It’s that time of year when pre-published writers are submitting our work to local writing contests, regional and national contests. It’s scary to submit your work. But we have to take that step, if we don’t, we’ll never who we are as writers. It’s also a crucial step to the path to publication. I’ve been on this journey for more than ten years, and I’ve wanted to give up many times. I’ve struggled through SO many drafts. I never thought my writing was going to be good enough to submit, but you know what? Every year with persistence and grit, it gets better and better. For me, I start every day with creating an intention of wanting to create something SO bad I get up at 4:00 in the morning just to get it out of me! Two years ago I started getting up at 5:15, before I had to get my son up, and do yoga and meditate for 15 minutes. It helped to quiet my mind and set my intention for the day, my intention to sit at my computer and write. But life also has a way of testing our grit, our strength, our commitment to our craft. In March of 2013 I lost my mother, a writer herself, my writing coach and friend, to cancer. I was devastated. I still can’t wrap my heart, or my mind around it. But, I kept writing. I worked on a YA memoir during that time that was based on my mother’s mental illness. I poured my anger and resentment about mental illness and cancer into the writing. Even though I may not keep those passages, I was writing none the less. Then, in February of 2014 my husband was in a horrific ski accident in VT and broke his leg resulting in him nearly losing his leg, and almost his life. But our family got through it. And, I kept writing. My point is, never give up. Your stories are what make you, YOU. Your stories are what a child is waiting for. So submit to every writing contest you can. Be confident. This is who you are meant to be.
First of all, neither one will ever be completed unless you sit down and do it. I’ve never seen cookies make themselves or a manuscript be magically completed all by itself. You must gather your materials, or ingredients and follow a plan. Or, you can be a panser and ‘wing it’, but it won’t turn out as well as you want it to. From the minute you combine your ingredients, or ideas, you must pay attention to what you’re doing, measure well, substitute ingredients or move around chapters, mix well, revise until it shines (and don’t forget to add a little love). Once all the essential ingredients have been mixed together, that’s when the magic happens. You let it sit, or bake until it reaches it’s optimum potential-and it’s done. Enjoy, submit-repeat.
You have to-you must read this by the fabulous Lynda Mullaly Hunt. ❤
Fish in a Tree is about a sixth grader named Ally Nickerson who thinks she’s dumb. She isn’t dumb, but she does have undiagnosed dyslexia until she meets Mr. Daniels, her new teacher. Ally learns that, although dyslexia poses some challenges, it also has some special gifts wrapped up inside of it as well. She learns to own and respect who she is. Really is.
But this isn’t the very first thing I knew about Ally. The very first thing I knew was that Ally loves her brother, Travis. I mean really adores him. The second Ally came to be, I knew this relationship through and through. Why? Because I knew “Travis” when I was little.
He didn’t look like he’d play the part of someone else’s savior.
His own mother called him a hood. He had long hair, a history of fighting, some brushes with the law, and a…
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and write what you know!! How many times do us newbie, pre-published writers hear this? But it is so true and I was reminded today (again) about it from someone else’s blog. When we do this, we uncover those stories that only we can write and I believe it is how we stay true to self and honor what’s inside. ‘Write what you know’, because that’s where the stories are.The stories that are different, unique, outstanding, crazy, weird, hair raising. Those are (hopefully) the stories that will sell and hopefully the stories that some young high school student will pick up and say, “This book speaks to me. I love this author.” Or, a mid-grade that a seventh grader picks out themselves and says, “I like the character in this story and the setting takes me far away.” Or, a picture book that a parent will see at your favorite Indy bookstore and say, “What a sweet story. My son/daughter will love this book.”
So, after you unload your suv, your mini-van or your vw bug from this long holiday weekend, or even if you’re not unloading from the last weekend of the summer, sit down on your comfy couch with your laptop, or pen and paper for that matter and write. Write the story you know you are meant to write. You are meant to write this story because it keeps nagging at you, the characters beg you to bring them to life-it’s the story that comes directly from your heart, from your soul. And remember- the first draft will suck, so in the words of Winston Churchill,
“Never give up. Never give up. Never,never, never give up.”
I hated my mother. Or did I hate the disease? Growing up I never realized what this demon was who took over my mother’s emotional and mental state. I thought she was just eccentric, colorful, she was a writer. The rage, the false suicides, the lapses in judgement, alcohol abuse, sexual escapades. Why couldn’t I have had a normal mother?
But I’m glad I didn’t. I loved her for who she was despite the disease, but it took me years to be grateful for her and years for her to seek help. After three failed marriages, she was left to raise four children on her own and support herself with her writing while being un-diagnosed for years with her illness. But she fought through it all. She published 25 books in her lifetime. Writing was her medicine and her sanity. Yeah, there were times that were pretty damn rough and not knowing she had manic depression made it worse. She never really found the help she needed. Psychiatrists pacified her, the only meds given were Lithium. (Lithium only treats the ‘manic’ and not so much the depression) We knew she needed additional care, but we were also afraid of dealing with ‘the problem’ because she could be so explosive. I will always wish I could have done more for her.
My point is, people with mental illness are often so debilitated by the disease that they don’t know how to seek help. Sometimes they don’t even know something is wrong. We need to be brave and be there for them to get them the help they need at all cost.
Before I lost her last year, when melanoma took her life, I told her what a fookin’ genius she was. She fired back that I was the fookin’ genius. I thanked her for making me, me, and for being the crazy, fun, yeah colorful person she was. I loved her for who she was. I was grateful I didn’t have a ‘normal’ mother. But I still carry the guilt and pain of not helping her more.
To all who suffer, reach out for the hand that wants to help you-they love you and want the best for you. Peace.
Valentines Day 2014. There are a lot of people I miss today-gone too soon. I tried to revise my WIP to no avail. I felt frustrated becuase I wanted to work on it, but a voice said, “live your life & you will come back to it refreshed.” And that is what I did. I made eggplant parm, I played in the snow-I sat back and was a part of life. I’m back to pg. 93, and I’m feeling the love again. Happy Valentines Day everyone.
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