Monday, December 19, 2011

Writing’s Gifts

This Christmas Eve, with all its promised gifts and with the year’s end soon to urge individuals into introspection, I find myself reflecting on what writing has given me. My ninth-grade teacher would be gratified to know improved grammar is one blessing. To be published one needs to know grammar, plus all the proofing and editing involved demands it. This gift led to a teaching job, a huge gift, but there are many others.
Writing gives my imagination free reign; for once the world is mine (insert evil laugh) and I can do with it what I like. Writing gives me a voice. Does that equate to imaginary power, or power through imagination?
Having a book published, even one not on the NYT Bestsellers list, gave me innumerable insights. The biggest gift writing bestows is not the celebrity or notoriety some writers receive, but satisfaction. Satisfaction in finishing a work and conquering the struggles that erupt throughout the project. (Don’t you struggle at some point in every writing project?) Satisfaction came when a publisher accepted my manuscript, and those readers who have bought my books seem to enjoy my words! Along with satisfaction are closely related aspects of pleasure, perseverance, and accomplishment.
I’ve received more than satisfaction. When I began to recognize my mistakes and learned to correct and improve my work, I learned craft. As I now tell my classes, writing teaches thinking, like following a logical order, and looking at all aspects of a situation to discover both the subtle as well as the obvious choices. I also learned about criticism and rejection, and while difficult to accept, they offer a challenge to do better.
Once introduced into the publishing world, another gift emerged -- a community of writers as varied and interesting as the characters found on a library’s bookshelves: some helpful, friendly, and supportive, some spicy with strong opinions, and others quiet and slow to engage.
Everyone believes they have a story inside them. (If you think the plural pronoun agreement with indefinite singular antecedent is wrong – check out Merriam Webster’s Ask the Editor – it’s such a relief!) I was determined to write mine. I’m sure many writers have similar feelings, and most likely have discovered other gifts. What is stopping your from writing your story?

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. It's about sharing, and although giving is a form of sharing, Thanksgiving doesn't seem so commercial. (However, if I hear one more Black Friday commercial in Broadway's best musical form, I might scream. I love cooking this meal, love sharing it with family and friends. We started yesterday. Bill cleaned. I made two pumpkin pies and an apple pie. (Finally found someone who still sells Spy apples -- best for making pies!) Also made two dozen dinner rolls, for this I tried a new 'quick' recipe. They turned out pretty good. I'll give the kids half of them to take home. They're already wrapped up. Finished off making pumpkin bread, but I screwed that up by putting in some dried apple. Great taste but didn't bake right; so I'll try again next year.

We got up relatively early and finished cleaning. (One thing about entertaining -- at least the house gets cleaned!) I put the turkey in the roaster, and the dressing in the crockpot. That's another new recipe I tried, and it turned out very good. Opps! Just burned the potatoes, How did that happen? I just checked them! I guess we'll have to have instant, and I'm using a dressed-up canned gravy this year. The soup pot is already simmering for the turkey bones. Only family coming today, the last guest just called and they're sick. So food is warming, the candles already lighted, dinner is at 3:00, gave one pie away, kitchen is clean until after dinner, I've had neither breakfast or lunch, so I'm ready to eat!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Memorable Characters

No matter how many stories I read or write, a few characters never leave my soul. Matter of fact, they sometimes seem to haunt me. I first read Elizabeth Bennet's (yes, another Pride and Prejudice fan) in tenth grade, but I've revisited her often, like twenty plus re-readings and I never miss a movie. The new books carrying her story, or her sisters' stories, forward and other plot and setting machinations, do not interest me. Other readers, I know, don't care about her so much, but I'm certain they have one character who they always remember or one who plays a part in their imagination, dreams, or subconscious; for many it might be Harry Potter stars in this role.

Who invited you? Get out of my mind.
Many other character's haunt my subconscious, popping out at the strangest moments, but usually when I'm taking a long walk. It's not only good characters, either, for I often find coercive, mean and twisted characters, whose behavior I found reprehensible in a story, pop into my mind. Other times a character from an otherwise unremarkable story is so strong they break ground and plant themselves in my imagination.

What is this? Some sort of psychological archetype trick of the mind? If that is the case, I'm sure everyone has different characters hopping around in their cerebral cortex, but isn't it rather interesting who shows up?

The trick, of course, for writers is to make sure those characters don't show up in one of their own books. Which is another interesting phenomenon, because often my book characters show up in my brain long before they do a book.

How about other readers? Do you have similar occurrences?

Sunday, September 25, 2011