Responsibility #3: Supporting Writers

Present word count of WIP:  49,832

(Pitiful progress, I know. I’ll try and make up for it while traveling to Utah this weekend.)

In my earlier post about a writer’s responsibilities, I listed #3 as:

We have to support our fellow writers.

What goes around comes around. That’s probably the main reason most of us who struggle to get our writing out there put effort into supporting each other.

The writing community is pretty tightly knit, in and of itself. After all, writers always seem to be on the bottom of the totem pole–whether we’re talking about movies, plays, or books. The biggest Oscars (for Best Picture) or Tonys (Best Play or Musical) go to moneymen–producers–while the creative individual(s) behind the whole story are generally ignored once the picture goes into production. At least, when it comes to awards, the publishing industry has it right. The writers are the ones recognized, not their publishers. However, too many times writers feel like they get little to no respect even in the publishing industry. So, we have to watch out for each other.

That’s why we’ve got groups like PEN American Center, which is only “one of 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.” That’s why we’ve got Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. That’s why we’ve got a group for nearly every genre, not to mention all the online groups that help us navigate the complicated waters of getting published.

Then there are other, more specialized groups like American Night Writers Association and LDStorymakers, which are specialized to fit the needs of LDS writers and/or authors.

Yes, one of the ways we can help support each other is by joining one or more of these groups and being involved to the extent that we gain writing friends who will, hopefully, support us as we support them. There is always power in numbers.

Dave Wolverton (aka Dave Farland)

But there’s an even stronger impetus, I feel, for supporting other writers. It’s not about getting anything back for yourself. It’s about helping to grow literacy in this world. Talents always come with responsibility. If we have a gift for the written word, it’s incumbent on us to not only share it, but to spread it among others. I remember being so impressed with Dave Wolverton and the way he freely provides so much help to other writers on their way up the ladder. He doesn’t seem to see them as his competition. I think he sees them more as his legacy.

Let’s help each other freely and build a legacy of literacy.

Originally posted 2012-03-30 13:49:59.

I Have a Book Deal!

Present word count of WIP:  47,161 (I know…no increase, but I did finish outlining the entire book!)

I am very excited to announce that Walnut Springs Press will be publishing my second novel, Laps (though the title will likely be different), later this year…probably late summer or early fall! I promise more details as they develop.

I believe I have the recent ANWA Conference to thank for helping to seal this deal. While there, I was able to meet with their editor, Linda Mulleneaux, and I’m sure that my winning a couple of awards in their BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest made a favorable impression, as well. Thanks so much, ANWA!

Here’s a taste of the book (taken from my first chapter) to whet your appetite:

Budding writers could be so defensive, Daphne thought, not for the first time. The women she taught in her graduate tutorial bruised like teenagers, pouting and suffering in silence. Most of the men argued with their jaws clenched—none more so than Reuben. She picked up his short story anyway, drew in a breath, and read aloud his opening sentence.

“Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun.” She paused and looked up at the clock on the back wall. Five minutes to go. “To be honest, this opening takes the reader nowhere. Yes, it may tell us Merrick is lazy . . . or it may not.”

Reuben raised his hand, the muscles in his face already working, and began to squabble with her assertion. Guy, the only truly talented writer in the class, wasn’t there to take her side. So she chewed on the inside of her cheek as Reuben went on and on about the visual quality of “languished.”

When he finished, she said, “I suppose you don’t care about getting published then,” and dismissed the class. As he passed her desk, she heard him call her “narcissistic” under his breath along with another unflattering term. He was wrong. She hadn’t found the right word for herself yet, but she was definitely not narcissistic.

Still stressed when she pulled into her garage a half hour later, Daphne headed straight for her pool. She checked the desert sky. No moon. She’d swim without a suit, then, shielded by the wall of palms, hibiscus, and oleander surrounding her backyard. Since the death of her parents, she’d used moonless nights to such advantage.

As she started to unbutton her blouse, she noticed that one of the four dark shapes she knew to be her patio chairs had been moved back several inches from the circular glass table with the umbrella. A sense of foreboding crept up the back of her neck like a spindly-legged spider, and she shivered. She never left a chair out of place.

For a moment, Daphne considered changing her routine. But she couldn’t. The swim in total blackness wouldn’t soothe if she varied the pattern, and though she didn’t understand the reason, she knew that patterns smoothed out the wrinkles in her life like lotion applied to rough, cracked skin.

She pushed the chair back in and undressed quickly, leaving her folded slacks and blouse on the deck. After stretching out the kinks in her back and running her fingers through her cropped hair, Daphne took her usual starting place at the far side of the pool and sliced into the dark water. Six quick strokes, and she flipped to push off the wall for the return. Ninety-nine laps to go.

She pulled at the water, deconstructing Reuben’s opening line in her mind with each lap.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy. Flip turn.

By the tenth lap, the classroom began to recede from her mind. By the fifteenth, the last memory of the evening’s unpleasantness sank below her consciousness. Buoyed by the night-cooled water, Daphne relished the pungency of chlorine and the familiar numbness spreading through her arms and legs.

If Daphne bowed to any god, it was the god of water—the pool his holy sanctuary, the daily swim her prayer. Water freed her, saved her from a society in which she felt ill at ease. In its liquid cold and calm, her oddities were masked or erased.

At age three, when she’d first ballooned her cheeks to slip beneath its glimmering surface, Daphne had opened her eyes underwater and discovered a world of muted sounds, bluish vision and slower motion. Here, no fly could dart around. The yapping of the neighbor’s dog hushed. Her feet and hands, often so clumsy on land, worked together in water and found a rhythm previously unknown. Stroke after stroke. Lap after lap. A coordination so practiced over the decades that now, at forty-one, she slashed through the water without thinking.

Swimming saved her in the dry heat of Phoenix where pools freckled the landscape. No matter Daphne’s schedule at the university, her morning swim came first. It steeled her for a college classroom full of opinionated writing students. And if a day’s teaching drained her, as this had, she swam again in the afternoon or night.

Switching to the breaststroke for her twenty-sixth lap, her right hand brushed against something mid-stroke. She jerked upright, surprised. Had she imagined it? Daphne strained to see in the blackness of the pool, but she could make out nothing. She swept her arm across the dark water. Still not a thing. She inched further and propelled her arm underneath the liquid surface. Contact. Wet cloth over a hard object. When she poked it, it moved away, but only slightly. She reached again. Feathery strands tickled her fingers. She lurched back and gasped. 

 

Originally posted 2012-03-16 13:36:26.

The Buzz About Blurbs

Present word count of WIP:  39,288

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

10. In case you skipped it, please check #2 again. That’s the most important one, by far.

Rather than point you back to my blog posting about that one, I’ll just reiterate it was about the necessity to build a reputation, a blog, a following and connections about three years BEFORE you come out with your masterpiece. Nice, if you have the gift of prophecy as to which of your manuscripts will be the true masterpiece…but, in any case, developing a following and connections is, indeed, a must.

That is one of the big reasons why I go to writers conferences like the one this weekend down in Mesa, AZ — the ANWA “TIME OUT FOR WRITERS” Conference. Many of these fellow authors I’ve only dealt with online and it is definitely time for some face to face interaction.

11. Blurbs are overrated, imho.

I’m not sure what to think about this. I can be swayed by a good blurb. What do you all think?

Originally posted 2012-02-20 22:05:18.

Think of your books as souvenirs

Present word count:  25,290 (I know, I know…not enough…I promise much more next time)

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book… you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn’t hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do.

I think this applies equally well to fiction. We definitely want the characters, issues, and themes in our stories to spread. More than that, we want our fan base to spread out and grow. Godin is all about giving ideas away for free because he knows that, in the end, you reap what you sow.

That’s what I love about author communities like LDStorymakers and ANWA. The more we give to our fellow writers (whether it’s the benefit of our experience, or helpful critiques, or simply our attention), the more we grow and are enriched as writers. I’ve felt badly that I haven’t given more lately in either group, but my time has been crunched by both the Storymaker website and reading for the Whitneys. Still, I know that once my schedule frees up, I can make up for lost time. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 99% of us are still struggling for the audience we want… or the fact that one hit today doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of success, but for some reason, our hearts can’t help but go out to each other. Writers, as a whole, are some of the most unselfish people I know in business.

And our books truly are souvenirs for both us and our readers. They help us remember what our own lives were like as we wrote them. Depending on the content, they can help us remember people, places, or events in our lives. And they speak to our readers in similar ways, though the reading experience is unique for each person who reads our words. They meld their own memories, experiences, and ideas with ours as they read.

Sometimes, book marketing is not about sales so much as spreading your words. Think of your books as souvenirs and give some away.

Originally posted 2012-01-27 13:19:24.

Back in the Saddle

Present Word Count of WIP: 13,901

After two days and more than 3,500 words written, I can officially announce that I’m back to my writing. What a relief! I was beginning to suspect that the holidays had completely upended my routine.

It’s always difficult for me to write when my daughter comes home for a visit because she’s about ready to graduate from college and her visits home come so seldom these days. As much as I see myself as a writer, I’m a wife and mother first, so I’m still having to fight off the guilt for carving out periods of the day to shut myself off from those responsibilities. It’s easier with my son (who’s about to graduate from high school) because he still lives here and, like me, he tends to shut himself into his cave every day, not craving company. But Allison is very social. Obviously, I wasn’t very successful from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

It’s a good thing we have New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, that’s probably the only thing I like about New Year’s Eve as a holiday. This time, I’ve set myself 5 “SMART” goals, 4 of which involve writing. That’s “SMART,” as in Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-Specific (something I picked up from a recent QueryTracker Newsletter).

I’ll post the writing goals here so that you can all hold me accountable:

1) Write every day for at least two hours.

2) Finish first draft of SOG by February 20, 2012 (so it’s somewhat ready to pitch at the ANWA Conference). Finish final draft by April 30, 2012 (for pitching at the LDStorymakers Conference).

3) Find 20 agents who rep my kind of YA Fantasy and organize them from most to least appealing. Query top 7 by May 15, 2012.

4) Blog twice a week (usually Mondays and Fridays), once on each blog.

So, yes, I decided not to wait until Friday this week because I couldn’t stand seeing my website go unchanged another day. Tomorrow, I’ll probably post on my other blog here. As for the daily writing goal, I’ve completed ten chapters now of my WIP. I’ll try and keep a running count of words written each week here, to keep myself on task.

So, what are your goals for the new year? I have a feeling that, despite the dire predictions of the Mayans, 2012 is going to be a terrific year!

Originally posted 2012-01-05 12:17:17.

The Great Northwest (Writers Retreat)

I’m still re-acclimating to regular life five days after returning home from a terrific, writerly get-away up near Deception Pass in the northwest corner of our beautiful state. I wish I had taken more pictures but, truthfully, I was too uptight to take in the scenery much until the last day when I no longer had to worry about presentations. Still, here’s a view from the main lodge’s balcony:

I was the first to arrive out of 32 women–all LDS writers who belong (or may soon belong) to ANWA (American Night Writers Association). We feasted on two days worth of classes, workshops, and presentations–particularly those of visiting YA author, Janette Rallison–arranged by Liz Adair and her local Round Tuit ANWA chapter…and some terrific food arranged by Ann Acton.

A big thanks goes out to Terry Deighton for the location (Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory). It seemed more like a first-class lodging facility than a science lab. I believe everyone was in agreement–we want to come back next year! Everything–the accommodations, the food, the presentations, even the spirit of the event–was like Girl’s Camp for Writers…only with nice comfortable beds and showers! And the facility can accommodate many more. So if you’re an LDS woman who writes, mark your calendars now for the weekend after General Conference in October, 2011.

As for my presentations, I plan on sharing bits and pieces of “Publishing’s Paradigm Shift” here on my website over the next several days. I’m going to post my other presentation (“See It/Hear It: Writing Believable Dialogue”) in several parts over on my blog.

Originally posted 2010-10-14 12:57:46.

I’ve Emerged From the Fog of Querying

No, I haven’t taken a Digital Sabbatical, but I should. In fact, I’m going to blog about that tomorrow over at ANWA Founder & Friends.

My exciting news is that I’ve begun my third novel and it’s set in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s the story of an American teenager trying to hold her family together as the capital collapses into civil war. Since I graduated from high school there (ACS – the American Community School) at about that time and was, indeed, on hand in 1975 when things began to get dicey, I can draw on my own memories as well as my imagination (because, yes, this is fiction…not my family).

As you know, however, from an earlier posting…my memory is rather unreliable. Thank goodness my mom kept a family log all those years we lived overseas. So what did I just do last week? I took advantage of Allegiant Air’s new direct cheap flight between here and LAX and flew down there for 10 days of fun and research. The day before I left, I gathered my parents, my younger brother, and one of my younger sisters and started shooting questions at them. Every now and then I’d have to interrupt all their cross talk (after all, my dad’s got a hearing problem and he’d usually start telling me something in the middle of one of my brother’s responses). My sister found the whole process hilarious. But at least I came away with some great notes…AND the family logs for 1974-77.

It may have cost me $20 to check an extra suitcase on the return flight (these journals are big, thick, and heavy), but it will prove invaluable in the end. And the time with family? Priceless!

Originally posted 2010-08-05 17:13:52.

A Nugget and My Other Blogs

I did blog yesterday. But I didn’t do it here. You see, I’m on two other blogs, as well, and I realized I’d better let you know about them, because I’m sharing some of my golden nuggets from Thursday’s “webinar” on those sites.

My other personal blog, Seized by Words, is reserved for thoughts on the power of words, as well as book reviews and author interviews. I shared my thoughts there the other day on a phrase used by Rachelle Gardner during her presentation and you might want to check it out.

This past week, I was invited to become a contributing blogger to ANWA Founder & Friends, the official blog of a terrific national group of ladies–American Night Writers Association (ANWA). I blog there every other Friday, so yesterday was my first opportunity and I decided to share a bit more of what I’d learned on Thursday about crucial elements in the crafting of the first few pages of your manuscript. Please give the whole blog a look, not just my posting, and consider becoming a follower. Cindy Williams has a terrific post there today about author branding.

My nugget for today: If you’re having a hard time determining the genre of your story, then try to visualize your audience…the readers who will love your kind of story. Consider the other books they read and that’s your genre.

BIG TIP: Better to come up with a more specific genre than “Mainstream.” Rachelle said, for example, that “Women’s Fiction” would be better than “Mainstream” because it defines the audience better and helps the agent categorize your book more easily.

Originally posted 2010-05-29 09:42:17.

October is for Publishing, Writing, and Recording!

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have . . . in between house guests. But there have been so many that my writing time has shrunk. The wonderful thing about moving to St. George, Utah is this: Suddenly, we’re on the way to wherever so many of our acquaintances are going! And sometimes, we’re even the destination. We’re right off I-15 (not so close that we don’t have peace and quiet) and this time we have lots of extra sleeping space too. It’s been wonderful to have friends and family pass through, stay over, or even just meet for lunch. Indeed, those who stay over generally get treated to our New York (German-style) pancakes!

photo

But . . . Now that September has hit, it’s time to buckle down and firm up my routine again. Besides, I’m presenting at two different venues in October: ANWA’s Northwest Writer’s Retreat and the Kanab Writer’s Conference. So, along with my regular writing, I’ve got to prepare my presentation about hooking readers.

Northwest Writers Retreat(ANWA Northwest Writers Retreat)

2014 Kanab Writers Conference

(Kanab Writers Conference)

Also in October, my first novel, THE RECKONING, is being published as part of an e-book box set by Mirror Press. The Triple Treat Romance set is called “Too Deep” and features romantic suspense novels by best-selling authors Julie Coulter Bellon and Christy Barritt, as well as my own. So, if you liked THE RECKONING, this might make a terrific Christmas gift for friends and family.

TTT Too Deep 3-D cover

Not only that, but Liz Adair and I are teaming up to record audio books! She’s making me a portable sound booth and I’m going to handle the equipment and do the recording, beginning with my first novel. After all, I’ve been told I have a fairly good reading voice and style, and I trust myself to put an Arabic accent on the English (and the smattering of Arabic words) used by my Iraqi characters.

Admit it. When you read a book, wouldn’t you want to hear it read by the author, the person who knows the story and its characters best?

After that, I’ll tackle my second novel, A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, and Liz’s COUNTING THE COST. So stay tuned. I’ll be providing more details in the coming weeks.

Originally posted 2014-09-01 13:48:25.

“Wednesday Writer” – Pauline Hansen

If you were happily married but gradually your family became hostage to the growing paranoid schizophrenia of your husband, would you stay married? And would you write about it?

Pauline Hansen chose to do both, telling her story in her memoir, A PATCHWORK REALITY: HAPPILY MARRIED TO A SCHIZOPHRENIC.

Pauline-Hansen-170x255

ME:  You say you grew up in a small town, one to which you’ve now returned, but exactly how tiny is it? Please give us a clear picture of what your childhood and youth was like there (plus a picture or two of you growing up). And is it any different for your own kids, or are they all grown up?

PAULINE:  The town I grew up in and have now returned to is indeed tiny. It has remained, throughout the years, at about 150 people. We like to joke that there are probably more dogs than people : )

Life growing up in my hometown was typical of country life. We weren’t farmers or ranchers, so we didn’t have cattle or fields of hay, but other than that, we did many of the other things well known to country life: in the warm months, we grew a massive garden, played in the ditch as children, ran everywhere barefoot, climbed the surrounding rocks and mountains, went on picnics and went camping, then in the winter, we’d build snowmen, go sledding and snowmobiling, and hunt for a fresh Christmas tree every year.

Pauline age 10(Pauline at 10)

My own children, two of which were still school-aged when we moved here, do some of the same things – mostly the climbing and hiking and such, but they were 13 and 15 years old, so they didn’t have near the country life experience that I did while growing up.

Pauline 1985

(Pauline as a senior)

ME:  How old were you when you first dreamed to one day become an author, and which book exactly prompted that dream?

PAULINE:  I remember when I’d read as a youth, sometimes a book a day, I would be in awe of anyone that could actually write a book. It was something of a miracle to me back then. I remember wishing that maybe someday, I could write a book, but that’s all it was – a fanciful wish.

(So, it sounds as if it was no particular book, just books in general.)

ME:  What kind of book did you imagine yourself writing when you grew up and how did that differ from what you ended up producing?

PAULINE:  As a youth, when I dreamed of writing a book someday, I always wanted to write a romance, and I planned to include every spine-tingling, heart-racing, breath-taking romantic thing I could think of. I have, in fact, written a romance, but as it stands, it needs a lot of work, so when the thought occurred to me that I should write my memoir and publish it, I figured that was the best idea to go with first. I’m still revising the romance, though!

(Great! Then we know what to expect next.)

ME:  Since your book, PATCHWORK REALITY: HAPPILY MARRIED TO A SCHIZOPHRENIC, details your husband’s descent into paranoid schizophrenia in his mid-thirties and its effect on you and the children, please tell us how you met and what your relationship with him was like before those nine years of extreme psychological stress. (I’d love to post a picture of you and the family from those earlier years.)

PAULINE:  Curtis and I met at a dance at Dixie College. My roommate was the girlfriend of Curtis’s best friend, so that helped to bring us together, but once we did meet, there was no turning back. Although I had had numerous boyfriends in the past, I knew my relationship with Curtis was special and lasting, almost from the start. It didn’t take us long to want to date exclusively, then we were engaged after only 4 months, and married 3 months after that.

The book describes what the first fourteen years of our marriage were like, and in a nutshell, we had it all–laughter, babies, vacations, and ball games. Life was good, with your typical ups and downs, arguments over disciplining the kids and the finances, lots of expenses that come with raising five children, and lots of love and good times.

Hansens 1997(Pauline, Curtis, and the kids in the good times)

ME:  How did you come to the decision to write your story?

PAULINE:  One day in February of 2012, I felt the greatest urge to write something. It was a desire I couldn’t shake, but everything I attempted to write just didn’t feel quite right. Then one morning as I lay in bed contemplating, it occurred to me that I had a story to tell, one that would be different than anything anyone had ever read. And maybe, just maybe, someone would gain some insight when they read it, or realize there’s hope amidst difficult trials, or as my husband so eloquently put it, realize that marriage is worth fighting for.

patchwork-reality-happily-married-to-a-schizophrenic-pauline-hansen-9781462113644cover-360x540

ME:  How did your husband and children feel about the book?

PAULINE:  I admit at first I worried that my husband wouldn’t want me to write our story, since it would be so personal and put him in an awkward light. But all he kept repeating whenever I would ask him if he was SURE he was okay with me writing it was, “Of course I’m sure. After what I put you through, I have to let you do what you feel you need to.”

He must have known it would be rather therapeutic for me to write, plus I think he feels, too, that shedding some light on such a mysterious illness would be a good thing in the long run.

As far as the children go, they’ve been immensely supportive throughout the process of having me write and publish our experience. They knew very little of what went on, and yet even when they read the nitty gritty parts, not one of them has judged me or their dad for it.

ME:  What prompted your move back to your tiny hometown, and did it have anything to do with your husband’s condition?

PAULINE:  My husband’s condition had everything to do with moving back to my tiny hometown. He was jobless and did not play to look for a job anytime soon, which was very rare for him. He had always been a very hard worker and very dedicated to his job. We were at our rope’s end and needed a place to go, so we moved in with my parents temporarily until we could decide what our next move was.

We loved it here so much we decided to stay, and it’s a good thing, because the lower stress, slower pace of life, no traffic, and very few people have been a huge factor in my husband’s recovery.

Cannonville UTaerialview(An aerial view of their isolated town in Utah)

ME:  Tell us about the writing process you followed in creating this book, including beta readers and/or critique groups. And did you seek out any experts in schizophrenia?

PAULINE:  I had already been attending writer’s conferences before I even knew of my husband’s condition (and decided to write about it), and once I knew I wanted to write our story, I went to even more conferences with the intention of finding other authors that I could connect with and ask advice of. I only used one beta reader, and her advice was invaluable. (That’s a big YES for beta readers!)

I joined ANWA, American Night Writers Association, where I could post any question I had about the writing or publishing process on their Yahoo group sites. They’ve been a huge help and I’ve made some wonderful friends! (That’s a big YES for ANWA too!)

As far as seeking experts on schizophrenia, my intention was never to write a book as a resource for those seeking help about mental illness. The Internet is a wealth of knowledge for that, and I would just muddy the waters if I attempted to give any advice.

ME:  What are you working on now, or what do you plan to write next, and why?

PAULINE:  I am once again attempting to work on the first novel I wrote, a romance based in my own little hometown. We’ll see if it ends up publish-worthy. :D I also have a rough outline and quite a few pages of ideas for a dramatic romance I would love to write some time, plus I have a children’s book series in mind that begs to be written, but that concept is definitely in its infancy.

I don’t always feel an extreme urge to write, but when that urge hits, I obey. I love to read, and I love the written word, and the stories in my head will, at the right time, break free and land on the page.

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space—the room or place you used most in writing PATCHWORK REALITY—and tell us what makes it your own. (And I must have a picture.)

PAULINE:  Our home is small, but still, I claim a lot of our overcrowded space as my own when I’m in the middle of a project. When I wrote PATCHWORK REALITY, we only had one computer that the whole family shared, but if I needed it everyone else knew they had to let me use it. It is centrally located, in the living room, so although I was often engrossed in my work, I was still out amongst the family if they needed me.

At the time, my husband rarely got on the computer. He was just learning how to use one back then. Now, though, he’s on the family computer a lot more, so it was a huge blessing when my children gave me a laptop for Christmas last year.

My Writing Space(Pauline’s work space)

family close

(And here’s Pauline, Curtis, and their kids today)

Pauline’s memoir is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at Books & Things. If you want to learn more about the author and her work, check out her website.

On tap for next Wednesday is Rebecca Talley, a former president of LDStorymakers and author of two LDS novels and a children’s picture book.

Rebecca12-profile

Originally posted 2014-03-12 06:00:46.