13 May 2011

Learning Curve

No work today meant I could take care of a few things needing some TLC in my happy world. I touched my characters and they touched me back. Today, my protagonist and I had a heart-to-heart while I allowed a gentle breeze to play over my skin as I absorbed the sun's rays. It truly was a beautiful day in my neighborhood. I swear, I could almost hear her talking to me. The good news is she isn't entirely upset with me about what she's about to experience. Bless her, she's a fighter!

Strangely enough, my quiet gave my protagonist a chance to assess her life. And you know what she discovered? She ain't half bad. We kind of played "Do you remember?" ala Claire Huxtable. Remember how she would ask Clif that very question, and he knew he was in trouble? Not so with my heroine. She laughed at how foolishly her insecurities prompted her to behave. Granted, she's not out of the woods, but today she felt strong.

The characters beckon. As I return to their world, I'd like to think I'm not the only writer who's learned something from a cast of fictional friends. What's something your characters have taught you?

07 May 2011

I'm ba-a-a-ack!

Almost a year since the last post. Good grief! I can't even call myself an intermittent blogger. My book is really taking shape, and though they scare the devil out of me, I love where the characters are taking me.

Last weekend was a big writer's conference, and I was extremely fortunate to have been in attendance. I didn't pitch anything because my work in progress is just that. For the first time, I participated in a read and critique by an agent. I didn't end up with this agent as the work of random chance. I've followed this woman's career for YEARS and watched it and her agency grow. For this read and critique, participants were allowed to submit the first page, which should have been no more than 16 lines.

I was nervous about that limit. Would the agent have enough time to get a sense of my protagonist? Would those few lines set the stage adequately for the rest of the novel? And why, oh why couldn't I have a full page? The third question was answered for me when I sat in on some R&C's in a previous workshop. The editor hosting that one was was tough, and her insight into the industry made me even more nervous. She told us she knew whether or not to buy a book based on the first page. I'd heard the first line bit before, but that was always couched in writerly encouragement along the lines of making every sentence count. Everything with pores on my body began to sweat. I wasn't sure I was ready.

Let's be honest. Sending a query to an agent or editor is daunting, but there's a distance that makes the entire process bearable -- even the rejection piece. Standing in front of either an agent or editor and in front of a group of writers who also know the rules, is plain butt-clenching. I was the second reader up in my group. I read my log line (which I'd made hours before) and launched into my first page. I got laughs! The agent said my work was good and fit within the scope of the genre. I started with action. Her praise went on, and I felt more nervous. I will query her with the finished project.

Conferences are awesome. Creativity ignites, and the writer in me loves to be surrounded by others who hear voices! Now, it's time for me to get busy about the work of writing. I've got more ideas about how to help myself be more productive, and I'm putting them in play. Write on, writers!

What's the best take-away you've ever gotten from a conference?

29 May 2010

One Fell Swoop ...

In one fell swoop, my life has changed. Didn't I say this a few months ago? Nevertheless, it is true. This afternoon I had the opportunity to listen to voice mail I received Thursday morning. Yes, I'm a tad behind. Hopefully, that gives you an indication of the kind of week this has been. It was graduation, my friends threw me a surprise going away party and I completed my last day of work at the school -- hence the going away party. Really, all those transitions were plenty for me to manage today. My goals were simple -- turn in what needed turning in, and avoid tears at all costs. Submitting my materials was easy. I've been ready. Since I'm not a crier, I didn't expect the tears to be an issue, and they weren't at work. It was when I finally returned home and checked the voice mail that I lost it.

Please, someone tell me how you respond to a message heralding an impending death? My friend, who has been ill, called and left a message to let me know she should be dead by Saturday. Tears sprung to my eyes as I realized that today is Saturday. She asked me to please check the obituaries so I would know when her service would be. I want to be there -- even if that means putting off my vacation for a couple days. It seems that the good people die young while the bastards of the world live on to make life as hellish as possible for the rest of us. What is important to note is that her life was not for naught. Without her influence, I would not be the lady I am. I would be less willing to embrace growth opportunities and still be steadily beating up myself for every mistake I make. I would not have had the courage to hold up my head through the loss of my job. I would have only been able to view this change as negative instead of seeing it as a chance to stretch my legs and skills in order to find something more suited to my passions and aptitudes. Via con Dios, Rose. Please rest in peace, free from pain and wrapped in love. Thank you for everything!

11 January 2010

Glancing Around Corners ...

I'm counting down again -- not for anything flashy or significant in the writing world, but because I'm approaching a welcome transition.

Over my break for the holiday, I wrote. Perhaps not as much as I wanted to, but I was and am proud of what I accomplished. My dear friend Kay read what I produced and proclaimed it worthy. Why is it I return to my blogging when my characters have worked their way to the bedroom? Maybe I'm nervous and am seeking validation. Okay, let's be real; I'm a writer, so of course, I am seeking validation!

Those seventeen pages were some of the most challenging I've written to date. What's it like writing again after so long a break? It's like learning to ride a bike when you're 5, not touching a bicycle except for shifting it about in the garage to make space for junk, and then going for a five-mile ride at the ripe old age of 30. Not impossible by any means, but definitely a venture requiring effort.

In a wild moment Sunday, I decided to go to a local coffee shop and write. First, I went on a walk and played with some random doggies. Then I had to shower -- for the benefit of myself and all those fortunate to be downwind of me. Finally, I dressed in bright colors because they felt right. Off I went to the shop, ordered a coffee and a nutritious cupcake. The couch was empty, and I took it as a sign that I was meant to pause and spend time with my characters. They were naked -- right where I left them. Kinda makes me wonder if their action is really in suspense when I neglect them for months on end, or if I peeked in on them while they were unaware, would they be living their lives without me, waiting for me to catch up with their progress?

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

I spent the day with my little people who are becoming increasingly large, and it was awesome for lack of a better term. We chilled and just enjoyed each other's company. As the time drew near for them to return to their dad's, the tension was palpable. I saw them looking at the clock; the baby repeatedly asked for updates on the time. It's kinda like knowing you're going in for a root canal -- time takes on this steady canter, and nothing you can do slows it's progress.

Rather than sit around feeling the emptiness of the house, I ventured out for a movie. If you're thinking about seeing It's Complicated, stop thinking and DO! That's one I would like to see again, and I've only just left the theater! Women age gracefully, and men -- well, I'm becoming attached to the opinion that men are probably grateful that a lot of women cling to pleasant memories when bellies lop over the belt, man-boobs become apparent and the chins increase. That must be love -- seeing through the imperfections to embrace the real person beneath the shell.

In many ways I'm the atypical woman -- can't stand shopping, I have shoes in two colors (brown and black) and I don't always have to fill airspace with meaningless fluff. In other ways, I'm very typical -- love make-up, love the telephone and am desperately afraid that someone will see my faults, be they physical, psychological, real or imaginary, and determine that I am lacking. If fiction writing is somewhat autobiographical, my audience will have a glimpse at not only my imperfections, but they will have access to a part of me that I work diligently to keep under wraps.

Once again, as a writer, I find myself standing before the world with my pants unzipped, hoping against all hope that the keen observer won't point and laugh but will help a sista out! My hope is that in writing I will see myself as I'm meant to be seen and that my readers will do the same. Not that our observers will deny the existence of these so-called imperfections but that they will see them and recognize that every stretch mark, every crow's foot is an indelible part of what makes each of us unique and beautiful.

Merry Christmas!

06 December 2009

Driving the Short Bus

While I haven't written much more than comments on my students' papers, I have been quite busy. Yesterday, my entourage and I did one of our favorite things -- went to the museum of nature and science. There's always so much to discover, and I've been dying to see the Ghengis Khan exhibit. So what in the world does that have to do with driving the short bus? That was how we got there! For the colleagues I like, there's nothing I won't do, so when I was asked to drive for a field trip, I was happy to say yes. I should have known the trip wouldn't be uneventful.

The trip up was easy. Coming home proved more of a journey than I'd expected. The students wanted to eat at a restaurant I'd never heard of, but I agreed to drive there -- following their directions. Any thinking person would already be formulating ideas as to how this little scenario went wrong. Stupid is as stupid does. Students who don't drive in the city and who don't really pay attention to their surroundings shouldn't be trusted to give directions, but I think the Boo-boo the Fool Award goes to moi for following said student's directions! We were rapidly approaching Wyoming when I pulled the plug on our adventure. I laughed, and frankly am still laughing because I create these situations often.

All of this made me think about the writer's journey. How often do writers take advice from the well-meaning clueless? Writing doesn't just happen, it's not a hobby; it is work that demands a high level of commitment, and comments from the peanut gallery are unwelcome in this writer's world.

I've decided it's time to re-acquaint myself with my characters. They recently finished Thanksgiving dinner and I left them hanging. C'mon, folks! Richard Simmons would be so proud of me! I'm pushing away from the table and am ready to write, write, write!

02 December 2009

Cheer up, Charlie!

How can I begin to sum up the activities and happenings of a year in one blog post? It's not gonna happen. You don't want to read it, and I don't want the hand cramp from writing it.

If the truth be told, a lot of what I've done this past year is hide from my work. Hide from the writing because it costs too much to labor for hours to find myself in a maze that seemingly has no exit. I wrote my characters into a corner, laughing all the way as I did. They've been stuck in the corner for months, and when I think about going all Johnny on them, "No one puts Baby in the corner," I find something else to occupy my time -- like cleaning piles of vomit. This happens and continues to occur because I'm afraid that if I pull up my big girl Underoos, I will have a major re-write ahead.

Just because I've hidden from my book doesn't mean the characters have hidden from me. Oh, no! Those ladies and gents scream at me as soon as they sense I'm surrounded by quiet. Just let the kids be sleeping in my non-ghettoland home, let the TV be off and the phone on silent. The characters call me out. Some of them are down right rude! I haven't been called heifer for real ever! To my knowledge. They asked for an off-scene character to have her spot in the sun. Maybe this is what we all need. To get out of my dreams and onto the page ... beep, beep. Yeah!

Enough silliness, I guess. Must get back to corralling kittens, otherwise known as mucking through piles of puke! And just in case it doesn't appear so, I am grateful for the opportunity of cleaning vomit. That just means there was plenty to eat. Now that's what I call a shift in perspective!