Thursday, August 17, 2017

Writer--Don't Be So Hard On Yourself

For those who are regular readers of this blog, you've heard me say that lots of negatives in our writing life are good lessons for us. The one thing they are not is a life without pardon kind of sentence. Go ahead--make mistakes, learn from them and move on.

We learn from rejections, especially multiple rejections on the same submission. At least, we hope we learn something and we will if we give it a few days to rest and then go through whatever was written with an objective eye. Pick out the parts you think did not appeal to an editor. Maybe it was a lot of mechanical errors. Or perhaps the clarity factor was pretty low. It might have been a dull report without any emotion or sensory detail. 

Consider yourself fortunate if the editor returns your work with a note telling you why it was rejected. There is no question then as to what you must correct but not all editors take the time, or are kind enough. to do that. Don't let it be the end of your writing world. Move on!

What if you received a brutal critique from another writer? Ouch! It does hurt and any good critiquer will be fair and honest and deliver with a dash of kindness. However, not everyone is like that. You don't have to like what the person told you but you can learn from it. There is no need to back into a corner and put your hands over your eyes and let forth with a piercing scream while you contemplate your next step in life. Sadly, there are writers who have given up writing after an experience like this. Today's quote is perfect for them. It was one person's opinion and perhaps a good lesson. But you should never feel that you must quit over a singular incident such as this.

Did you ever have a teacher who scribbled cruel words across your essay or poem that you slaved over for your English class? I know people who have a mental block when it comes to writing because of just such an experience. Again, it's a lesson, not a life sentence. As a teen, it was probably hard for us to take that objective look and figure out what was wrong, what lesson was learned. But, now as an adult, it something like this still haunts you, put it in perspective. Don't let one person keep you from being the writer you wanted to be. An attitude of I'll show them! will serve you best here.

It's much harder to look at problems like these as a lesson to be learned than it is to give up. Giving up is easy; working at the lesson is a tough job but, oh, so beneficial. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Writer--Let It Out!

We all have some of that 'inner awesome' but we tend to keep it hidden deep inside instead of letting it out through our writing. It goes along with that fear I recently wrote about. Sometimes we are fearful of letting the awesome part of us surface. Somebody might judge us by what we write.

The point is that we need to. If we want our readers to react with emotion to what we write, then we have to open up the floodgates and let our own emotions flow. Don't be afraid to show your readers you care and that you are a pretty special person. 

If you want your readers to laugh, let your hilarious side spurt forth, or if that's not your style, how about opening the door to some gentle humor? It's there, buried somewhere within you but it's up to you to release it.

Unleash your joy and also your sadness. Writing a sad story in reporter fashion--this happened, then that happened, then this happened--is not going to allow your reader to respond with emotion. That old kid thing--you show me yours and I'll show you mine--is similar. The reader wants something from you before they can give back. 

Many times, I have mentioned the free write exercise my online writing group does on a weekly basis. We're given a word and we are to start typing whatever comes into our head for a full ten minutes without stopping. No attention paid to grammar, spelling or anything mechanical. Instead, we want to open up and let our inner thoughts out. And it works! There have been some amazing things written within our group for this kind of exercise. With no restrictions and only friends reading what we write, we do unleash our inner awesome

When we write stories or essays, memoirs or poetry, are we afraid to let our deep inner thoughts and feelings come through? Are we worried about how others might react? By 'others,' I mean editors and readers. Do you subconsciously think They'll see the real me if I let it all out? Maybe they should see the real you; maybe the real you is a better writer than the one who has kept all those feelings buried inside for a long, long time. 

Use your own emotions to show us how a character in a story feels. Let the way you felt in a memoir piece come through to the reader so that they have no doubt about the joy or sadness or terror of whatever happened evoked at the time. 

Sometimes, it hurts to bare those emotions but I have also found that it is one more step to healing. It can also be a joy to share the happy things with others. Our feelings and our inner awesome encompass a lot of territory--both good and bad. 

Work on unleashing your inner awesome and you'll be a better writer. You may even find you'll be published more often. You are awesome so why not let others know it?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Story In A New Anthology

I received my copy of a just released anthology titled Loving Moments compiled and edited by Yvonne Lehman. Under the title it says 59 Inspirational Stories of the Many Faced of Love. The 50 authors whose stories make up the book have donated the stories with no compensation to them. All royalties of the book go to Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief society.  The book can be ordered on Amazon for $12.99. 

The story I submitted for this collection of stories that show love in many forms is one that has been published several times under the title "The Perfect Grandchild." In this book, the title has been changed to A Lasting Lesson. No matter the title, it's is a memory from long ago that is still very special to me. Read it and share with others if you wish. 

A Lasting Lesson 
By Nancy Julien Kopp

Dad couldn't deal with handicapped individuals. He changed the subject when a special needs child became the topic of conversation. If you don't talk about it, you don't need to recognize children born less than perfect. He never voiced it, but his actions and attitude spoke volumes.
Ironically, I taught a class that included several handicapped children. Maybe his attitude is what made me so bent on helping these children. My dad didn't want to hear about them when I came home to visit. He abruptly changed the subject whenever I tried to tell a story about one of them. I hoped he’d see that they were no different than any other child. They laughed, they cried, they wished for special things, and they had likes and dislikes. 
When our first baby arrived shortly before Thanksgiving of 1966, our anticipation and joy turned to shock, for Julie was a spina bifida baby. Along with silver blonde hair, big blue eyes, and skin that shone like satin, she had an open spine and paralysis of her legs, bowel, and bladder. My husband relayed the sad news to both sets of grandparents. The message we received from three of them showed nothing less than hope and acceptance. My dad had nothing to say about his first granddaughter. He visited me in the hospital and pledged his support and love to me for rough times ahead. Sadly, his visit didn't include a peek into the nursery.
 Within days, Julie became a patient of a well-known neurosurgeon at a children's hospital in Chicago. He closed the opening in her spine and inserted a shunt to drain fluid from her brain. It was so much to endure by one tiny soul. I wasn't able to stay with Julie, as a difficult delivery, a slow recuperation, and distance kept me at home where I agonized over our separation and spent a great deal of time in prayer.
My mother and I spent our phone calls talking about Julie. I tried to live with hope, but sometimes hope is a fragile entity. Mom's positive words buoyed me up when I occasionally fell into despair. I spoke to the nurses daily, and we went to visit our little girl every weekend. To us she was perfection.
One night during the second week, my dad called. "I went to see Julie today," he blurted before even saying hello. My heart skipped a beat, and I clenched the phone. Dad went on to describe all he'd seen at the hospital, how impressed he'd been, and how beautiful Julie looked. His voice quivered more than once as he talked to me. Tears flowed down my face at the knowledge that my dad was beginning to accept a handicapped grandchild. I knew how hard that visit had been for him.
 It was the first of many such visits. Dad worked several blocks from the hospital, and he spent many of his lunch hours walking through the cold, rain, or snow to check on Julie's progress. His reports to me were descriptive and filled with love for both his daughter and granddaughter. I could detect a little more acceptance on his part with each visit to her. One evening he called, and I noted excitement and pleasure in his voice as he told in great detail of seeing Julie receive a Christmas doll from a hospital auxiliary volunteer. The woman tied the tiny doll to Julie's isolette within her line of vision while dad watched. He described the doll from head to toe as well as the red satin ribbon used to fasten it. They were words I needed to hear since I had not been present, words I came to treasure.
Dad's visits came to an end in the middle of January when Julie died. Despite our grief, I gave thanks that my dad had come to accept a less than perfect child as part of our family. Her time here was limited, but she taught Dad a lasting lesson, and the bond between my dad and me grew stronger than it had ever been. A loving God worked yet another small miracle using a tiny soul who worked her way into her grandfather’s heart, one short visit at a time.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Writing and Fear

In his sermon Sunday, our pastor posed the question: What are you afraid of? As we drove home, it occurred to me that we writers live with a lot of fear. Not a fear involving danger of any kind but fear that we often create ourself, something dangerous only to us. Why do we do that? And what kind of fears do we deal with?

We fear:
  • Submitting our work
  • Rejection
  • Public speaking (book signings and speeches to literary groups)
  • Writer's Block
  • Finding new ideas
  • Writing crummy stuff that everyone will hate
  • Success
There are others but this list covers some of the main ones. What do you do to overcome these fears? 

Learn to have faith in yourself. Easy huh? No, it's not. You have to work at it. Concentrate on the positives in your writing journey instead of dwelling on the negatives. Make being positive a habit. Believe me, there are many who make the black cloud hanging over their head a habit. If they can do that, you can certainly do the exact opposite. Will it happen in a day? No. Little by little.

Consider this--if you don't believe in yourself, can you expect others to believe in your writing?

I had some dates to put on my September and October calendar this afternoon. As I was turning the pages, I noted a saying at the top of each page. Curious, I checked all of them and I found four that spoke to me as a writer. Maybe they will reach out and touch you, too. Take a look. Which one do you like best, or relate to the most? 

Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

If you don't paddle your own canoe, you don't move.

Hope is the dream of the waking man.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Joy Of Being A Reader

Yesterday's post was a review of The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, which is a current 'must read' book. Where would writers like Ms Quinn be without readers who devour the stories novelists write? These readers don't only peruse books. A true reader is into short stories, creative nonfiction, essays, articles--almost anything in print. 

Readers are greedy--they always want to read more and more. Is it an addiction? Perhaps but, if so, it's certainly a positive one.  The poster above gives us one reason we love to read. Stories take us away from the everyday routine, stress, and to-do lists. I find reading my greatest form of relaxation.

No picture with this next poster but the words paint a vivid scene for us. And, if you're an avid reader, you'll be able to relate with a smile and a nod, whispering Been there, done that. 

I feel sorry for the person who never, or seldom, reads. They obviously don't feel like they are missing anything or they'd delve into the deep waters of the book world. I would love to be able to convince them that reading can enrich their lives in countless ways. I've heard many reasons, or excuses, from non readers. I don't have time. I like  to do physical things, not sit and read. I have no interest in reading; i hated it in school and still do. Who cares? Those of us who are voracious readers know that not only do we derive enjoyment from our reading but we learn so many things we might not have known otherwise. 

This final poster gives me a mental image of the non reader confined to a tiny little space on this planet arms at his/her side, eyes closed. In my visual, the reader has his/her arms spread wide and eyes opened, and a smile because of all the vicarious lives he/she has led through the myriad books and stories read. 

It's never too late to become a reader. Start today or tomorrow with a trip to your local library. Don't have a card? Well, step up to the desk. A librarian would be most happy to help you obtain one. Start scanning the shelves until a title attracts you. Read the frontispiece or back cover blurbs. When one piques your interest, check it out, go home and start reading. When you're finished, that library has thousands more books waiting just for you. Trust me on this--reading is a joy.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Fine Read--The Alice Network

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. When I saw The Alice Network by Kate Quinn advertised in Book Page, I put it on reserve at my local library. By the way, if you are an avid reader and want to know what's new in the world of books. pick up the free monthly edition at your local library (if they have it) or check it online. 

The novel is based on actual women who were spies in France during WWI but the story itself, while filled with real events and people, is fiction. Evelyn Gardiner lived in a time when women were rarely given an opportunity to do courageous, patriotic things. By chance, she was recruited as a spy by the British army. After training, she went to France and worked with a French woman, nicknamed Lili, who was the queen of spies at the time. She and her comrades became known as the Alice Network. 

The book opens in 1947 when Charlotte St. Clair, a 19 year old American is brought to England by her mother to take care of Charlotte, or Charlie as she prefers, 'little problem' in Switzerland. Charlie is pregnant, a not to be tolerated situation at that time. She is still suffering from the aftermath of her older brother's suicide after he returned from WWII fighting and the disappearance of a beloved French cousin named Rose. 

Charlie flees her mother and the posh hotel to search for her cousin. She cannot get money from her trust fund as she is a single woman--a sign of the times, so she pawns her grandmother's pearls, then heads to the home of Eve Gardiner, former spy with a name that she hopes will make Eve help her search. 

She finds a disheveled shell of a woman who is drunk more than sober, haunted by what happened 30 years earlier in WWI. Finn Gilgore, a Scotsman with a somewhat tarnished background, works for and watches over Eve. The three eventually team up and head to France and the search is on. 

The story moves seamlessly back and forth from 1915, when Eve was recruited to spy for the British, to 1947 when Charlie starts her search and tries to figure out what to do about the 'little problem.' 

The book hooked me right away. It's fast-paced, humorous at times and heart rending, as well. It offers plenty of tension making it hard to put down. Toss in a bit of romance and revenge and you couldn't ask for more in one book. The horrors of war are present throughout and perhaps not for the faint of heart. Kate Quinn has given us a fine story with a cast of memorable characters. 

This is a book that the reader will not easily forget. I give it 5 stars. I will definitely look for earlier books written by Kate Quinn.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Muses and Fairy Godmothers

Book and Fairy.jpg

In a perfect world, we'd all have a Fairy Godmother who could grant our every wish. The young lady above obviously has a manuscript sitting somewhere. Her wish is for nothing to enhance herself, such as a party dress. No, it's that deeply desired book contract instead. 

Where is our Fairy Godmother when we need help in our writing journey? And where the heck does our muse run off to now and then? Look all over and she's not to be found. It seems to happen when you need her most. 

You have an idea for a story but can't seem to sit down and start typing. You need your muse sitting on your shoulder, patting you and and smiling as she whispers Keep going, honey, you're doing fine. That little muse is a writer's best friend and worst enemy all rolled into one sugar cake. 

Some days she's smiling. Others she sits in the corner pouting. She can be loving. She can be mean. She can be helpful. She can be a major detriment. Face it--her mood usually mirrors yours. 

Where did this must thing get started? Go back to Greek Mythology to find these inspirational goddesses of literature, science and the arts. Today, it's any person who inspires a musician, artist or writer. Real or pretend?

Kids often have imaginary playmates but who's to say if they are a figment of the imagination or very real? Kids believe in them, talk to them, take them along to the playground, even blame their own naughtiness on them at times. So, why can't writers have a muse, imaginary or real, to basically do the same thing?  If we believe in them, it's between us and our muse. Nobody else! We sure aren't going to share her with another writer. Let 'em get their own muse. Right? 

A writer friend says she has lost her muse so she stopped writing for several weeks. That's too long for someone as talented as she is. She says she's looked everywhere for her muse but the darned girl keeps playing hide and seek. She pops in for a minute or two and then disappears again. My friend has decided to start writing again and let her muse decide if she wants to come along for the ride or not. I was glad to hear it. I think her muse will show up once my friend begins her next project.

How about you? Are you on good terms with your muse? Does she inspire you sometimes and then play the tease? Or is she always happy and helpful? If you have one like that, be glad, very glad. I get along pretty well with my muse most of the time. Now and then, she becomes a bit irritable and pouty. Then, I have to take a step back and wait until she's in a better mood before I start a new writing project. 

We may not have a Fairy Godmother that will wave her wand and produce a book contract for us but we do each have our very own muse who can help us achieve our writing goals. Maybe it's a book contract and perhaps it's writing for a magazine. It doesn't matter as long as she's there to inspire us.