainly try to give each character a unique voice, yet rhythms and phrases may be so ingrained that I now think I might need to study not only my own voice, but expend even more effort on the subtleties of my character’s voices. In other words, an effort that is up one side and down the other!