Eureka! I’m Writing in a New Genre

I’m writing a book.

Yes . . . yes . . . you’ve heard me say it before. But I’m really writing a book. As of today I’m in the beginnings of Chapter 7 and the word count breakdown of my chapters is as follows (for any of you interested in numbers):

  • Chapter 1:    3673
  • Chapter 2:    3093
  • Chapter 3:    2546
  • Chapter 4:    3714
  • Chapter 5:    2155
  • Chapter 6:    2343

For a GRAND TOTAL (as of now) of 17, 525 words. I think I’m aiming for about 40,000 words.

As some of you may know, I’ve had a lot of book ideas floating around my head for the past few years. I’ve made a lot of false starts and stops. In order to get this far, and give myself the kick in the butt that I needed, I signed up for a course through the Long Ridge Writer’s Group called “Shape, Write, and Sell Your Novel.”  Through the course, you are assigned an “editor/instructor” of sorts to help guide you through the process. I find that, having someone who I have to report to in some way helps me stay focused.

Of course, because you are supposed to wait for feedback, it means that my writing has kind of been random instead of regular. (Not that I listened to the rules completely. I wrote some sections anyway, but I still wanted feedback before I moved too far forward).  But, in general I think having someone respond has helped me shape the novel. I’m finally in the flow of writing and now the biggest challenge is finding time to focus on my other obligations in life.

Except that’s not really the biggest challenge. If you notice, the third part of the title of this course is  “Sell Your Novel.” That means that, now that I have turned in the first three chapters and am onto learning about revision, the next step will be learning about querying and sending to publishers and/or agents.

This is the stuff I find truly terrifying.

Part of the problem, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is that my novel doesn’t fit traditionally into any specific label or genre. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know how much I hate labeling in all aspects of life.  But, if I am going to try to get this published through a traditional route (that’s still a BIG IF) I need to play the game like a good girl and label my work.

I, of course, decided to focus on writing a good story and figure the rest out later.

However a miracle of blogging and social media has a brought a little clarity into my life. Earlier this week, after I posted my 100 Word Challenge, Sandra Tyler over at A Writer Weaves a Tale asked if I was interested in fiction and if I would be interested in joining a writer’s group on Facebook.  Sure, I thought. it can’t hurt, and it’s something I’ve been interested in for a while. I just have to stop being afraid to share.

So, I went over and joined the group. Sandra asked us to introduce ourselves, and I did that. Then yesterday, I read one of the other introductions, and discovered a moment of clarity. Shall I share? Here’s a cut and paste image of the Facebook conversation

Did you get that? NA! New Adult! It’s a new label for a genre that isn’t quite YA but isn’t quite A. Here’s a link to a post on Misha’s blog (My First Book) called “What’s the Next Big Thing in Genre Fiction” that explains NA in more detail.

So now I can say. I’m writing a book. It’s a New Adult Fantasy/Sci Fi book that questions the role of government and religion over women in a world where power comes from unexpected places.

Anyone interested in reading it?

Nothing is Impossible (100WCGU)

This image is Julia’s prompt for the 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups this week. Be sure to visit her, and other posts. Maybe you would like to join in the fun?

One’s soul can be found
in far-reaching heights
where the silence of the wind
drowns out
the dream-crushing cry
of “Impossible!”

In loneliness
so sublime it sings
one achieves perfect
perception of what is . . .
indeed . . .
possible.

One step towards
the unknown
brings us one breath closer
to a world
where dreams exist
and everything is possible.

Fear of haphazard gusts
or the fragility
of standing near the edge
doesn’t stop the
reality
of achieving
the impossible.

Each agonized step
forces unused muscles to dream
and ignore
faceless voices that say
“You can’t!”
“You won’t!”
“No!”
The end reveals true
possibility

Celebrating Autumn, Celebrating Change

I woke this morning and tried to snuggle down into the warmth of my covers, but words formed in my head that demanded attention. A scene for my book  that I didn’t want to lose.

I jumped out of bed and grabbed my laptop. The cover held the chill of the morning air, on this–the last day of summer.

I began to write.

The bustle of the morning surrounded me. Nathan returned from walking the dogs. Sarah got up and began her normal morning routine which consists of babbling every thought that comes into her head while juggling the tasks required to get her to school including food, clothes, tooth brushing and (because she forgot to do it yesterday) bag packing.

I paused just long enough to make sure everyone stayed on task.

The school bus pulled away with my child safely aboard, and Nathan said, “Breakfast?”

“Sure,” I said. But that was as far as I got. My ideas flew across the keyboard. I couldn’t be bothered to stop to make a choice about food.

I eventually decided on yogurt mixed with Grapenuts and my usual chai.

Nathan made me stop long enough to say goodbye.

Several hours and about 4300 words later (a full chapter, a chapter revision for my instructor, and the beginning of another chapter) I came up for air and said, “What happened to the morning?”

Since I had an errand to run before Sarah’s return from school, I pulled myself away and headed out the door. I decided to treat myself, and exercise my body, with a visit to my favorite Botanical Gardens which you have met at other points on this blog, from other seasons. While I missed the high summer beauty of this place, since I was out-of-state for most of the summer, I haven’t  been disappointed by the change occurring as the fading blossoms of summer meet the growing glory of autumn. I forgot my camera on my first visit there last week, but remedied that today.

As I drove toward the gardens, I suddenly realized how lucky I am in this ever-changing life I lead. I still can feel overwhelmed by some of the questions and concerns that pop into my head, such as:

  • How do I deal with the fact that I never know quite how much money I will make from one season to the next, because there are no guarantees?
  • My disappointment that one of the projects I was most excited about, a program to promote literacy through drama, might not happen because of cutbacks in funding.
  • The question of whether or not I’ll ever find an audience for my book, or if it will simply be another project I complete and tuck away to gather dust.
  • How do I pay for all of the events and conferences that I need to participate in if I want to make connections and grow as an artist/writer/educator/speaker?

But, despite those thoughts floating in my head, I realized on the drive that I love the journey. I love the fact that I could give myself the afternoon off. I was able to treat myself to a ginger carrot soup made out of fresh ingredients at the Botanical Garden’s cafe. I had worked hard all week, and though I have more to do, I am able to say “now is the time to walk in nature and feel the sun on my face.” I love being able to set my own schedule which includes writing a list on a yellow pad everyday and then crossing it off with a sharpie. This some kind of visceral pleasure in seeing those lines cross off goals that I achieve on a daily basis.

I found myself smiling during my walk, and the smile wouldn’t go away.

Today I realized that I will forget about all my worries and celebrate the changes the my life brings. It’s an adventure, and I always find away.

I hope you join me and enjoy the beauty of change.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An Autumn Adventure (100WCGU)

So I changed the tense and the wording of this week’s challenge phrase ” . . . as the apple fell . . . “? What can I say, I’m a rebel. Be sure to check out other people’s submissions.

Her hands grasp rough tree bark, limbs seeking support to climb toward the crystal sky. Bright apples dangling below don’t challenge the determined picker. They call for immediate consumption, sweet juices dripping down chins and hands creating finger-licking fun. The climber strives to reach the perfect specimen –ruby red, with only the slightest touch of green. A flawless fruit, large enough to fill the empty spaces but small enough to maintain the delicate combination of sweet and sour she craves. As she stretches toward her prize a hungry breeze claims it first. “The search continues,” she says as she watches the apple fall.

When the Muse Strikes

“Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention!”

(William Shakespeare, HENRY V)

Yesterday, I sat in the darkened hall, the words of Shakespeare filling the room.

My job, to wrangle young fairies and make sure they didn’t miss their cues, was really a distraction from what I wanted to do. I wanted to write.

Photo and Costume Design by Bethany Eddy
Fairies from Ghost Light Player’s production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

So I did. I took out the draft of chapter three and a blue pen. I sat and scribbled all over the pages, in handwriting that would later be almost unintelligible. Perhaps my focus should have been on the business at hand, but I hadn’t really felt like part of this production since I went to my first rehearsal the day after we got back from our summer adventure. I also have been very blocked when it comes to writing, especially this novel which still confuses me in terms of genre. I don’t quite know what I am writing.

“Thus, with child to speak, and helpless in my throes, biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite: Fool! said my muse to me, look in thy heart, and write.”

(Sir Philip Sidney,

English Statesman)

When the muse hits, its time to write.  She actually made her first appearance on Friday, when I took myself to a nearby bookstore/coffee shop in the hopes that I would get something done on a day when I couldn’t seem to accomplish much of anything. I brought drafts of my first two chapters, as well as my plot summary and some random scenes that may or may not appear in the final product, and began reading everything over, making minor edits, in the hopes that somehow I would reconnect with the story and find my way back in.

I keep saying to myself, “focus on telling a good story, the rest will work itself out.”

This time my muse agreed, “Write a good story, Lisa. Don’t worry so much about marketing and publishing. Focus on telling the story you need to tell, the story you want to tell. Break the rules if you want to. There are no rules. Just write!”

There are no rules. Just write. (I’ve read that phrase often on Spirit Lights the Way, but it’s taking on new meaning for me at the moment.)

I realized that I was trying to write something that didn’t feel true, but the foundations of truth were still there. I scrapped my original plans for chapter three and put my pen to yellow pad to follow a new idea. 2 1/2 hours later I had written over 2000 words and was late for heading home.

Who knows where inspiration comes from. Perhaps it arises from desperation. Perhaps it comes from the flukes of the universe, the kindness of the muses.

(Amy Tan)

I got home that evening, but the muse wasn’t finished with me yet. I brought my computer out in the living room so that I would at least be near my family, and typed those words into the computer, making minor changes as I went. Those are the words I then worked over in the darkened theatre yesterday.

This morning my early morning thoughts turned immediately to the story, but surprising to the beginning of Chapter 4, not to Chapter 3. I didn’t want to lose the ideas, so I jumped out of bed and began to write. 756 words. Not a whole chapter, but the direction I need to go. Then I went back and made minor changes to chapters 1 & 2 before doing the  major changes to chapter 3.

I finished that, but my muse wasn’t done with me yet. She said now its time to blog. So, obedient to her will, I am blogging.

What do you do when your muse strikes at unexpected moments?

The Muse of Poesie

The Muse of Poesie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Returning to the Run-On (100WCGU)

It’s been a while since I contributed to Julia’s 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups, but this week I couldn’t resist trying to make a sentence that represents some of the craziness in my life at the moment. Enjoy and visit other people’s contributions at Julia’s Place.

As the nights become cooler, the leaves begin to change color, crisp smells stimulate and scintillate and September brings with it the need for returning to a routine, I wonder “what routine” in a wandering minstrel life filled with: work here, work there, project here, project there, dream here, dream there, constant movement between point A and point B, teach here in the morning, teach in another state three hours later,  put on the chauffeur cap in the afternoon for dance classes, the parent cap to supervise homework, in between find moments to exercise to write to dream, and to pursue future possibilities.

The Little Writer that Could(n’t)

 

The evil mancreature was bent on destroying each of us, because we were the group with the power to save the world. It sent terrifying robots and magical monsters disguised as friends so that they could get close and then the battle began. By the time we realized what was happening, it was almost too late.

“Run, Lisa!” someone yelled in the struggle for their life. “Only you can run to get us help! Only you can shut these creatures down if you reach the Capital.”

So I ran.  I had the powers of running with fleet feet at impossible speeds. I ran so fast that I was practically invisible. I could run up steep inclines and faster than traffic. I could weave up and down buildings and through alleys without a trip. The creature stalking me, trying to prevent me from saving my friends, lost me as I followed a complex path.  I only ran into difficulty while running up a giant tree that also served as a playground for children. I had to slow my pace then, for fear that I would harm them. I reached the top, only to discover the only way down and forward was a giant water slide. I climb on and start speeding down toward what I hope is safety. Out of nowhere some of the evil creatures hunting for me appear at the bottom of the slide. They have no idea where I am, but I seem to be speeding toward imminent capture.  What am I to do?

I wake up.

As usual, after my adrenaline stops pumping from a dream that lies somewhere between exciting adventure and terrifying nightmare, I lie in bed hoping I will go back to sleep. Sometimes I want to go back and finish the dream, see where the adventure takes me, defeat the monsters. Other times I know that sleep will not return, as my mind starts spinning with interpretations, trying to process and understand the meaning or the message.

This was one of those no-going- back- to-sleep times, but I think I understood.

A few days ago I crafted a post that made me proud. I spent time finessing every word, selecting the appropriate pictures, and trying to make it into a story someone would want to read. I read it out loud about a million times, checking for flow and language flaws. I did all of this for several reasons:

  • I always want my posts to be quality, and I want to start growing as a writer.
  • The post itself was about a labor of love.
  • I knew, because it was part of a Daily Post Challenge, that it would actually be seen by those with the power of selecting Freshly Pressed posts.

My end product, I thought, was one of my best.

If I hadn’t had high hopes, I would have waited to post that post either later today or tomorrow, as I won’t be giving the gift until this evening. I called my mother and asked her not to read my blog until tomorrow, because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise but I also wanted to try for that elusive golden ring.

Meanwhile, I spent the rest of the week working, for the first time in a while, on my new book. Ideas kept pouring out of me. I had found my writing groove, even if I am still unsure what genre of book I am writing. I felt a surge of new hope, even though (since this is for a course) I must now begin the process of figuring out how I might want to get this baby published. That’s the part that terrifies me, because I feel like finding a publisher or an agent is like battling those dream creatures disguised as friends.

It means putting myself out there and waiting to be judged. It means hoping for acceptance and facing rejection again and again and again.

It means the feeling of looking at the Freshly Pressed page and realizing that I was, yet again, not on it.

What am I doing wrong? I ask myself. Is it because I linked to two of my own posts, posts that were specifically related to the whole story I was trying to tell? Is it because I included ONE picture that did not belong to me, even though I linked to the source and cited it? Is it because I included ONE picture that I have used before? Or am I deluding myself into thinking that my writing is good when in reality it could be printed out and used as toilet paper?

I don’t know the answer. But, despite my disappointment, I continued to work on my book yesterday. I woke up from my nightmare and realized that I had to write, even if I am doomed to facing the demons and monsters on a daily basis. So I got out of bed and started writing this. I will continue to fight the demons, run the race, and mix my metaphors.  I will keep chugging away even if I never get over the mountain.

 

A Box of Memories

I sift through photos scanned in stealth by my brother from collections tucked away to gather dust in unknown corners of my parents home. I attempt to match the antique black and white photos or the faded Kodachrome colors with the perfect mat, the perfect saying, the perfect decorative element.

This is a project of love tinged with sadness.

My own memories of childhood and even early adulthood have faded almost as much as some of the photos, only sparked into vivid Technicolor when I stumble upon an object, an image, or sometimes even a scent that brings me back to a brief moment.

The collection of childhood stories found tucked into an old desk drawer remind me of when my writing dreams began, inspired by  my second grade teacher whose name eludes me.

The green stuffed ape that made a recent surprise appearance engenders images of singing karaoke in private rooms in Japan with a man I thought I might love, and a wonderful group of friends.

The collection of Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twin mysteries that I pulled out of my parent’s attic in the hope they might interest Sarah recall hour after hour curled up on my pink bedspread with tiny white flowers reading page after page of every book in sight.

I was excited when this episode of SAVED BY THE BELL came out because I had the same bedspread as Jessie Spano 🙂 (Image came from hellogiggles.com)

I still yearn for the hard cover copies of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights marked with  fading pencil lines under every word I wanted to learn and remember.

The musty smell when I enter an antique store brings me back to my Nana’s house, although memories of Nana elude me, as do memories of any of my grandparents who all died when I was very young. They live on only in the recipes handed down for special holiday fare.

My daughter’s search for the perfect bathing suit makes me flash to a black suit with a rainbow stripe on a blossoming body. My Great Aunt Irene, the only one of that generation that I recall as anything more than an image, surprised me as I walked out of her home to head toward the beach two blocks away. “What a cute figure,” she said. I still recall the feel of my blush; an awkward tween unsure of how to react to her developing body. Now I yearn to be able to fit into that black bathing suit.

Still each of these memories are brief flashes. I struggle to fill in the gaps.

If I have lost so much memory simply to the passing of time, then what snippets does my father hold as he faces the deep erasure of memory by a disease that nobody can control?

All these thoughts pass through my head as I work to create a special memory and gift of celebration for my parents’ 50th anniversary.  An anniversary which should be celebrated with a giant party and much laughter, but will instead be marked by a quiet family gathering over Chinese take-out in a house of fading memories.

I wanted to give them a gift to commemorate the occasion. But what gift could I give that would reach my father, whose slow fade into the depths of Alzheimer’s reflects the faded pictures of their past? What gift could I give them both that could spark a recognition of the miracle of surviving together for 50 years, despite difficult times which sometimes came close to tearing us all apart?

While recent gifts to the grandparents on both sides of our family have included photos of their only grandchild, sometimes placed in albums or scrapbooks, that solution didn’t seem the answer this time. Or at least not in that form. Although I treasure my own scrapbooks almost as much as the pile of journals that have traveled with me from move to move, from country to country, and from dream to dream–somehow putting together another book of pictures protected by plastic pages seemed like it would not be enough to reach my father and bring smiles to my mother.

Instead I came up with the idea for a family project.  I wanted to create something memorable and tactile. I wanted my father to be able to touch moments of his past, hoping that physically touching the photos and reading the sayings would somehow be the spark needed to provide him a moment of living technicolor memory. To do this, I put my brother on the mission to gather the photos. I gave Nathan the assignment to create some kind of beautiful container.

Sarah and I set to work mounting, writing, and creating a collection of images that could be sifted through in a cascading journey through time.

Sarah picks out a picture taken in Durango, CO. She sighs and says, “The last time Papa was still Papa,” before grabbing a label and a pen.

“I don’t think that’s what you should write,” I say. “I think that picture was taken earlier, and we don’t want this to be all about sadness.”

“Okay,” Sarah agrees. “I just really remember Papa as Papa then.”

I know what she means. For me, at least, the beginning of the more rapid decline began on their last trip to visit us in Durango. My father’s unwillingness to do much of anything on that trip didn’t match the man who was always on the move or playing mysterious games with Sarah. I’m glad she has some memory of that man, even though she cannot recall the Papa who came and spent a few weeks watching her as I prepared for an important job interview when she was still a toddler.  Those memories still live tucked away in scrapbooks of her early years.

It wasn’t until I read the announcement about the Daily Post’s “Weekly Writing Challenge, A Few of My Favorite Things” that I realized what we were creating. We were creating an heirloom. We were gathering together a collection of memories and images that symbolize many different things. Perhaps it’s not an object that has been handed down to me for generations. Nor is it one of my own treasured items, gathered as I’ve lived a life of unexpected twists, turns and adventures. However, this simple box, containing years of images, represents all the moments of a past that I only know in snippets of memory or story.

As I prepare to give this gift that contains generations, and will eventually be passed back down to future generations, I imagine the tears forming behind my mother’s eyes–tears of sadness and of joy. I picture my father flipping through photos until he finds one that he will hold onto, journeying back through time to a moment that I may never understand. Which photo will it be? I wonder. Will he place it beside the chair he rarely leaves? Will he have one of his better moments and be able to share the story in words? Or will he sit in silent memory until that moment passes?

The box opens to a wedding picture.

For me, one image stands out. It’s not of their wedding, although those photos are beautiful. It ‘s not of our family as the three children grow up. It is a picture that I don’t know if I have ever seen before, but one that tells me a story of young love and romance, of adventures taken and a relationship growing.  I don’t know why this picture calls to me, but it calls with the voice of a story I yearn to hear.

I can’t choose my most meaningful possession. Many of the items that I have carried with me from location to location hold special meanings. Anywhere I look in my home, I am reminded of a moment that has past as well as future possibilities. Yet somehow, as I prepare to wrap this gift in special paper so that we can photograph the moment of revelation and add to its contents, I know that I have just created something that will mean more and more with the simple passage of time. It is a meaningful possession that belongs with someone else.

The Return of the Tentative Blogger

Two weeks have passed since I declared that I was on a blogging hiatus.

In those two weeks, regardless of intent, it seems like I haven’t written a single word. Unless, of course, you count revising my bio, updating my CV, commenting occasionally, working on syllabi, e-mails for a variety of reasons, and the occasional Facebook update.

I haven’t done any work on my manuscript. I haven’t written a single Morning Page. I haven’t attempted a blog post.

Nothing, nada, zip.

Granted, much of the last two weeks have been spent in a sort of Staycation with Sarah and Nathan, as it was the only time all summer where we had no obligations and/or responsibilities.

One day we went to Borderlands for a hike, which included a spontaneous dance to the outdoor concert as we got back to the car.

But I still expected more of myself.

Then again, there was the distraction of getting an e-mail on the same Sunday as I declared my hiatus asking if I would be interested in picking up another adjunct course at a private  University for the fall. By Tuesday I was hired, by Wednesday I was attending an orientation.  The course is a 300 level class called Studies in Drama offered by the Literary and Cultural Studies department, so it is kind of an introduction to dramatic literature with high expectations for the students. In addition, the students from this particular university expect a lot of interaction over Blackboard, the on-line course management system, so I needed to figure out how to incorporate that into my course structure as well.

Did I mention that the majority of the students are business majors from a university that specializes in business? This means that many of them will be taking the class to fulfill a requirement, which gives me the added challenge of making it all the more interesting and fascinating.

Needless to say, preparing for it has been a challenge and I am a little nervous.

Perhaps TERRIFIED would be a better description of how I am feeling.

The prep work is (nearly) complete, and I begin on Tuesday at the new University. I am also teaching classes on T-Th at Nathan’s university which means a lot of driving on those days as well.  (One place is in Massachusetts about 20 minutes from my home, the second place is in Rhode Island about 40 minutes away). Add to that the possibility that I might be involved in a grant (pending funding) working with Latino students grades 3-6 to promote literacy through a 16 week drama program (twice a week, two hours after school) and it looks like a very busy semester.

Somewhere in that I need to find time to write?

Through all of this, I have had moments where I thought, “I could blog about that . . . but NO.” The thoughts were there, the motivation not so much.  Things that I was tempted to blog about:

  • The fact that I continually get e-mails asking for donations to support campaigns against Republicans because they are “outspending” the Democrats. Of course they are, they are trying to buy the election. But, does it make sense to fight fire with fire, or doesn’t it make more sense to win an election based on honesty rather than fundraising? (I could write about this, but then again I don’t really have the stomach to write that much in-depth about politics or the election. It’s too nauseating.)
  • The fascinating story of Blanche Ames, who was a major player in the suffragette movement in Massachusetts, as well as a supporter of birth control and a Smith alumna.She was also an artist, a writer, and an inventor. She seems like an incredible woman who I want to learn more about.  She and her husband, botanist Oakes Ames built an estate now known as Borderlands. The day we went hiking was also a day that they gave tours focusing on her roles in getting the women the vote, and given what is currently happening to women’s rights I was thoroughly inspired. After hearing her story, Sarah and I rang the bell at the Ames house, a bell she rang every day at noon until women got the right to vote.  It felt like an important moment in guiding Sarah toward becoming a woman who believes in equality for all.

 

  • My parents 50th anniversary is coming up. I would like to write about that, but I struggle with it. What would this anniversary be if my father wasn’t struggling with Alzheimer’s? As much as this is a celebration, it is one tinged with sadness and nostalgia. How does one write about that? Next week, I will share with you the super secret project I am working on in honor of  their special day.  (Oh, did you see that, I think I have committed to posting once a week!)

    My parents several years ago in Durango, CO.

  • New beginnings. Enough said.

I could continue the list, but I am still unsure about where I go from here in terms of this blog. I will just be open to possibilities, as these past few weeks have shown that seems to open up doors. I hope that I will start writing in some form again more regularly, but at least for now I’ve dipped a tentative toe back into the pool. Only time will tell where I go from here.

%d bloggers like this: