Saturday, 23 April 2011

I Never Planned To Be A Writer!

I never planned to be a writer as my first blog reveals.  Then life happened.  And I was compelled to put it into words.

Though I fretted all week, my second post went up without a hitch.  Thank you Lord.  But now the monkey's on my back again.  Hmmm?  A blog-a-week seemed doable.  No big deal.  Yet what was this irritating rush of adrenaline?

As a closet writer, I've NEVER written under a deadline.  It's STRESSFUL!  And I, for one, will get up 3 hours early to avoid this crazy creature-in-the-making.  Rich or poor, we start with the same number of seconds, minutes and hours.  24 hours is the magic number.  Yet there's always too much to do and not enough time.  How do we use these moments knowing we can save none for tomorrow?

PRIORITIZE!  Yet be on guard . . . time bandits hide everywhere!  

April 14, 2011

It was Thursday!  And the beginning of Spring Term at Santa Barbara City College.  Even better, I was to meet my new editor after class.  She would be my third and final.  Emails were exchanged and we talked on the phone, but today we would meet in person.  It was a big day!

You ask, "Why three?"  The first was my teacher with a light edit.  The second, a classmate who openly volunteered, asking for nothing other than to accompany me to the Oprah Show, if I'm asked.  And now, an editor trained to polish and shine any rough edges.

I was anxious to be back with my peers.  A handful of addicts like me, dedicated writers and wanna-be-authors.  And the new students, yet unaware of their potential, the hard work involved, and if they were ready to step off the edge. 

9:30 a.m.  Cork Millner, our teacher, introduced himself then teased his Groupies.  This was my sixth quarter.  Same class 6 times.  Yet, I wasn't embarrassed, nor alone.  The handful knew the pleasure of each nugget gleaned from the whole.  And the wonder of a new voice, each story plucked from a lifetime. 

Our first class, the craft of Creative Nonfiction, involves imagery, character and dialogue used in fiction entertaining.  I was surprised when he asked me to read.  All I had was Chapter One, my hook.  It was intense for the first class, but I proceeded.  The room fell silent as I opened this door into my life.  No one spoke afterwards.  I could read their faces.  He covered the shock with words.  My blog was mentioned, and I was asked to write the link on the board. 

12:30 p.m.  Kay Thompson Lee, a lovely gracious woman, lives in Santa Barbara.  Her comfortable apartment with its generous balcony, overlooks the quaint college-town street with the ocean peeking through the trees.  Referred by Cork Millner, she edited three of his books. 

Kay showed me the program she used on her laptop to edit.  It allowed corrections and suggestions to show in red, and be applied with a single keystroke.  I appreciated her candor.  We discussed my expectations and priorities, while she affirmed the final decisions would be mine.  And I left confident my work would be treated with respect and openness.

My Journey into Publishing . . .

September 2009

In the beginning, Write From The Start gave me tools to see my work through new eyes.  My teacher agreed to read and critique five chapters each week.  Chapter One was his first:  "My, My - You are a Writer.  Excellent thus far.  Let's see more.  Cork."

I was stunned!  Cork Millner was the first stranger to read my work.  A teacher!  And he liked it!  Being an introvert, I move cautiously.  But his words ignited a fire.  He said I was a writer.  I am a writer! 

Each week his critique fanned this flame.  Finally, my work had worth and my story would be told.  Sixteen years is a long time to write alone.  No one should do what I did!  If you are . . . STOP!  Find a group and join it! 

I'm not writing to brag.  I want to share what a few words from a total stranger can do for a closet writer!  It's scary to step off the edge.  But to fly is exhilarating!!!

Lessons I've learned . . . my two cents.

A story should begin with a hook.  A hook is something from within the story that is moved forward to grab your readers attention, and pull them in.

Keep a notebook and pen by your bed . . . within easy reach . . . and a flashlight!  Wonderful words come at strange times.  When you're not controling them.  When drifting off to sleep, or in the wee hours of daybreak before your feet hit the floor.  Catch them, write them down.  If not, they'll take flight like a red balloon caught in the wind never to return.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

This Closet Writer . . . Goes Public

Being a closet writer, I'm secure behind closed doors.  So I dreaded my first blog wafting through cyberspace for the entire world to read.  The gaping white comment box felt like a black hole waiting to swallow me. 

April 9, 2011

It was now or never!  I called my sister in Ohio to celebrate the launch.  But the instant I hit PUBLISH POST I saw trouble with a capital T.  The templet switched to dark gray concealing my words like a curtain.  And my birds were now magenta!  Not my favorite color.  My sister searched in vain, but the blog was missing . . . this wasn't the way I imagined it.  Lost in cyberspace!  Would I have to write it again?  Eventually, the wandering blog landed in many shades of pink, but then the stubborn thing refused to take comments.  I tinkered with buttons until my eyes burned.  The big question now . . . would my corrections hold? 

My Journey into Publishing . . .

The summer of 2008, I met an intriguing woman who entered her name and number into my cell phone, stating we should stay in touch.  But we never did . . .

Fifteen months later, now in my final rewrite, I still had no clue what to do next.  The woman came to mind, she was a writer.  Of what, I didn't know.  So I called.  Catching her on the fly, I briefly explained my conundrum, at which time she invited me to attend a writing/publishing class she took in Santa Barbara every Thursday.  95.5 miles one way!!  You've got to be joking.

 A coincidence?

Write from the Start was my answer to prayer.  Cork Millner authored this book, subtitled, A Proven Program for Writing and Selling Nonfiction - Even if You've Never Been Published Before, . . . and taught this class for two decades, mentoring now successful authors including Robin NorwoodWomen Who Love Too Much, and Spenser Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese?, to name a few . . . plus he wrote twenty other books himself.

"Creative Nonfiction began in the 1970's," the teacher began.  Little did I know the impact this man would have on my life.  That first day, I learned my intrinsic writing style was creative nonfiction.  In lieu of our first assignment, I handed in Chapter One of my memoir, and was shocked when he asked me to read the following week.  Terror struck!  Read in front of a class of 46?

Cork Millner, a total stranger, liked my work! 

Under his guidance, I immersed myself in this new world like Alice in Wonderland, anxious for Thursdays.  My 95.5 mile drive along Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara became my mini-vacation.  I was mesmerized by the oceans many faces and staggering mountains, inhaling the tangy salt air.  It recharged my soul.  After class I often stopped along the shore to feed the seagulls.  What better way to spend a Thursday?

And the intriguing woman?  Pauline is now one of my closest friends.  We've had the same mentor, we speak the same language.

Lessons I've learned . . .  my two cents.

Every writer should to be part of a group . . . physically.  Share your work by reading it aloud.  Be open to critique.  Listen to other writers read.  There are so many amazing and unique voices out there.  Feel the energy of creative minds all in the same room . . . it's electric.  Creative energy and bonding you can attain no other way. 

Purchase a small, hand-held tape recorder, or something comparable.  Read each word you've written into the recorder.  Play it back.  Listen to the way your reader will hear your words in their heads.  Listen to the flow . . . listen for words you trip over . . . listen for words that are too big or uncommon, words that break the continuity of the flow.  Listen . . . listen . . . listen.  Then rewrite until your writing flows like imported honey . . .

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

In The Beginning . . .

Where do I begin?  I met the love of my life, we were married, a thousand other things happened, and then he took his own life.  And he was a Vietnam Vet.

My husband fought a war on foreign soil and came back in one piece.  On the outside that is.  I fought the demons that followed him home because of that war, for the next fifteen years.  Like Charles Dickens said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  I knew them both well.  So I wrote a book.  A book to help deal with the grief, confusion, anger, memories, and my broken heart, and to reach out to the endless others who are on the same journey.  There are still wars, men and women are still fighting, and wives and husbands are still desperate to make sense of it all.  I know I am.

And now I'm writing a blog because I wrote a book.  And my book wants to be published.  Even though I don't know how, I will figure it out.  There's so much to learn.  Where do I start?  Agents, editors, publishers, marketing . . . fear.

I feel like I'm about to climb a mountain after dark with only a flashlight and a sky filled with stars.