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Sunday, March 29, 2009

My loved one passed on.

As many of you know, my precious Grandmother passed away on Saturday, after being given about a week to live. We're heading out in about an hour for our drive down to Florida for the funeral. Hubby is officiating the service as he did with my Grandfather's.

I want to thank you guys. So many of you have poured out your love and prayers for me and my family. I'm so appreciative, and blessed. I've not much to say right now, but I will certainly blog again when I return. I have a special tribute that I'd like to post about this very special lady who played such a great role in why I'm who I am today.

Hope that your week is filled with joy!

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:










Mournful, but not without hope.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Please, Take A Seat!

The state of my writing: Character building for current WIP. Synopsis for completed MS.

The state of my reading: Still with The Shipping News. Unfortunately, have had A LOT on my plate. Not much time to read the past few days.

"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." - Mary Heaton Vorse

Yeah, yeah...I know. It's that whole darn procrastination thingy. We all do it. If you say you don't, well...I don't believe you. Sorry. It's a fact of life.

I think writers are the ones who have the most difficulty with it though. I think it's because there are so many things vying for our time. And, if you're like me, and write from home, with kids, pets, spouses (well, one anyway), housework, other vocational responsibilities, yada, yada, yada, I know that you have had to face focus issues as well.

Well then, how do we beat this attack on our creativity? Here's a few ideas:

1. Take control! Make a plan, man! If we outline our work, we'll know where we're going. Now, I don't mean planning out every single detail (we need to allow our characters to take us on a ride from time to time). But, knowing the skeletal system, if you will. You know, "the bones" of the story from beginning to end. Then later, it will be easier to come back and put flesh on the whole thing. (Even if your ending or certain scenes change, at least you had a plan to serve as a catalyst to keep you going.)

2. Remember your inspiration for telling this particular story in the first place. Revive your enthusiasm for it. If you're bored with it, everyone will most likely be as well.

3. Make a sign for your door. Are you laughing at me? I hear someone laughing. I'm not kidding! It works...at least half of the time. When I have a sign on my door, it cuts my interruptions down considerably. It also shows my family just how serious about this "writing thing" I really am. In time, when your family sees you wandering around the house aimlessly when they though you were in "lock down," they'll begin to ask you why you're not in your room or at your desk writing. Or, they'll ask how far you have gotten on that scene you were working on. It's amazing!

Side note: Our family and friends take their cues from us. Over time, what we are serious about, they will become serious about. If we treat our writing as something optional, they will treat it as optional as well. People mirror our attitudes towards our commitments to "self." If we really mean business, they will eventually get it. Actions do speak much louder than words.

4. Set a "word per day" goal, and keep it! Make sure it's something reasonable for you and your circumstances. Mine is 1,000 when I'm writing fresh (not revising or polishing). But, yours may be as little as 250, or as much as 3,000. I'm just saying that having a goal and meeting it, does something really big inside of us. It boosts our confidence, gives us a feeling of accomplishment, not to mention how quickly we will get through our initial manuscripts when we set a consistent pace for ourselves. Will we use every word that we've written? Heck no! But, we'll sure have a lot of great stuff to work with.

Look, writers write. That's what we do. No more excuses for us if we want to reach our goals. We must write, something, everyday. The more we write, the more we will keep writing. Make sense?

On another note, your thoughts and prayers for my family would be greatly appreciated. My precious Grandmother, Mam-maw to me, was given only a week to live. That was three days ago. I've been grieving my imminent loss and that is why I've not been very inspired to blog about the craft of writing. I've been taken with journaling about her instead. I'll be sure to share with you guys when everything transpires. I will be out of touch for several days when I get "the call," as we have to travel way down south, and will be there about a week or so. I've already been so touched by many of you and your well wishes for me and my family during this time. Love to you.

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:









Self-explanitory.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Got Nerve?

The state of my writing: Waiting; free-writing my for my current WIP; pondering the world of article writing.

The state of my reading: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

"You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer." - Margaret Atwood

Isn't that the truth? It takes a lot of nerve actually. Think about it. We must create something from nothing but a moment of inspiration. And then, have others believe in it as well.

It could be a conversation that we have overheard that holds the promise of a great story. Or, some stranger catches our eye and makes us wonder about the life they've led. Maybe we imagine ourselves in another place and time living a completely different life, and consider what that might have been like for us. You know what I mean? All of the "what if's?" They are infinite in their possibilities.

It's those little moments of "nothing," the "what if's," that can end up being a whole lot of something. And, then it takes even more nerve to find other individuals (agents/ editors/ publishers/ readers) who believe that we have a whole lot of "something" too.

Even now, I still am trying to find out if my imminent work of brilliance is of interest to anyone. Hellooo...any takers???? *tongue is firmly planted inside of cheek*

Extraordinary patience, perseverance, dedication, self-discipline, and resilience is what it takes for writers to even get started in the first place. And then, to finish. Those same characteristics must continue on once the query, synopsis, or manuscript is in another individual's hands. The waiting and the wondering. Ughhh, just the whole process from start to finish is enough to send writers to the "farm."

Webster's Thesaurus lists the following words to describe nerve: bravery, spirit, courage, boldness, strength, stamina, bravado, and daring.

Wow! That describes us in spades!

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:










Walking tall and brave with as much bravado as I can muster.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What do you see?

Status - *sigh* Still waiting.

Now, moving on...

"Often while reading a book one feels that the author would have preferred to paint rather than write; one can sense the pleasure he derives from describing a landscape or a person, as if he were painting what he is saying, because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and color." - Pablo Picasso

I'm somewhat of a painter myself, and I have to say that Mr. Picasso got it right, to a point. I agree with him up to the part when he said, "...because deep in his heart he would have preferred to use brushes and color." When I have finished a particularly visual scene that works beautifully (in my mind, anyway), trust me, I'm ecstatic that it's on paper and not on canvas. It's a real challenge to take people where you are in the mind, and for them to be able to "get it."

It was the author's love of story-telling, and his/her obvious strength in showing the reader what he/she (the author) was seeing in their mind's eye. The writer must have been brilliant in the use of description to impress Pablo Picasso to such a degree as to move him to speak about it. What Picasso was really experiencing was the art of "showing" not "telling." And, an art form it truly is.

We hear about it all of the time in writer's workshops, how-to books, conferences, newsletters, writer's magazines... the list goes on and on. But, sometimes, it can still be hard to wrap our head around it all. And then, when we understand it, the challenge is not to go overboard.

When I was just beginning to write, with dedication, I could get the showing part down, but then I confused it with "fluffy-stuffing." I used a lot of adjectives, and flowery prose. I had to learn balance. I had to come to the understanding that "showing" was not all about the pretty scenery or the storm clouds on the horizon. It was also about the actions and emotions of my characters as well.

I learned the difference between this:

She walked away, angry at him for what he had said to her about the other night.

And this:

She stormed back toward the house, stomping her feet as if she were a five year-old. Mumbling something indiscernible, she swung open the screened door with such force, one would have thought it was going to come off of its hinges. "Who does he think he is, saying such a thing to me about the other night?" she asked herself, hot with anger.

Or, something along those lines.

Can you see it? Can you see this girl literally throwing a hissy fit?

Now, I'm not a pro, by any means. I just know that there are a lot of writers out there who struggle in this area. There was a quote from Anton Chekov that clarified it all for me. He said, "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." That did it for me; I had my moment of learning.

I encourage you to look through your work and see if you can find where you've only told about your character versus showing what is going on with them. Think about how you may be able to expand the experience, and write what you see. It makes all of the difference.

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:










Spitting and polishing!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Little More of "Paddy!"

Just in case you're wondering who St. Patrick really was. And, check out all of the other interesting facts about the history of this holiday.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!!

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:







The only shoes I own with green in them!
(Now if this were a jacket, accessory, or blouse "mood," that would be a different story!)

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable we have to alter it every six months." - Oscar Wilde.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blarney!

Status: (Something new I’d thought I’d add. You know, just for the heck of it.) Still waiting to hear from the agent I queried about a month ago. If she’s interested in seeing more, then I should hear within a few weeks. If not, I won’t hear a thing. Bummer.

A Happy (early) St. Patrick’s Day to all of my fellow Irish lads and lasses! As well as all of you wannabes! (You know who you are.) I hope you have a great time celebrating this special day.

blarney |ˈblärnē| (New Oxford Edition Dictionary) noun talk that aims to charm, pleasantly flatter, or persuade : he had the “street charm” of an Irish politician, but this blarney concealed his inner self. • amusing and harmless nonsense : this story is perhaps just a bit of blarney. verb ( -neys, -neyed) [ trans. ] influence or persuade (someone) using charm and pleasant flattery. ORIGIN late 18th cent.: named after Blarney, a castle near Cork in Ireland, where there is a stone said to give the gift of persuasive speech to anyone who kisses it.

Some call it "Blarney." Others, simply the gift of story-telling. I think it's a little of both. Many of us of Irish heritage who write, like to think that we have a little something "in the blood" if you will. Something genetically encoded within our being, that burns with a passion for the craft. All I know is that I have a desperate love for the art of story-telling. It's a gift.

"The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away." - Unknown

A dear friend told me that once. Actually, she had made me a little box that holds "truths" in it. She made it for me for my "life journey." I love it, and keep it on my desk at all times to remind me to remain true to myself. I reached for that tiny box this morning, as I have many times before. I've just grown a little weary in well doing. All of the waiting, reworking, revising, hoping, and possessing of my soul through the work of patience. All of the self-doubt that we as writers face at times. Even though we band together, and have one another, writing can still be a lonely place.

"Why do I do this?" I often ask myself, already knowing the answer to this rhetorical question. "Because I am a writer." But, why? "Because it is my gift." That truth was right on top of the stack in that tiny little box, as if it knew I needed to hear its voice this morning. It encouraged me greatly.

We know, as writers, that we have a gift. It's not something that just anybody can do. Now, I'm not saying that we're an elitist group. Absolutely not! I'm just saying that not everyone has the same gift. I can paint pretty well, but I'm no Picasso! I enjoy cooking, but it doesn't stir me inside (no pun intended). Unfortunately for my family, I can take it or leave it. Wolfgang Puck would shudder to see the state of my pantry or fridge.

If you are a writer, and if you identify with writing first and foremost as your passion, and your heartfelt desire, and as something that you see yourself doing for the rest of your life, no matter the outcome, that is your gift. If writing makes your heart sing or your heart go "pitter-patter," it's your gift. It's one of your purposes in life. (Of course, you have to be good at it as well. That's where the honing of your craft comes in. The dedication to learning the art of writing.)

If it is, then, our purpose to give our gift away, then give it away we must. We must give others the best of ourselves after first purifying our motives. Do we write to receive only? Or, do we write for the enjoyment and enrichment of others? We must think about our readers. We must be aware that they are on this journey with us. They must believe that we have them in our grasp, taking them step by step, exposing them to the elements. They are, very much, a part of what we do. In other words, we must give them the best of ourselves.

When someone closes a book after having read the last page and says, "What a story!" then, they have benefited from the author's writing. Another facet of existence has opened up for them. And, the author has gained another friend. The author has given the reader an intimate look into their heart, and a big chunk of themselves. The reader knows this, and has appreciated the gift. The gift had meaning, because the author had mastered the gift, then gave it away.

It is my desire to master my gift and then give it away. It is my hope that one day, someone will close the cover of my novel and say, "Wow!"

I wish the same for you.

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:








It's been a quiet and reflective kind of morning.

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thank you! Just thought I'd say that.


Today I was reading my daily blog list and Rachelle Gardner had posted about the "Long and Winding Road" of the publishing process. She encouraged her readers to share their writing journeys. As I began to post just a "smidgen" of mine, it occurred to me... I have gained some really fabulous writing friends along the way.

When I began this journey, six or so years ago, I was a lonely newbie in this arena. I was completely clueless as to the process. I tried so hard to find out what info I could about the industry and the craft of writing, but when you don't know what to look for, it's kinda hard to look for it. Make sense? So, I searched and searched for the unknown. I would find author sites and eventually came to the promised land of writer's forums and agent's blogs. I've since learned a lot of very hard lessons. And, was fortunate enough to gain friends who could "feel my pain."

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you all are out there, published, unpublished, aspiring, noted, poets, novelists, and what-not, who are willing to take the time and energy to invest in others. It's a wonderful thing to be there for one another, helping to lift one up when times are difficult, and celebrate personal victories when, some years and years in the making, come to fruition.

I know that not all of you comment all of the time, but, I do know you visit. And, just let me say, "Thank you." My writing life has been so enriched by your input and enthusiasm for this blog (as well as the one I had prior to this one). And, for those of you that have blogs that I follow, writers and agents, thank you for what you do. The information, encouragement, and just plain forthrightness has been priceless.

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:












Baring my "sole." Tee! Hee!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Don't ya just love library book sales?!

OMGosh! I have to tell y'all how I made out at my neighborhood library's book sale! I bought the following books, ALL, for $16.00. No Joke! Here they are:

Hardcover:
The Iliad
War and Peace
Canterbury Tales
The Odyssey
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Quentins by Maeve Binchy

Paperback:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Diary of Anne Frank

I had no idea that they were even having a book sale. It was our usual day to visit the library and when we got there, I couldn't find a place to park. Then, I read the sign and realized what the heck was going on. BOOK SALE!!!!! I only had $16.00 cash on me. I'm serious, had they taken debit cards, I would have had to rent a U-Haul! All of my books were in excellent condition. And, although I do already own some of them in paperback, I HAD to pick up the hardcovers. And The Shipping News is one of my FAVES! Been meaning to buy it for some time now.

This is how I act EVERY TIME that I hit a library book sale. You'll hear stuff like this from me a few times a year. Sorry! Just want to encourage everyone to BUY, BUY, BUY when they happen.

So, you may be asking me as a writer, and aspiring published author, how would I feel about people buying my book for hardly anything? Well, if readers were to buy a cheap book from anyplace, I'd prefer it be the library. It was all for a great cause. Supporting your local library supports literacy. And, when literacy wins, we all win.

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:









With the right shoes and enough cash,
I could have gone ALL day!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!


Yes, today is Dr. Seuss' Birthday. Isn't it delightful? Today would have been his 105th birthday.

Even as an adult, I still love Dr. Seuss. Don't you? What an amazing soul! And, to have published as many books as he did in his lifetime. What an accomplishment.

Theodor "Seuss" Geisel was his "real" name. And, no, he wasn't a doctor.

At the time of his death on September 24, 1991, he had written and illustrated 44 children's books, including all-time favorites, Green Eggs and Ham, Oh, the Places You'll Go, Fox in Socks, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His books had been translated into more than 15 languages. Over 200 million copies have been sold.

His honors included two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody award and the Pulitzer Prize.

He made a point of not beginning the writing of his stories with a moral in mind, saying that "kids can see a moral coming a mile off." But, he was not against writing about issues. He said "there's an inherent moral in any story"and had said that he was "subversive as hell." Love him!

His brilliance was in that he wrote most of his books in anapestic tetrameter, a poetic meter also used by many poets of the English language. He credited learning this method from his beloved mother who used to lull him and his siblings to sleep by chanting rhymes that she had learned during her childhood.

I continue to be inspired by his brilliance. Even though I do not write picture books. It's his beautiful use of language. How he mixed his sublime ideas with simplistic prose.

Even now, as I read his splendidly ingenious stories to my pre-k class, I recognize the glimmer in the eyes and the excitement in their soul as they "get it." They just do...because he "got" them.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
- Dr. Seuss The Lorax

XOXO CJ

Shoe Mood:







Very "Dr. Seuss-ie" indeed!

Must Reads

  • "A Long Fatal Love Chase" by Louisa May Alcott
  • "Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell
  • "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith
  • "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo
  • "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier
  • "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing" by M.T. Anderson
  • "The Grace Awakening" by Charles Swindoll