Dark Reality and My Writing Journey

The young girl lay in her bed under a dusty rose comforter with delicate white flowers. Stuffed animals graced the sides of her bed, while extra blankets folded over her feet made her feel safe and  secure whenever she fell asleep. The early morning sun began to sneak in through the window over her bed, despite the curtains pulled across to block out the light. 

The girl clutched her covers around her. She had been awake for  a while now, before the golden light seeped into the room. Despite the beauty of the morning, she didn’t want to turn her head toward the empty bed across the room–deserted by her older sister when she left for college a few weeks before. She wasn’t afraid of the empty bed, but of what she had seen on and  around that bed upon waking up. 

I can’t look. What if they’re still there? She knew she had to look. It must have been a dream. I imagined it.

She turned her head.

It wasn’t a dream. She saw the bodies piled on her sister’s bed–emaciated bodies with dark circles underneath dead eyes and bald heads. Next to them was an even bigger pile of skulls and other bones  in a jumble. 

She wanted to scream but couldn’t find the breath.

She stared in shock for several long minutes, rubbing her eyes and blinking in the hopes that the nightmare would end. She couldn’t find her voice to call out for help.  After what felt like a long fifteen minutes the image shifted. The piles turned into the reality of her bedroom. The bodies turned into pillows and clothes she had put on her sister’s bed. The bones turned into knickknacks and collectibles on her sister’s bedside table.

She was back into reality, but she knew it wasn’t a dream.Dusty rose bedspread

***

A few days ago I mentioned how the mini-series The Holocaust helped me recognize the power of words. In a comment on that post the fabulous Kathy mentioned how the Holocaust influenced her desire to become a writer. Kathy’s words and images on Lake Superior Spirit never fail to inspire me and give me moments of peace, so we are all blessed by the fact that she found inspiration in the horror.

As did I, but I’ve also found challenges because of it. For you see, that little girl under the rose-pink bedspread was me. That vision or hallucination or glimpse at memory was mine, and I was wide awake.

The miniseries sparked a sort of fascination within me, where I wanted to learn more and understand more about how such horror could happen, how mankind could be so cruel based on things so invisible and meaningless–differences in culture, in belief, in race. I became a voracious reader of Holocaust literature, starting with The Diary of Anne Frank and moving up to more mature and adult fare. (I was a very advanced reader). I talked with Mrs. Sekler, my Hebrew School teacher and the  only person I knew who had the blue numbers etched into her arm.

Until the day I saw the bodies and the bones.

I told my parents what happened,  and they said I had to stop reading Holocaust literature. They said it was probably a dream, fueled by the books. So I stopped until I was an adult and could handle it again.

What does this have to do with my writing journey?

I know my biggest flaw as a writer, if I want to make it as a successful author of fiction, especially YA/NA, I need to be willing to write darker material. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of eerie or creepy pieces, and my characters often have a dark side. They aren’t always flitting with fairies and riding on rainbows. However, I could never have written The Hunger Games because I can’t get myself to write about young people killing young people. I can’t write the descriptive and violent darkness found  in so many successful books these days.

I’m blocked when it comes to that stuff.

Yet, in a world where this cruelty exists every day, in blatant and subtle forms, I have to confront my own inability. I live in a country where a loud and powerful minority want to maintain their flimsy and mostly imagined supremacy by limiting the rights of others to things like healthcare, marriage, control of their own bodies, and the right to worship as they please. How is that different from the desire  to have a “Master Race”? I live in a world of rape-culture where the victims get blamed and the rapists get glorified. I live in a world where people are murdered by guns, while others cling to their rights to have weapons built only for the purpose of killing lots of people as quickly as possible. I live in a world where women are tortured and brutalized every day for reasons as meaningless as the desire to become educated. I live in a world where people are still judged by the color of their skin, the way they worship, the language they speak, or the way they dress.

I live in a cruel world.

If I want to become  the writer I dream to be, I need learn how to write about that world, in the  voice of that world. I need to embrace the possibility of seeing the darkness, the violence,  the pain with my own waking eyes, and then combating it with the power of my words.

This is my challenge to myself. This is my writing journey.

Celebrating Words

I believe that I am now on #35 of my Celebrating 45 list. Peppered throughout the list you will see my love of reading/writing/and language of all sorts.

Today, I want to celebrate the importance of words in my life. It has taken me a long time to admit this. I still blush or stumble when I try to claim it in person, but here goes . . .

I am a writer!!!

My love of words goes beyond written language. I love hearing and seeing language used with power and flexibility. I am addicted to Podcasts and TED talks, where master’s of the arts of writing and speaking fascinate their audiences with perfect phrasing, eloquent language, and an ability to manipulate language for sound and meaning A memorable phrase that lives beyond the moment of reading or hearing it, gives me chills. I thrill in those rare and wonderful moments when my own words–through some source outside myself–come together to create that indescribable perfection of consonants, vowels, and phrasing.

I just finished reading Don’t Let Me Go  by Catherine Ryan Hyde (excellent book with wonderful characters and plot that makes you want to know more).  Two sentences of hers made me yell (in my mind) “That’s it!!!”:

“Hard work can sometimes substitute for natural ability, but natural ability almost never makes up for not being willing to do the work.” (pg. 149)

“Sorry doesn’t mean shit. Not if you don’t plan to stop doing the thing you’re so sorry about. There has to be more to amends than just a word.” (pg. 406)

However, this post isn’t about celebrating other people’s words, as fabulous as they may be.

This is about celebrating words in my own life.

In 1978, when I was 10 years old,  I sat mesmerized and terrified by the television mini-series The Holocaust. 

This was in the midst of my own Hebrew School years, and the crucial years leading up to my Bat Mitzvah. Although I have since lost some of the religious beliefs, being a Jew was (and to some extent still is) an important aspect of my life at that time.

At a Hebrew School meeting after the series aired, the Rabbi met with all the classes to discuss what we had seen. I raised my hand and said, “It made me scared to be a Jew, but prouder than ever to be a Jew.”

On Saturday morning (I’m told–I would have been at the children’s service if I was there) the Rabbi used my words as part of his reflection during the service. This was the moment that I became aware that the right choice of words–even when you don’t know that they are the right words–can be magical, powerful and reach beyond the pages or the circumstances where they’ve been created.

My journey through writing started in school, with my first poems written in 1st grade along with a puppet play. My first book was a collection of poems and short stories that I hand-lettered and illustrated as a project in sixth grade, for another fabulous teacher who influenced my life named Mrs. Jorgensen. My first published work was a poem written bout a piece of art in a museum, that then got placed into some kind of literary magazine someone put out.

I have numerous starts and starts of stories, novels, poems etc. scattered throughout journals and gathered in three-ring binders. Throughout my life I’ve found solace and friendship in words, probably more than anyone even knew. Because of this it makes sense to me that when life began to fall apart around me (for reasons I won’t go into here) I turned to words–writing my first real book, joining a book club, and creating  a small writing group. The two women from that writing group convinced me to take the step into a then unknown world, the one of blogging. Over 756 posts (spread across several blogs) and thousands if not millions of words later, my life is filled with words. Some of them sing with the beauty I yearn for, but most of them are mundane and some are even cliché. However, words fill my life and sustain me, so a celebration of my life would not be complete without celebrating the words that fill it.

What are some of your favorite words? What quotes live on in your memory?

 

My Words Have Stopped

I’ve stopped writing.

I’ve stopped reading.

I’ve stopped talking.

I’ve stopped commenting.

I’ve stopped.

I look at this blog and think, I have nothing left to say. It’s not writer’s block. It’s something deeper than that.  I have entered the darkness at the bottom of depression and it has controlled me for a few months now.

I have lost my ability to think.

I have lost my ability to organize.

I have lost my ability to motivate.

I have lost.

Today I sit and wait for a birthday party to end, so I can pick up Sarah. I think I’ll find the topic, find the words, find my voice.

Yet all I can write is this.

Empty words on an empty screen.

Written out into the void of emptiness.

I want my words back. I want myself back. I want my life back.

It’s time.

Post-Partum Blues: Giving Birth to a Novel

Tweeting the birth of a novel

I tweeted that this morning.

I announced it on Facebook as well. I received a lot of likes, and suggestions for how I should celebrate (many of which included alcohol and/or a massage). One of my friends wrote, “Congrats! How long did it take (don’t say ‘my whole life’)? Do something nice for an old person, to please the gods.”

ME: I won’t say my whole life. The idea for this story has been years in the making, but I officially started working on it in March 2012.

HIM: Excellent, lots of wonderful things gestate in about nine months! I sometimes think it never gets better than this very moment, the afterglow of the first draft. Bathe in it like I know you will!

ME: LOL, I didn’t even connect that it was nine months, but I on twitter I said, “My novel is born.” 😛

However instead of bathing in the joy of the completed draft, I seem to be wallowing in the doubt-filled craziness of what happens next.

When I brought the infant Sarah home, I remember looking at her and thinking, “what do I do now?” She was so tiny, I thought she’d break. I didn’t have that instant bonding moment that some mother’s claim. I mean, sure I thought she was a precious miracle, but  falling in love with her took a while. Struggles with breastfeeding that led to me pumping milk every two hours, so she could be bottle fed with mother’s milk until she was able to get enough the natural way,  made me feel more like a cow than a mother. Nathan was better at diapering and bathing her, because he’d had experience with his sister who is 13 years younger than him. I thought I was on my way to being the world’s worst mother.

Sarah_1

I felt lost in the confusion of what happens next. What do you do to give this tiny creature a healthy, loving, wonderful life? Sometimes I still ask that question, whenever I face a difficult moment of parenting or one of the new challenges come along as she gets older, smarter, and more and more independent.

But, the thing is, even with the doubts and fears that come with parenting, I know that she will go out in the world. She will be recognized for everything that makes her special–her intelligence, her kindness, her beauty, her creativity. She will, someday, become someone in her own right, and go on to do amazing things.

Close up of Sarah

When you give birth to a book, what happens next?

I have to finish the course that was associated with the beginning off this novel. My final assignment asks me to:

  • fill out a publisher (or agent) choice form
  • write a cover and a query letter
  • write a synopsis
  • My instructor also requested I send him the next chapter.

Basically, I will have created a complete submission packet, and will get feedback from someone whose been there, done that.

After that, I’ll need to edit and really make sure the manuscript is as strong as it can be before I send it out into the big, bad world.

I’m terrified. Since I’m still not 100% sure what genre this book is (although I’m pretty sure it is a New Adult novel) I don’t even know where to start looking for publishers. I’m waiting on the newest book of publishers provided by the school, in the hopes that it might contain listings for those who are embracing the New Adult genre.

Or, should I look for an agent instead? Somehow that feels right, but how do I know for sure? How do I find the person who will be willing to work with me?

Is my written child strong enough to be sent out into the dark, scary, competitive world out there?

I always get that what next sensation after finishing a project. I just wish I was better at celebrating first.

How do you feel when you’ve completed a project? What do you do to celebrate a job well done?

Moments of Joy, Moments of Sorrow: The World in Balance

It amazes me how quickly moments of our life can change, bouncing us through a second of pure joy only to have us stop at a minute of total sadness, then we twirl back into the giddiness of the journey, only to be swallowed by the inevitability of the end.

I’ve been on a journey like that for a while now.

As some of you may know by now, I’m writing a book. Over the past week or so, the story has taken on a life of its own allowing me to pour thousands of words onto the page in an incredible rush of creative power. I’ve met characters I never expected to meet. Plots and subplots have become entwined in a tale that, I believe, only partially comes from me. I have become the conduit of the unseen world of creative energy to tell a story that wants to be told.

An old creation of mine, as I learned to connect with the pool of creative energy.

An old creation of mine, as I learned to connect with the pool of creative energy.

This is exciting and energizing, but can also be terrifying and demoralizing. On a good day, I find myself writing without the knowledge of time passing. I end with a feeling of exhaustion mixed with awe and joy. Some days, however, the writing becomes a torturous journey through badly written sentences, ideas that hit brick walls, or the worst feeling of having no clue what happens next.

The change can happen in an instant.

The writing isn’t the only thing taking me on this fast-paced emotional roller coaster ride. Life in general has a way of doing that.

A few posts back I announced that I put myself out there and applied for a directing gig at a nearby university. I felt good after the interview, but knew then it would just come down to whomever those students wanted to work with, and had very little to do with my talent or ability as a director.

I didn’t get the job.  I figured I hadn’t when I didn’t get word from them last Monday, so once I received the actual rejection I’d protected my heart from total crushing, but it still hurts.

I buried myself in writing instead.

Other things, though, have crept in to make sure my joy is balanced by sorrow.

The other day, Christine Grote, a talented writer whose shared her story of her sister and her family with beautiful, powerful words, posted “A Love Story” a poignant tribute to her father who has Alzheimer’s and her mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and their life-long love. Reading that, brought the reality of what is happening to my parents into sharp focus. Our situations differ, slightly, but I’m still losing my Dad to Alzheimer’s and watching my mother have to learn to let him go.

Yesterday, I mourned. I struggled with the emotions I haven’t shared with anyone about what’s happening. I feel guilt. I feel sorrow. I feel anger. I feel it all.

So I write.

Yesterday, Stuart Nager, who has been going through his own struggles lately and whose passions in life are similar to mine, posted this lovely post, called “Rededidication, First Light, First Night”. In it he describes the joys of a Chanukah celebration, despite the sorrows he’s faced over the past year.

I have been lighting candles this year with a mixture of joy and sadness. I always cherish the flicker of the Chanukah candles, but this year they sing to me of loss and sadness. I miss the days of my childhood menorahs, one of which you can see in this lovely post of my brothers called “Tradition . . . tradition”. One of the family menorahs played Ma’otzur from a music box. I hold that sound in my heart, and sang it after we lit our own candles last night.

Tori’s “Tiny Spark” series, though, has reminded me that sorrow doesn’t last and we can, indeed find beauty and joy despite the pain. Read today’s contribution “A Helpful Heart”, written by the fabulous Jamie Shea  from The Life of Jamie. I read it this morning, and realized the wonder and kindness that does exist in our world, even if sometimes it feels like its hard to find.

Life can’t be all joy. Life can’t be all sorrow. Life is living from moment to moment in this whirlwind of chaotic emotion, some good some bad. All we can do, is hold on for the ride and never give up.

 

Writing, Writing, and More Writing

November 1st.

Intrepid dreamers all around the world begin their journeys into NaNoWriMo–the attempt to write a 50,000 page novel by November 30th.

I’m not one of them. I wrote last year about why I don’t think National Novel Writing Month is for me. I still don’t think it would work for me, however I am determined to finish my current novel project by the end of November. Over the past week I’ve written over 10,000 words in what will be a novel running somewhere between 60 and 80,000 words. I know, that’s a big difference, but I won’t know until I get to the end that I have reached the end. The story is creating itself. As of now I am over 30,000 words in. (The official count is on my personal computer. I’m writing during my office hours since nobody has come to see me).

While I work well under the pressure of a deadline, I don’t work well under the pressure of pressure. Words, or any creative act, seem to have a cycle with me. They flow like a tidal wave, then turn into a drought, only to return again with the speed of Sandy. As frustrating as those periods of drought can be, I know that I need the fallow time to replenish and let ideas rest for a while until they are ready to burst forth.

Once I break through and the deluge of words begins, it seems to feed on itself. (I know, I’m using a lot of mixed metaphors right now. I struggled with insomnia last night and so my words insist on following their own random path. This too is a symptom of the flood). Since the words started flowing on my novel I’ve written more blog posts than I have for a long time. I’ve also applied for jobs, answered e-mails, graded papers and made comments–words pouring out of my system.

By putting words out there, the universe is answering. Yesterday I was asked to contribute a feature article for the spring edition of a popular magazine about Theatre for Young Audiences. Although the deadline for me to accomplish this task is short (I think they asked me late) I’m really excited about this opportunity. I’ve been asked to “talk about sex”; as in look at how romance and sex is discussed or portrayed in theatre for young audiences. Sexy topic, don’t you think?

[Any TYA folks who might read this, if you have something to say or know of someone who would be a good resource please let me know.]

In addition to that, we’ve finally gotten some funding to do a project promoting literacy to Latino elementary school students using drama, so I need to write up some planning material for that.

The whole point is that I’ve finally found my rhythm when it comes to writing and/or other creative projects. I can’t force it. I can’t create imaginary deadlines like NaNoWriMo. I have to follow my natural (although perhaps slightly psychotic) rhythms of manic production followed by passive reflection. If I fight it, I struggle.

At the moment, I’m not fighting. I’m simply writing, writing, and writing.

What works best for you?

Good luck to all you NaNoWriMo participants. I’ll see you on the other side!

Why Write? A Reflection on Writing vs. Talking

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been meeting with a few students who wanted the opportunity to revise their midterm take-home essay exams because they were not satisfied with their grades.  As I sat down with each one to go over their paper, I realized that, for the most part, they understood the material and could express their ideas clearly when talking to me about them. The problem came when they tried to put their words in writing. They simply cannot express themselves as clearly or logically in a written form.

After talking to these students, I returned home to my 9-year-old daughter who moans, groans and complains every time she has to write a paragraph–and she has a lot of paragraphs to write this year. “I don’t know what to say,” she says. “Can you help me?”

“What do you have to write about?”

Sometimes it is a response to a reading, or a prompt to use her imagination and tell a creative story. I will ask her questions, and she can (usually) answer them. If she can’t answer them, I tell her to reread the passage, and then she is able to answer well. In terms of creativity I’ve heard her make up stories inspired by something small, and sat through endless puppet shows created by her and her friends. She has also written numerous poems that you can find sprinkled throughout my blog posts. But, when it comes to assignments for school, she struggles. Her topic sentences are often vague. Her supporting details are sometimes weak. Her concluding sentences non-existent.

Like the college students, she struggles with conveying ideas in a written form.

As a teacher, I’ve often struggled with my own inability to understand why people have difficulty writing. I know, it sounds naive, because everyone has skills that differ from each other. But expressing myself in words has always come naturally to me. When talking to these students or my daughter, they express themselves in words. So why, I wonder, is it so difficult to put those words onto the page?

It’s possible, I suppose, that the difference lies in how people use their brains. The students that I have been working with are predominantly business majors, so I am sure their comfort with numbers, statistics, and graphs is much higher than my own.

But still, that doesn’t explain the gap between the ability to talk fluently about something and the ability to write eloquently and logically about the same topic.

Perhaps the difference lies in how we perceive writing. To me writing is part of my thought process. When I need to work through a problem or an issue, I write. When I am frustrated or angry about something, I write. At times I have even written letters or e-mails to explain an important issue to someone. I am more confident in my ability to express myself in writing than I am in my ability to talk.

Why? Well, as a talker I have a few habits that I have never successfully broken, especially if I am nervous:

  • I giggle
  • I talk with my hands
  • I pace.

In other words, I do all the things I shouldn’t do if I want to be a great speaker. Somehow these habits in addition to my short stature makes me seem less authoritative even when I am the expert in the room.

However, when I write nobody knows what I look like. Nobody hears the giggles or sees the talking hands. Nobody notices my quirks and my pacing.

When I write, I become the speaker I wish I could be.

For me writing is my language of comfort. For my students they communicate in other ways. In Introductory Theater courses I usually give an option for my projects which allows for any type of presentation; including written papers, performed scenes, artistic projects, etc. I try to leave it open-ended to allow for the variety of learners that come to my classes.  For this upper-division course, however, which is filled with seniors, I am requiring written research/analysis papers as their final project.

Am I doing them an injustice by demanding that they express themselves in writing?

These are students who will soon walk out into the world. Most of them will enter the world of business. Most of them will never have to write another long paper. They’ ll never have to do library research. They’ll never have to turn in a written document with a well-thought out argument.

But then again, maybe they will. If they want to move up in the business world, they need to be able to express themselves clearly. They need to be able to write  well-constructed letters; develop well-thought out and researched reports. They need to be able to express themselves in ways beyond the numbers and graphs.

In other words, they need to be able to write.

And I need to be able to speak the words I write.

We all have something to learn.

 

 

What I’ve Learned by Writing and Reading

 

“Writing and learning and thinking are the same process.” (William Zinsser)

Some days I struggle with words. But this isn’t a post about writer’s block.

Instead it’s a post about learning.

I’ve realized that I go through cycles; words flow then words fizzle but they will eventually flow again. Meanwhile, I fill the void with ideas and possibilities. I keep my mind open to images. I jot down thoughts. I read . . . I read . . . and I read some more.

Since I can’t seem to move forward in my own creative words, I’ve been focusing on the words of others. I’m participating in Sandra’s Writing Workshop on Facebook, despite my own self-doubts. I swallowed my fear, and submitted a chapter of my book for feedback. I haven’t gotten any yet. Does that mean it’s terrible or people simply don’t have the time?

I downloaded other people’s works with caution, fearful of what I would find. What if their work was so spectacular it made me feel ashamed of my own? What if I couldn’t think of anything to say, either positive or negative? What if participating in this group revealed the imposter in me? The person who has taught writing in the past (although granted mostly research writing) and has everyone fooled that I have any ability with words.

But, as I settled into reading, I had a realization. I’ve learned a lot through this writing  journey that I’m on.  Some of my learning has come from ideas, some is personal to my life, and some has made me a stronger writer and/or editor.  Here are a few things I’ve learned, in no particular order:

  • The Value of the Beginning: How many time have you read something that didn’t draw you in immediately? I admit to being a stubborn reader, and struggling through pages or even chapters of a book that has a fascinating premise in the hopes that eventually I will wade my way through the weak beginning and find something to keep me reading.  But I don’t do that as often anymore. Even though you can find gems this way, I would rather be pulled in by a strong and glorious beginning then labor through endless exposition in the hopes that something wonderful will come along. Of course, this means that I often struggle with my own beginnings, but I think the struggle is worthwhile in the end.
  • The Need to Read Out Loud: I’ve always made this suggestion to my students. “Read your work out loud, it will help you find the weaknesses.” Of course, my students often look at me like I’m insane. “If you don’t want to read it yourself, then have someone read it to you.” That doesn’t change the look. At times I’ve even forced them to read to each other in class.  I read my own work out loud all the time. You can sometimes catch me mumbling in public venues as I try to find the flow of a passage that is particularly challenging. This method helps me discover when I’m being too formal with my words, or too cryptic. It’s not perfect, and I still need to make changes, but it helps me find my own voice as well as the voices of my characters. Trust me, before I post this, I will have read it out loud several times.
  • The Power of the Right Word: I am always mesmerized by writers whose vocabulary challenges me, but I’ve come to realize that an extensive vocabulary isn’t always the best choice. Finding the right word can sometimes mean finding the simplest word, or perhaps it means using a word with a twist and finding a new metaphor. It’s not easy, but the way we use our words–the choices we make–defines our style and our voice as writers.  Words can soar and words can flop. Words can propel us forward or make us stop and think. I envy the people who always seem to find the right word, but I also value my own struggle as I search for the words that sing.
  • Questions Matter: In my classes, whether I’m teaching about theater or writing, I encourage my students to ask questions. I’m currently teaching a course called, Studies in Drama, where I’ve focused the course work on works that challenged society with either political or social change.  My students are required to submit a discussion question for each reading to an on-line discussion group and then respond to at least two questions. What does this have to do with writing? Well, I find that I enjoy questions. If someone asks me a question, then I can find the flaws in my own words. If someone challenges me with a question, then I can find my own answers. I’m not always right, but by exploring the questions, I find new ways into material. As I respond to other people’s materials, I try to respond with questions because questions lead to new thoughts and new answers. Do you enjoy questions or do they frustrate you because you say to yourself, “The answer is right there”? If someone has to ask the question, then perhaps the answer isn’t so clear.

What are some of the things that you have learned on your writing journey? Add to the comments below to make this list grow.

 

 

Random Thoughts from a Random Mind

This has been a gray week. My mind has been in a muddle, where words, ideas, thoughts, frustrations, hopes, and fear all wander through the fog that seeps into my brain from the outside–from the weather–and makes me feel unable to accomplish anything. Today, however, the golden fall sunshine seems to have decided to make an appearance, and with it comes the urge to clear out the fog that is in my brain and find some sense and meaning.

The golden sunshine begins.

Of course, that’s not easy, so today I will be writing one of those posts that follow the whim of my words and thoughts. Stream of conscious rambling to clear the murkiness and lay down a path toward clarity. I understand if you don’t decided to follow along. I’m not sure I would. 🙂 I’ll try my best to give meaning to my words.

The Randomness of Blogging: Some of you have noticed that I haven’t been blogging regularly for a while. Some have mentioned it when I comment. Some have e-mailed or said something on Facebook. Most haven’t reacted at all, which is no surprise. What has been surprising to me is that suddenly I have been getting new followers. (Welcome to all of you who have joined me recently.) Why is this surprising? Well, I haven’t been writing a lot. I have been commenting and I try to always respond to comments on my posts, but it’s not like I’ve been making any new statements or ranting about society or contributing to poetry or prose. Yet somehow I’m getting followers. Blogging is so random sometimes.

The Randomness of Writing: The last time I posted, I reported on the status of my book.  I have worked on it some more, but this week, mired in the muddle of my mind, I feel like I’ve hit another road block. I don’t have writer’s block, exactly, but I can’t seem to find the focus that I had last week. Does weather do that to you ever? How do you make your way through the murk?

The Randomness of Fall: I love fall. It has always been my favorite season. I love the smells, the colors, the quality of light. I would rather be outside on a warm fall day than on a hot summer day.  I love the flavors of fall; the cinnamon and apples, caramel and pumpkin spice.

Apple picking a couple of weeks ago.

But this fall seems particularly random, or off in some way. It feels like the leaves have turned too early. Some trees have already lost their leaves, while others still cling to the green of summer. The weather changes in the blink of an eye (I know, I know, I live in New England). From blazing hot days to shivering cold. From moments of sunshine to moments of gloom.  At least, however, those variations bring with them rainbows.

Driving home on a gloomy fall day.

This fall I feel disoriented and confused, but I have a theory why. It may, of course, have a little to do with global warming, but I’d rather blame it on the nauseating election season. The fumes and negativity, vicious attacks, ridiculousness, and everything else is leaking into the atmosphere and disturbing the beauty of my favorite season. I have decided to avoid it all now. I won’t discuss it. I won’t debate. I won’t listen to debates.  I won’t engage. Instead, I’m going to focus on the color, the light, the smells and the tastes of my favorite season and recognize when it’s time let go and focus on the joy.

Joy can be found in the smallest achievements.

The Randomness of Life: Yesterday I was listening to Studio 360. The show included an interview with Andrew McCarthy (of Pretty in Pink fame) who went on, after Hollywood to create a career as a travel writer. Listening to his interview, as well as an interview with Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theatre in New York, made me think about the reality and randomness of our paths in life.

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Very few people follow a straight path throughout their life, knowing from the beginning where they want to go and finding their way their without twists and turns. Life doesn’t function that way. A man who became well-known in 80’s movies, went on to discover his voice in the discomfort of travel. A boy who was a near runaway at 14 went on to become one of the most powerful voices in theatre in the country, after realizing that acting wasn’t his route. My own path, and even my destination, are still so very unclear, but it is the very randomness of that journey that makes each day one full of possibility, even in my confusion and my darker moments.

I now choose to define success in my own terms, even if that form is not recognizable in the eyes of others. I also choose to enjoy the randomness of the journey. It will be interesting to look back at the end and see where I have been.

So there you have it folks, random thoughts from a random mind.

What kind of randomness are you thinking about today?

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?

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