Wednesday, May 17, 2006

An Anchored Boat (part 1)

"How long have you been a writer?"

This is another question I was asked by an inquisitive eighth grader. Writers are often asked this question. My answer was that I have been a writer as long as I can remember.

My first memories of writing are from my childhood. My grandparents had this beautiful sunroom where the younger generation would spend time during big family gatherings. Surrounded by glass and "paved" with brick tile, it was three steps below the main part of the house, separated by sliding glass doors. To me, it looked like a stage. If you have seen "Shakespeare in Love" where the seating area rises up around the stage, you can picture what I saw as a child in the sunroom.

Grandma also had a small dark library. During these gatherings, I would spend time sifting through her music books (the one most vivid in my memory is a small wire-bound book of patriotic songs) and then writing "plays" to go along with the songs. I have three siblings and many cousins who span the generation well, and they were most lenient in letting me convince them to act out these little plays for the adults of the family. Eventually, I also brought in three friends to join us. This was after my older sis and oldest cousin got too old for such unabashed silliness, so it was good to find reinforcements.

The memory of this time is beautiful and pure and filled with fun and laughter. All of my family is artistic in some way and they were quite encouraging with this endeavor.

As time passed and I also grew too old for stage theatrics (and the friends moved away), I paused in my writing career. Young teens so often pause the important things in their life rather than persuing it to help themselves along. Not too much time passed, however, before I was inspired again. This time it was by a television show. The thought is rather amusing to me, since I can rarely be bothered to watch the inane shows now coming over the airways. When I saw the first episode of "Emergency," I was hooked. I loved the comedy of it and the relationships between the characters. I liked that they were real people doing an important job by helping others. I also thought Johnny Gage was rather adorable.

Unfortunately, it didn't stay on the air very long. I missed the characters and didn't want to let them go. So, my next writing venture was a script for "Emergency." I had to have been around fifteen at the time, at best guess. It was a truly horrid little script, though not so little, all hand-written in pencil in a bright red spiral notebook. The plot involved Johnny being the hero and rescuing a little girl and becoming a mentor for her, all the while getting settled down by one of the women he was always chasing. I still have this first writing project of any length and I cherish it, not for the quality of writing (which was truly not there), but because I took the inspiration, put it on paper, and followed it through to completion. That is a large part of writing. Taking it to completion.

After this play, I turned to poetry. Poetry is a wonderful thing for teens because it helps to vent emotions they can't discuss out loud. No one ever has to see it. The value is in the writing of it. Most of the poetry I did was also not good. The first one I like; it's about marching band. I was a drummer, carrying the trip-toms (three huge drums hooked together), and during the times the rest of the band stayed silent and just marched along, the drum beat kept them in step. The trip-toms provided the only musical tones during this beat. I loved it. After a parade in which we won first place, I was so excited about the whole thing, I had to put it on paper. This set off an excursion into poetry. A few are still worth reading.

... as this post is quite long enough, I'll save the rest for another day ...

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Part of the inspiration for starting this blog was a recent visit to a local middle school during Author Day. Several of us local authors gave short presentations about what it was like to be a writer to eight grade classes, and it worked well, as we filled several different genres, including fiction and non-fiction.

I'm a literary novelist. I do other genres of writing, also (short stories, poetry, memoirs, and a children's book), but novels are my true love and obsession. Unfortunately, this is rarely a money-earning field. That is not why I'm a writer, though. I'm a writer ... because I am. I didn't dream of being a writer while growing as some will tell you they did. I was a writer. I have done it ever since I can remember. My only question was how it would manifest into my adult world.

I'm horrible at teaching in person. I can explain nearly anything in words, in print (anything I know how to do, that is), but don't ask me to sit with someone and explain how to do anything vocally. So, although I enjoyed going into the school and talking with the students, I feel there were so many things left out of my answers. I want to try to answer them here.

There will be other things thrown in, as well: things I have learned about the writing process, advice I give newer writers, and particularly anything that deals with publishing in a non-traditional format, which I call "indie publishing." I am indie-published, meaning that I did not try to send my novels into a traditional company. I'm doing it on my own, after much research into what both methods entail. Why? The simple answer is that I wanted to maintain control. More detailed answers will follow in further entries.

I want to start, though, with the one question asked of me that I truly wished I had answered much better (blame the nerves of public speaking).

What is your normal day like as a writer?

Here's my normal day in a nutshell (writing tip: be careful about cliches, but don't throw them out altogether):

6:20 am: make sure my oldest child is awake and ready to catch the bus
6:30 am: wake my youngest child so he can start getting ready
7:15 am: make sure he is leaving on time to catch the bus
8:30 am: listen to my favorite DJs and/or music on my alarm clock while trying to convince myself to get up and start my own day
9:00'ish to around noon (this varies depending on the day and what needs to be done that particular day): make coffee!, feed goldfish, check email, spend time in reading/reviewing/entering writing contests/networking with other writers, check work email (for network coordinator job), play with photos (for photography hobby), work on graphics (for my site or others)
noon'ish to around 1:30: find something quick for lunch so my brain doesn't shut down, do stuff around the house that needs to be done, or other things that get my blood circulating (I try to use this time for some time of exercise when I can force myself to do so)
1:30 to 3:00'ish: varies -- including doing research for my current in-progress novel, checking for markets and ways to find exposure for my writing/art, work on my website, checking email, working on NC job as needed, and I may do some writing during this time, or graphic work, and now and then I let myself take a break and chat with a friend or family
3:00 to around 8:00: This is the 'interrupted' part of the day when the kids get home and homework and chores have to be pushed and we have baseball practice or errands to run and dinner to deal with. When there is time, I'm likely doing more correspondence, or looking for markets, or checking on other hobby-related activities and household chores, etc.
after 8:00 until around midnight: I call this "my" time, the time I try to save for writing, either actually sitting down and working on a novel or story, or doing detailed research for one. It's also when I generally write my daily blog entry at (though that also varies). I may have other work to do, though, that pushes my writing time later.

We writers lead such exciting, glamorous lives! (note the sarcasm) I like, though, that I can vary my schedule as I need around my family. Let me say that during much of the time I've been writing, I've also had an outside paying job. Currently, I am very fortunate to be able to spend more time on my writing/art than I have before and I'm trying to use it to the best advantage while I have the opportunity. I don't expect it will be something that can help support the family financially. There are many other jobs out there I can do for that.

I write because it's who I am and I hope it will make a difference.

"Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self."
Cyril Connolly