Learning from Vacations and Evaluations

Thank you to everyone for hanging in there while I went off on my blogging vacation. I missed you all. I wish I could say I visited exotic lands, but in a way I did just because of the power of reading, writing, and imagination.

slow turtle crawl to publishing

Remember this guy? He’s my symbol for writing, revising, and publishing. But hey, at least he’s smiling?

Mostly, my blogging vacation gave me the chance to concentrate on my book. I’ve lost count of how many drafts it’s gone through but now it’s at least a few turtle steps closer. Three agents have evaluated the first few chapters. Their advice has been invaluable and I’ve kept their suggestions in mind while making revisions throughout the novel.

A few things I’ve learned along the way:

Everyone is going to have a different opinion. One agent loved certain paragraphs while another marked the same paragraphs up and changed them all around. This just shows there is no secret formula. There is no “best way” to write. There’s only writing and the love of writing.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. If someone suggests adding in a zombie, try throwing one in and see what happens. You can always change it back if it doesn’t work. (I haven’t gotten a zombie suggestion….yet. But some pretty crazy suggestions have come through and I’ve even used a few.)

Know the rules, but also know that if you follow all of the rules all of the time your writing just might end up sounding too stilted and devoid of life. It’s more important to develop your own writing style than to follow all the rules.

The more revisions a book goes through, the better it will be. At least that better be true. I thought my book was done years ago but that was only the beginning.

Even if your book never gets published, it’s still a success. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. It was a learning experience and I had a lot of fun along the way.

Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t go insane. I have a sneaking suspicion that one has to do with the other.

Have fun. If you’re not having fun while writing and revising and revising, try reading for a while. Reading can only help and it’s a chance to get away from it all while visiting that exotic land.

How was your summer (or winter)? Do you agree or disagree with any of this? Any advice to add?

Summer Vacation

crazy dog

Summer is here and that means it’s about time to really concentrate on my novel. I’ve met with a few agents who had positive things to say, but more revisions are still needed. I’ll be taking next week off from my day job and during that time I’m hoping to concentrate on the novel for the first time ever.

So it seems like a good time to take a vacation from blogging. Between the day job, the novel, freelancing, researching agents, querying, and blogging, there’s no time left for sanity. I’m amazed that anyone ever finds the time to do it all. There’s all that to do, and then I still need to somehow become fluent in Italian and learn how to play the fiddle.

I’ll miss everyone and will try to visit when I can. I’m planning on joining Twitter at some point and will look for you there. You can also find me at Goodreads, where I’ll be trying to catch up on my reading challenge of 50 books for the year (maybe it’s about time to go for 30 or 20 instead).

I’ll be back in September with book reviews from summer reads, Cape Cod stories and photos, and hopefully a few posts on how to get through the querying process and find an agent. When I reappear, I’m going to try to be more consistent and will post every Wednesday. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Thank you for visiting, commenting, and following – but most of all thank you for your friendship. Wishing you a summer or winter filled with laughter and love.

Great Blogs

I just wanted to point out some newer blogs I’ve been enjoying lately. Please give them a visit – they’re all great ones!

trumpeting statue

Suffragette Kitty – Louisa May Alcott has returned as a cat and is continuing her fight for women’s rights. Entertaining and informational posts on historical and present day women of note, Henry David Thoreau, and clean water for everyone. Another great thing about this blog is that I know the person behind the cat in real life! She was my editor at the first newspaper I worked at and is a great person and friend.

Licht Years – Breathtaking photography of the New England area with inspirational quotes and descriptions. I am in awe of Susan’s photos and the feelings that come across in them.

Writing Pieces of Me – Thoughts on writing and life during novel writing and revising. Arlene’s fun personality comes through in her posts and you’ll want to cheer her on as she finishes her novel.

Braith an’ Lithe – Life in the northwest highlands of Scotland. Funny and entertaining posts, especially when talking about things like learning new dance moves while sheep watch through the window.

Christina Lawrence – Book reviews, inspirational quotes, and observances from Great Britain.

Helenvalentina – Beautiful poetry expressing the elements of fire, water, air, and earth.

What do you look for in a blog? What makes it great?

Enjoy!

playing statue

Van Gogh’s Café

icon-grill-ted-strutz

Van Gogh stares through the centuries. He could be studying every detail of the café for one of his paintings: every rose-tinted light, every bottle clink and curve. The colors of his century are abstract, inviting.

He scrutinizes a shadowed corner and finds me there. He is committing it all to memory. He just might go home and paint my stunned expression as I stare back at him.

I raise my glass in a toast, wanting him to know how much his art is finally appreciated. The bartender scowls. But then, she must think I’m toasting a blank wall.

For Friday Fictioneers, writers from all over the world come up with a 100-word story or poem inspired by a photo that’s posted every Wednesday. Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to Ted Strutz for this photo.



The Giver Series: Learning from Fictional Societies

The GiverThank you to Milka for recommending The Giver series by Lois Lowry. I enjoyed The Giver so much that I launched into the next three: Gathering BlueMessenger, and Son. All four young adult novels are short, easy reads so they’re great for those of us most likely to fall behind on reading challenges.

Different communities are described in each book and it’s fun to compare them with each other, and then with our own society. The Giver shows a futuristic society that at first seems perfect. There are no wars. There’s no such thing as pollution, poverty, or hunger. Everyone rides bicycles to get anywhere within the community and there’s never any reason to leave.

But the characters never make any choices, which leads to having no real emotions, including love. A council decides everything: a person’s future career, spouse, children, meals. Individualism is discouraged. They think they’re content, but they’ve never known anything else.

Gathering Blue is then a surprise because the community is completely different. It’s a rougher place, with people living in huts and squabbling over territory. People act more on instinct or their own desires. They occupy themselves mostly with finding food through farming or hunting, though there is never enough food. Possibly because of this, they think nothing of ostracizing those with physical deformities, leaving them to die.

Messenger shows another, more balanced society. This one is based on welcoming outsiders, people who had to escape other places. Everyone finds a way to contribute to the community and it feels more like a family.

Then someone called the Trademaster appears. He has things people have never seen before, materialistic things, and they begin to trade the best part of themselves for those things. Materialism makes them more individualistic and they begin to worry that, with all the outsiders coming in, there won’t be enough resources for everyone. They vote to build a wall around the community. Outsiders are turned away. They don’t notice the connection between the Trademaster and the changes in their society.

Son ties everything up, with characters appearing from all three books like long lost friends. My favorites were The Giver and Messenger, mostly because of the unique communities but also because I loved Matty, the main character in Messenger.

Speaking of communities, I’m thankful for the friends I’ve found here. Milka (who recommended these books to me) has two great blogs: Perfecting Motherhood, a humorous look at parenthood with reviews of adult and children’s books, and a nature photography site where she finds beauty everywhere.

What do you think a perfect community would be like? Can we learn from fictional societies like these?

Out of Reach

reach

He shuffled by the statue on his way to work. He tried not to look but always did.

On the worst and grayest days, a demon grasped and pulled at his ankle. Sometimes the demon was love and then it wasn’t so bad. Still, the man kept reaching. But for what? Salvation, freedom, a better life in some other, faraway place? All that reaching could turn into too much. All that reaching could make a man fall. The statue showed him that. He ducked away from the drizzle and went to work.

Still, the man kept reaching.

For Friday Fictioneers, writers from all over the world come up with a 100-word story or poem inspired by a random photo. Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to David Stewart for this photo.


The Booker Award: Favorite Books

We become friends with book characters. We wonder what they’re doing during those times when we’re not reading. They are real to us. The Booker Award is “for those who refuse to live in the real world,” which is a perfect description of all readers everywhere.

There hasn’t been enough time to tackle awards lately, but I felt compelled to post this one because its focus is favorite books. The Booker Award was given to me by Amira. She lives in Maldives and writes from the heart about life. I’m glad we’ve gotten to know each other this way. From one living outside of the real world to another, thank you for thinking of me for this.

The rules are to list five favorite books and to include why we loved them before passing the award on to five others. Most of my all-time favorites are classics, but I’ve tried to think of more modern or obscure favorites for this.

The Passion Dream Book by Whitney Otto

This book is about the passion of art and artists during different renaissance periods. It opens with the Italian Renaissance and a woman who spies on Michelangelo while he creates David. At one point, she picks up a curl of marble from the floor of his studio and pockets it. Then in 1918, her descendant carries the marble curl with her without knowing its history. This main character, Romy, lets her art consume her as she moves from place to place based on the art scene at the time (Hollywood, Harlem, Paris, San Francisco). Here’s one of the many excerpts I love: “Romy has always been what might be called a private rebel, that is, her contrary manner is not apparent but hidden, dormant, closeted until the day arrives when it expresses itself and everyone says, shocked, ‘What’s gotten into her?’ When, of course, it was there all along.”

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card

I read this a long time ago but it’s stayed with me because of its futuristic and historic vision. In the future, people learn history by watching the past. Once they devise a way to travel back in time, they decide to correct history with the goal of creating a better world. The focus is on Columbus and what would have happened if Europeans hadn’t been able to decimate the New World cultures. I loved everything about this book.

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

This is set in Boston after World War I and shows the time period so well that by the end, I felt like I had lived through all of it with the characters. They struggle with industrialization, class, and race issues while trying to make a difference in an increasingly complicated world.

The book opens with Babe Ruth and he becomes a fun side character. Descriptions of the Great Molasses Flood alone are worth the read.

As It Is In Heaven by Niall Williams

This book has some of the best descriptions of love and loneliness that I’ve ever read. The main character is transformed when he hears a woman play the violin at a small concert in Ireland. Here’s an excerpt describing the main character’s father: “For the measure of his pain in losing Anne Nolan was the measure of his love; perhaps if he had loved her less he might have endured the world better afterwards; perhaps it was never intended that we give ourselves so much to one person that the vanishing of their face makes us feel the world is only a shadow. So, as he sat there in his armchair looking towards the street, he prayed that his son would feel the emptiness of the kitchen like a pain, and somehow realize he must not love too deeply.”

The Falling Woman by Pat Murphy

I just read this one a little while ago. It’s about an archaeologist who sees the shadows of ancient people everywhere around her. While researching a Mayan field site in Mexico, the shadows become more real to her than the people in her life. Here’s an excerpt: “Do not look for revelations in the ancient ruins. You will find here only what you bring: bits of memory, wisps of the past as thin as clouds in the summer, fragments of stone that are carved with symbols that sometimes almost make sense.”

Now it’s time to pass the award to:

4am Writer
Carrie Rubin
JMMcDowell
Kasia James
The Edmonton Tourist

I’m always looking for more book suggestions…

What are some books that have stayed with you through the years? Have you read any of the books listed here? What did you think of them?

Friday Fictioneers: Sunglasses at Night

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, a chance to write a 100-word story or poem inspired by a random photo. Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting and to Ted Strutz for this mysterious photo.

The sunglasses were strategically placed near the toys that fly. Most people ran right up to the flying toys and sent them whizzing through the air. They didn’t see the need for sunglasses, even as the toy airplanes buzzed by their eyelashes and almost landed on their heads.

Jake put his sunglasses on and strolled up to the giggling pack of girls. They became shadows. He could no longer see eyes rolling or the possibility of condescending looks. He walked up to the girl and held out his hand. She took it. Without a word, he led her away.


The Great Escape

For Friday Fictioneers, everyone over at the Madison Woods site writes a 100-word story or poem inspired by a photograph. It sounds like fun and should be interesting to see how similar the stories or poems are once they’re posted each Friday. This week’s photo was taken by Jan Morrill. Even though it’s not Friday yet, it’s about time to start celebrating so here’s my first attempt.

He sprinted down the white-walled alley. A chill from the shadowed sand ran up his legs and settled in his gut. Each turn only led to more walls and more alleyways. The sky taunted him with openness.

If only he could fly like the birds he so loved to watch. He tried jumping but the walls proved too high. He scratched and scrambled and fell back down to the sand.

A sweet smell drifted from the door. Just as he took a step toward it, a hand gripped the back of his neck. Soon the dreaded leash was once again upon him.

Welcome to my new blog

I’ve wondered what I could contribute to the blogging world, then finally realized it doesn’t matter. Blogging is all about connecting with others. The same can be said of my two favorite things: reading and writing. Maybe that’s why I love them so much. Through both, we can inhabit another person’s mind, travel through time and exotic lands, even begin to understand each other.

I’ll be talking here about writing, reading, and things that inspire me. We all need inspiration, whether it comes from a photograph, a quotation or a story. Mostly, nature inspires me. Since we’re all part of nature, I hope we can inspire each other a little along the way.