Writing Conference Jitters

swallow+bird+vintage+image+graphicsfairy007dI will be attending two writing conferences this summer–The Willamette Writer’s Conference and the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference. This is nothing new. I have attended both of them several times in the past.

However, this time, I truly believe The Swallow’s Spring, a historical fantasy novel based on the medieval romance of Tristan and Iseult, is done, and I just finished final revisions on Set in Stone , a middle grade fantasy novel, as well. I know it is time to try to sell them. My gut aches just typing the words.

Why? I’ve pitched them before. I’ve submitted them before. I’ve submitted and sold other stories before. So why such jitters this time?

I think it’s because I believe these novels are truly done. It is time to seriously try to sell them. That means, inevitably, as every writer knows, dealing with rejections and the busy work of sending the novels out somewhere else. Argh! I’d rather write something new.

However, if I don’t submit my novels after all the time I have spent working on them, the fact is I will have wasted a huge chunk of my life. I did not write them for the pleasure of writing, although believe me, the pleasure was intense and real. I wrote them to share. I wrote them for others to enjoy. So, I have to submit to the submission process or self publish, and since I’d rather keep writing new things then embark on the strange, new adventure of self-publishing, I really need to give traditional publishing a try.

Therefore, the jitters. However, I will “soldier on.” Say a little prayer for me, The Swallow’s Spring, and Set in Stone. And I’ll just keep telling myself that I know I will enjoy the conferences because I always love having the opportunity to learn something new.

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Beautiful: It Isn’t All About Appearances

Beauty: It Isn't All About AppearancesLately, I have been organizing my Pinterest Boards, and last night, I worked on my “Authors and Creators” board which features pictures of authors, their homes, offices, and other artifacts of their lives. One particular picture jumped out at me as I was weeding duplicate pins. It was a picture of C.S. Lewis (one of my all time favorite thinkers) and his wife, Joy Davidman Lewis, and I thought, What a funny looking little lady, followed up by the thought, Well, he wasn’t that good-looking himself. And then I was appalled.

I come from a family that fixates on appearances. Often the very first words out of peoples’ mouths regarding people they have met or know is a judgmental comment about their appearance. Some of us are more aware of this than others. Some of us, who feel less “beautiful” than others, are actually so aware of this we experience insecurity or dread at the prospect of a family gathering.

My great aunts on my father’s side, three delightful women that always reminded me of the three fairy godmothers in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, always told me how pretty I was as a child. They told me to stand up straight because I was beautiful enough to be Miss America. Years later, at a family reunion after the birth of my third child ,however, the last living aunt hugged and kissed me and proclaimed, “You have such a pretty face. It’s too bad you’ve put on so much weight.” My heart sank. I had now been relegated to the ranks of  the less-than-attractive outsiders.

My mother’s family is no less guilty. Every person is first assessed by their appearance. They are sometimes found worthy despite their lack of beauty, but make no mistake, lack of a perfect figure or  a beautiful face is definitely viewed as a handicap.

And despite my awareness, despite my own hurt and uneasiness, I had just judged Joy Davidman Lewis and her husband in the same way. Oh, Lord, change my heart!

There is, however, one relative with whom I most closely associate the word “beautiful,” my YeaYea (that’s grandma in Greek.) Although she was not unattractive, her appearance is not the reason I associate true beauty with her. YeaYea used the word beautiful to describe actions, appreciation, and her perception of heart issues. If you made YeaYea a gift, no matter how clumsy your fingers, it was “beautiful” in her estimation. Any kind deed was also assessed as beautiful. Any act of love was beautiful. I want to use the word beautiful, and the idea of beauty as she does.

By all accounts, and by his own revelation of character in his writing, C.S. Lewis was a beautiful man, and so it would seem was his wife. Beauty is not a condition of the skin, face, or form. Beauty is a condition of the heart.

 

Oooh! The “Evil” Outline

Writing K. M. Weiland wrote an awesome post on the Writers Digest website this week titled “7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story.” His opening words hooked me in an instant.

Mention the word outline in a room full of writers, and you’re sure to ignite a firestorm of passionate debate. Writers either love outlines, or they hate them. We either find them liberating, or we can’t stand how confining they are.

Any writer can tell you, this is SO TRUE. There is no better topic to start a violent debate at any gathering of writers than that of “outlining” or “pantsing.” And the most vehement debaters seem to believe that your can only creatively, meaningfully, and powerfully write one way or the other, that the two styles of tackling story are completely antithetical. That is why I was so grateful for Weiland’s reasoned account.

Why? I’m sure you have already guessed, I do both. Mostly, it is a matter of necessity. I have far more time to think of ideas for novels than I actually have to sit down and write them. (I’m sure many of you writers who like me hold a day job probably find yourselves in this same position.) Therefore, when a good idea comes to me, I write it down. When I’m thinking of writing a new novel,which is usually when I am in the throes of writing another novel, I can’t just keep switching gears from one story to the next like a butterfly sampling nectar. If I am ever to finish a project, it must get the bulk of my attention.

And yet… Ideas are everywhere! Therefore, by the time I am ready to start a new novel, I have a pile of ideas (we’re talking multiple inches in height on materials as varied as index cards, paper placemats from my hubby’s favorite Chinese restaurant, cash register receipts, the pretty flowered stationery I keep by my bed, checking account deposit slips–you name it) and the only practical thing to do with them is to string them together in the order I want to use them, like a pearls in a necklace, lest something wonderful be forgotten.

Once I’ve got my stack properly ordered, I begin to write. Do I have every idea nailed down in fine detail? No. Do I have all the links worked out from one planned scene to the next? No. If another wonderful idea comes to me do I reject it because I’ve already organized my stack of ideas? No. If the scene or characters I am writing take me in an unanticipated direction do I lasso them and drag them back to their intended places? No.

I work freely within a framework of ideas that have already excited me. Maybe someday, if I can ever get all the novels that are incubating completed, I might need to work in a different manner. However, at the rate ideas fly at me, I think I’ll probably always have to face the hard choice of what I get to work on next.

What about you? Do you outline, wing it, or throw the two methods into your own crazy blender. Tell me how you like to pull your stories together.

Summer Reading

Reading I know my Goodreads list of reviews looks like I have not been reading this summer, but believe me, I have. What I have not done is get around to posting and reviewing the books I’ve read. My apologies. I have been rather caught up in other responsibilities–organizing my home and office (I promise, I’ll post pictures when done) and preparing for the two writing conferences I will be attending (Willamette Writers and Oregon Christian Writers).

The stack of finished novels on my desk is growing so unwieldy that I’m sure the imminent danger of it toppling over on me will elevate it on my to-do list to the level of emergency.

Until then, what have you been reading this summer. Any recommendations to add to my “want to read” list?

P.S. If you are a parent, don’t forget to use some of your summer “down-time” to read to and with your kids!

Wonderful Words: A Quote from Patrick Overton

Wonderful Words 1This week, my pastor referenced a quote written by Patrick Overton that was very familiar to me. I first encountered it on a greeting card that I bought, for myself, when I was going through a difficult time. I posted the card on my bulletin board and kept it there for well over ten years, until my daughter was going through her own tribulations and I passed it on to her.

These are words that have encouraged, comforted, and sustained me through many trials. It was so sweet to be reminded of them once again, that I knew immediately I wanted to share them here.

When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly

Thank you, Mr. Overton, for the many times your wonderful words reminded me I need not be afraid.

Fortune Cookie Writing Prompt: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt # 83

searchFridays used to always be “Play With Your Words” days here at Literate Lives, where I regularly featured writing prompts to get you, your kids, or your students writing.

My husband has found a new “signature” dish at our favorite, local Chinese restaurant, and so my little stack of fortune cookie slips has begun stacking up.

This week I offer a choice of two prompts. You may want to think of them as journaling prompts, get-to-know-your-character prompts, or story starter prompts. Whichever way you tackle them, have fun, and feel free to share the results as a comment.

  1. “You will be making changes before settling satisfactorily.” What kinds of changes? What, for you or your character is the definition of “satisfactorily”?
  2. “You will be called upon to celebrate some good news.” Hmmm. Whose good news? Do you or your character want to celebrate it? Why or why not?

Have fun. Happy writing!

Stress/De-Stress

Play With Your Words Writing PromptsFriday, I was anxious and weepy. Sunday, I was blissfully at peace with the world. So, what happened between Friday and Sunday, and what can I learn from it as a writer and a person?

Friday was my first full day back home after a week-long trip. Before going away, I had begun my “Big, Summer Project”–expanding and reorganizing my office, which was complicated by the discovery of pantry moths and their larvae hidden away in the folds of notebooks and sheets of paper–which at all times are abundant and all over the place in my office, thus the need for expansion and organization– and lodging between the dust jackets and bindings of hardback books. I was nowhere near done when I departed–after all it is my summer project–and was most distressed to encounter it in all its chaotic glory upon my return.

Furthermore, it was a visiting loved-ones kind of trip (and quiet satisfying, I might add). However, my mission to squeeze in as much fellowship and togetherness as possible caused me to disregard my usual needs to be quiet, read, think, and write. When I got home, I longed to do just that, but being the ever-conscientious person I am, I insisted on unpacking everything and throwing myself back into work around the house. Not a recipe for tranquility.

Sunday, I had nowhere I had to go and, honoring the biblical commandment to rest on the Sabbath, nothing I had to do.  It was bliss. (See Sunday’s post.)

So, what have I learned or, as in much of what follows, re-learned?

  • Big projects can make a big mess before they make a big difference. Be at peace with this reality and know the good results are coming somewhere down the road.
  • I need to write. Years ago, I came to the realization that I think better with a pen in my hand (or, more recently, a keyboard under my fingers).
  • It is worthwhile to take a little time for fun, relaxation, and creativity—I watched t.v. with my husband in the evening, read, and went to stamp-camp (where I crafted 6 greeting cards.) yesterday.
  • Keep God in the equation–always keep God in the equation. I went to church. I read, I studied my Bible, and I prayed.

One of my biggest struggles is to maintain a balance life. Writing, reading, creativity, and my faith are essential for me. What do you do to maintain balance in your own literate lifestyle?