Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

The air is crisper, the scent of woodsmoke is on the breeze, and soon frost will coat the front lawns of the neighborhood. Halloween seems to be the first holiday of the end of year festivities. A reminder that the days grow shorter and so does the year.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) 30 days of frenzy and anxiety as writers try to stop procrastinating, stop self-editing, stop self-doubt, and just write. If you learn nothing else by the end of November, realize that you can write more than you are writing now. That you can find time to write every day.

Last year I accumulated 33,000 words to finish a manuscript so I could enter it in the Golden Heart contest. I finished that manuscript, another one, and I'm starting a new one for this year's Nano.

Lesson learned: I can write much more than I was before and so can you.

Happy Halloween and Happy Nano!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finding Patience

The feel of the coastal mist of Ireland, still envelops me, as I sit at my computer back in real life. I’m home now after twenty days, not only in the land of the beloved, but Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, with a pit stop in Sweden and Denmark.

I was all over the British Isles taking in every literary site I could find. I needed to renew myself after two rejections on my recent WIPS, before leaving. I needed to feel that in the long run, it’s a learning process. I needed to find patience.

I spent a day wondering through the tiny lake country village of Greenmeres, where William Woodworth, lived and died writing his lilting poems. Many of Jane Austen’s most romantic scenes are set in that beautiful part of England. I followed Yeats life up the wild coast of western Ireland, and laid a flower on his grave in a small church yard outside Galway. I passed the home of Maeve Benchy in Dublin, and saw her stories on every colorful door of the city. I sat in pubs all over the isles were many of the worlds greatest authors drank their pints, discussed politics, life and love. It seemed all of them had a barstool, where Oscar Wilde sat, drank and wrote.

Standing in front of the childhood home of Robert Lewis Stevenson, I studied the window, where he peered out onto the world as a sickly child. It was those long lonely days he watched his friends play in a park across the street on an island in a small pond. The seeds for Treasure Island and Kidnap were planted on those cold wet Edinburgh days. I saw the stomping grounds of C.S Lewis, in a new Belfast. Where he is honored by both Protestant and Catholic.

I saw where the café once stood, where a young mother wrote for her son, because she couldn’t afford the electricity to run her lap top in her flat. Harry Potter was born there. Sadly the café was sold and is now of all things a Chinese Restaurant. Yes, even Scotland is progressing.

And it seems on every small street corner, down cobbled alleys there was a book shop. Not store, but shop, independent, and owned by generations of a family. They’re rarely big, but packed with books, and the selections are extraordinary. You just had to ask about an author or book, and you’re pulled into an hour long conversation on reading, writing, and the love of it all. And of course, the stories about the Oscar Wilde frequenting the shop when great-grandfather was running it, and yes, the occasional King or Queen who stopped to buy a book. They love to tell those tales. And I loved listening to them.

What all this did for me is help me find my rhythm again. My struggle has been well chronicled in this blog and in my personal blog. It has hung over me like a dark shawl for the past six months. I often questioned what I was doing putting so much effort into something, that wasn’t baring fruit. It felt like a dying pear tree, with a single wilting flower, carrying the promise of a future for the whole tree in its weak petals.

The break of a month of not writing balanced me, settled my mind, and quieted my heart. Ireland and her often sad history reached for me, and pulled me back into the world of words printed on paper, and those people who so much love books.

I spent a few days with family in Cork. My cousin owns a pub, where she put Louie and me to work. I immersed myself in a language that rang of fond distant memories. The stories jumped from the lips of people among their wide smiles and curiosity about the California cousins behind the bar. And just simple gossip was decorated in the high sing song accents. I heard a story whispered on every breath, in every ruined abbey, and every green sheep dotted hillside.

Near my family’s accent home in Adare, I knelt in a church built by the Knight Templars. I took communion as they once did in that very spot. I could see their white bent backs, heads bowed, with the eight pointed red cross. I felt their final breath in the simple stone church when the bell woke the countryside in a sudden flurry of noise, sending a swarm of birds into flight, taking with them my failures, replacing it with the coveted patience. I was left with a new yearning just too simply write, regardless of the out come.

I marveled at the book of Kells, knowing this was where the heart of the Irish love of the written word began. In those beehive monasteries on rocky islands off the rugged coast, monks bent from years of writing, worked tirelessly. Their fingers stained forever from colorful inks, as their eyes failed in dim candle light, they continued. They produced one of the most beautiful books known to survive the ages, all for the love of church and the written word.

Thankfully, I’m not writing by candle light, in a cold stone cell on an island fit only for birds. I have a computer in a warm house with the benefit of a car to escape, when needed. Writing is considerably easier these days than in the past. Still, the struggle to find the patience to continue, is ever present. The fight to land in a place where the words flow, to appear on the pages in perfect clarity, is on going, ending with the yearning to succeed.

In all the places I visited connected to a literary great, the struggle to put pen to paper and have someone appreciate it was always present, if not pronounced. It almost overshadowed their eventual success. In the end somehow, the rejections, the disappointment, the frustration and what we learn from it all, will somehow make it all well worth while, as long as we find patience.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Fall into Shape-4 weeks later

So it has been about a month since I started my Fall goals. My goal for the next 4 months is to focus on being healthy. This means exercise and making healthy choices. It means making time for me and doing things that make me happy. So I will write a minimum of an hour day on my current work in progress. It also means to learn to deal with the stress I am faced with everyday on the job and not let it rule my choices with food and how I live my life. I thought I would try yoga, to see if it could help add to the exercise side of things along with the stress relief.

Will I can say I have not done any of my goals. I have let stress rule my life these last 4 weeks and have not focused on being healthy. I set what I thought were realistic goals and they fizzled out by week one. So taking a look at my goals the biggest impact has been stress. So I am going to tackle this area for the next three weeks. Hopefully the other areas will follow once I focus on overcoming this area.

I am going to take a break every day at work and walk around the building outside, rain or shine. I don't take many breaks and work way to many hours. Which leaves me burned out by the time I get home and leaves me very little time for myself and very grumpy with my family. I need to schedule time for myself and not let it be interrupted by work. I am going to locate a yoga class or a stress management class and schedule one of those in the next two weeks. I can not to let stress rule my life. I need to re-prioritize my life; take care of myself, my family, and then my job. My job pays the bills and it can't rule my life.

So how did you do on your goals that you made at the beginning of the year or ones you have set recently? What is the biggest hurdle or what helps you meet your goals?

Lyn Emerson

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Oh where, Oh where has my muse gone?

I think my Muse has run away from home. Back to Greece she’s gone to frolic in Pantheon, leaving me stranded. As writers they are an important part of our writing process. The frontal lobe stimulation brought on by sight, smell, and hearing things that trigger a memory, or in the writer’s case, a desire to write.
I’ve experienced none of this of late.
So I tried music. All kinds from rock to Gregorian chants. Nothing, she’s not there. No one is home. The lights are definitely off, leaving me alone in the dark.
So I tried reading. That helps. But more with sentence structure then anything. A little nudge there, but not enough to get me going.
I’ve watched a few movies. No take that back, a lot of movies. The most recent, 3:10 to Yuma. It was very good. Russell Crowe looked wonderful as usual. A flicker maybe. For a split second I thought my muse was hiding behind a tree. Nope it wasn’t her.
Writers have all kinds of muses, and ways to bring her out of hiding. Mine has really run far away, to disappear into the distance. Because I haven’t been able force her back. So instead, the large wide screen screams back at me, empty.
Well, this is how it’s been for me for a few weeks, as I curse my muse for her long unscheduled vacation.
Until, this weekend.
I made a trip home to Northern California, to the dry hot golden hills, to visit my family. As usual, we had our gathering at my sister’s ranch. After much food, horseback riding through her property, and more food, I settled into a comfortable lounge chair on her front lawn, under a hundred year old oak.
For long moments, I studied the twisted branches, where a squirrel played, and chattered as it gathered nuts for the coming winter. In the distance, a hawk cried, and nearby a chicken picked at the soft earth, with its chicks in tow.
It wasn’t long and I started to drift off to the dream world. During that time, my mind considered my writing, my story, and future stories. It was at peace, and was able to push aside the clutter of my life to allow my muse to return home. I felt her there, ready to write.
Welcome home from Greece. You were missed.
A soft breeze pulled at my hair, and I felt the velvety nose of Monty , my nephew’s horse, nuzzle my hair, as she reached over the fence to smell me. Reaching up I touched her face, and listened to her throaty grumble in my hair, and the idea for a future story sprung alive.
We each have our own little ways to get the juices flowing, and bring the muse into our writing world, so she can work her wonders. I hadn’t considered going home to a life I use to live to bring mine out. During her next vacation I might just try that again…It worked wonders, and yes of course Monty helped.
So what’s your tricks? What do you do the call your muse home to roost?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fall into Shape

Often we set new goals at the beginning of each year. I find that by April those goals are long forgotten. So I have decided to set goals with the season. This will be the first season that I start this process. I have been on quarterly goals at work for the last year or so and I find those much easier to accomplish then long term goals that may shift over the year.

So since we are starting to hit the time of year when food will be plenty, I have decided that I better start thinking about the shape I am in for my body but also the shape my mind and soul are in as well.

My goal for the next 4 months is to focus on being healthy. This means exercise and making healthy choices. It means making time for me and doing things that make me happy. So I will write a minimum of an hour day on my current work in progress. It also means to learn to deal with the stress I am faced with everyday on the job and not let it rule my choices with food and how I live my life. I thought I would try yoga, to see if it could help add to the exercise side of things along with the stress relief.

So are there goals that you made at the beginning of the year you have accomplished? Are you going to renew your goals that became long forgotten and set some new ones for the fall? What is your goal process?

Lyn Emerson
Black Diamonds Vice President

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Slow and Steady

Almost everyone knows the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. The moral of the fable is that slow and steady wins the race.

This month we added a new member to our chapter. Looking back I realized the Diamonds have grown slow, but steady as well. We may never be a large chapter, but we are a tightknit group. Someone is always ready with an answer to a question or help to a problem. That is much more important than a large group.

Slow and steady wins the publishing race as well. You can dash off a story, but will it be any good, or you can build up slowly, write more and more each day, and develop the writing skills you will need in the long run.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes a deadline must be met and the story MUST be done, but for the long haul of having a career, you need to build up those skills of writing every day, honing your skills of writing better, and know that slow and steady wins the race in the end.

Jill James, president, Black Diamond Chapter

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Finding Inspiration

I’ve had an incredibly difficult time trying to find something to write about. I started a couple subjects only to dump them. I was dissatisfied with the words dragged out of my fingers. Everything appearing on the wide white screen lacked inspiration, simply because any inspirational words seem to hit a road block in the creative section of my brain.

Then I got the UTube video, I passed on to the Black Diamonds of a cell phone salesmen, in England, by the name of Paul Potts.

His voice brought tears to my eyes. He was competing in an English, American Idol type show. His comment, “All I’ve ever wanted to do was sing opera.”

He inspired me. He took a chance. Is he as good as the great opera singers of our time? Probably not, but still he was wonderful. Most of the singers on these shows are young. They sing hip hop, country, and more modern tunes. I have yet to see an opera singer, although admittedly, I don’t watch it that much, and don’t know if they even would consider one. Since the competition goes on, and the singers have to really be able to sing different types of music. Still this man took a chance.

In order to get what you want, or to even give yourself a chance, you have to put yourself out there. For writers the competition is stiff. There are hundreds of thousands of aspiring writers, chomping at the bit as they fight their way towards publication. The field is incredibly crowded, not just from the RWA stand point, but even then I suspect we make up for most of the queries going to agents. Outside our genre, the writers stand shoulder deep in desire to see their dreams come true. Most won’t make it. It’s only the few who do.

But we can’t think that way. We have to be the Paul Potts of this world and take a chance with a contest, or agent and go for the gold. Will he get a recording contract? Maybe. Will he stand on the world stage and sing? Maybe, but maybe not. He will have the knowledge he tried. He stood up on the stage and sang, if only for his fifteen minutes of fame. And oh, how he sang.

When I first started writing, in my naivety, I queried agents, just knowing they’d want my story. Just knowing they’d love it. Wrong. I squirm at the query letters, and have sense shredded them, out of fear someone might read them. The rejections were harsh, they were many, and it hurt.

Still I’m here, still trying, still writing, still learning. The rejection letters are getting better. I’ve gotten requests for fulls and partials from well known agencies, the rejections were not of the standard type, but personal, giving me advise I so much needed and took to heart.

I still enter contest, placed in one, get back better and better comments, with higher and higher scores. I can read the comments now, without grimacing. In one contest, in the past, one judge hinted, loudly, I should give up writing. I don’t get those anymore, either.
There are times we all ask ourselves how long we can do this. I know there may come a day when I’ll stop sending out the query letters, but the day will never come when I stop writing.

For now I’ll continue to take my chances, to enter contests, go to conference, meet agents, and send out queries. For now I’m still Paul Potts, who loves to sing.


To see Paul sing. Go to: com/watch? v=1k08yxu57NA& mode=related& search=