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.
It was one year ago that my mom was diagnosed with melanoma-eight weeks later I would loose her to cancer. Life felt completely out of control.
But I kept writing. I felt like I should have been doing something else like some mind-blowing fund raiser to help pay for her medical costs, or take her away to some new age cancer treatment center in the bowels of Mexico, but I couldn’t-she was just too sick to travel. I had to face the fact that there was nothing I could do to stop this ugly disease from taking her life. But she reminded me that there was something I could do. Keep writing-never give up-never. I had to keep this light shining while I was with her. It was a beautiful bond that we shared. I called her a fookin’ genius, she called me a fookin’ genius. She shared with me whatever came to her mind as I sat with her at bedside writing down poems about children and their mothers, or stories about ravens and coyotes. Writing kept both of us alive and sane. While she slept during the day as myself and my two sisters cared for her the first week, I took the time to write about how shitty this situation was.
Thursday, Jan. 17
There is no ‘me’ when someone is dying of cancer.
I am tired. Not much sleep last night. Feeling sorry for myself and feeling that flight response. I want to run away. A pattern like this, human or not, has no place here. Cancer puts everything into perspective. You are nothing. We orbit around my mother and cancer. Be with your heart, be in the moment. That is who you are right now. You are not here to change anything.
The hardest part was leaving her and to return back to my family, to my own life. My body was home, my mind and soul were not. I worried and waited for any news about her, I talked with her daily on the phone, each week that went by she got weaker and weaker.
But I continued to write. I poured my anger, frustration and sadness into a YA novel I started that coincidentally is about her and myself when I was a teenager. I haven’t looked back at that writing since.
My next trip out to New Mexico to see her I thought would be my last. But I made one more trip after she begged me to ‘help her die.’ I did not deny her that. I knew this would be the hardest trip. I began a knitting project, writing no longer held its magic in releasing me from the pain of my mother dying. My sisters and I read her poetry to her at bedside when she could no longer speak. I knew what poems she loved the most and wanted to hear. We played Beethoven for her, Mozart and Bach. My mother passed away to another life at 2:15 on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013. I loved her dearly. She was my friend, my writing coach-my mother. I miss her but what she left me was the greatest gift: the joy of writing.
PEACE to all in 2014
Go for it!
I’m back to finishing my novel after spending the last half of NaNoWriMo in a writing funk. I don’t know why-I’m learning not to question. I leave those answers up to the universe. During the past two weeks I questioned many times if writing is really what I want to do as I flipped through job listings on Careerbuilder and realized those are just ‘jobs’ and not my dreams.
I sat at my desk, but nothing came. I went for a walk in the frigid cold, came home to a hot cup of coffee and sat at my desk-still nothing. So I figured this was the universe’s way of telling me this is my time to recharge, get some Christmas shopping done, read, get some sleep. But my fear of not finishing my writing project was putting me into more of a writing coma-until I realized I needed time to just Be.
It took me these last two weeks to realize that not writing for awhile was part of the process. I learned patience. We are too eager for our writing project to be complete and we all too often compare ourselves to others who have the same goal, but we are not on the same path.
As the planets align, magic happens. Last night I picked up Julia Cameron’s book from my nightstand where yes, it had been collecting dust, The Right to Write. I opened the book to page 130.
The title of the chapter was ‘Making It.’ In this chapter she talks about if you are willing to do the work for a writing career, the odds work with you, not against you. She shares a quote from Goethe: Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it-for action has magic grace and power in it.” I so believe this. She follows up this idea of odds with a quote from mountain climber William Hutchinson Murray: “Concerning all acts of initiative or creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”
Once those planets align, whether or not we concisely, or subconsciously commit after taking needed rest for our creativity-somehow we are once again committed to our writing. We don’t ask any questions. As Julia says, “the universe follows the direction pointed by our commitment.”
Here are a few articles by a few of my favorite writers that helped me through these last few weeks:
Get it Write this Summer!
Literary Agent Linda Epstein's Yakkety Yakking
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