I wrote a letter for the Dear Teen Me website.
It was both harder and then easier than I thought it would be. By the time I was done writing the letter (and staying within the word counts) and then sorting through the photos, I had ideas for at least another dozen letters.
I think it’s a great exercise for writers trying to bring up some youthful memories.
You can read the letter here and see some funny old photos of me and my sense of “fashion” too.
“It is good to love many things, for therein lies strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done with love is well done.” - Vincent Van Gogh
I’m interested in a lot of things. Writing novels and essays and poems. Making art. My dog. My California native plant garden. The birds and other wildlife that visit my garden. Photography.
Any one of those could be a full-time job and sometimes I make myself crazy jumping from one thing to another. And sometimes I beat myself up for what I fear is a lack of focus on any one thing because I worry it will lead people to think that not specializing in any one area of my life means I’m not very good at any one thing. Of course that’s complicated by the fact that I am quick to shout out my shortcomings and less quick to announce things I do well.
In moving old blog posts over here to my new blog I’ve been rereading a lot of posts, seeing if they still hold up over time and if I should keep them around. I noticed a disturbing trend, there was a lot of guilt, a lot of beating myself up for what I did and didn’t do. If I stopped blogging for a while I reentered the blog world with a long list of explanations. If I didn’t finish a book project by my personal drop dead date I got out the old hair shirt and wore for weeks and weeks. I whined a lot about my deficiencies as a writer, poet and artist. I called myself a rotten person, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. I gave a lot of space to the negative things in my life. Wow, what a bummer, eh?
There weren’t very many posts where I shouted out about how great I was doing with a book project or how a poem came together absolutely perfectly or how a piece of art went from the picture in my head to the picture on the page in a way that made me gasp. I have those moments but I didn’t write about them very often. I’d like to change that. I’d like to celebrate the every day moments of my life, the weird, the wacky, and the wonderful.
Today was a pretty typical day. The first thought I had when I woke up was about how to fix a design issue on the garden site. Which got me to thinking about the garden blog. Which got me to thinking about how I wanted to relaunch this writing blog/website today which meant I needed a blog post. So I stayed in bed, closed my eyes, and sorted through some possible blog topics. Greg Pincus just wrote a post about social media guilt and I thought about writing a response to that since I’m returning to blogging after a long absence. I decided not to because sometimes giving voice to something I’m thinking about gives it power and for once I wanted to step back into blogging without making an apology. I blogged. I stopped. I decided to blog again.
Because I want to write more Of Dogs and Writing posts I wondered if I could find a way to link them together. Which for some reason made me think of National Poetry Month and the project I have planned for this year and my Kickstarter idea for next year. Then I thought I should really write about exhibiting my art in a gallery for my very first show which has me alternately excited and petrified. (I don’t expect everyone to like my work, or to buy it – though that would be nice – but I sure hope I don’t overhear anyone talking negatively about it.) All that thinking reminded me that it was probably time to reread my three “go to” books: Art and Fear, Callings, and The Creative Habit.
Keep in mind I had all these thoughts before I even got out of bed. That’s the way my mind works.
By afternoon I had checked in with a couple of friends, titled and priced my art for the show, worked on the cover of the art journal that is also going into the show and took Cassie to the vet. In-between times I spent in my chair in the corner of the library taking pictures of the birds and then later, I wandered around the garden and captured some great shots of a few newly blooming plants.
It was a busy day. I didn’t finish any one thing and yet I am profoundly happy. I saw some progress on a couple of projects. I jotted down ideas for an art series and some notes for a poem about Cassie, and brainstormed my Kickstarter poetry project. I spent the day doing things I love.
I’m a lucky gal. I can finally not only recognize but accept that my life is always going to be a patchwork sort of life made of blocks of time devoted to the various things that interest me. Maybe that doesn’t make me an expert in any one thing. Or maybe it does.
I’m pretty good at being me.
Really. Just a little thing to share some new words of a new project with my weekly goal's group, not my critique group of published writers, a group of readers who would just be listening for story and not thinking about construction and whether or not the book had the potential to sell.
It was just a little thing to read seven poems about one of the sisters in my novel. Really. Just a little thing. Or was it?
I've been away from writing and sharing and critiquing for a while so the thought of putting myself and my words out there made me feel all quivery in my stomach, just like a brand-new writer. But I printed out some pages and put them in the car before I could give myself a chance to change my mind. After all, I didn't have to read them if I didn't want to.
At my goal's group we go around the room and share the progress we've made in our creative life over the last week and talk about our plans for the coming week.I listened to a couple of friends, one beating herself up for not getting things done and another who regularly sets and achieves her goals. And then it was my turn.
The last few months while I've been getting physically healthy I've been doing a lot of thinking, trying to let go of excess emotional baggage (okay, all emotional baggage is excess and needs to be dumped.) I've spent many years measuring my writing worth against too many of the wrong things — Whether I write like someone else or as often as someone else. Whether I sell to a certain publisher or make a certain amount of money. Whether I get mentioned some place or not. Whether my reviews are good or bad or whether my books are even reviewed.
Like I said, all the wrong measurements.
Because for me, my writing worth can't be measured by what someone else does or doesn't do for me or to me.
I needed to remind myself of that. The reason I write may not be the reason anyone else writes and that's okay. I've felt a change in my writing self the last few months. Less need to compare, to feel jealously, to worry that I am somehow not doing it right.
I'm doing it the only way I know how. My way.
Writing has always been my way of making sense of the world. I write to discover who I am and why I think and feel the way I do. I write to explore the implications of choices I have made and to investigate the whys behind those choices. I write because writing defines me.
So today, when it was my turn to share about my week, I picked up a few poems and shared a bit of my WIP with readers who just wanted to hear an interesting story. They laughed at what I thought were the funny places. They gasped when I shocked them. And I could see in their eyes that question that every storyteller hopes to see in their audience, "What happens next?"
The best stories, the ones that stick in our hearts and minds, are the ones that reflect life as it is, not as we wish it were. The ones that bring us up close and personal. Sometimes the significance of a piece of work is not just in the work itself but in the memories each reader, and each writer, brings to it.
This is why I write.
I'm going to try and remember that.
1. I’ve been cleaning my office this week and have succeeded, at last, (probably for the first time in YEARS) in having no miscellaneous paper pile. But I don’t think it will last for long unless I can figure out better homes for things I touch a lot in the office area. I tossed a multitude of PR material for books that are no longer in print. That felt odd.
2. Like my current WIP folders. I have, in no particular order, Plant Kid, the sisters book, Max the dog book, the dog essay book, another MG verse novel and a whole bunch of loose poems. I do a lot of my writing by hand and all my editing off the paper so I need to keep lots of papery things around. I have three baskets on a shelf behind my desk but paper has to go in it vertically. That’s okay for file folders but I have little snippets of paper or pictures and things that fall out. There’s no room on my desk for the folders.
3. I have two empty drawers in the file cabinet in my office so yes, I could put the folders in there but there’s something weird about me (okay more than just one something weird about me but here’s ONE weird thing) I like to have all my stuff out where I can touch it, see it, not hidden away.
4. I have three drawers of nothing but potential books and articles. Some started and then abandoned. Some just filled with ramblings and research. These go back 15 years at least. I’m thinking I should go through them and if the idea no longer appeals to me, I should toss them. But that feels really weird to do.
5. I also have giant stacks of papers from books that have gone through various versions and have editorial marks on them. I’m not famous enough to think they should be donated somewhere. I’m about ready to toss them but it feels weird to think about doing that too.
*** Okay, this is not office related but LiveJournal related. Why can I no longer choose html formatting??? Also my tags no longer auto fill??? And when I look at this in the preview, it shows no date at all.
I wanted to come up with some wonderful title about the interesection of writing and art in my life so I could write more posts using the same wonderful title about the interesection of writing and art in my life but, you see where this is going right? I spent fifteen minutes brainstorming titles and got nothing. I seriously, I mean SERIOUSLY, considering not writing the post until I came up with the perfect title which would have meant, of course, that the post would never get written.
Luckily I caught myself in the middle of that vicious cycle and I stopped. I told myself it was just a blog post. Just get the darn thing written. (Ah, if only that worked on me for novels.)
I spent some time this weekend printing out some photographs to use in some art journals for my poetry. I printed out all the inspiration photos from any of the 15 Words or Less photopoetry exercises I’ve done over the years on ’s blog. I printed out all the in inspiration photos to go with the Native Plant haiku I wrote for National Poetry Month a few years ago. This meant a lot of fighting with the color printer, some good prints made and some so-so prints made. And eventually I pulled out some matte photos of the same stuff I had printed at the drug store thinking I’d use some of them too. My idea was to collage the photos into some of the lovely blank journals I have painted recently and then print the short poems in the journal along with the inspiration photo. I had lots of journals prepped because my go-to thing when doing art is to do a color-wash on a page of a blank journal.
In my head I had this picture of a journal full of watercolor pages with these pictures and my poems and then I’d do some collage with my beautiful papers and then some of the doodling I love. I didn’t want a scrapbook. I wanted art. And in my head, it was a masterpiece.
In reality, at the moment, none of the project is making me happy. The thin paper has photos that don’t look very sharp and the drugstore photos look like, well, modern photographs which don’t match up with the watercolor backgrounds. I’m two steps away from tossing it all in a box and putting in the laundry room so I can forget about it for a while. I’d much rather just grab a blank journal and start covering the pages with color. It’s easy. It’s fun. And I already know how to do it.
And I realized that’s what happens with my writing too. When the going gets tough, I go write something else. Beginnings? No problem. I’m great at first chapters, first pages. Poems that will never be published? Sure thing, I’ll get right on that. Novels that are broken or unwritten or finished but need to be tossed and started over? Stories that exist as a perfect vision in my head that never make it onto the page? Got lots of those too.
Now I’m not beating myself up (much) about my habits of starting and my failures in the follow-through department. I’m just noticing the pattern. And I’m thinking that maybe what I have been worrying about so much of the time, the not finishing, the starting way too many things and then discarding them, maybe it’s not always a bad thing. Maybe it’s just “my” thing. My process. Like working a puzzle. Some people might put the outside edges together and then look for matching colors and work within that group of colors, putting things together. Other people might just start in one corner and pick up piece after piece after piece to try against the same spot. They’ll eventually make the connection, it’s just going to take them longer.
I don’t always work that way but when I do I have allowed myself to feel “less than.” And by that I mean even while I’m doing it, I know I’m taking the longest, hardest way possible and I know other people would do it differently and get there faster and the fact that I’m not doing it the same way as other people has often made me feel less than them. Less than right. Less than the creative person I know I am.
And that’s wrong.
Now I can see that my long meandering way is just that, my long meandering way to the same end, just with a different view as I journey.
This morning I took another look at the photographs printed on paper and printed like photographs. And I looked at the colored journal pages. I gazed at the blank white pages of another journal, still tempted to just grab my watercolor crayons and do something easy.
But I thought about Max, the dog in one of my novels-in-progress. I thought about how I found that newspaper clipping last week that confirmed the crazy painful plot idea I had was valid. I knew from the start that Max was going to be a hard book to write but that it was also going to teach me a lot about writing. And I got that tingle. That little tingle we get when we know we’re on the right path even if it looks like we’re going to fall off the edge of the cliff with just one more step. I love that feeling. It confirms that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, even if I’m marching to an off-beat drummer.
I took another look at my piles of poems and photographs. I torn some photos into pieces. I grabbed some paint and glue. And I started to think about how I could create a different sort of art, a different masterpiece than the original vision. I don’t know how long it will take. I’ll only know that when I am done, I will have told another story my way, the only way I know how to do it.
Last nights #kidlitchat on Twitter had a two-sided topic. One question was what to do when you are blocked with a current writing project. That one generated, as expected, a lot of great tips for jump-starting the writing machine.
But I want to talk about the other side of the question that didn’t get much (if any) discussion – what, if anything, can we do to jumpstart or revive a stalled career?
I guess the first question is, what’s a stalled career? So much of this business is out of our hands. We can control one thing, the manufacturing of a product to sell, a book, a poem, an article. A speech to give, a class to teach. We can control to the quality of that product and we can control the completion of that product but the actual sale of that product, the sale which builds our career, well, we have no control over that.
So is a stalled career one in which you used to sell and now you don’t? Is a stalled career one where you made it to one level of income and you’re trying to jump to the next level? Is it that you want to be more known that you are now? What is a stalled career?
And the bigger, more important question is, what can you do about the state of being stalled? Because if you can’t do anything you might as well just hunker down and get back to work on what you can control – the writing.
I’m interested in your thoughts.
I spent some time today gathering all my previous Poetry Friday posts as well as poems other people had posted that have touched me. I want to put them all in one place. So yes, I have a file but for me I also want them in a book. I seem to remember some people talking about keeping some sort of a commonplace book. If you do, do you have a picture? The logical side of me knows I’m not going to hand copy all the poems, especially the long ones, so I’m trying to figure out how to gather these together in a nice fashion.
Come hear me talk about how poetry helped me find siblings I never knew I had.
I will be doing a live radio program on the June 14 episode of Brain Burps About Books hosted by Katie Davis. 1pmPST/4pm ET
We’ll be talking about how writing poems about the father I never knew for National Poetry Month led me to find family I never knew I had. I will read a couple of the poems as well. Since this is a live show, listeners can call in with comments and questions.
Number for listeners to call: 1 (347) 857-4428. NOTE: Show starts automatically at 4pm ET
There’s a chat room that goes along with it, if you want. For that you should go over and set up your account ahead of time so it is ready before the event. To participate in the chat room, you have to be logged into blogtalkradio.com with your own free account. You can then take this link: http://www.brainburpsaboutbooks.com/ and the chatroom will automatically pop open.
The show will be archived on BlogTalkRadio.com and on iTunes so you can catch it later if you want.
Shortcut if you want to spread the word: http://bit.ly/cBkp2E
I picked up this wonderful muse at a little shop in Pacific Grove called Tessuti Zoo. I’m trying to find the perfect name for her. Suggestions, anyone? , originally uploaded by susanwrites.
I decided my new artsy self needed a new muse. I picked up this wonderful doll at a little shop in Pacific Grove called Tessuti Zoo. I’m trying to find the perfect name for her.
I’m taking an online class right now in creative journaling with Kelly Kilmer. One of the things I like about it is that it is a work at your own pace sort of thing. All the lessons are already posted and you can do one a day or none a day or ten a day or whatever. I also like that she is talking about layout because I’ve been trying to “see” things rather than “hear” stories and it’s still a struggle for me. What I have learned is that I could spend days (I kid you not) trying to copy a template and never be happy with what I am doing but once I finally gave myself permission to not follow the rules and just use the template as a jumping off point, things fell more into place. I am so conditioned to following rules that I expected the art police to show up at my door and yell at me for not creating to plan.
Silly, I know.
This is one of the pages from my journal for this class. I’m using pages from an old DayTimer because even though I have some nice brand-new books with clean pages but this is a lot of practice stuff and I figure why not use up some old stuff? I like the way this page came out. It makes me smile to think of all the wonders waiting to happen just because of what might or might not be in my pocket.
I’m thinking about my WIP, about Flyboy, and how the last few months I’ve taken a lot of classes trying to shake things up in my head in order to better get them down on the page. One class had me thinking about theme and major story questions and when I finished that class I thought, “Oh yeah I’ve got it now. I know where I’m going.” Another class had me thinking all about traditional mysteries and by the time I got to the end of the class I was sure that’s what I was going to do except then I remembered that I didn’t even read mysteries.
Do you see where I’m going here? I got so hung up on trying to follow someone else’s ideas of the rules for my story that I forgot, for a little bit, that it was MY story.
Sometimes rules are needed, to keep us safe. And sometimes they are just guidelines to get you started in case you’re feeling a little bit lost.
Remember you’re the only one who can tell your story. Tell it, please.
A lot of people took the holidays off from blogging and online activities intentionally. I took some time off but it wasn’t so intentional. I was in one of those dark holes I fall into sometimes and it sorta surprised me. But here I am and now I’m wondering how to jump back into things because it feels a bit odd to be away from everything for a while. It was good for me, though. I realized that online noise is just as noisy to this introvert as going to a crowded cocktail party so my brain has had a chance to rest. And then hubby and I got sick and this year’s cold has been a bugger to shake. I’ve beaten myself up a few times about things that haven’t gotten done and stuff that’s fallen through the cracks. But you know, sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.
Writing is one of those things that fell through the cracks. I think I know why. Or at least part of the reason why. I was working hard on Flyboy and making great progress. Then I took a few classes. The classes were all wonderful and helped me in a lot of ways but I have ended up with feedback from way too many people and it just short-circuited my brain. I needed the time away from everyone’s input so I could just let it go and then return to the project with their comments in the back of my mind but not so forward that they overtake me. At least that’s the plan.
Lately I’ve been thinking about things that soothe my soul.
Birds. We don’t have anything fancy or unusual in our yard but just seeing the little house finches or the mourning doves hanging around the yard makes me smile. They help me feel connected to nature here in the big city. And they make me feel that little things, like our native plantings for wildlife, can make a difference
Unexpected love. Cassie isn’t an affectionate dog but sometimes she just seems to know when I need a little something and will come over and nudge my hand with her nose. It might not be an all-out love fest but for her it’s a big deal so it means a lot to me.
Hearing from a friend. An email (not a Tweet or a Facebook message) but an email from a friend that speaks to my heart is a good one. Or a phone call. I do love to hear the sound of a friend’s voice.
I can see those things, or the need for those things, in my writing. My characters are always looking for where they fit into a family or a group because they need to feel needed, to feel loved, to feel wanted.
What about you? What are that things that soothe your soul? Do those things show up in your writing?
I’ve been building this list for a long time and thought I would share it with friends. It’s a list of over 200 movies about authors, poets, editors, screenwriters – basically anything to do with the writing business. I don’t claim it as a complete or perfect list so please feel free to add titles or corrections in the comments. The links will take you to IMDB.
84 Charring Cross Road (1987)
A Murder of Crows (1998)
Alex & Emma (2003)
Almost Famous (2000)
American Dreamer (1984)
The Answer Man (2009)
As Good As It Gets (1997)
Ayn Rand — A Sense of Life (1997)
Balzac: A Life of Passion (1999)
Basic Instinct (1992)
Becoming Colette (1991)
Becoming Jane (2007)
The Best Man (1999)
Best Seller (1987)
Big Bad Love (2001)
Boy Meets Girl (1998)
Breakfast of Champions (1999)
Chapter Two (1978)
Cheaper By the Dozen (2003)
Children of the Century (1995)
Cross Creek (1983)
The Dark Half (1993)
Deconstructing Harry (1997)
Door in the Floor (2004)
Double Take (1998)
The End of the Affair (1999)
Eternity and a Day (1998)
Father’s Day (1997)
Fiction and Other Truths: A Film About Jane Rule (1995)
Finding Forrester (2000)
Finding Neverland (2004)
The Flower of My Secret (1995)
Freedom Writers (2007)
The Front (1976)
Gaby: A True Story (1987)
Get Bruce! (1999)
Harriet the Spy (1996)
Haunted Summer (1988)
Hav Plenty (1997)
Henry & June (1990)
Her Alibi (1989)
The Hours (2002)
In Love and War (1996)
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Isn’t She Great (2000)
Jack London (1943)
Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980)
Jewel of the Nile (1985)
Joe Gould’s Secret (2000)
Joshua Then and Now (1985)
Julie and Julia (2009)
Kissing a Fool (1998)
The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997)
Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles (1998)
The Libertine (2004)
The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Love and Death on Long Island (1997)
Making of Daniel Boone (2003)
The Man From Elysian Fields (2001)
Margot at the Wedding (2007)
Mark Twain Tonight (1967)
Melinda and Melinda (2004)
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
Miss Potter (2006)
Morvern Callar (2002)
My Brilliant Career (1979)
My Dear Secretary (1949)
My Left Foot (1989)
The Mystery of Rampo (1994)
Naked Jane (1995)
The Night and the Moment (1995)
Paperback Romance (1994)
Pola X (1999)
The Prize (1963)
The Proprietor (1996)
Purple Violets (2007)
The Raven (2006)
Romancing the stone (1984)
Rowing With the Wind (1988)
Secret Window (2004)
The Shadow Dancer (2005)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
The Singing Detective (2003)
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Stone Reader (2002)
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Surburban Girl (2007)
Swimming Pool (2003)
The Technical Writer (2003)
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
The Third Man (1949)
Throw Momma from the Train (1987)
Time Regained (1999)
Todo sobre mi madre (1999)
The Trip (2002)
Where Sleeping Dogs Lie (1991)
The Whole Wild World (1996)
Wild in the Country (1961)
Winter Passing (2005)
Wonder Boys (2000)
Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962)
World According to Garp (1982)
World’s Greatest Dad (2009)
A Fine Madness (1966)
An Angel at My Table (1990)
Beautiful Dreamers (1990)
Before Night Falls (2000)
The Belle of Amherst (1976)
Between the Lines (1977)
Blood In, Blood Out (1993)
Blue Car (2002)
The Business of Fancydancing (2002)
Byron (2003) (poet)
Color of Pomegranates, The (1968)
The Dark Side of the Heart (1992)
Dead Man (1995)
Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
The Edge of Love (2008)
Fighting Words (2007)
Gu cheng bielian (The Poet) (1998)
Heart Beat (1980)
Henry Fool (1997)
I, the Worst of All (1990)
Il Postino (1994)
In Custody (1994)
Keats and His Nightingale: A Blind Date (1985)
Love Jones (1997)
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)
Poetic Justice (1993)
Runoilija ja muusa (1978)
Satan’s Brew (1976)
So I Married An Axe Murderer (1993)
Tom & Viv (1994)
Total Eclipse (1995)
West of Brooklyn (2006)
Xiang ji mao yi yang fei (2002)
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Cabin by the Lake (2000)
French Exit (1995)
Hit and Runway (1999)
In a Lonely Place (1950)
The Lonely Lady (1983)
The Muse (1999)
Out of Order (2003)
Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
The Player (1992)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Author! Author! (1982)
Barton Fink (1991)
Beaumarchais, the Scoundrel (1996)
How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog (2000)
Prick up Your Ears (1987)
The Producers (1968)
The Savages (2007)
NEWSPAPERS & JOURNALISTS
Absence of Malice (1981)
Ace in the Hole (1951)
All the President´s Men (1976)
Call Northside 777 (1948)
Citizen Kane (1941)
City in Fear (1980)
Continental Divide (1981)
Deadline U.S.A. (1952)
Down With Love (2003)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
The Front Page (1974)
Funny Farm (1988)
His Girl Friday (1940)
It Happened One Night (1934)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Libeled Lady (1936)
Meet John Doe (1941)
The Paper (1994)
The Parallax View (1974)
The Pelican Brief (1993)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Platinum Blonde (1931)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Shattered Glass (2003)
Saving Sarah Cain (2007)
Street Smart (1987)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Teacher’s Pet (1958)
Welcome to Sarajevo (1997)
Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
I haven’t seen all of these movies (not even half) so I can’t vouch for quality, only subject matter. In many cases there are multiple versions of the film. I’ve only linked to one. Enjoy!
I posted it on Facebook and Twitter but forgot to mention it here. I’m guest blogging about redefining success for writers over at MAKE A SCENE with Jordan Rosenfeld today.
Some people amaze me with their capacity to always try to do good in the world. They look at opportunities the rest of us might walk on by and never notice and say wow – if I did THIS then someone else could do THIS and suddenly BOOM! We could change the world. Or at least a little part of it. Specifically, Tulakes Elementary School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. That’s the kind of person Cynthea Liu is. Today is the launch day for her new book, Paris Pan Takes the Dare. Like a lot of authors she’s having a launch party. But not just any launch party. She’s using the launch to help raise money to buy books for the students at Tulakes Elementary School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.She donated a portion of her royalties from today’s sale to the school but that’s not all, she has set up a fabulous auction site for writers and readers and those who dare to show they care by bidding on items to help raise even more money for the school. There are autographed books and manuscript critiques (including one from me) and so much more. There’s a contest and a movie and a huge, interactive site for you to enjoy.
Please help spread the word and post about it on your blogs, email lists, twitter accounts, facebook, whatever!
Some people amaze me with their capacity to always try to do good in the world. They look at opportunities the rest of us might walk on by and never notice and say wow – if I did THIS then someone else could do THIS and suddenly BOOM! We could change the world. Or at least a little part of it.
Specifically, Tulakes Elementary School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
That’s the kind of person Cynthea Liu is. Today is the launch day for her new book, Paris Pan Takes the Dare.
Like a lot of authors she’s having a launch party. But not just any launch party. She’s using the launch to help raise money to buy books for the students at Tulakes Elementary School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.She donated a portion of her royalties from today’s sale to the school but that’s not all, she has set up a fabulous auction site for writers and readers and those who dare to show they care by bidding on items to help raise even more money for the school. There are autographed books and manuscript critiques (including one from me) and so much more. There’s a contest and a movie and a huge, interactive site for you to enjoy.
Many years I was told that I could probably have a good career in writing, under one condition. I had to get out of my own way.
20 some odd years later I’m still trying to figure out how to do that.
What do I do to block myself? I’m a big procrastinator for starters. I listen too much to other people instead of to myself. I let the fear of not being good enough outweigh the joy of writing. I worry about selling sometime instead of finishing something. I compare myself way too often to other writers or their work. Mostly I think it is a case of not believing in myself even when my friends and family continually tell me I should.
I’m older now. Wiser too I hope. I’m trying to kick all those negative thoughts to the curb.
How about you? What are your personal writing fears? What do you feel are your roadblocks to reaching your writing goals?
And more importantly, what are we going to do about it?
I just read this absolutely charming post by Jim Averbeck and it reminded me that I do have a story to share with you.
On Tuesday I went to Hicklebee’s to see Susan Patron. I went early in order to do my part for the economy and buy lots of books. While I was there, a teacher was there with his junior high book club. Valerie (one of the owners of Hicklebee’s) was showing the girls the famous autographed doors and bathroom. Every time an author comes to visit, they sign the wall. The girls were having finding the names of authors they knew like Meg Cabot and J.K. Rowling and Lois Lowry. Then one of them asked if she had Dr. Seuss and Valerie said no. She did have a Dr. Seuss story to share though and the girls brightened up a bit.
Then Valerie pulled a book off the shelf right next to where she was standing. She told them it was a fabulous book about a girl and her father. She said that would probably make them cry but in a good way. And then she said, in a rather conspiratorial voice, and the book was written by a woman by the name of Susan Taylor Brown who just happens to be this woman right here!
And with a flourish she pointed at me, standing a few feet behind her, and the girls did one of those collective gasps that made me feel like a rock star.
Dear Author who thinks she wants to write this book,
Maybe you should just give up on Flyboy’s story. Again. I mean, really, what is this problem you have whenever there are two people who need to appear in the same scene? What are you so afraid of?
I’d say go to work on Max or Plant Kid but you’ve already proved that you have the same problem every time. You’re fine as long as the main character is talking to himself or dealing with the world around him but bring one more person into the scene and you freeze up. Your characters turn into wooden puppets that would be better used as kindling than interesting page turning characters. Just because you’re a super shy introverted loner who is afraid to talk to people in real life doesn’t mean you need to model all your characters in the same mold. Come on, big yawn there, don’t you think?
Don’t you know that you need conflict and conflict is going to come from interaction with other characters?
Don’t you know that you can write pages and pages of crappy non-usable stuff that can be deleted later.
Can’t you remember what it was like to be a teenager anymore? Sure, there was lots of angst but there were lots of thing going on all around you too. People at school. People at home. People at the grocery store.
Why are you so afraid to put people in your book?
That other Susan, the one that DOES want to write this book
I have now been away from the day job for a little over 2 months. During that time I was sick for 4 weeks. I also installed our native plant garden, front and back yard, worked more with training Cassie, finished up a bunch of work-for-hire projects, read some, worked on the budget 101 times, wrote a partial – the first 20 pages – of Flyboy for critique at an upcoming conference, and, oh yeah, did Christmas.
I felt like I was racing through each day to get to the next but with no master plan of where I really wanted to go. All of the sudden it is January and I am wondering where the time went.
Several people told me that after leaving the day job it would take a year to feel comfortable in my own skin again, a year to know where I wanted to go with my life. I didn’t understand it at first but now I do. I am racing less now, trying hard to be here, be now – to enjoy the moment. But I know I am not "there" yet.
I can feel my writer brain kicking on again. That might sound odd when I know that I have actually done a fair amount of writing in the past couple of months but this is different. Last night I was going through my books on the craft of poetry and found my pulse racing once more when I pulled Wishes, Lies and Dreams and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red, both by Kenneth Koch, off the shelf. I spent a few hours looking through old manuscripts and getting excited about some of the ideas. I opened my WIP and greeted it with joy rather than worries that I didn’t know what I was doing.
We are in horrible, crazy-making financial times. I haven’t sold a trade book in years. I’ve been out of the loop so much online that I have lost a lot of the networking that I had worked so hard to build up. Many people are filled with gloom and doom about the publishing business and yet. . .
I feel like a writer again. It is enough, for now.
Why is it that when you are in the midst of a writing drought you forget how absolutely wonderful it is to write? Sigh.
Not a lot of words, but new words. I opened my first three chapters that I had sent in for the conference critique, reread them with the intent to then move on to chapter 4. As I had hoped, when I got to the end of chapter 3 I knew what was coming next. I wrote it out and realized it was really a new, better and stronger, ending to chapter 3. A nice hook that after reading I dare someone not to turn the page.
A good morning’s work. I am pleased.