“Wednesday Writer” – GG Vandagriff

GG has long fascinated me. First, there are those initials (which, believe it or not, I forgot to ask about). She writes a range of fiction–from romance to historical (and sometimes both)–but she always chooses an interesting, evocative setting. And, more likely than not, it’s a place she’s visited and spent time getting to know well. Let’s get on with the interview, and be sure to read through to the end because GG’s offering to give away one of her books in either Kindle or Nook format to one of those of you who leave a comment! (I’ll let Random.org decide.)

Me:  Tell me about the first story you ever remember writing.

GG:  I was in fourth grade. My story, “The Ballerina Who Couldn’t Dance,” (about a doll) won the elementary school contest. I remember how wondrous the process of writing seemed to me as the story came alive in my mind.

Me:  You say on your website that you were “wired to be a writer.” How so? And why did you ever get mixed up with finance as a career?

GG:  The reason I feel I was “wired” to be a writer is because from a very early age I was seeking and creating alternative realities. I came from a severely dysfunctional family, and this was my escape. Also, writing is in my genes–my great grandfather had his own newspaper and came from a long line of newspaper editors. (Okay, that proves it!) Another factor is my bi-polar disorder which is a very frequent malady among novelists. It causes me to take a more in-depth look at the world and my emotional responses to it. Also, the disorder causes creative tension, which is only resolved by creation itself.

(Ah, so writing heals you in a way.)

As for finance, that was a fluke. I was living in Boston looking for a job after college. I gave my resumé to Harvard and they had me interview for the job of Assistant to the Treasurer! (That must have been some resumé!) I got it. I learned about bonds and investing there. I went on to work at Fidelity Investments, and with that background, after I obtained my master’s degree, I was hired by Continental Bank of Chicago to be the first woman International Banking executive. I put my husband through law school with that job, but hated it intensely! Thereafter, I taught economics in college.

(Liz, if you’re reading this, you might want to consider GG for a future Treasurer on the LDStorymakers board of directors.)

Me:  What kinds of things happened during your childhood and adolescence that influence your writing today?

GG:  One of the really good things that happened was that my father sent me to England all alone when I was 16 to stay with a client’s family. That visit changed my life. I saw the “greater world” for the first time, made friends with people far older than me, developed a passion for history, and realized that real life could be more exciting than reading.

Also, my aunt, who also struggled with bi-polar disorder, had great faith in me and my childish scribblings. She told me I was destined to be an “authoress,” planting that idea in my mind very early. (Good for her!)

The negative influences of my home caused me to seek safety and escape, driving me to incessant reading and all my earliest writing attempts. Reading the “greats” always pays off for a writer.

Me:  In all your travels, which countries have been your most and least favorite and why? (And I’d love a picture or two of you in each, if possible.)

GG:  I love Italy the most, because Florence, the seat of the Renaissance, absolutely sparkles with possibilities. When you see the art of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Raphael, and all the great artists of the age, it makes you realize that artistic miracles are possible. Something in the air of Florence completed a creative circle inside me. I was able to take my writing to a new level.

A view of the famous Duomo in Florence, Italy. The air does sparkle, doesn’t it?

Living in Austria for six months was a life-changer for me, as well. I was only 20. Learning the history of that nation caused me to concentrate on studying its politics, art, and economics with such dedication, that my studies grew into THE LAST WALTZ, my Whitney Award-winning epic of the First World War and the Interwar Years.

I don’t have any least favorite place. I have found something to love in all the places I’ve visited. (Well said and indicative of a natural traveler.)

Me:  How did you come to live in the Ozarks after graduating from Stanford and working as an International Banker in Los Angeles? And how much of an adjustment was it, if any?

GG:  Because of our concerns that our children would grow up with the same convoluted values as my family, we wanted to move as far away from L.A. as possible. We made the mistake of visiting the Ozarks in the spring. It was simply breathtaking. We longed for the simplicity of life there. But as anyone who reads PIECES OF PARIS will find out, life was far from simple! We were the targets of bigots the entire 16 years we lived there. It was a huge adjustment for me. However, because I had literally NO distractions (there wasn’t even a bookstore), that is where I learned to write after years of studying and practicing the discipline. All my early novels had their beginnings in the Ozarks. It was also absolutely the right place to raise our children. They had an ideal childhood with the gospel as its center and formed strong, non-materialistic values, as we hoped they would.

Me:  Having served a mission in Italy, I get what you say about how Italians seem to be born with a tendency to love unconditionally. How long were you there researching THE ONLY WAY TO PARADISE and how did that characteristic affect your novel?

GG:  I visited Florence on three different occasions while I wrote that book. The first time was for two weeks, the second time for four days, both with my photographer husband. The third time was on my own for almost a month. That last time was when I finally realized that the magic thing about Florence for me was the people. I had many unbelievable experiences during that visit, proving to me the “agape” of the Florentines, and I used all of them in my book. The title of the book implies that the only way to paradise is to learn to love with Christlike love (agape).

Me:  Let’s have a look at your writing space. Please describe it in the voice of Lady Kate from your novel, THE TAMING OF LADY KATE. (I’d also love a picture.)

GG:  This writing space is dreadfully untidy. There are at least six-months-worth of important  papers lying on the floor waiting to be filed! This woman must have a very selective brain to be able to create in the midst of such chaos! Even her files are not in alphabetical order. I do need to take her on as a project, I think. How much more productive she could be under my influence. Over her desk she has an interesting assortment of talismans, including a Grecian rag doll of all things. And she is very behind on framing her covers–she lacks the last four books! But I do like the cranberry colored walls, the leaded glass book cases, and of course the view! From this author’s window it is possible to see a lovely valley, beyond which lies a lake and beyond that a range of mountains. If I just organize it a bit, even I might find this an inspiring place to work. Though, of course, I would never be anything as frivolous as a novelist.

(Very well done. Unfortunately, GG was away from her computer–traveling–when she sent these responses and so she couldn’t send an actual photo, but I think we get the picture!)

Me:  You say that bi-polar disorder is a common ailment among writers. Why do you think this is so?

GG:  It is a documented fact. Psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamieson has written a book called “Touched by Fire,” about it. I think it is so because sufferers with this ailment go to depths and heights of emotional experience that other people do not. This enables us to draw scenes that are “larger than life.” It also carves deep into our souls, creating a void that must be filled by some kind of higher understanding of life. If this void is not filled, then suicide is inevitable. Because I am lucky enough to have the understanding of the Gospel in my life, it is possible to fill that void with the love of God. Two of my favorite novelists are Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Both of them struggled with this problem, and both arrived at the conclusion that the void could only be filled by living a Christ-centered life.

(Actually, from what I’ve read, Dostoyevsky suffered more from temporal lobe epilepsy–a condition I have–but the two conditions may be related, according to scientists.)

Me:  Tell us how and why you and your husband (Passive Guy) got involved in independent publishing. And why does he use that moniker?

GG:  David uses that moniker for irony. He started his blog and began recording a pastiche of experiences documenting the technological disruption in the publishing industry caused by the e-book and self-publishing. We became convinced that this is the ultimate destiny of the publishing industry, and that we wanted to get in on the action.

I decided to try publishing Regency romances because they sell so well in this format. I have been thrilled at the response. I have been self-published since April of 2012, and during that time my sales have far exceeded my sales as a DB author. However, that is only for e-books, and only for Regencies. My other books are still nowhere near my Regencies in sales. However, they are also doing very well. (I have the rights back to all my DB books except the two most recent.)

Me:  Finally, please explain your writing process and tell us what you’re working on now.

GG:  I am a pantser (fly by the seat of my pants). I start with character. When I’m really into the head of my characters, they tell the story. However, I am also learning that I must be in the heads of my readers. I need to be smart about what they want to read and what makes a satisfying story for them. I can’t be totally self-indulgent about this process. If I were a famous author, I could write whatever I wanted to write. But while I am still seeking to be more widely read, I need to be conscious during my writing of what readers in today’s world want to read. A lot of my books have too much angst. I think in today’s unsettled world people are looking for happiness. I know that when I am under stress, I read Regencies. The clean ones have strict values, admirable characters, and are driven to the happy ending, which is always marriage. This soothes the soul. And that is why Regencies sell. So now I am writing Regencies.

Specifically, I am 2/3 finished with “Miss Braithwaite’s Secret,” my third Regency, incorporating characters from my first two books. It will be slightly more serious in tone with better developed characters. It will be interesting to see how its sales do in comparison with my lighter fare.

Thanks for the thought-provoking questions!

My pleasure. :D

If you want to know more about GG, check out her website or blog. And if you want to win a free Kindle or Nook copy of THE TAMING OF LADY KATE, THE DUKE’S UNDOING, THE LAST WALTZ, or THE ONLY WAY TO PARADISE (your choice), please leave a comment.

What do you think about the connection between writers and bi-polar or other neurological disorders? Or what do you think about the future of self-publishing?

Next Wednesday, I’m interviewing Gregg Luke, author of medical thrillers.

(If you’re an author and would like to be featured in my “Wednesday Writer” series, just drop me an email at tanyaparkermills(at)mac(dot)com.)

Originally posted 2012-10-03 06:00:13.

“Moleskine Mondays” – “I” is for “iPad App” (Penultimate)

Present word count of WIP:  59,347

A peek at a few of my apps

I have several iPad apps that help in my writing, but the one I love best is Penultimate.

That one there in the middle

First, any time you want to start a new project, you simply add a new notebook and dive in. For example, here’s my notebook for my current WIP, “School of Guardians”:

If I tap on it, it will open to the page I was working on last, but you can also get a menu type view of all the pages:

If I’m working on a particular scene, such as the Luncheon scene with the parents before the Memorial Service, and need to keep in mind where each character is at the table, I can quickly sketch it out:

Or if you’re dealing with a fantastic kind of setting and it helps you to sketch it out on paper (or tablet in this case) until you get it to match the image in your mind, it’s easy to do with this app (and you can erase to your heart’s content without wasting paper):

You can even fool around with possible cover ideas for your novels, and while none of these images show it, you can write or draw in different colors (as you’ll see from their website). My publisher is preparing a cover for A Night on Moon Hill as I’m posting this, but I sent along a couple of suggestions, based partly on this sketch:

As you can see, I’m no artist but I can still visualize some concepts in basic form. What about you? Do you ever try to draw mockups of possible covers? Have you had any experience with this particular app, good or bad? I’d love to hear about it.

Originally posted 2012-08-06 15:21:14.

“Moleskine Mondays” – “K” is for “Knowledge”

Present word count of WIP:  59,347

(At some point this next month, my word count will begin regularly changing. I promise. I’ve been busy proofing my book that’s coming out in a few weeks!)

Any writer worth his or her salt needs a variety of resources to do the research and gain the knowledge necessary to hone craft and write with authority. Having a background in journalism, I make it a point to read the newspaper every day. I can’t help it. It’s a habit, and a good one, I think. As you can see from the picture below, my son is beginning to follow in my footsteps.

First of all, it gives me plenty of story ideas. Within the pages of any daily newspaper you can find enough kernels of drama to fuel a hundred different stories.

Second, it educates me. I don’t care how many college degrees you have, you can never stop learning because the database in this world keeps growing. And I always make it a point to make my novels not only entertaining but informative and world expanding. I want my readers to feel that reading my books is time well spent, not wasted.

So research is key.

I came across an article yesterday in Parade Magazine (which comes with my Sunday paper) by Jennifer Kahn that should be required reading, in my opinion, for all writers.

Entitled “What Your Nose Knows and Other Amazing Facts About Your Senses,” the piece contains all kinds of nuggets that should inform our storytelling. After all, the best fiction doesn’t ignore any of the senses.

What about you? Do you make a regular habit of reading the paper? If so, when was the last time you were helped on a story or in your writing by something in the newspaper?

Originally posted 2012-07-30 11:58:58.

“Moleskine Mondays” – “S” is for Software (Scrivener)

Present word count of WIP:  57,034 (I know, I need to get writing again!)

Since this is my first posting about writing software, I may as well begin with my personal favorite: Scrivener.

Originally created for Mac users (which I am), it’s now available for regular PCs, as well, and it’s very reasonably priced ($45). In fact, The Writer’s Store is offering a special deal on it ($35) until August 6th, though it’s currently on backorder.

What’s so great about it?

  • All in one place, you can write, structure, and revise.
  • It helps you organize, whether you like to outline first or do it later.
  • You can keep all your research for any given project in one place.
  • Once you’ve finished revisions, it helps you prepare your manuscript for submission or self-publishing (even exporting to ePub or Kindle formats)
Personally, it’s been terrific for the fantasy series I’ve begun. I’ve mapped out each volume of the series (with broad strokes to begin with) and, as I come across information that will be useful in terms of research, I can plunk it down in my series bible, tying it to the appropriate volume(s) . . . or, if it applies to the volume I’m currently working on, I can put it in a file right there.
I can save images (such as possible character looks or settings, etc.) and links and so much more. But don’t take my word for it. Go here to see what the folks at Literature and Latte say. I don’t think you’ll have any more questions once you read through everything they have posted.
What have been your experiences with Scrivener, both good and bad? Is there a particular writing software program you’d like me to review?

 

Originally posted 2012-07-23 12:45:51.

“Moleskine Mondays” – “O” is for Organization

Present word count of WIP:  59,985

Location, location, location. What’s true in real estate is also true in writing. While the best of us may be able to hunker down and churn out words at any time in any setting, most of us (me included) need our “cave”–somewhere to hibernate and create.

I love looking at the broad range of writers rooms and offices, and found an excellent series on several current, well-known (in British literary circles, anyway) English authors posted in The Guardian three years ago. I’ll probably be referring to several on my “O” Mondays.

One, in particular, rang a bell. That of the British art historian and writer, Frances Spalding.

Here is the picture of her office (photographed by Eamonn McCabe) published in The Guardian on June 26, 2009:

And here is how she, herself, described it:

Apart from its central chimney and platform base, this house is entirely made out of wood. And very sympathetic it is too. It was built for the artist Elisabeth Vellacott in 1959. She had very little money and so the architect, Peter Boston, insisted it had to be all roof. An A-frame building well suits an artist, for it permits a double-height window beneath the apex. But for a writer, it is less good, limiting opportunities for bookshelves as well as walls on which to hang pictures. I have, therefore, yet to achieve a library-room and still live with books and papers squeezed in wherever space allows.

But what I gained with this house was an enormous desk. It is an artist’s working bench, with slots on one side where canvases can be stored. In Vellacott’s day it was thick with oil paint and the grime of charcoal. Without my asking, the builders, while renovating the house, one day sanded the surface of the desk, to great effect. As a biographer and art historian, I often work with images and text. Recently, while coping with the last stages of my new book – John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art – the entire desk was covered with page proofs, making it possible to check illustrations against lists, sources and textual references.

With light coming in on all sides, the room absorbs the mood outside. Grey days here remind me of Stevie Smith and her “loamish landscapes”. Despite having written her life, only now do I understand why an empty park, in the winter rain, had, for her, a “staunch and inviolate melancholy that is refreshing”. Then, too, on sunny days, this room fills with light that quivers and slowly slides round the walls, sometimes forming diamond shapes. The novelist Rebecca Stott noticed this when viewing the house, after Vellacott’s death. She eventually pulled out as its buyer, but recreated it and the surroundings in her novel Ghostwalk. So now, having been semi-derelict, the house lives on, in wood and words.

Why did this ring a bell? I only finished reading “Ghostwalk” by Rebecca Stott some months ago, so I knew exactly what Spalding meant when she wrote that “the light slides around the walls” in her office on sunny days. Though I can’t find the bit about the light in her novel just now, here are a few other snatches showing how Stott described the writer’s house in “Ghostwalk”:

She called it The Studio, but it reminded him of the witch’s gingerbread house in the forest, its wooden-tiled roof sloping precipitously all the way to the ground…Elizabeth had commissioned the architect to give her a steep-ceilinged expanse of white studio space to write in and a little bedroom tucked away in a mezzanine floor under the roof…Her work table was different too. The oak slab on which she worked was usually invisible under piles of papers and goods and card files.

I have yet to have the writer’s room of my dreams, but I’m fond of the small alcove in our master bedroom that I’ve made into my “cave.”

A large picture window lies at my back (unfortunately the only view is our neighbor’s house and I always have to keep the blinds down to cut out the glare on my computer monitor…so we’re considering having stained glass put in once we can afford it).

On one wall hangs a copy of a hand-drawn rendition of “The Pink House” in Beirut (it took up much of our view of the Mediterranean from our apartment there) by an artist friend of the family. On the other is a David Roberts print of the Gulf of Aqaba (a wedding gift from my parents).

My large light-colored wooden wraparound desk and a wide, two-drawer filing cabinet (topped by family pictures) take up most of the rest of the space, along with a couple of cat beds. In winter, Peach uses the heated one; in summer, he curls up in the cat-o-sphere.

I’d post pictures but things are a bit messy just now. I promise to post one next time I blog about writer’s rooms…probably in 9 weeks.

So, what is your room or office like? Large or small? Cluttered or tidy? Any unique touches?

Originally posted 2012-07-02 06:00:11.

The Suspense of “Moleskine Mondays”

Present word count of WIP:  59,112

Whether you’re writing suspense, romance, fantasy, or science fiction, or simply in need of a handy sketchbook, nothing beats a Moleskine notebook for jotting down ideas and sketching on the go.

Where did these notebooks originate? According to Wikipedia, these kinds of notebooks were standard in 19th and 20th century Europe and used by such writers and artists as Oscar Wilde, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Henri Matisse.

Today’s Moleskine notebook is designed to look like those used by the English novelist and travel writer, Bruce Chatwin. In fact, he gave the books their nickname in The Songlines. His original supplier, a stationery store owner in Paris, told him in 1986 that the last notebook manufacturer, a small family-owned establishment in Tours, France, had gone out of business. He said, “Le vrai Moleskine n’est plus” (“The real Moleskine is no more”). He quickly bought up the remaining stock.

So if they died out, how is it that we have them today? Apparently, the Italians came to the rescue in 1997 (long after I left Milan). Two years later, they started distributing beyond Italy in Europe and the U.S., eventually expanding into Asia.

Anyway, they eventually got bought out, appropriately enough, by a French investment fund, though the items continue to be designed in Italy. Today, Moleskine products range from notebooks to bags, computer cases, reading glasses, pens and pencils, booklights, and reading stands. They are available in more than 53 countries and usually found in bookshops.

So what do I mean by “Moleskine Mondays?”

Every Monday, I’m going to try and blog about things having to do with the business of writing. I chose “MOLESKINE” as an acronym to summarize those things:

1. Media – things like…

  • moleskin notebooks, PCs, iMacs, iPads, Typewriters, Netbooks, Laptops, pens, etc.

2. Organization – things like..

  • office layouts, outlining methods, filing methods, planners, etc.

3. Libraries – I love personal libraries, so this will include..

  • cool ideas for personal home libraries (with pictures) and how best to organize them.

4. E-readers – you guessed it…

  • reviews (pros and cons) about each kind of e-reader as well as news of developments in the digital age.

5. Software – this means…

  • reviews (pros and cons) about the different software writing programs available on the market and their prices.

6. Knowledge – this will cover…

  • the best resources for research information and/or training for writers, whether it’s a website, a book, or a writing conference.

7. IPad Apps – naturally, these posts…

  • will review the different apps a writer might find useful and why or why not they work.

8. Networking – I’ll discuss…

  • the various social networking possibilities online, as well as how best to build relationships with agents, publishers, bookstores, book clubs, online reviewers, schools, and libraries (I’ll be wanting a lot of input here since so many of you know so much more than I do).

9. Events – you know, ideas for all those writer events like…

  • book signings, book club appearances, book launches, school appearances, conference presentations, etc.

How cool is it that my favorite number happens to be 9 and there are exactly 9 letters in MOLESKINE? Believe me, I’m going to welcome a ton of input and shared experience each Monday. Though I’ll try to post in order by letter, you won’t know the exact topic until you read it. That’s where the suspense comes in. I’ve just covered Media with this post about Moleskine notebooks, so next Monday it will be something about Organization.

What do you think about “Moleskine Mondays?” Did I leave anything out about the business of writing and, if so, can it still fit somewhere in my acronym?

Originally posted 2012-06-25 16:40:44.

Writing Blind

Present word count of WIP:  56,872

Writing, for me, is an act of faith.

I believe that when I face an empty Word document on my computer screen (or a blank piece of paper)…and set my fingers to the keyboard (or take pen in hand), words and scenes will begin to flow into my mind and out of my hands to create a story.

If I’m writing a novel, all I usually start with is a character and a situation. I am not an outliner. And this has always struck me as odd, since I organize and make lists for everything else in my life. When it comes to creative writing, however, I close my eyes and leap.

Perhaps it stems from my beginnings with poetry. Verse is always born from inspiration. Yes, at times I’ll sit down with the subject in mind, but that is all. I wait patiently and let phrases come and go then grasp at those that build a vision of sorts. A vision that feels true. And as it rises in construction, I’ll knock a wall out here, add a window there, take off a whole wing if it detracts from the vision’s elegance. And how do I know if it adds or detracts? By the feeling I get as I read the words, say the words. It’s a heavy, full feeling…a feeling not unlike what I’m experiencing right now. Closer to what I feel in spiritual moments than when I am enthralled with a work of art. It’s a humbling sensation.

And when I write stories, it’s much the same. I take the first step or two and then count on a higher power to carry me through. Always, so far, I have been pleasantly surprised at plot points that seemed to have arisen out of nowhere.

In The Reckoning I had not planned to bring Peter back to Baghdad to find Theresa imprisoned in her cell. But as I introduced the element of hidden audio and video devices in her cell, it suddenly came to me how powerful it would be to have him witness for himself her growing affection for Tariq. That is just one instance. There were countless other examples in that book.

In the forthcoming The Boy in the Pool my random selection of a particular book for my main character to read in an early scene turned out to provide some major plot developments as I felt inspired to research the book’s title. What I discovered was too good to be mere coincidence.

And in my current work in progress, it’s happening again. Symbols recurring seemingly by chance. Myths foreshadowing the course of the story. Some I’ve noticed myself, while others have been pointed out to me by those in my writing group.

I don’t know why I should be surprised. After all, writing blind is merely putting your work of creation in the hands of the Creator. I’m not discounting the need for craft, technique, and talent. I’m simply saying that without faith those are insufficient to produce my best work. My truest work requires a connection with the source of truth.

And the longer I write blind, the truer I believe my work will become.

Originally posted 2012-06-08 13:59:25.

YA Romance – NIGHT SKY by Jolene Perry

Present word count of WIP:  55,312

Back Cover Copy:

Girl I’ve loved, girl I’m falling for. Now that they’re both in view, the problem is clear.

After losing Sarah, the friend he’s loved, to some other guy, Jameson meets Sky. Her Native American roots, fluid movements, and need for brutal honesty become addictive fast. This is good. Jameson needs distraction – his dad leaves for another woman, his mom’s walking around like a zombie, and Sarah’s new boyfriend can’t keep his hands off of her.

As he spends time with Sky and learns about her village, her totems, and her friends with drums – she’s way more than distraction. Jameson’s falling for her fast.

But Sky’s need for honesty somehow doesn’t extend to her life story – and Jameson just may need more than his new girl to keep him distracted from the disaster of his senior year.

My Review:

While I generally don’t read Romance as a genre, I was interested to see how well the author, a woman, would be able to get inside the head of a teenage boy (partly because I’m attempting the same thing in my current WIP…though my protagonist is a good bit younger).

Jameson, or “Jay,” comes off realistically in terms of his behavior. He’s a top high school swimmer and he takes out a lot of his frustrations in his backyard pool. Living in Las Vegas with parents who work late hours in one of the local casinos, he freely roams the strip when he needs to get some air to sort out his thoughts. And when he loses his temper, he throws his phone (a couple of times) and even lays into the jerk who stole his best friend, Sarah.

His language and his sexual urges also come off realistically, sometimes uncomfortably so. (If you can’t handle swearing and/or reading about what goes on in a boy’s head when he’s around a beautiful girl like Sky, this book is probably not for you.)

Some of his mental process didn’t ring true for me, however. He seemed to obsess over his problems more like a girl would. Granted, he has plenty to think about:

The best friend he’s secretly been in love with for the past three years has now got a controlling boyfriend who doesn’t want Jay anywhere near her.

His dad and mom split up about a third of the way through the novel and there’s no telling if they’ll get back together…or even if he really wants them to.

And now he’s fallen in love with Sky, a gorgeous Native American from Alaska, who insists on honesty in their developing relationship, yet seems to be holding something back.

As a coming of age novel, it took me a while to warm up to it. I didn’t like Sky at first because she seemed way too forward (particularly so, once the reader learns more about her background later). Once more was revealed about Sky’s clan and background, however, that was when the book began to get interesting. I was hooked. She was definitely the stronger of the two characters (meaning Jay and Sky). If this was meant to come off as a complicated love triangle, all I have to say is, his relationship with Sarah needed to be strengthened outside his head.

In any case, the writing was fluid and the pacing generally well done. If you want a good YA read, and aren’t put off by language or somewhat sensual scenes, Jolene Perry’s NIGHT SKY will more than satisfy.

 

Originally posted 2012-05-14 07:38:27.

The Artist and Humility

Present word count of WIP:  54,620

Be prepared for the above word count to remain fairly static for the rest of this week. Why? Because I’m en route to a writers conference–the 2012 LDStorymakers Writer’s Conference to be precise–and if there’s one thing that I have difficulty doing while at such a conference, it’s writing.

Oh, I’ll take plenty of notes…and even perhaps work on my pitch, but my WIP? Realistically, probably not (even though I have it with me). You see, it’s such a rare treat for writers to come out of their caves and gather together, that there’s a whole lot of talking about writing and celebrating about writing, but not much writing.

That’s what a retreat is for. (Hint, hint, Liz.)

Anyway, I decided to make it easy on myself this year and split the 10-hour drive down to Utah in half. So, I only had to drive as far as Boise today.

I was prepared for a mostly silent drive because usually NPR devolves into static about an hour outside the Tri-Cities (and I always forget to set the CDs I like to listen to within arms reach). For some reason today, however, I was able to keep listening long past Pendleton.

Long enough to hear a fascinating interview with Wayne Wright. I’d never heard of him before, but he was the artistic genius behind all the puppets, etc. in that 80’s TV show, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (which I’d heard of but never watched). Anyway, someone has made a documentary about him entitled, “Beauty is Embarrassing.”

At the end of the interview, he was asked to explain the idea behind the title. He spoke about how people can be so overcome by beauty, whether in nature (created by God, if you will) or in works created by man, that they are moved to tears and that’s embarrassing. He said it’s humbling or embarrassing to be made to feel that vulnerable. I loved that idea, because it’s so true.

Then another thought occurred to me, as I was reflecting on how this manifested itself in great writing. That’s how I feel, too, when I create something–a phrase, a sentence, or perhaps a paragraph–and someone in my critique group (or, if it occurred in a talk or a poem or a song or book I’ve written, one of my listeners or readers) compliments me about it. I’m embarrassed.

How do you say “Thank you” when you feel like it was a gift from the true Creator?

So, yes, beauty is embarrassing.

Originally posted 2012-05-01 21:01:01.

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.