Off She Goes-Inspiration Monday

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This piece is very special to me, and so is this day. Today is my kid’s birthday, and a glorious day it was. I won’t bore you with the labor and delivery details; as a friend pointed out to me recently, “Labor stories are women’s versions of the walking to school stories old men tell. ‘When I was a boy, I had to walk seventeen miles uphill both ways in the snow during the summer just to get to school . . .'” and he might have a point. Like, the point of my foot up his ass. Regardless, this piece is special not only because of the subject matter, but because it was the first piece I ever sold. For money. To Sasee Magazine in their February/March 2004 issue. I still have the copy and I still have the check stub.

It was the beginning, but far from the end.

Happy birthday, Donna. You have been a gift to me and many people in more ways than you could ever count. Love you.

Off She Goes

My daughter is getting ready to go to college. How did that happen? The last thing I knew she was three years old with pigtails and rosy cheeks. When I wasn’t looking she turned into a poised young woman. I’m not even a poised young woman! Ok, I’m not young anymore and I must have missed the poised thing completely. You know what I mean.

I just can’t understand how the baby I gave birth to 18 years ago has turned into an adult whom I admire and respect. I want to be my daughter when I grow up. When people meet her and tell me what a good job I’ve done, I feel I cannot take the credit. If she is a good person it is because of her intrinsic values, not because of anything I did. The mistakes are mine; the successes are hers and hers alone.

It is not an easy world out there and very different from the one in which I was raised. She has managed to grow up with grace and dignity and with her values and morals intact. I am amazed!

She is a very special person and somehow over the last year she has become my best friend. Instead of looking at her as a child, I have come to know her as a person in her own right. That is hard to do when I have changed her diapers and wiped her nose; cut up her meat; washed the mashed peas out of her hair; rescued her from her brother and prevented her from killing her sister. That was not the hard part.

The hard part was watching her mourn when her cat Leo died; hearing her cry over disappointments and heartaches from people who professed to love her; watching her struggle against tremendous odds to do well in school for her own sake and no one else’s. The hard part was trying to explain why people are cruel and hurtful and where Leo went when he passed away. The hard part was wanting to take her pain upon myself and knowing that even if I could, it would be unfair. The only way we learn and grow and become better people is through the good and the bad. She has not only learned this but she has taught me much as well.

She has taught me that hope springs eternal in the goodness of people and not to lose hope. She has taught me a sense of humor is the best defense. She has taught me I do indeed have something to offer this world and that my life has not been in vain. That in spite of my mistakes, in spite of the hardships we have endured as a family, in spite of pain and suffering and struggling and disillusionment, cynicism is for the foolish and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I look at her and see that light shining brightly.

I will miss her but she is entering a challenging and stimulating time in her life. She has an opportunity I did not have and I am happy beyond words to know I have afforded her that chance to expand and grow into her full potential. She is my investment into the world, my hope, and my gift.

She is the reason I was born.

I will miss her belly laugh when we watch America’s Home Videos. I will miss her astute observations about people and life. I will miss her mature opinions about the world’s affairs and her unique view of this planet. She doesn’t leave until August and already I am crying and feeling sorry for myself. After all, I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this person and I know I am losing a part of her forever. There will be a big hole when she leaves, and I am being left behind as she moves forward, which is only right and natural. I am happy for her and heartbroken for me.

So off she goes with her Palm Pilot, her hopes, dreams, aspirations and goals. She takes with her that light but she leaves it with me too, and in doing so, it shines all the brighter. She takes with her a sense of humor, integrity and determination. She also takes a piece of my heart, and I am sure, my nagging voice in her ear.

Some things are too good to leave behind.

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Stephen King-Inspiration Monday

On Writing

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me knows I am a Stephen King fan. While there are some of his books I don’t care for, the truth is the man can grab you by the nether regions and take you on a journey whether you want to go or not. He is the epitome of STORY.

β€œIn many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.” ― Stephen King, On Writing

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Inspiration For Mondays-Josip Novakovich

Josip Novakovich

When I first started writing flash fiction, I was lucky enough to fall into a workshop of writers who were amazing people. They had a profound influence on my writing, and without them I’m not sure where I’d be right now in my writing career. Workshops are tricky things–they can make or break you as a writer. I learned so much from these generous and talented people, and that’s a debt I will never be able to repay.

In between workshops, I ran across a book titled Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. The blurb under the title reads, “The key elements of a writing workshop; clear instruction, illustrated by contemporary and classic works, innovative exercises and methods to gauge your progress.”

Josip Novakovich

It’s one of my favorites of the writing books in my library; I’ve had it and used it for close to fifteen years. The exercises are excellent, with chapters on sources, setting, character, plot, POV, dialog and scene, beginning and endings, description and word choice, voice, and revision. There are 127 exercises in all, and you can take them in a linear way or pick and choose.

Participating in a workshop can be a most amazing experience, but it does take time and effort. And a workshopping environment isn’t for everyone. This book fills the gap nicely, and I highly recommend it for both beginners and old-timers, because while beginners thirst for knowledge, you are never too old to learn something new.

From the introduction:

“As a writer you need a strong sense of independence, of being and thinking on your own–so go ahead, work alone. I will give you a lot of advice, but you need not take it. Especially when you disagree, you will formulate your own principles. No matter what advice I suggest in this book, which is designed to be a fiction workshop you can attend on your own, you ought to write freely. Ought and free don’t seem to fit together, and that’s another paradox of writing: If you can incorporate several writing principles and yet retain and even advance your independence of writing, you’ve got it made.”

Do you have any favorite books on writing fiction? Please share in the comments!

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Inspiration For Mondays-Elizabeth Lyon

Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon is a treasure trove. It’s a rare week when I haven’t cracked it open a number of times.

On “Deep Listening”:

“The ear rarely deceives. You can see–read–your story and not catch many errors. However, if you listen to your story, you’ll hear clunks, hisses, and coughs. Yet, there is listening and there is listening. As you know, it is possible to hear without really listening, either to oneself or to others. Developing the perspective of inside-out revision means tuning inward, trusting your own sense and intuition as you read your story silently or aloud.”

What do you hear when you listen?
What do you hear when you listen?
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Inspiration For Mondays-William Zinsser

On Writing Well by William Zinsser is a book about writing non-fiction. Even still, there are many, many principles on writing well which apply not only to non-fiction, but to fiction as well. This book was first published in 1976, and was revised and expanded on its 30th anniversary. It has sold over one million copies. That might not seem like much to some these days, but it’s another one of my staples in my book arsenal which has taught me a lot.

You can find it here on Amazon.

On rewriting:

“Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn’t. Most writers don’t initially say what they want to say, or say it as well as they could. The newly hatched sentence almost always has something wrong with it. It’s not clear. It’s not logical. It’s verbose. It’s clunky. It’s pretentious. It’s boring. It’s full of clutter. It’s full of cliches. It lacks rhythm. It can be read in several different ways. It doesn’t lead out of the previous sentence. It doesn’t…The point is that clear writing is the result of a lot of tinkering.”

Of course, there is such a thing as too MUCH tinkering. But that’s a subject for another day. The point is, writing your story/book/article is just the beginning. :)

On Writing Well

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Inspiration For Monday-Scott Meredith

I have a number of writing and editing books, like most editors and writers. Each one has given me a different perspective and support when I seem to need it most. The trick is to take what speaks to you and chuck the rest. Not everyone writes the same nor should they. Just use what works for you. Because let’s face it, this writing gig is not the easiest job in the world. Oh, it’s not digging ditches, don’t get me wrong, but there are times when it seems like it.

One of the best books on writing I’ve read is Writing to Sell by Scott Meredith. You can find it here on Amazon. It was first published in 1950, and recommended to me by author Peter V. Brett, and considering his success, it has been one of the best book recommendations on writing I’ve received.

Here is a quote from the book I think is great for inspiration on a Monday: (on procrastination)

“If you will force yourself to work out those book ideas without waiting for inspiration to slosh you across the back of the head, and if you will force yourself to write one sentence after another despite the fact that the picture is awry, and the pencils are blunt, and your family is making an awful racket, and you’re writing in one corner of a bedroom instead of in a big soundproof study, and you had a big night with the boys last night, and the stuff looks awful as you write it–you will find, when you examine it a day or two later, that the material you’ve produced is exactly as good or bad as the material you normally produce, or would produce under the ideal conditions.”

In other words, get your head out of your ass and just do it.

Writing To Sell

What are some books you have found to be helpful in the writing process?

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