Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Writer, Interrupted

A week ago today, we got word that a dear friend and church family member passed away. In the early morning hours last Sunday, he had a massive heart attack and, in a matter of minutes, left behind a wife and four children, with countless friends and family members. This man was young and active... I still have trouble grasping that he's truly gone.

So in the last seven days - during which time seemed suspended - I haven't done a lick of writing or editing. And you know what? That's a good thing. As important as my writing is, it seems so trivial in comparison to spending time with and helping our church family. I wouldn't give these last few days - as unpleasant as they were - for a fully-edited manuscript.

I'll close this post with the words of a song, beautiful in its simplicity; one I was asked to sing with a Sister at the graveside service. It was an honor to have raised my voice in a ministry of music. For my friend. Rest in peace, LS.

Let Jesus Be My Lord
words and music by Stacey King

When the twilight turns to darkness
let Jesus be my light.
When my lack of faith brings blindness
let Jesus be my sight.
When stormy seas blow 'round me
let Jesus be my port.
When the war of mankind rages
let Jesus be my fort.

And when my time on earth is ended
my soul to God restored,
let me walk into the brightness
and let Jesus be my Lord.

When peace on earth seems hopeless
let Jesus be my dove.
When earthly woes bring hatred
let Jesus be my love.
When my spirit's flight be broken
let Jesus be my wing.
When the nations choose their rulers
let Jesus be my king.

And when my time on earth is ended
my soul to God restored,
let me walk into the brightness
and let Jesus be my Lord.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Inspiration At The Lake

I've mentioned before that we live in a lake community. And, like so many writers, I draw inspiration from my surroundings - which is why the larger part of my novel is set around a lake just like ours.

Today, eager to get out in the beautiful weather, my daughters and I went in search of some fun. We had a picnic at the park, played on the slides and merry-go-round, and soon after headed to the beach with new buckets and shovels.

The girls busied themselves in a search for "treasure" as I stretched out and soaked in the scenery. From my sandy patch I enjoyed a perfect view of the water: Passing boats and jet skis, a spring breeze with fresh smells and contented sounds of outdoor activity reminded we why I so love where we live. And why I chose to write about it.

On a basic level, today's experience moved me to a renewed surety; I have to keep up with the edits of this book and proceed with finding representation. Then, even deeper, it gave me a kind of stirring, a kind of drive to sink further into my revisions. To really make sure I capture the essence of this life, this lake, so the reader can grasp it in full.

I hope I can do it justice.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Dialogue Contest

Nathan Bransford, the literary agent of high acclaim among writers, is hosting a new contest. It's The Preposterously Magnificent Dialogue Challenge. I'm glad I got word (thanks to my friend Melanie), what with the contest ending tomorrow. I've just posted my entry (roughly, comment #267). What a rush!

Good luck to everyone who enters!

In My Dreams

With two kidlets, there are inevitable nights when Mommy is awakened. Getting back to sleep is an uneasy task and sometimes, like last night, I spend an hour or so in a half-asleep, half-awake stupor.

Somehow, those moments are some of my most lucid, most creative. It doesn't always mean anything; often times, minutes later, I find myself forgetting where my mind had even taken me.

But last night, between my youngest's coughing fits and my own, two words came to me. I couldn't tell you what was whirring in my mind just before, or how I got to them, but I decided they would make a great novel title.

I know. Crazy, ain't? Seems silly and presumptuous. A tad premature. But mere words can snowball into something greater.

I don't dare give you the two words, though I've written them down. Someday, after all, will be the time to start another book. And I'll look over my notes of various ideas, just like this one, and decide which way to go.

What about you? How do ideas come to you? And have you ever had a seemingly insignificant thought turn into something grand?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Interview With A Novelist

Please, humor me by clicking on this YouTube link. Funny, funny stuff. And so apt for we writers...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


It seems to me every writer has a preferred drink; the one they usually sit down with when it's time to work. Don't you think it's the norm? And the two most common choices, I'd bet, are coffee and tea.

I can't explain it. There's just something about sitting down to write, a favorite drink within reach. It makes the task ahead of me - hurdling through that dogged plot point, smoothing out the choppy prose or dialogue, etc. - easier to face; it helps my mind separate - somehow like a mere beverage provides a little retreat for me - and home in on my writer's voice.

My favorite is this:

Poured over ice and sipped through a straw, it has to be mocha. Which will come as no surprise to my friends and family. But it's an expensive habit. A carton of four bottles, though still cheaper than hitting the local coffee shop, is upwards of $6.00 at some of my local retailers. I'm willing to spend the money, but it adds up. And quickly.

But I recently found a different, worthy drink. It's a yummy alternative to the Starbucks (I didn't think there'd ever be one) and, blessedly, happens to be less expensive, too.

A friend introduced me to this Chai Tea. Can you see there on the front? It's a mix of black tea, vanilla, spices and honey. Anyway, she made it with half milk, half concentrate (as the directions call for) and ooh, dawg, is it tasty! I use 2% milk and serve it cold, as is my preference with teas and coffees, but my mom drinks hers with soy milk, heated. Either way, it's just over $3 per carton (at good ol' Wal-Mart, next to the teas and hot chocolate mixes), and it makes a gallon all said and done.

Mmm. I'm enjoying a cup of the latter right now...

So what's your writing beverage of choice?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Job Ends

I've spent the last few months - a pace upon which the client and I agreed - professionally critiquing a manuscript. (See my writing and editing business.) I finished my final review this evening.

I'm pleased the work is done, for now I can (until the next job comes, that is) focus on my own manuscript edits. But I'm also sad to see it end, because assisting another writer with their work proved envigorating for me. I loved throwing myself into their manuscript, playing a professional role in figuring out how to make the story better and, maybe most importantly, building a rapport and gaining a friend.

I hope to do it again soon.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Edits: Best With A Dose Of AW

Can I tell you something? Come closer.

AW (the network for writers) deserves a fair size of my devotion. Why? Because as I've been editing my heart out this week, the forums have been crucial to my progress. But it's not what you think. It's more than the wealth of knowledge, the leagues of support, found among the threads.


My Word doc window is up; I'm fine-tuning the narrative and tweaking the flow. But then an awkward phrase sneaks up and I'm stuck. My brain can't work out the proper edit, not just yet, and my thoughts have to stew for a bit. But to stare at the words in front of me, willing the right changes to appear, would be a bad thing. I have to redirect my attention while my writer's mind figures out, subconsciously, what to do. So I jump to another window, the one with AW. I check my subscribed threads, banter with my buddies and peruse the boards. I recheck my manuscript, thinking almost there, and hop back to AW again. But during the next minute or two spent in Office Party or Novel Writing (specific threads), something clicks. My brain begins to whir, my juices start to flow, and I can face that icky part of the manuscript again. I pull it up and watch as unfolds before me. The appropriate words come to me and the story moves ahead, better than I could have imagined.

Thank you, AW. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

To Search Or Not To Search

It occurred to me today, just minutes ago in fact, that nothing would stop me from beginning an agent search now. Though my edits aren't done (though they're going well!) - and I haven't constructed a query yet - I could certainly start perusing agencies and making my pick list. Right?

And then I got to thinking, if I did actually find the nerve to go ahead and query, the prospect of responses would drive me to push through my edits.

I'm not committing here. But I think I will, in whatever spare time (yeah, right) I may be able to take hostage, give it some serious thought.

To be continued...

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Premature Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I've just barely cracked open the cover - I've read the first six chapters or so - of the book Eat, Pray, Love (One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia) by Elizabeth Gilbert. But it's already proving delicious. (And I have to thank my friend, Melanie, from whom I'm pretty sure I first heard about the book.)

From the short but intriguing introduction I've been drawn in, and I find myself hanging on to every one of Elizabeth's words. Her voice is so invoking, so personable, it feels like she and I are in the same room. Like she's really speaking to me, telling only me this fascinating story of hers.

As with anyone who piques my interest, I googled the author. Her official website (which is linked in her name above) is as engaging as the book itself, since the first thing you see is her lovely face, open and vulnerable. I want to hug her. Sit down, and pick apart her writer's brain. And then be her friend.

On her site, Elizabeth - or Liz, as she calls herself in the book, and as I feel so compelled to refer to her - shares some Thoughts on Writing. Her brilliant insights are too many to condense in this mere blog, but I recommend, if you're a writer (or maybe even if not), you take a gander. Her words have given me this renewed drive in regards to my own writing. I feel this focused burst of inspiration, a reason to keep on keepin' on.

But in the meantime, I'll continue reading Eat, Pray, Love. I can't wait to follow Liz on her journey, and learn with her - from her - along the way.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Your Writing Place

I've been catching up on my reading, specifically my back issue or two of the magazine Poets and Writers. (I tried to link to their site, http://www.pw.org/, but it appears to be down.) In the March/April 2008 edition, novelist Alexandra Enders wrote about The Importance of Place. She said Hemingway wrote while standing, Ben Franklin from the bathtub. EB White's place was a cabin on the shore, and Toni Morrison "found refuge" in a quiet motel room, away from the demands of her children.

I might venture to guess most writers have a specific place. A special, favorite place to be, their writing supplies spread around or a computer in front of them, where ideas stir and, eventually, come to fruition on paper.

My "place," where my computer can be found, was sort of chosen for me. When my husband planned the layout of our then-unfinished basement, our shared "office" became an open area right off the family room. So the area in which my family spends the most time is mere feet from my work station, with lots of distrations. (As I type, the kidlets are watching Barney's Colorful World LIVE!. Do you know how hard it can be to focus when garish, foam dinosaurs are singing to Mr. Golden Sun?)

This place of mine works well enough during those few times of quiet, when one daughter is at preschool and the other is napping (a rarer and rarer occurrence these days), or when they've been tucked soundly into bed for the evening. But typically, day to day, it's a challenge to write anything of worth while jouncing back and forth from my stool and computer to the demands of the day.

In the meantime, I dream of my ideal place... a room that's all my own. An ample desk would sit near one wall, with my computer at the ready; filled bookshelves would line the perimeter. I'd have a sitting nook in one corner, too, complete with cushy, comfy chair and floor lamp, perfect for reading. And the best part? A door. A closing door, so I could separate my writing life from the rest. I picture dark, rich colors on the walls and floors, and antiques dotted here and there. I'd fragrance the space with a favorite, perhaps mulberry or sandalwood.

Someday. Someday I'll have this perfect room, this perfect place.

What's your place, real and/or imagined?