April 30, 2010

Orange High Heels Spark Creativity

Yesterday I had lunch with "E" a literary agent and friend. She was in town to speak at the Romance Times Book Lovers Conference in Columbus.

It was sunny with blue skies as we walked from the Hyatt to a nearby restaurant, just enough warm breeze on our arms to feel good. Dressed up and downtown. How fun is that? Something I do only often enough to appreciate it.

As we ate we talked about her work, what books she's recently placed with publishers, how the industry is changing, how hard it is to sell good books, and then a bit about our personal lives.

Woe is me, she then asked about my current project. I was dreading the question. Let me explain, E was my agent for a couple of years and marketed my very first novel, a mainstream titled HUNGRY FOR CHOCOLATE, which was about a surrogacy gone wrong. Set in West Virginia, with a cast of zany characters, E loved it. (Oh, everyone in WV is not zany - just MY characters). The book was ultimately rejected and is now resting on my desk for another go through. The rough draft took two months to write and a year and a half to finish. When I first submitted it to E she didn't like the ending. I rewrote it and she then loved it enough to accept it.

I explained the premise for my current W.I.P. to her which she seemed to like. Then I told her about the three novels I had not finished. She wanted to know why. I explained that my process is to write a few pages, and then to start rewriting. Up until now that was the way I worked and I hadn't been able to change it.

I asked her for some advice. This is what she shared.

She tells her women authors who edit too early, to buy two bows, one blue and one pink - or any other two colors. One color is to be worn while creating the first draft - no editing allowed before writing the end. PERIOD. The other color will be worn when editing, and that begins only after the book is finished. (Guys will have to come up with their own version of the bows).

It got me to thinking as we finished our talk. I didn't dig the bow idea. But a light bulb went off when I thought of my beautiful orange high heels. Now my mind started racing. I would write daily on my story wearing my orange high heels. I would not edit, ever, while wearing those beautiful shoes. I'd finish the novel. Each writing session, the shoes would remind me that I'd made a commitment to myself. And to E. I think we high five-ed.

So I'm starting fresh on Monday. I'll be hard at work on my story wearing my orange high heels. I'll be wearing a smile. The shoes just naturally do that to me.

How about you? Do you have a process by which you work? Does it work well or not at all? How do you finish a novel? Or are you one of those persons for whom writing comes naturally, and you just write the novel and send it off?

I always start out loving my story and seeing so much potential. Then the rewriting starts and I lose focus and start changing everything. At that point, I become frustrated and overwhelmed.

This time, I'm going to let my orange high heels spark my creativity.

I'll be reporting my progress here weekly. If you have any advice, feel free to share. I hope you will share your tips as well as your progress with me.

Blessings on this lovely Friday afternoon! And on this next writing journey.

April 28, 2010

Celebrating Orange Shoe Day...

I celebrated Orange Shoe Day yesterday by wearing my new orange strappy heels, jeans, and my orange tank top. It seemed the least I could do in their honor - was give them their very own day. Besides, once they're placed in my closet next to 22 other pairs of shoes they'll become ordinary. Or maybe not. Certainly, their brightness will cast a glow on the other residents in my closet. Plain beige, brown, and black shoes.

I was given my orange strappy heels by Katrin, my new YA friend from Germany. I felt I needed to give my new shoes a warm welcome and what better way to pay tribute to them than by by wearing them, proclaiming the day Orange Shoe Day, and turning an otherwise ordinary day into something special. Now, all orange shoes have a day of their own.

I feel pretty spectacular in them too. No matter that other things in my life were falling apart. All I had to do was look downward at my toes peeking out of those orange straps and I smiled. The sun shone brighter. The clouds were puffier. The sky was bluer. At least from where I sat at my computer in my orange shoes, that was so.

What I learned from my experience yesterday basically was how to turn lemons into lemonade. The day wasn't going so well. I needed a lift, and there were those orange shoes sitting on the floor looking, well, just looking very orange and bright. And they made me smile. So the rest is history.

We have the ability to be happy or sad. So do something today to give your day a lift.
Be it orange shoes or a sweet Florida orange to eat. Smile. And think of me in my orange shoes!


April 25, 2010

Clearing Your desk and Your Head....

My thoughts can't seem to get wrapped around writing today. Instead, my head is filled to capacity with thoughts of not only our time in Wisconsin with Jill and the grandkids but also of putting the house in order and putting away all the clothes and suitcases. Now that most of it is finished, I'm having trouble switching gears. I can't seem to get into my story because of all that's playing out on the screen of my mind.

Usually all I need to do is to clear my writing space of clutter and sit down and turn on the computer.

Not today. I've done all that and it isn't working. It seems I must clear my head as well.

How do you clear your head for writing when you've been away for a week or so? What works for you? Can you just sit down and start tapping out words on the computer? Or do you have to fix a cup of tea? Put on a cozy sweater? Light a candle or two? Put on the coffee pot?

What signals your move toward the creative world?

Nothing has worked for me today. Instead, I'm having an early night.

I've learned that a well rested writer writes much better than one that has gone with too little sleep.

Look forward to hearing your tips! Thanks!

April 19, 2010

Tennessee Williams on writing...

I'm learning to put myself first. It should be against the law of nature to have to learn to take care of oneself. (It's usually the female who has to learn this - it comes naturally to the male species!)

It certainly isn't something I've ever been encouraged to do. I learned from strong women who were married to strong men. They taught me to take care of the men first, then the children, then the community, and then the church. I don't remember anyone ever telling me to take care of myself. If anyone did, it would have been my mother, my greatest cheer leader and fan.

Taking care of oneself is kind of like money in the bank.

A financial counselor will tell you to pay yourself first before doling out to anyone else. Excellent advice for all of us, especially writers.

I'm slowly realizing that if I don't take care of myself, nobody else will. Knock me over the head. I feel as though I've JUST learned something profound. Shouldn't I already know this at my age?

Why do I feel compelled to take care of everyone in my life except myself? No naps for me. No built in vacations. No time off. I didn't think I was a martyr - but am I?

When it comes time for me, for my writing, I'm so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I work a short time and quit. My mind is clouded with the needs and wants of others.

So, paying oneself is essential to getting the work done. My new way of taking care of my writer self is to write first thing every day before I get exhausted with the cares and woes of the day. Those I can give attention to late in the day when my mind is already full of my own work.

Tennessee Williams said, "When I stop working the rest of the day is posthumous. I'm only really alive when I'm writing." I bet he didn't wear himself out doing things for other people or worrying if he didn't. I bet he would never go to his writing wrung out like a dish cloth. No, I bet he went to his work fresh and ready to do battle with the page, with his characters, his ideas. Like Tennessee, I am only really alive when I am writing.

What do you think about the writer doing his work first? How do you handle writing and the rest of your life. Are you like me, writing hit or miss, or are you dedicated and get to your desk first thing every morning?

Look forward to hearing from you.

April 13, 2010

Shedding my writer's skin...

R and I are on our way to Wisconsin, driving and taking our time. We're going to visit our daughter, Jill, and her husband, Jason, along with the grandchildren, eight year old triplets, Mackenzie Lauren, Chase Andrew, and Tanner Riley, and their four year old brother, Austin Cole.

We saw Chase a few weeks ago when he came to visit but we haven't seen the rest of the family since Christmas. We're excited to be getting away from home for a few days and visiting them at their home. We love seeing all their "things," which they show us with great enthusiasm - what's new in their rooms, what treasures they've collected recently, their school papers. I read to them and I listen, to their stories - and they have dozens- and to them reading their books to me. They have quite a library of their own. I'm pleased that they love books, that they love to read, and that they love to write stories of their own.

On the trip, I'm working on shedding my writer's skin and donning my grandma's persona. (I won't say grandma's skin because I already have that!) I remind myself that for the next few days I won't get frustrated at not being able to write when the mood strikes. I'll think of someone else besides myself. O.K. that one is hard. Writers have to be selfish if they are to get the work done.

I promise only to check email. No face book, no blogging, no working on my story.

Once the hugs and kisses start I'll have no trouble changing gears. It's the one thing I can give up writing for, grandmothering. A few days of uninterrupted unconditional love. Nothing in the world compares.


April 10, 2010

Writing and there's always something else...

Some days no matter how hard you try there is always something else to do before you can sit down to write.

I can't write when the sink is full of dishes. So I do the dishes.

I can't write when the bed is unmade. So I make the bed.

I can't write when there are wet towels. So I wash a load of laundry, dry, fold, and put everything away.

I check to see what's for dinner. (Can't write unless I know that!) Okay, tonight we can have leftover spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread.

Then a visiting baby boy, four months old, eyes of blue, and smelling of Johnson's baby lotion needs to be rocked. That takes at least thirty minutes to satisfy my nurturing gene. I come away smelling of baby - what a lovely scent.

Next, it's on to yoga for strengthening and limbering my body. Feels great. Thanks, Rodney Yee, for coming up with moves I can master.

Then I MUST read my Daily Bread and tend to my spiritual side.

Oh, I forgot to eat this morning - well a banana and a slice of apple bread didn't do the job. Okay, a piece of toast and I'm now good to go.

I notice my hair could use some attention and so could the kitchen floor.

I stop there. No more excuses. I'm pulling up my story on my laptop and sitting down.

Bon Voyage. I'm off to feed my creative side.

Happy writing.

April 7, 2010

More on my dad

Thanks for reading my post about the mining accident. I appreciate all the comments about my dad. And prayers for the miners.

Losing my father at an early age is a subject close to my heart and I realized as I went over my WIP that my little Daisy has no father - I'll be able to put all my pent up emotions to use when I write that part of my story.

I can't even think the word "father" without having a whole gamut of emotions, a flood of tears and all. Strange isn't it to miss something you don't remember having.

I'm sure that not having a father in my life, made me choose someone older to marry. I've always felt secure and protected by my husband.

Any thoughts on how we choose our life partners?

Let's pray they find the miners soon, whatever the outcome. The families need to bring them home.


Montcoal, West Virginia & my daddy's death

The mining disaster in Montcoal, West Virginia opened up a wound in my soul that has never completely healed. Whether miners lose their lives in a disaster or lose their lives from the coal dust they breath every day, it makes me sad to think there are men still going underground to make a living so that someone else can live well and long.

Cecil Carl Null, my daddy, worked in the mines in Raleigh, West Virginia in the 1940's and died at age of 47 of lung disease. I was two when he died. I have memories of him which are either real or set in place by stories told by my sisters, Sue, Ella, or Maxine.

I used to cry for him when I was mad at the world, sure that if he were here he'd save me from my heartache. I still believe that. Little girls need a strong daddy to protect them. I had one but he watched over me from Heaven. Believe me I liked the idea of having a daddy in Heaven because my friends didn't have that. They had daddies who came home for dinner every night. Who pushed them on a swing at the park and who wiped away their tears when they cried. I would have given up the idea of having a daddy in heaven for one moment of a real daddy to hold me his arms.

I've prayed since the news came that there was another mine explosion. I pray not just for the miners and their loved ones but for the laws governing mining to be more stringent and more geared to protecting the lives of the miners and not lining the pockets of the mine owners.

In my fiction I often try to give voice to the underdog, those who might not otherwise have the words to give us their life stories. Sometimes I'm successful. Sometimes not.
West Virginia and her people are in my blood. I believe I am in their blood as well.

Have a blessed day. And please pray for the 4 miners who may still be alive.

April 5, 2010

Just Writing it vs Writing it RIGHT...

Part of the problem I have with working on novels is I want to write it right the first time. I know I cannot although there may be writers who can. I'm a huge rewriter. It seems I can't give myself permission to just write it. I want to "write it right." Do you have that problem?

When I wrote HUNGRY FOR CHOCOLATE I came home after a few days at a writing retreat and I sat down and wrote every day for two months, not allowing myself any major rewrites. (WHY WAS I SO STRONG THEN?) I allowed myself to look over the pages at night and to make a few minor changes the next morning then I required myself to continue. In two months I had finished the rough draft. IT took many more drafts to get the novel to where it is today. And it hasn't sold. So. What am I missing?

Now, I'm so much smarter and have more years of writing under my belt and I still want to second guess every other word I write. Do I need intense hypnosis to make me lose the desire to rewrite. I want to rewrite before I even write. It's almost an obsession, I'm ashamed to say.

I do well with short stories and am successful with essays and short articles. But my heart longs to have a book on the shelf.

Yet, I have all these unfinished novels. I think I need to be chained to my desk and not allowed to leave until I write "the end" at the end of a novel.

I'm hoping this new story on which I'm working will keep me motivated to finish it, novel style.

I've been doing well but I allow interruptions that I shouldn't. The phone is my biggest enemy. I love to talk.

I'm off here now to make a sign to put on my desk. DO NOT DISTURB. Plus tomorrow I'm turning off the phone. Somehow I'm going to make it through this story to "the end."
Let me know what works for you! Thanks! AND blessings.

April 3, 2010

What does candy have to do with Easter? A lot!

It's the day before Easter Sunday and I ate all the Easter candy, including 24 small chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, and a bag of fruity jelly beans.
I went to the corner mini mart this afternoon to avoid going into town and bought a bag of small Hersheys bars for the kiddies tomorrow and a bag of fruity jelly beans, the good ones. The Hershey bars are almost gone already - I knew I shouldn't have opened them. I only had one but fed them to the grandkids who were helping R work in the yard. They did a super job and I owe them more than a candy bar. I did give them lunch as well. So, now, what to do for candy tomorrow when the kiddies come?
I hope Susan makes a WalMart run this evening. I can usually count on her.

I'm wondering what your favorite candy is for a holiday or just for every day.
My blogging buddy from the farm, Gail, said she loves malted milk balls. I do too.
I'm trying to find a candy I do not love just to stock and have in the house when we have the kids over. So far everything currently being made is my very most favorite.

I've been on a writing hiatus since getting two entries in for the WV writers contest Mar. 31. I love the feeling that comes after being so productive.

I've been shopping, cooking, cleaning for tomorrow when we'll have dinner for the family. Yesterday, I actually helped with pulling weeds, my least favorite thing in the world to do. AND I cleaned the grill until it looks like a new one. I had grease from head to toe. Insane? Probably. I doubt anyone will see that since we aren't grilling, or know or care that the yard is spruced, or that I cleaned all the floors and dusted the furniture - most of it anyway. The pieces visible.

That's the fun of having people over. When they ask what you've been doing you can always say, "Nothing." Then, "Right."

That's it. Just want to report that R and I are working our way through the FRIENDS episodes. Seasons 1-10. WE are now on nine. Season eight was a hoot for some reason, funnier than most. Last winter we worked our way through the series, The Gilmore Girls. If you haven't watched that series you must. It's heartwarming. I was sad when we watched the last episode. It's full of interesting characters for those of you who create characters and the town itself is a wonderful character.