What was I going to say to a group of eighth-graders? Why do I write?

semi finalist

Why do I write? A teacher friend of mine honored me by reading portions of my book Terra’s Call to her eighth-grade classes. She kept me informed about their continued interest and, in my excitement, I blurted out an offer to speak to her kids about writing. She accepted.

One reason I prefer writing to speaking is that my spoken words trip me up more often than not, and this time they trapped me in a commitment to speak to a group of kids who are, undoubtedly, going through the rigors of hormonal changes in addition to problems and issues that would fund a therapist’s villa in the Mediterranean, if they could afford a therapist. What words could I possibly say that would encourage them, engage them and keep their interest?

Why do I write? I could say it’s because I grew up without television, forced to read for entertainment and allowed to read anything I was able to understand, and much that I wasn’t ready for. How many of them would be able to relate to the world I grew up in, without electronics and in a land where I had to learn the language or flounder? Are there any military brats among them? Perhaps. Would I bore the rest with my accounts of a life lived long before they were thought of? Perhaps.

What if I turned the focus on them? Kids live inside their own skins. Life for some of them is all about self-preservation; survival. What gift could I leave them with? What do they need to know about themselves that they may or may not already know?

The speech formed in the middle of the night, in that realm of half-sleep where God sometimes speaks in a nearly-audible voice and ideas fall like rain, filling puddles with scenes and characters. This felt like a clear pool of light. Share my background. That’s a given. They won’t know anything about me. Why is this old lady talking to them about teenagers in her book?

Segue to a question that only they can answer. Each of the characters in Terra’s Call has a super power. What about the eighth-graders? What if they knew that each of them has at least two super powers? Can they guess what they are? If they would hang on until the end of my talk, I’d reveal the secret to them. Now what? I had a beginning and an end, so what comes in the middle?

I took a writing course where I learned that the active voice is better than the passive voice in most cases. With all the books I’ve read, you’d think I’d know that instinctively, and yes, the books I enjoy the most are written that way. The course defined my gut reaction in a way that I would later use in my writings. I passed that nugget along, with examples of the different voices. The speech was complete. What are the super powers that every young person in that room and in every room in every school shares? Stay with me and I’ll tell you at the end.

How do I define the drive, the need to express on my laptop what I can’t easily say? When the words come, the ideas flow and my characters play out scenes and conversations in my head, the pure magic of electric creativity shimmers through my fingertips. It’s happening, I celebrate and the keyboard clacks almost as quickly as I think. This is easy and I feel alive and vibrant.

And then, the crash. I’m stuck, held in a bog of a scene that goes nowhere and means nothing in the narrative. My feet, my mind, are held captive in viscous tar, and struggling only pulls me in deeper. Why do I write when I feel completely inadequate, even stupid with a void for a brain and my font of ideas runs dry? What do I do then?

I wait and pray. I spend time with my ever-supportive husband. I shop and visit family and go to the movies and meet with other writer friends for some quick exercises with prompts. I refill my empty tanks with life and love and laughter and people. And then, in the middle of the night, or perhaps while I’m driving or in the shower, the light comes on and my characters speak to me again, and I see them living their next scene. That’s how Terra’s Call happened. That’s how Triton’s Call is happening now.

When I entered my first contest with Terra’s Call, my first fiction work and the first book in the TetraSphere series, I had no expectations. I entered simply to try something I’d never done before. Imagine my surprise when I received an email informing me that Terra’s Call is a semifinalist in the published fiction for youth – young adult/new adult genre category of the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards competition. A semifinalist! I’m doing a happy dance right now. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be a finalist.

Why do I write? Because I share the same super powers those eighth graders have. You do, too. Here they are:

  1. Imagination. If you’ve ever spent a moment daydreaming; if you’ve invented anything or dreamed up a practical joke to play on someone or interviewed for a job or read a book or done something out of the ordinary, then you have it, too.
  2. The ability to choose your path. You can make good choices or bad choices. Your choices may be limited by your circumstance, or they might break you out of things that limit you. You have the ability to forge a path based on the choices you make.

Why do I write? I write because I have to.

 

They LIVE!

Some amazing new kids have made themselves at home in my brain. Each one clamors for individual attention. They want to be recognized, commiserated with, understood and loved. They need to make sense of their world and how they fit into it.

They speak to me and to each other in my dreams. When I awake, I remember snippets, but have lost the richness of the interaction. I try to recapture it, with limited success. They’ll fill it in for me later.

As I drive, one interrupts with an observation, and another points out a unique color in the sky.  I cannot write while driving. I ask them to remember, because I know I won’t.

While I’m showering, I see a scene as it happens. The action plays out in my mind and I forget to shave one leg in my hurry to get to the computer. Here I am, hair dripping wet, hurriedly dressed, no makeup, unwilling to move to the kitchen for some breakfast.

They have names, these characters, and personalities; histories, and gifts. In fact, they’ve given me their names. I see their faces. When I get an attribute wrong, they correct me. I’m their mouthpiece. My hands will craft it, but the story is theirs to tell. I’m only the reporter – the scribe.

Is this what it’s like to write fiction? I don’t know how it will unfold, but I now know that it will. The plot thickens, as they say, and I see obstacles and conflicts coming. My characters are smart and they will have help. The world needs saving, and they are the only ones who can do it. I believe in them.

The Creator of the Universe has given me this new family in my head, as if we don’t already have enough children and grandchildren. Truth be told, we don’t. There is always room for more.

My love of reading developed from the life God gave me as a military Brat growing up overseas. I started writing late in life, but now that the Lord has unwrapped this new gift, I can’t stop.

My characters are alive and growing. I can hardly wait to read their story.

Howling at the Moon

I’d like to say we’re shape-shifters because that would just be cool. Sometimes I feel like one, when the dark side appears on those rare occasions. This wasn’t one of them. Imagine immersing yourself in a warm pool of shimmering talent under a full moon. You come out of the water, shake droplets from your fur… Too much? 

The truth is, we sat around a big table, eating, talking, socializing — doing what any group of people does in a private room at a restaurant. For some of us, it was the first such meeting. We were there to howl at the Moon — not as werewolves, but as writers and musicians. 

From poetry to fiction, folk tales to inspirational writing, we were encouraged, enthusiastic, entertained and excited to get to know others driven by the need to create. It was a gathering of souls intent on communicating, eager to connect as humans with something to share. 

You are vulnerable when you share your work openly among people who are, themselves, brilliantly talented. I was unsure whether I’d be willing to read to this group. What if they don’t like my writing? What if they criticize? What if they don’t laugh at what I think is funny? What if I sound like a dork? What does a dork sound like?

I had nothing to fear. Howling at the Moon is a bonding experience. I felt lifted up and encouraged. I made some new friends.

If you’re a published writer, hope to be one, or just dabble in it, I encourage you to join a local writer’s group. The two I belong to are not critique groups, but suggestions and help are offered when asked for.

The organizer gives us prompts and a set amount of time to write something — anything — that has to do with the prompt. Afterwards, we can choose to share what we’ve written or not. I can feel the old brain become more elastic as I try to meet the challenges. 

Writing is a solitary exercise, but it doesn’t mean you have to be alone to create. There are worlds to explore, friends to meet, and a big old Moon to howl at! 

IF YOU CAN DREAM IT…

I have always believed that we can imagine only what is possible. Science fiction, fantasy and art are venues where seeds of dreams are germinated, nurtured and eventually born as reality — sometimes in our lifetimes.

In the movie MINORITY REPORT starring Tom Cruise, automobiles were automated. Imagine the technology it took to produce a Sci-Fi movie depicting non-existent technology! Yet, here we are, just a few years later…

Volvo has been testing self-driving cars in traffic in Sweden. Audi has begun a cross-country test drive in the USA of an automated car using Delphi technology. The car is traveling from the Golden Gate Bridge to midtown Manhattan. Three passengers are on board, with one in the driver’s seat in case human intervention is necessary. Mercedes and BMW are keeping up with self-driving technology of their own. Google has its own version.

In the late fifteenth century, Hieronymus Bosch painted surrealistic landscapes that seem to be depictions of another world. In one, a pink rocket sits on a rocky island in the Garden of Eden. In another, an interracial crowd cavorts without clothing among earthly animals and unearthly buildings and glass bubbles. His paintings are haunting, with flying ships, creatures that rival Tolkien’s orcs and armored fish that carry passengers. I wonder if his works inspired Salvador Dali. Today, we see the reality of much of what he imagined, in a much less twisted way. Sky ships, submarines, rockets – all commonplace today.

Leonardo da Vinci invented an early helicopter, a flying machine, the anemometer, a parachute, an armored car, a triple barrel canon, the clock, scuba gear, a revolving bridge, a robot and the precursor to the self-driving car – a self-propelled cart. Da Vinci and Bosch were contemporaries in the late 1400’s to early 1500’s.

Long before cell phones became extensions of ourselves, the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise routinely used their communicators over vast distances. Dryers seem to have mastered the art of teleportation, at least where socks are concerned. If there’s any truth to this imagination theory, we’re close to getting “beamed” to our island vacation every winter.

In James Cameron’s AVATAR, Pandora is a moon born of imagination; inhabited by extraordinary creatures, bio-luminescent landscapes and floating mountains. Could such a place exist? Is there anyone who can disprove the possibility?

We routinely fly today. We take trains that travel at super speed, drive our own vehicles, use robots, have personal computers and carry little hand-held devices that have more computing power than the linking of dozens of the room-sized computers I learned on more than forty years ago.

Anything we can imagine is possible. If that is true, then human minds cannot imagine what is impossible — even in dreams. My theory is based on nothing concrete or scientific, but it would be as difficult to disprove as to prove. How can you prove that we can or cannot conceive of the impossible? We can’t see into the future — yet.

Imagination fuels growth, inspires creativity and invention, and spills out onto paper in the hands of writers and artists. If you can dream it, it is possible. See you on Pandora!

When Life Gets In The Way

My husband has learned that when I start snapping at him, yelling at the commentator on the news program, or shouting at other drivers on the road when we’re traveling, I probably need to eat something. Hunger makes me cranky — sometimes before I know I’m hungry.

The same thing happens when a life event interrupts my need to write; only then it’s more like mental constipation. Words, thoughts and ideas swirl around in my mind, stirred up by a faint sense of guilt and fueled by an anxious need to get my fingers on the keyboard. Then, when I do get a moment to write, nothing comes out.

The daily tasks and schedules of life are not what I’m talking about. I welcome and heartily participate in time spent with loved ones or in pursuit of relaxation or business. It’s the other stuff; when someone is sick, or the car needs repairs. It’s when one crisis chases another in quick succession. I know you know what I mean. If your heart is beating, you’ve been there, too.

So how do we handle it when life gets in the way of our writing? I came across this post by Melissa Donovan on the Writing Forward site, entitled “The Best 22 Writing Tips Ever“.  Click on it!

I was inspired to share it with you, and so my fingers have had a little exercise on the keyboard today, and my mind is feeling much clearer, thank you.

How Reliable Are They?

I keep telling myself, I’m a READER, not a writer! There are so many great books and talented writers out there. Who needs one more? What do I have to say that hasn’t been said much better by someone else?

Here’s a writer who struggles much the same way I do. I count her among the ones I love reading, especially now that her own self-doubt has made her dear to me.

Let her encourage you, too…

Write something!

In high school we did an exercise in “stream of consciousness” writing. Let your thoughts pour out on paper in whatever random way they choose. I’ve known people who practice that style of talking. I sometimes want to say, “Slow down. My ears can’t keep up!” Neither can my fingers on the keyboard keep up with my jumbled thoughts.

I’ve been reading some really great blogs lately. I’ve shared a couple and will probably share more. We can all stand to learn from others. We can also pass along what we know, and sometimes what we question.

What am I thinking? I thought you’d never ask.

I pick up the kids from school today. We’ll come home, have a snack, do homework and play outside. The day is perfect. There’s not a cloud anywhere. A soft breeze is blowing and the temperature will reach a comfy 75 degrees. It’s February, and we’re having a cold snap.

I’ll continue tossing stuff from our black-hole office tomorrow, and get ready to assemble our new computer and move the old one to my husband’s desk, once we find it. The desk, I mean. I know where the computer is.

On Saturday, I’ll get to meet a bunch of local authors for the first time at a writer’s workshop. I’m very excited about that! Then I pick up the grandkids from home and bring them over for a fun, and sleepless, sleepover! Church on Sunday, followed by a birthday party for our Pastor, and then, because of our advanced ages, we get to take a NAP!

Next week we prepare for one of those trips we’d never make without a definite purpose. We’re heading NORTH in February. I don’t understand why NORTH doesn’t just come SOUTH for the winter.

The many people we love there will warm us from the heart-side, so, as long as the roads remain clear, we’re going.

That’s the overview. What really goes on in the brain includes details and plans and memories and things I want to say and do and be, and my view of that person walking her dog in the sunshine, and that my neighbor’s garage door is open, and wondering why the trash truck hasn’t been by yet and I’d better stop wasting your time and mine and get to writing.

By now you’ve probably figured out that you’d rather read the great posts from the bloggers I admire! I know I would!

I especially love the words of the original and best Author ever! Here’s Isaiah 55:8: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.” (NIV)  THANK GOODNESS! Can you imagine a world built on our slapdash human thoughts?

If you can, WRITE about it!

Where do the Mornings GO?

The most productive time of day for me is morning. The fact that I’m also a night owl makes for a sleepy and often slow start to the full day that’s stuffed between the rising and setting of Patty.

I get up, make myself presentable, drink my shake, read the Bible and a few sections of assorted devotionals, and wonder what happened to the morning? Sometimes I take notes as I read and they flow into other thoughts. I spend much of the time sitting right here, in front of this lovely screen — time that isn’t taken up by moms, grandkids, laundry, cleaning, errands, appointments, hubby, reading great books or watching favorite programs.

Does it happen to you, that when you buy a new car, all you seem to see are other cars like yours? Every time I was expecting a baby, the world seemed populated by pregnant women. I’m a new author, so guess who I notice the most?

This morning I came across a Blogger who asked a question I often ask myself. How do other writers schedule their creative time? I know that when I’m on a roll, I can write quite a bit every morning. It’s time to dust that habit off and exercise it again. The book that’s knocking around in my brain will have a better chance of getting out if I open the gate.

Maybe it’s because I’m a new author that I’m so curious about other writers.  I visited her page on FaceBook, Choghig Kazandjian, and learned that she’s a Writer, a Blogger and an Educator. She has written four books to date. Imagine, four books! Take a look!

Want to know how other writers manage to get their books written? Here’s a link to her informative blog: Chikikir: Fascinating Mechanics of Writing

I’m off to learn and grow. At my age, I need all the help I can get!

Writers Write!

Welcome to my Blog!

This is a relatively new world and I’m feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland. I’m eager to explore, a little hesitant at times, and find myself either too big or too small too often. Patience, patience, as my mom would say. It’ll all fall into place eventually.

I hope you enjoy my posts as much as I enjoy writing them. At least a little as much? Here we go!

Writers write, right? So what’s with all this other stuff?

My first book, Reflections of a Misfit, is published! It’s real! I gently lifted the first copy from the box, caressed its smooth cover, opened it carefully to see my words, my name, shining at me from the pages.

Okay, it wasn’t that great, but I whooped and hollered as if I’d won the lottery! We did it! We did it! I include my husband in the “we” because he suffered through many a bowl of soup as I buried myself in the writing. I include God in the “we” because He gave me the kick in the pants I needed to put my reflections in book form. When you read the book, you’ll understand.

There is nothing like the feeling of holding your own real book in your hands for the first time, with the possible exception of holding your newborn baby. However, much like having a baby, the work begins with the birth. How will people hear about it? Who will want to read it? What good is a book without readers?

The way I figure it, one of two things is going to happen here. My rusty old brain will loosen up and begin to regain its youthful vigor, or the overload of new information flooding my mind is about to clog it up irreparably.

I’ll go with the first, I think. So here we go, on our next adventure. I want to write. I need to learn to promote. I want to read all the books written by my new author friends I’m meeting in this process of stretching the old noggin across the canyons and hills of social media.

I’m going to have to live forever.

Thankfully, God has that covered. I hope I get to write in Heaven.