October 2015.

I’m pleased to introduce to you all, Ben Starling; a lover of marine conservation, a skilled athlete is the sport of boxing, and an author with a just released short story.

Ben, can you tell us a bit about your new short story? Are there any themes of boxing and marine conservation in this tale?

Thank you for interviewing me, Katherine. My short story Something in the Air has just been released on Kindle. While it’s true that there’s boxing and a marine theme in my upcoming novel that will be released in 2016, in this new short love story, the focus is on a returning soldier, a veterinarian and an urban environmental concern.

Here’s the blurb:SITA FINAL COVER - KINDLE LO OCT
Daniel thought war was tough. That was till he fell in love.
What if it’s true that you can never really go home? Returning from a soul-crushing war, Daniel Dragan is determined to put the past behind him. But with his beloved uncle dead and the town’s economy in a slump, there may not be much to keep him in San Prospero, California.
That is till he is startled by veterinarian Willow Dixon at the roadside lookout above their hometown’s new factory. A desperately needed job offer there may offer Daniel the chance he needs – but all is not as it seems at the factory and Willow, determined to save the inhabitants of her animal sanctuary, wants the factory’s operations stopped. Sometimes the road home is neither the one we expect. Nor the one we left behind…
You can find it on Kindle at http://bit.ly/ampgdell

Are you choosing to self-publish, or is this book being published by a traditional publishing house? Why did you choose to go this route?

I am looking forward this Autumn to indie launches of several short stories set in the same world as my upcoming novel. This novel is also a love story – and an indie launch as well.

Independent publishing is one of the most exciting changes happening in any industry these days and is largely an online phenomenon. It’s morphing at lightning speed and no one knows what will happen next. It’s fascinating – and a fun challenge!

And one of the nicest things about online publishing is the interactive component – reading and writing have become a two-way street as readers and writers reach out to each other over the internet and around the world. Traditionally, writing was a very lonely occupation. It’s a great time to be a writer!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I can be reached at www.ben-starling.com and at all of these social networks – I look forward to connecting with you.

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From what I’ve read about you online it sounds as though you’ve lived a very interesting life. Tell us a bit about your passions, other than writing.

Well, of course, I love boxing. People tend to think of it as a bit of a brutal sport, but I enjoy it for the technique and the strategy of the game. If you can include strategy in your plan – defensive parries, counters to your opponent’s every move, footwork that is active rather than reactive… it opens up a lot of possibilities. I retired from competition a few years ago and now lift weights, swim and hike to keep fit.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’m a freelance editor, working on business plans, articles published in specialist magazines and some fiction. After so many years of working on other people’s stories, it felt like the right time to create an original one of my own.

Do you have any advice for people just starting out writing?

If you haven’t already, read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Also any creative writing book by James N Frey is a good investment. Read them all. He is one of the best teachers of structure I’ve come across.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

That’s a difficult question. What I wanted to achieve was to touch the reader across a range of major emotions: love, despair, excitement, humor, hope, acceptance…to name a few, while also being unpredictable. Twists and turns. Pain and joy.

I suppose what surprised me most was that all the spreadsheets, post-it notes and brain-storming sessions my long-suffering editor insisted upon have produced a novel that I’m very happy with. Spreadsheets for creativity? It sounded crazy. The tunnel was long and dark but I got there in the end! Just about sane.

I love to ask this question! If your book were turned in to a TV show or movie, whom would you cast as the main characters?

Ah, I’d love to see the charismatic Anne Hathaway as the heroine! The hero would be Chris Hemsworth. Or Channing Tatum. Either would be fantastic.

Are there any authors out there that inspire you? What is it about them or their work that helps drive you to write?

Maeve Binchy. Great structure. Great style. I read her work first just for the joy of it, but there is also so much to learn from her. She is one of the master storytellers of our time.

BEN blue_actors headshot sq_AUG2015Is there any thing else you’d like to add?

Something in the Air is the first short story (others coming soon!) in a series. You can find it on Kindle at http://bit.ly/ampgdell

Something in the Water, a novel, continues the journey in this series and will be released on January 21, 2016.

If you’d like to stay in touch and be notified of other new releases, please visit: www.ben-starling.com/contact

Thanks for interviewing me, Katherine. I look forward to reading your work too.

Short Bio: Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his upcoming novel. He is Oxford’s only ever Quintuple Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and boxed competitively. Ben graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and an M Phil. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood.

 

I came across this blog while reading tweets attached to the  hashtag ‘#MondayBlogs’. After reading it I thought, here’s a writer just like me! When she sits to write she has a vague idea of where the story will go, but she lets the story, and characters, take it where they may. I hope You like the blog as much as I did …

Katherine

 

Writing my fwriterirst book came as a surprise. I didn’t sit down with the intention of writing a novel. I’m not sure what my intention was, if in fact I even had a conscious purpose in giving voice to the noise in my head. Once the paragraphs turned into pages, and the story kept unfolding, I realized what was happening. At that point, though, I was already immersed in the characters, and I didn’t stop to consider the process until I was done.

And then…

I had a novel. After I whooped and danced and celebrated my “finished” novel, the cold, hard truth slapped me in the face. What I had was a first draft that needed a lot of work. My process of learning and rewriting is irrelevant to today’s discussion. The pertinent issue is that I did not have a creative writing educational background. Consequently, I didn’t know that I was breaking the rules.

creative Rules for being creative? Who knew?

Now, many years and eleven books later, I know that I consistently break one of the basics taught to most students of creative writing. I do not outline. Feels like I’m breaking a commandment. Thou Shall Outline. Oops.

I am a clueless writer. I have only the vaguest sense of plot when I start a novel. The best way I can explain my process is to say that the story is not mine to manipulate. The story belongs to the characters, and so I follow them and write down what I see, hear, and feel. Often I’m as surprised as readers by the things that happen along the way.

writer2Over the years, in my writerly manner of introspection, I’ve realized that breaking this rule wasn’t merely a matter of ignorance. I’m simply not a planner. I did what came naturally to me. A clear example of this comes from my long ago college English Composition class. I was never good about homework. (Another story altogether.) So I arrived in class to find that I’d totally forgotten our first assignment was due that day. I was supposed to have written a two-page short story. We’d been given a prompt, which I’ve long since forgotten, and a full week to write the story. And there I was, without a single word. Fortunately, I arrived to class twenty minutes early. I opened my notebook (the olden days, when we used pens and paper) and I started writing. I remember the few classmates who’d also arrived early were laughing and teasing me. No way was I going to complete the story before class began. Fortunately, another one of my idiosyncrasies is that I can shut out the world and get lost inside my own head. Whatever that prompt was, I found a voice, listened, and followed. I wrote. When the professor walked in, I was writing the last sentence.

I received an A+ on that paper. No, I’m not saying that to brag about my writing skills. And I don’t recommend putting off assignments until twenty minutes before class begins. My point is that I cannot plan. I’m not meant to plan. If that assignment had been to outline a story, rather than to write one, I would most definitely have earned a flaming F as a grade. That first college writing assignment taught me something about myself, though I didn’t realize it until much later. Creativity is a personal thing. What matters is where you end up, not how you get there.

Outlining, to me, is tedious. Forced. My mind doesn’t work that way. I can’t hear the voices. I can’t feel what the characters are feeling. It’s like trying to swim while wearing a straightjacket. The constraints take away what I need to chase after my muse.

listenThose who want to learn the writing craft, or any other artistic endeavor, will come across lots of rules and advice all over the internet, in books, and from mentors and teachers. Clearly there are rules that should not be broken, ever, such as proper grammar. Right? Well, sort of. Most people don’t speak in proper grammar all the time, and using it consistently in dialogue can make a character seem stuffy at best, and at worst can make the writing feel dull and forced. So even the rules that seem obvious aren’t really that clear after all.

I’m not suggesting that it’s pointless to learn any of the rules. What I am saying is that within all this advice, we need space to find our own voice.

My advice: If you want to be a writer, break the rules. Or don’t. Either way, do what feels right.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

About Darcia

Darcia My name is Darcia Helle and I write because the characters trespassing through my mind leave me no alternative.

I write mostly within the suspense genre. I’m fascinated by the dark side of human nature, and that shows in my writing. But I’m not always examining the psychopathic mind. Occasionally my characters take me on a humorous journey, they fall in love, and maybe even talk to ghosts.

If you have questions about my writing or something on my blog, you can contact me directly at: darcia@quietfurybooks.com

You can learn more about me and my writing on my website: www.QuietFuryBooks.com

Banned Books: Steinbeck and The Library Bill of Rights.

Guest Blog by Cathie Armstrong

Good morning!  Today is Day Six of Banned Books Week, and I’m back with one of my favorite books of all time:  The Grapes of Wrath!

Of course I’d have to address this book!  In fact, I’m sure you were expecting it.  When my own book takes place in the same era and also addresses victims of the Dust Bowl, how could I possibly not shout out to Steinbeck, the Joad family, and all Okies out there?!

But first, a disclaimer:  By mentioning The Grapes of Wrath alongside my own novel, The Edge of Nowhere, I am in no way making comparisons.  Though my novel is set during the same era and was, in many ways, inspired by Steinbeck’s novel, there is just no comparison.  Nobody could compare to Steinbeck.  He was a master at his craft.  He seemed to intuitively understand human nature, and all of his books reflect that intuition.  The Edge of Nowhere is not a “Steinbeckian Recreation” (How’s that for a phrase?  I made it up!).  Whereas Steinbeck’s novel tells the story of the Joad family who migrated west to escape the Dust Bowl, my novel focuses on those who were too poor to leave and were forced to stay behind.

But I digress.  Back to the topic:  Banned Books Week and The Grapes of Wrath.

As an Okie by birth and by blood, I think Steinbeck’s novel is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever put on paper.  But not everyone agrees.  When this novel was released in 1939, it faced equal amounts of criticism and praise.  According to the Banned Book Awareness website, The Grapes of Wrath was a New York Times Bestselling Novel at the same time that protests were being held around the nation and copies were being burned. Let me repeat that:  At the same time that the majority of America was reading and loving this book, a small segment of America was holding rallies where they burned copies of this novel in protest of its publication.

Yes.  In America.  Home of the Free.  Where our forefathers sat down and wrote a document guaranteeing us the Freedom of Speech.  Sadly, that Freedom of Speech extends to protests were beautiful books are destroyed by fire.

So what’s the problem with this book?  Why so much protest?  First let me start by telling you a little about the circumstances that prompted Steinbeck’s novel.

“Migrant Mother” 
Photo Credit: Dorthea Lange (1936)banned books 5
From 1930 to 1940, Oklahoma and many of the plains states suffered a devastating drought.  Poor farming practices, combined with the drought, turned Oklahoma and neighboring states into an oasis of nothing but dust and dirt.  Huge dust clouds rolled in, the skies turned black, and people took to their homes to escape.  But there was no escape.  The dirt entered through the tiniest crevices and left layers of dust and dirt everywhere.  I’ve read stories where houseplants were so heavy with the settled dust that their limbs sagged.  Houseplants — not trees or bushes outside, but the plants people keep inside their homes.

The devastation of this era was far-reaching.  The Great Depression had begun and people were already hurting.  Farmers, who tend not to be wealthy anyway, were now in a dire situation.  The drought, combined with the blowing dust and dirt, turned their once fertile fields to something akin to a desert.  Everywhere you looked was dirt.  Nothing grew.  What grew below the surface was scavenged by rabbits and other wild animals.banned books 4

You’ve heard the phrase, Dirty Thirties?  The very phrase that encompasses all of the United States during this era originated from the dust and dirt that covered Oklahoma and surrounding states.  I’ve read that, though only a few states suffered from the drought conditions, nearly every state in the United States received some of the blowing dirt.  I read somewhere that some of that same dirt blew from the Dust Bowl states right onto President Roosevelt’s desk in Washington D.C!  Nobody was completely immune.

The dust in Oklahoma and nearby states was relentless and settled in the lungs of every living thing.  An epidemic of “dust pneumonia” ensued, striking hardest on the very young and the very old.  Times became so hard that people began to look for a way out, and many of those people took the roads — sometimes walking — west toward California.  They had to get out.  They felt sure they couldn’t survive otherwise.

And so began the Great American Migration of the 1930s as depicted in Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath.  Featuring the Joad family, Steinbeck tells the story of one family’s migration to banned books 3California.  To say that they met many trials and tribulations on their way is an understatement. They weren’t wanted, and the state of California did everything they could to keep migrant workers out in much the same way as the United States is arguing illegal immigration right now.  Only these weren’t illegal aliens coming to America for a better life.  These were American Citizens being denied, in some cases, the right to migrate to California.  Those who made it and crossed the border were often exploited by working long hours for low pay.  They lived in tent camps and, quite frankly, the conditions they’d migrated to weren’t much better than what they’d left behind.

The nickname “Okie” — a name I take great pride in — was originally used as the most derogatory of descriptions in the same way as some of the most despicable slang for minority groups has been used over the years.

banned books 2It’s been reported that Steinbeck was appalled by the conditions that met the migrant workers, and that The Grapes of Wrath is the product of his own exposé on the subject, so to speak.  But if this actually happened, why was Steinbeck’s book so reviled?  Why did (and do) people want it banned?

The Banned Books website quotes writer Bryan Cordyack’s explanation for some of the earliest challenges of Steinbeck’s novel.  It reads:

Bryan Cordyack wrote, “Steinbeck was attacked as a propagandist and a socialist from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The most fervent of these attacks came from the Associated Farmers of California; they were displeased with the book’s depiction of California farmers’ attitudes and conduct toward the migrants. They denounced the book as a ‘pack of lies’ and labeled it ‘communist propaganda’.”
In 1939, it was burned by the East St. Louis, IL Public Library.  Yes — burned.  In the United States.  By a library.  Burned. Torched. Obliterated.

The Banned Books website cited above further states that twenty public libraries were ordered by the Kansas City Board of Education to remove it from bookshelves because, they felt, the book contained “indecency, obscenity, abhorrence of the portrayal of women and for ‘portraying life in such a bestial way.’”

NPR credits The Grapes of Wrath as “a key event in the creation of the Library Bill of Rights.”  According to the American Library Association, the Library Bill of Rights reads:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.Banned books

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.
The Grapes of Wrath is maybe one of the best reasons that we must have free access to books.  Steinbeck witnessed a deplorable situation and set out to make the world aware.  Whether people chose to read his fiction account, or even whether to believe it was based upon actual situations, is obviously a personal choice.  But to not have access to it is to doom the reading population to live in ignorance.

For more reading on the banning of The Grapes of Wrath, I’d strongly recommend the following articles.  As I was writing this article this morning, I had a terrible time deciding what to include because the entire topic is so fascinating.  Enjoy!

Banned Book Awareness:   The Grapes of Wrath

The Telegraph:   The Grapes of Wrath – 10 surprising facts about John Steinbeck’s novel

NPR:   ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ And The Politics of Book Burning

Note:  All images used in this article are public domain and found through a combination of sources including The Library of Congress, Wikimedia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

C.H.Armstrong

This Guest Blog was written by:

C.H. (Cathie) Armstrong is a 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Her debut novel, “The Edge of Nowhere,” will be released in January 2016 by Penner Publishing

Banned Books Week, Day 5: Judy Blume

Guest Blog By Cathie Armstrong

Today marks Day Five of Banned Books Week, and how could we possibly come close to finishing out the week without commenting on one of the most well-loved and most-challenged author for several decades running:  Judy Blume.

If you were ever a child (and isn’t that every one of us), then Judy Blume’s name is at least familiar to you.  She wrote the books that helped many of us get through adolescence.  She was the adult in our lives who told us that our experiences were normal!  She told us about the facts of life, and she told them to us straight.  And we appreciated and loved her for it.  But, for her efforts, she’s been one of the most challenged authors ever.Judy Blume

My childhood would not have been complete without many of Blume’s books.  She was part of the “village” that raised me.  Among my favorites were:

    • Are You there God? It’s Me, Margaret:  One of the best books to cover that confusing time when a girl leaves behind childhood and takes her first steps toward womanhood.  Blume’s address of menstruation and buying that first bra took away some of the embarrassment that an 11-year old me felt at the time.
    • Blubber:  Long before it became social taboo to bully kids, Judy Blume was tackling this topic in her books.  She made it clear that it wasn’t acceptable, and allowed those readers who’d been bullied an opportunity to finally gain some self esteem and come out on top!
  • Forever:  Truly the first romance novel I ever read, Forever tells the story of young love and first experiences.  Sure, it explores sex from a teenage perspective, but can you honestly say that — as a teen —  you weren’t curious about sex and, in many cases, too embarrassed to discuss it with your parents?  Blume takes the agony out of the wanting to know.  It’s beautifully written and remains one of my favorites to this day.

These are only a few of the many issues Blume has tackled that has made her the target of not only would-be book banners, but real-life bullies!  Yes, bullies!  According to an article in The Guardian, some people weren’t happy with simply banning Blume’s books.  Some people went so far as to make personal threats to her safety.  The Guardian quotes Blume as saying:

“I went to a couple of places two years ago and I got seven hundred and something hate-mail warnings – ‘We know where you are going to be and we’ll be there waiting for you’, that sort of thing,” says Blume. “My publisher sent me with a bodyguard. He was wonderful, I loved knowing he was there. And nothing happened and probably nothing would have happened, but it was very scary.”

judyblumeThe Guardian’s article was dated July of 2014!  That means that as late as just last year, people in the United States not only wanted to ban her books, but wished to do her personal harm!   Wow!  How’s that for living in the Home of the Free?

I’m now 45 and owe a good bit of my love for reading to Judy Blume.  I also owe more than a small part of my own self-esteem to her as well.  To Judy Blume, I bow down low and say, simply, THANK YOU!

The Coven 600 dpiBefore I give you my thoughts on this book, I would like say that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book falls in the genre of magical realism, which is one of my favourites. The story starts off in the year 1718 AD on an island off the coast of North Carolina. A coven of witches has gathered on the beach to discuss an impending attack from the infamous pirate Blackbeard. A decision is made by the queen of the witches to send three of the covens daughters as a distraction to Blackbeard. Blackbeard takes the women, convinced that they are not witches, leaving the rest the people on the island to escape his wrath. The queen scarified these women to the pirates to hide there most guarded secret… that they are witches.

After this introduction, the story jumps to present day focusing on the main character Stevie. Stevie is a thirty year old, recently divorced, single mother of a young autistic boy. Stevie has no idea that her mother, friends, and rekindled love interest are all witches, until she saves her son from a near miss car accident. Stevie then discover she too is a witch, and is told about an evil witch who returned to her small town to seek revenge on her and her young son.

I loved the ideas and concept behind this story, but felt it lacked in a few areas. Sometimes I felt confused about what characters were in a scene. And on other occasions, I felt mundane details were described overly, not really adding to the story. But as a whole, the story was good. It kept my interest till the very end.

As a writer myself, I understand the difficulties all to well when it comes to crafting a well-written story. I think this author has real potential in her writing but I’m giving this first book in the Crystal Coast series a 3 out of 5 stars. If you want an easy beach read, and love stories about witches, this book might be for you.

close up of a match

Lesson #1 from 6 months as FT Author – Burn Out

Six months ago I ended my career as a full time software architect, and part time writer, to become a writer full time. I posted a few blog entries leading up to it and as I started, but after a couple of weeks, I stopped. Here are the posts: Leading up, Week 1Week 2, Week 3, Week 4.

Lesson #1 – BURN OUT

When I started writing and publishing back in early 2014, I was on fire. I was working my job, spent time with my family, AND got my first two books out and they became Amazon & Calgary Herald best-sellers.

So when I started being a full-time author, why did I slowly find myself needing my evenings to veg out at times and then…sometimes…feel like… I was…just…coming…to…a…crawl. At first, I thought it was because I was doing too many things. I was doing a LOT of things. I was doing book signings like a mad man, I was a storm on Twitter, I got more two books out (which I had started writing before going FT). Was this the problem?

JUDGING YOURSELF

It wasn’t the problem, not really. The root of my burn out was that I didn’t have any real idea how to judge my efforts. I didn’t quit my day job and start living off the revenue from my books. My contract ended, and with the oil plunge, my wife and I decided to invest in what I was doing and have her carry the burden. That left a psychological burden on me that took a long time to figure out, which was how can I judge that I’m delivering the “value” I need to my family for my actions? By not having an answer that I could truly embrace, it zapped my energy.

I was spending 50 units of energy doing great stuff that wasn’t writing. I was spending 50 units of energy on writing. And I was spending an extra 100 units of energy doubting myself and trying to figure out what I wasn’t doing that I really should be doing. Recommended daily budget? 80 units of energy MAX for a sane person. This wears you down.

You can tell yourself that this is a long term thing, but if you’re like me, you still need short term indicators to let you know that you’re doing something good. Seeing books sell on their own, without me to push them, whether online or in bookstores, is a good indicator. It doesn’t need to be much, it just needs to have a slow and steady pace that can be built upon.

What I had to do was recognize this, and start looking at the constituent pieces that were contributing to this. It starts with being honest with yourself.

BEING HONEST WITH YOURSELF

I use the term “full-time” author but the reality is, it isn’t really full time. It’s about 2/3 time, and that’s because I had from 9-11am, and then from about 1-3pm every day. That’s 5 hours. I’d often, but not always, get an hour or two in the evening, so let’s average that to 6. That’s 3/4 time, at best. From 11-1 I was with my young boys, and by 3pm they had all they could handle of being with the nanny before wanting to play with daddy (in a good way). If I wasn’t at a meeting somewhere, then by 3pm my sense of guilt and duty to my kids would start distracting me, start eating me up.  Add to that I was up, almost every night either with them or for another reason, so I was getting poor sleep. And yet, my mind was expecting me to be producing at peek, 8-11 hours a day.

I had to learn how to balance my schedule so that I could productive, properly. I had to cut things out, sharpen my focus and get out of the house when I needed to accomplish something. I love my office, and my kids, but I fail everyone if I don’t get out of the house to get X done because I will be grumpy about it, whether I know it or not.

I have never had more respect for stay-at-home parents than going through this. If you think it’s a simple job to be screamed at by a 2yo for hours, and then trying to focus, try it. They didn’t need water boarding in Gitmo, they needed angry toddlers.

After you’re honest with yourself, you need to learn how to breath.

BREATHING

My wife, my friend Mia, and others have told me that I need to BREATH. And by that, they mean allow myself real opportunities to recharge. The problem is, when you always feel like your constantly behind and failing yourself, how do you do that? Do you delay your next release and watch some TV? Well, that just builds anxiety in me. All you need is just six weeks of uninterrupted time to catch up, right? The problem is, there is no catching up. That anxiety hole just builds.

I finally cracked this nut for myself really recently, at least I think I have. I wouldn’t accept, deep down, slowing my writing and publishing pace any more than I already have (I want 2 novels and a novella out a year, at least). After I have 10 books out, I might be able to convince myself, but for the moment, no. So what could I do that would lower my stress level? And then something donned on me.

I tried writing the first snippet of a fun story that I wanted to do, called Steampink. I really enjoyed writing it and sharing a different part of me, and that’s when I realized that I’m missing an element. I’m going to dedicate two months in the year where I’ll only write and submit for anthologies or magazines, it won’t be towards one of my books. It’ll allow me to write shorter pieces, fun things where I can create a world and then send it off, maybe to think about it again at a later point if I really liked it. This would also further my authoring career in a way that is clear and concrete.

SELF-AWARENESS

The first six months have been filled with a lot of challenges I didn’t expect, but stopping and thinking about them, talking with someone about them, breaking them down, it’s the only way to last. I’ve already seen some indie authors who started when I started, leave “the business.” I’ve done very well in my first year, and my second year has been even better. I have to keep in mind what is great progress and what is just fantasy-impossible, and judge myself appropriately. I have to find the things that will inspire me, invigorate me, and treat myself as an asset and now a consumable.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a marathon, it’s a pilgrimage. It’s a pilgrimage to the land where, if we can get there, we yell “HOLY COW, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING!” And you know what, we better enjoy the journey.

Adam DreeceGuest Blog by: Adam Dreece

Indie author Adam Dreece created the bestselling Steampunk series The Yellow Hoods — which has become a hit with kids from 9-15 as well as with adult readers. You can find out more about Adam Dreece and his books at www.adamdreece.com

 

L. Atwater 1

L. Atwater 1

Telling My Story: One Tale at a Time

I was stunned by the e-mail I received from a Canadian editor in December 2003:

“From a technical writing point of view the manuscript was not bad at all. You are a very good technical writer… Perhaps technical writing is your niche.”

The message referred to the book I had just written as a ghostwriter. After completing this challenging project, I was so upset I considering giving up my craft of the past fourteen years—helping others tell their life stories.

Then a post from a member of my professional organization piqued my interest. “Would anyone be interested in joining a memoir-writing group? If so, please contact me.”

Joining the group and writing my own story would give me the chance to prove I could write. I signed up immediately in hopes that telling the story of my youth would lift my spirits and also help others who’ve experienced great loss. I had no particular audience in mind. At the time I never dreamed that it would take nearly ten years and many rewrites to tell the story that I’d wanted to share for over forty years.

The memoir-writing group I joined began with several enthusiastic members. Each month we wrote on a specific topic and shared our work, requesting feedback. Meeting a monthly deadline was the incentive I needed to make my words and feelings flow onto the page. Suddenly the tale of my tumultuous youth that I’d wanted to tell for nearly forty years began to take form—one tale at a time.

Unfortunately, ten months after the group began, it dissolved. But I was determined to finish my tale and needed motivation. I wrote chapters on my own between writing other people’s stories to earn my living.Libby Atwater

In 2007 I joined a class called “Writing Your Personal History” and had to adhere to weekly deadlines and attend classes where I read my work aloud. Although there were days when my voice quivered and tears fell, the positive feedback I received made me continue.

My biggest challenge was reliving the past, which was often difficult. I had written the hardest stories first and decided that to balance the sad material, I needed to write the happy stories from my youth. Paradoxically, those seemed harder to write, yet I felt it was important that my book begin with the happy days, descend into the dark material, and end looking forward to a brighter future. I wanted my eternal optimism to appear and not write a book that left readers sad.

Libby, NeilOn June 29, 2012, I completed my memoir. Finishing it was a reward in itself because I tend to write and rewrite until I think a manuscript is the best I can produce. Other rewards followed after I entrusted my manuscript to colleagues for review. Their encouragement made me realize I had written a book that others wanted to read, and writing my story brought catharsis and healing.

Telling my own story was something I needed to do. I’m happy that many who have read it can relate to my journey, but that was not my primary reason for writing it. The ability to review and reflect on my formative years and understand how they shaped the adult I’ve become has helped me a great deal. After a dear friend of forty years read it, she said, “I’ve known you for a long time, but now I understand you.” I think I understand myself a lot better, too.