Tuesday, February 21, 2017

WHEN THE MUSE POUNCES

guest post by Vicki Windle

photo by Vicki Windle
I drop things, trip over my own shoes and lose my phone. My driving gloves are a left and a right, but do not match. (How fortunate to have lost the right of one pair, and the left of another!) So, when asked about my writing process, I feel kind of “deer in the headlights,” because I write the same way I live; haphazard.

Ideas typically appear when my mind is at rest; a relaxing drive, in the shower, before falling asleep at night, at 3:00 a.m. I call these ideas “nuggets.” They are small, dense, and fleeting. So, I pull off the road, hop out of the shower, or leap out of bed to record them.

Then a process, of sorts, comes into play. That night, the next morning, a week later, I begin. Sculpting, stretching, carving, and embellishing that nugget into a poem. I add possible phrases, and search the visual catalogues of my brain for relatable scenes. When words seem weak, or imprecise, I drag out my hefty Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and trusty Merriam-Webster Thesaurus. A 3-D kind of gal, I write with quick-flowing ink pens on whatever paper comes to hand.

I have tried to write only in one journal, to keep all things organized and in place. It just doesn’t work for me. It seems as though, when I write on the backs of papers, on the edges of the newspaper, on envelopes, my mind feels free to wander where it will. What gets gathered in this walk-about is the fun stuff. This is where I get those random connections that others say, “I would never have thought of that.”

The next step is to weave these pieces into coherency, with much adding, circling and crossing out. I only move from ink and paper to the computer when the poem is nearly finished. Word processing makes those final changes easier.

This leaves me with a lovely poem, and a lovely mess of paper. Some writer’s self-help book said to save all your discarded words for future reference. The words may not have worked in this piece, but may in another. My drawer of words is a treasure trove (for me, anyway. I’m not sure how my grand-children will view the drawer full of old journals, newspaper articles, and other bits and scraps as inheritance.)

My most recent mini-book, “Writerly," contains six poems about writing. Each written in its own place and time, the collection in this booklet illustrates what may be called my writing “process.”

I wrote “Paper” during a long airport layover. I had pulled one of those perforated ads from the center of a magazine. The other end of it was a plain white piece; perfect for scratching out a poem. Waiting for inspiration I held the paper to the sunlight streaming in the nearby window.


Paper

Only white until,
Held to the light,
Its mottled fibers glow.
The ink, therein, floats
On its skin
Drawing me in
To know.




The beginning of “Sometimes, Waxing” came to me around 3:00 a.m., as much visual as verbal. I woke up long enough to jot down the imagery in my bedside journal. Those random pearls of thought rolled around in my head for a couple of days. The muse pounced again, while I was showering, so I wrote the ending on the bathroom mirror with a lip-liner!

Sometimes, I am overcome by feelings I cannot name. So, I attempt to express them in verse, like this one.

Attempting to sunder
Layers of wounds
And wonder,
My spirit oozes
Song, percolates
Poetry, articulates
Art, and strives
To weave
A wholeness
From parts.

Published in the Fall 2016 edition of WyoPoets, “On the Eating of a Poem That Aches,” began as a phrase which woke me mid-slumber. I recorded it in my journal. It made no more sense the next morning, but reminded me of an abandoned previous work. So, I dug through my drawer of journals, papers, and scraps to excavate the material to complete this one.

A music fan, I can be found at many, if not most, musical events in town. Casper is a thriving center for the arts. Authors, musicians and artists abound. “Poet” was written in a coffee shop, listening to live music, while a talented artist painted a watercolor of the band.

Poet

The painter strums music from color.
Musicians spin stories from sound.
And I?
I paint the scene in syllables.

The longest poem in “Writerly” is “Poetry and Pine Needles.” The Casper Writer’s Group meets monthly, but has a special gathering on the mountain once in summer. After the important business of eating and visiting, we spread out to write. Walking into the pines triggered memories from across six decades, and four states. The poem is published in the WyoPoets Winter, 2017 edition.

Photo by Vicki Windle
With the encouragement of my writer’s group, and surrounded by a pile of poems, I decided to publish. However, since I write what strikes my heart, rather than to a plan, I couldn’t see my poems in “a book.” I studied art in college, and my sister has long prompted me to do more, so I was captured by the idea of illustrating my work.

Inspired by a book-making workshop, I decided to produce a series of mini poetry books. One attempt at printing at home sent me seeking assistance from a local print shop. I write the poems, create the illustrations, and design the lay-out. After printing, I do all the folding, stitching, gluing, and such. Every book produced has been formed by my hands, hence my logo, “from my hands to yours.”
Photo by Vicki Windle

I currently have 10 different mini-publications, with concepts for two more. They are sold in Casper, Wyoming at Goedicke’s Art Supply and, through April 2017, at Art 321. You can also get them directly from me. I usually carry some in the car, nestled near my mismatched gloves.





Lynn chimes in

Haphazard, eh? I work in much the same way and prefer to adhere to the adage that "creative minds are rarely tidy." However Vicki puts the words together, I am a fan, and have been since the first WyoPoets conference I attended. I had the good fortune of sitting next to Vicki during the workshop, led by Echo Klaproth. I was wowed by Vicki's writing. 

Which reminds me--WyoPoets is in Buffalo this year. April 28-29 and Colorado poet David Mason will be our presenter. For more information visit www.wyopoets.org.  Hope to see you all there!

Bio for Vicki Windle

photo provided by Vicki Windle
A retired elementary school teacher, Vicki Windle fills her days and nights with poetry, art, and song. She also travels, kayaks, cross-country skis, and volunteers at various organizations. Vicki is a member of the Casper Writer’s Group and WyoPoets.

As well as being self-published, her work is included in Weather Watch; Poems of Wyoming, in Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone; an Anthology of Wyoming Writers, and in some WyoPoets newsletters.

Vicki's poem “Haircut Day” won honorable mention in the 2015 Eugene V. Shay National Poetry Contest. View her art at facebook.com/frommyhandstoyours2016. To purchase publications or to schedule an appearance, contact Vicki on Facebook, at vickiwindle@yahoo.com, or at 307-258-8829.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Writing is 10% Inspiration and 90% Craft

When we saw that Laurie Marr Wasmund had been selected to present at the Arizona Authors’ Association conference in Phoenix on Feb. 25, we thought it would be wonderful if she could share a sneak preview of her sessions. And WOW did she have a lot to share! See the details on the Arizona event and other places you can catch her below her bio. 



By Laurie Marr Wasmund

You've probably heard the comment: "In these days of indie publishing, you can write a novel in the afternoon and have it for sale the next morning." Yet if you are serious about writing, you know that the editing and revising process is just as important as putting your ideas on paper in the first place. So grab your red pencil and consider these tips for a more professional product.

Point of View:

  • Never "head-hop" within the same short story, scene, or chapter. This is the "golden rule" of fiction-writing. Always maintain one character's point of view throughout an entire cohesive section.
  • Include only those details that your character can see, hear, smell, etc.  I once wrote a short story in which a teenaged girl was sizing up her mother's new lover, who was driving, as she sat in the back seat of the car. She noted his "finely detailed cowboy boots." At my writers' group, someone asked me how she could see the boots. Obviously, she couldn't.
  • Create a "narrative distance" for your characters from the event. For instance, are you writing the story as if the events are happening to the characters at the moment? If so, very little reflection is likely to happen on their parts. However, if your narrative/voice indicates that the character is reliving and retelling events that happened in the past, you can include some observations. Whichever you choose, you must always maintain your chosen distance/voice in your work. I was once told by a reader in my writing group that my first-person character, a girl of eighteen, seemed to have insights that were too sophisticated for her age and education level. To solve this, I decided to rewrite the novel as if she were telling it after a long period of time, sort of a "Hey, kids, listen up, here's my life story" approach. By doing this, I could show my character on the emotional seesaw of an eighteen-year-old in love while giving her the benefit of a more mature voice.
  • Don't forget about sensory detail. Just as you created a certain vocabulary or way of speaking for each character, chart a sensory path for each individual. The way that each character makes sense of the world through his/her interpretation of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch can reveal important traits to your reader.


Resonance:

  • We've all heard the catchy slogan, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." It's the exact opposite in fiction: What happens in Vegas comes home with the character and the consequences of it stay with him for the rest of his life. In other words, experience is accrued and compiled in our characters' lives (and our own). The writer must acknowledge and "carry forward" what has happened before.
  • A good example of this comes from a fellow writer's autobiographically-based fiction. While writing about growing up in Buenos Aires during the Pinochet regime, her young characters, a brother and sister, witness the public arrest and beating of a beloved teacher from their school. They return home and start to bicker over who gets to play soccer (the boy doesn’t want to include his sister). There is no further mention of the teacher. The critics in our writing group pounced: This is a horrifying incident for these children (and for the reader). Why don't they talk about it? The writer explained that, in reality, everyone was so afraid of what was happening during the Pinochet reign that they suppressed it, forgot it, or pretended it didn't happen. For the reader who didn't know that, though, it seemed as if the author had simply been careless. The group suggested that the writer find a way to clarify the children's immediate reactions to the incident and to show how witnessing it had changed them forever--in other words, how the incident resonated throughout their lives, even as adults.

Microtension:

  • Every work of fiction is fueled by some grand conflict or tension, but on the paragraph-to-paragraph level, the story gains momentum through microtension. Think of the Harry Potter series. All of the books are propelled by the eventual confrontation of Harry and Voldemort, but along the way, the characters face much more trivial problems that must be resolved or managed.
  • Many of the suggestions listed above could fall in this category. Sharp, snappy dialogue creates microtension, as does a consistent point of view, and a lack of filters and other author intrusions in the writing. Microtension is also created when incidents continue to resonate in and influence the character's emotions, actions, and choices.
  • Much of the microtension in a piece comes from the use of strong verbs. We've all been told to use action verbs in lieu of passive verbs, but it's easier to preach this concept than to put it into practice. A good place to start is to replace "to be" verbs (is, are, were) with stronger, more indicative and meaningful verbs. (Dialogue is exempted from this purge.)
  • Author Ellen Gilchrist asks us to ponder "how to move the characters around so they bruise against each other and ring true.'' In general, relationships define themselves through conflicts (whether minor or major) and the resolutions (or not) of those problems. Choose a random paragraph in your manuscript. If you can't find at least one sentence that implies or states your characters' internal or external conflicts, think about how to rewrite it to achieve microtension.

I hope that this helps you to rethink and revise your work. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at lost.ranch.books@gmail.com.

Happy editing!

-----

LAURIE MARR WASMUND has worked as a writer, editor, community college instructor, and writing workshop presenter. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines such as Cimarron Review and Weber Studies. She is the author of My Heart Lies Here, a novel of the Ludlow Massacre; Clean Cut, A Romance of the Western Heart; and To Do Justice, the first book of the White Winter Trilogy, set during World War I. 

Find her online at Lost Ranch Books.

Upcoming presentations

  • Arizona Authors’ Association is holding their 2017 Crafting the Written Word conference at the Embassy Suites Biltmore in Phoenix on February 25. She will present “Don’t Forget the Craft!” and “A Journey through Self-Publishing.” 
  • Parker Writers meets at the Parker (Colorado) Library between 2-4 every second and fourth Sunday. She will present “Pegging Your Tent to the Earth: Writing from the Senses” on April 9. 
  • Castle Rock Writers offers monthly workshops at Phillip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock (Colorado) the second Monday of every month at 6:30. She will present “Don’t Forget the Craft!” on June 12, 2017.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Giving Life to A Death at Tollgate Creek

guest post by Art Elser


Well, I finally got my new book of poetry, A Death at Tollgate Creek: Songs of the Prairie published in both print and eBook formats. I wrote these poems because I want to help others learn that the prairie holds as many wonderful secrets and adventures as do the mountains.

Here in Denver, we tend to face west, to the mountains with its rivers, skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, rafting, kayaking, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the abundance of wildlife, animals, birds, fish and quirky humans.

But the prairie has its draw also, if you know where to look.

When I get confused in life about making important decisions, I try to not make them immediately and take a day or two to think about what's next. And the same holds for my poetry. So I started the publishing project by reminding myself why I write poetry. The first reason is that I love writing it. But to just stuff my poems in the drawer as Emily Dickinson did, leads one to become a frustrated hermit. I want to share my work with others. My goal is not to make lots of money, write a NYT best seller, become famous. I want to share my poetry.

I decided to publish A Death at Tollgate Creek myself after sending out manuscripts of books and chapbooks to contests and journals during their open reading periods over the past four years. Most of the time I didn't even get an acknowledgement that they've thrown the manuscript into the recycle bin. Once in a while I got a form email saying that they enjoyed reading my poems but they are not interested in the book.

I downloaded several books to help me decide how to self-publish:

How to Choose a Self-Publishing Service, Jim Giammatteo & Orna Ross. (Kindle—Discusses pros and cons of all major self-publishing services.)

A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon, Chris McMullen. (Kindle—Limited to how to publish with Amazon, and if you want to use CreateSpace, a good reference.)

Successful Self-Publishing, Joanna Penn. (Kindle—Very useful reference when starting. General so not aimed at one platform.)

Smashwords Style Guide, Mark Coker. (iBook—Smashwords is a great program for publishing in eBook format for all platforms, so a great resource.)

One constant in all the books and online articles I read stood out to me. All recommended hiring a professional to design the cover. I took that advice and hired Abby Hoke of AEB Graphics in Denver, and she designed a cover that I think is beautiful. In my limited marketing, one refrain that pops up is "What a beautiful cover.” And we all know that we DO judge a book by its cover.

A Death at Tollgate Creek is now available at Amazon, B&N, and Indie book stores. In addition to being available in print, it's also available for iBook, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and PDF readers.

Now comes the hard part. I have to figure out how to market it. Much of what I've read about marketing my book says I have to establish a platform. That often means being on many or all of the social media platforms. It means building a website, having an author page on Amazon, subscribing to Goodreads, getting others to write reviews. Others say to do that sparingly and to concentrate on only a few. I've decided that I'm just going to worry about Facebook, this blog, and maybe Twitter.

So I've decided to limit my marketing efforts. I'm not in this to make money, and that's why one markets. I want to spend my time writing. And as this is my first attempt at what is now called Indie Publishing, not self-publishing. I need to use this experience to learn, and I think it better to learn a lot about a few things rather than a little about a lot of things.

I've let writing, poetry, and critique groups I belong to know about the book. I've posted it on Facebook for friends, and I will contact local bookstores along the front range about readings and signings. I have another book of poems almost ready to see the light, but want to continue to write, get that book ready, and not spend my time marketing.

Recently Ted Kooser, US poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006, said that, with few exceptions, no one sells lots of books of poetry. Most sell a few hundred if they are lucky. Right now, I think I'll just enjoy getting this baby birthed and watch it play and grow for a while. I enjoy hearing from a few friends that they enjoyed it. I now have the template I can pour the new book into when I'm ready. I have Abby to design another killer cover, and I think I'll have fun seeing the book in print and on my iPhone and laptop. And I'll market it by sharing it with friends.

When my books make the NYT Best Seller List for 18 weeks in a row and money is rolling in at a prodigious rate, I'll consider hiring a consultant to do my marketing.

Lynn chimes in:


I grew up on the prairie, in eastern Wyoming. I can't wait to read A Death at Tollgate Creek: Songs of the Prairie and, according to the lady with the wild hairdo at Barnes and Noble, the book is in the mail.

I will savor the poems (who can turbo-read poetry, really?) and pretend all the while that I am walking through the prairie grasses with Art. I've come to know him as someone who takes the time to really see the world,and he writes about it in a sensory, unique way. I look forward to having Art as my literary guide through one of my favorite landscapes.

I appreciate the resources he has shared with us today, as well as the example he has set. In knowing what he really wants--which is to share his poetry--and letting that drive his decisions, he frees us up to decide what we want from our writing. Sometimes it really isn't fame and fortune. So we can decide how much of the marketing mania we want to take on, without feeling like a failure.

Thanks, Art.


Art’s bio: 


Art Elser retired after 20 years as an Air Force pilot and 30 as a technical writer. He has a PhD in English and taught writing for over 30 years.

His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies, including Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone, Owen Wister Review, High Plains Register, The Human Touch, Science Poetry, The Avocet, Vietnam War Poetry, and A Bird in the Hand: Risk and Flight.

 His chapbook, We Leave the Safety of the Sea, received the Colorado Authors' League Poetry award for 2014. His latest book of poetry is A Death at Tollgate Creek (2017).


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

“Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone” tells stories of life in Wyoming

Many wonderful Wyoming writers are featured in the Sastrugi Press anthology, Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone, edited by Lori Howe. We spotted this wonderful story by Kelsey Dayton on WyoFile about the book and wanted to share it with our readers. WyoFile is a nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

“Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone” is an anthology of Wyoming writings
that focus on the state's landscape. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)


By Kelsey Dayton
Reprinted with permission from WyoFile

 
In the far reaches of Albany County, in the back pasture of the ranch where Oscar Lilley grew up, one finds a distinct line between civilization and wildness.

“It’s like that’s the end of the world,” said Lilley, who now lives in Laramie.

It’s like nothing else exists beyond that spot, he said. It’s a place that captured Lilley’s imagination and is the setting for his short story “Something’s Gotta Burn,” in which a veterinarian in an isolated but tight-knit community in Albany County loses his license and escapes to the wilderness to find the meaning of life, God and himself.

“Something’s Gotta Burn” is one of more than 70 pieces in Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An anthology of Wyoming writers.

The book, which features poetry, fiction and nonfiction works from Wyoming writers, was edited by Lori Howe, an author of several poetry books, a doctoral candidate who teaches at the University of Wyoming and the editor of Clerestory: Poems of the Mountain West. Her time this past summer as the Wyoming Humanities Council’s Think Wy Road Scholar, where she traveled the state teaching creative writing workshops, inspired the book. When she realized the last Wyoming anthology was published about seven years ago, she pitched the idea to publishers, including Sastrugi Press which took on the project.

Howe wanted works that feature Wyoming’s landscape as a central character.

“What I was really looking for in submissions were pieces that got at the heart of what it means to live in Wyoming, in this place that has such a small population with an awful lot of land,” she said. “A place where you are so dependent on changes in the weather and the harshness of the landscape. It’s such a special place. I was really looking for writing that spoke to that connection we have, that relationship we have with the landscape.”

Howe received more than 1,000 submissions. She selected work by established authors like Alyson Hagy and Tim Sandlin, and several former Wyoming poet laureates like Rose Hill and David Romtvedt, as well as up-and-coming writers like Lilley, who writes under the pen name Jay Robbins.
Lilley’s story about the veterinarian takes place in an area his family has called home since the 1890s and explores values like sanctity of private property. The main character’s story is inextricably tied to the landscape, something true for most people who call the state home.

“The country forms the people,” he said.

The landscape has always inspired and intrigued Corinna German, who lived in Cody for about 12 years, before moving to Laurel, Montana. The fledgling writer’s nonfiction story “Death song just outside of Yellowstone,” is about the Absaroka Wilderness. It is a place often overlooked by visitors in the shadow of nearby Yellowstone National Park, but a place rich in wildlife, wildness and history. The story is an ode to the Native Americans who first called the land home and left relics like sheep traps and other artifacts behind, as well as to the state’s thousands of acres of public land that can easily be taken for granted, she said.

The works in the anthology are all bound together by a common thread, Howe said.

“It’s the scarcity of the population in Wyoming,” Howe said. “You can go long, long stretches without seeing a house, or even another car on the road. It brings us into this sense that we are really all in this together. If you get stuck off the road in Wyoming, someone is going to stop for you – probably the next person who drives by is going to stop and help you get out. There’s something very special about the Wyoming identity and how it’s formed around this isolation and the need to depend on each other.”

There are about 70 writers representing all areas of the state in the book, Howe said. While each piece is unique, they all tackle relationships — with the land, animals and each other, she said. That’s the theme. 

“It is the kind of harsh and beautiful landscape we live in and how closely we live to the land and how we are constantly reminded of our dependence on each other in the face of such weather and such extremes,” she said.

It is something Howe thinks will give the book appeal beyond the state’s borders, while also resonating with those who call Wyoming home.

-----

About the Author
kelseydayton@gmail.com | @kelsey_dayton

Kelsey Dayton is a freelancer and the editor of Outdoors Unlimited, the magazine of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She has worked as a reporter for the Gillette News-Record, Jackson Hole News&Guide and the Casper Star-Tribune. Contact Kelsey at kelseydayton@gmail.com. Follow Kelsey on Twitter at @Kelsey_Dayton

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

MOMENT BY MOMENT, IMAGE BY IMAGE


post by Lynn

“Hey Lynn,” my husband calls from the door that leads to our deck. “Come here a minute.”

I leave the bedroom where I am putting away the laundry and go to him.

We stand on the deck and watch the northeastern sky bubble and boil and flash in a late-season thunderstorm.

Or…

We follow a red tailed hawk as it circles the blue spruce where our resident flock of sparrows are hiding, hugging close to the trunk.

Or…

We marvel at the jackrabbit tracks marking up last night’s snowfall with crisscrossing trails and mussed up drifts: signs of midnight skirmishes.

That’s it—a simple sharing. A call and a response, repeated again and again throughout the year.

My marriage is fueled by such moments.

So is my writing.

Because what is writing, really, but a call from the writer (Hey, come and look!) and a response from the reader?

Isn’t it our job as writers to bring the readers out of the muddied water of their lives and show them the one greenish pebble at the bottom of the cold stream?

To help them focus?

To help them SEE?



RECORDING THE MOMENT, SHARING THE IMAGE

Lots of writers and writing teachers have discussed the importance of focusing in.

LEAN ON CONCRETE IMAGES

Writers like Adair Lara, who, in her book, Naked, Drunk, and Writing, speaks of the “luminosity of the particular” and goads me to write with images.

“When you trust images to do the work for you, much of what spills onto the page is unconscious… Writing is turning your thoughts, abstractions, generalizations, and opinions back into the experiences you got them from.”

As a tool, Adair suggests, ask yourself questions. If you want to write about running away from home at age seven, ask: What did I take with me? Find the details in that moment. Write the images.

THE SMALLER THE BETTER
You want to avoid the kind of “quick trick” techniques that keep you from really looking closely at the real world and focusing on the people in it. “How to Plot Your Novel in Thirty Days,” “Create Fabulous Characters in an Hour!” – these shortcuts do not usually produce very good work. What produces good writing is accurately noticing specific real living individuals and instances. Focus on the things you notice, and focus on the very small things you notice – the things other people, nonwriters, pass right over… build from the ground up using the true observed stuff of real life.
-- Heather Sellers, The Practice of Creative Writing

In Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual, he describes a deceptively simple activity that poet Linda Gregg assigns to her students:

Study closely six things each day. 

“What seems like a simple discipline turns out to be quite difficult,” Ted says, “because by habit, most of us go through our lives without paying much attention to anything… it’s observed details that really make a poem vivid.”

BREAK IT DOWN

Tina Welling, in Chapter Six of Writing Wild, encourages me to slow down and chronicle the details of a moment. She describes a night where a momma moose and her twin calves bedded down in front of her bedroom window.

Excitement might have rendered Tina unable to notice all the details of this sight, but she has trained herself to slow down and observe deeply.

“My reward: I saw snowflakes in the eyelashes of the mother moose,” says Tina. “If I hadn’t broken my experience down into its separate pieces, I never would have seen that while trying to take in the whole wonderful event of moose in my yard.”



TODAY’S ASSIGNMENT

I have my marching orders for the day: Go forth and observe.

I have a small notebook with me to jot down the images. If I’m lucky, and observant enough, I may find something that makes me call out to you in future blog posts:

Hey, come and look!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Giving Up and Giving In


Force yourself to write, no matter what? Maybe... and maybe not. We spotted this post and loved its words of wisdom so much we wanted to share it.

By Kathryn Magendie
Reposted with permission from Writer Unboxed

The Law in The Land of Writers: “Real writers” never ever give up or give in. Writers (always no matter what) write, right?

Well, unless we don’t wanna.

Writers are an often discombobulated bunch and just as with any society we must have laws to keep us from running amok. If someone breaks the “writers write” law, then what? Will the entire system shut down? Will our society crash and burn to leave charred ruins that future generations dig up and place in museums, marked: “Writer. Extinct.” And there we are, frozen in time, hands petrified over our keyboards, vacant-eyed, hollow-boned.

I broke the writers always write law for over two years. The writing-life-is-killing-me feeling was insidious, a creeping up of discontent and dissatisfaction, and exhaustion. I chucked everything author/writing-related. I turned my back so fast and so hard I spun a hole to the depths below Writer Land.

And all the way down I screamed, “You’re dead to me, Writing! Dead to me!” And I became a—gasp—Regular Citizen of the Regular World, with a whole new dirt hole dwelling.

Writing searched me out, but I only heard its faint call—I shoved more dirt in my ears to drown out the whispers.

There comes a time in a writer’s life when it all is just too much. The writing life feels bastardized. The Iconic Writers of the past have done it, said it, written it, and what’s left for us? And while there may be a few modern-day writers who become icons for about a day or three, most of us swim in a vast ocean pushing wave upon wave upon wave onto a shore that accepts the wave and then immediately rejects it.

The pressure to write a great book, one that will be loved and make lots of money and win awards and allow us to be the darlings of the literary community as well as to be popular to the masses at large, creates a constant striving, constant hope, constant “failure” compared to these ethereal happy-go-lucky authors we think exist.

I became an expatriate. One who dirtied her authorial robes. You know what dirt tastes like? Dirt. There’s no good metaphor to hide behind. It’s simple and organic and somehow comforting. And it’s really quiet! You can hear the sound of your own voice—the one you forgot about? You know, that one?

When you hide away from your writer’s society after you dig your dirty hole, magical things may happen. Consider that you not only hear the voice you forgot about, but you recognize that you have nothing left to lose—you’re hiding in a hole, for goodness sakes! You are a law-breaking non-writing writer! You’ve lost income, your identity, your citizenship.

Everyone has moved forward to fame and fortune and success, while you munch dirt.

And one fine morning you finally recognize that it is you who created a weird society where laws restrain you. Then, there you are, the wiggly dirtied creature, rising up out of the primordial muck, blinking away at the bright wonder of the calling voice you once heard so clearly.

And you listen. And you hear. And you consider how: you aren’t on the New York Times best-seller list; have no viral book that people are snapping up so fast the head spins; no call from Hollywood for your book’s movie rights; no Oprah’s book club; no perfect-storm novel that soars above all others and makes you an icon of the ages. It is just you and the writing and the remembered joy of your fingers flying across the keyboard as you create words and worlds.

Like it used to be, back before you placed so many conditions on your writing that all you could see were conditions rising up and blocking out reason, and joy.

The society of writers opens its arms to you and you cautiously but unapologetically step back into its embrace. Did you think they would throw stones at you? Nope. They do not. Will not.

I didn’t die from not writing; you won’t either. I didn’t cut off my right arm; you won’t either. I didn’t lose my mind (well, maybe a little); you won’t either (except a little). No one called me a loser dirt-mouthed non-writing has-been; you won’t be called those things either—and if someone does hurt you? You’ll find an open community of writers who will rally around you, heal you from the hurt, and give you renewed strength.

And guess what else? Your reader believes in you even when you no longer believe in yourself. They’ll rally around you, too.

If you declare, “You’re dead to me, Writing!” So what? You’ll be fine. Your voice will return once you spit out the dirt you’ve been feeding on.

You owe nothing to anyone and no one owes you a thing. Writing is yours to give freely, or to take away freely. You will survive, and maybe thrive.

I believe that sometimes we have to shut it down, hibernate, and then come out hungry.

Allow yourself to grieve any lost dreams. Then say: “So what? This is my reality. Dirt tastes like dirt.”

You aren’t a New York Times best-seller. So what? Your royalties aren’t what you envisioned. So what? You haven’t won an award you desired. So what? You don’t feel like writing for a day/week/month/2 years. So what? Your last book didn’t live up to expectations. So what?

Hole feels safe? So what? Either you will come out or you will not—taste the comforting organic freedom from conditions. Maybe you were meant for something else and your new journey is only a sideways dig ahead.

Writing will wait for you. Writing will always love you. Writing will always be a part of you. If you want it, writing will provide the words and the love of the craft again.

Never ever give up? Well, I say, yes, sometimes do give up. And after you give up, see how it feels. Find out in the giving up if you do indeed really want this life.

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Kathryn Magendie is an Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of five novels and a novella, as well as short stories, essays, and poetry —Tender Graces was an Amazon Kindle Number 1 bestseller. She’s a freelance editor of many wonderful author’s books and stories, a sometimes personal trainer, amateur/hobby photographer, and former Publishing Editor of The Rose & Thorn Journal (an online literary journal published with Publishing Editor Poet/Songwriter Angie Ledbetter). Magendie’s stories, essays, poetry, and photography have been published in print and online publications. Born in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, her family moved her here-there-yonder until her feet were for many years stuck in the murky strange swamps of South Louisiana. Then! One fine morning over twelve years ago, her long-but-not-forgotten dreams came true and she unglued her feet, leaving behind those moss-filled grandfather oak trees, and returned to the mountains to live in a little log house in the Cove at Killian Knob in Maggie Valley, Western North Carolina. Here, she spins tales, edits manuscripts/books and websites, drinks strong dark black coffee, and from her porch over-looking the Great Smoky Mountains contemplates the glow of Old Moon—Cove Crow and his family speak to her and she listens.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

ARE YOU GAME?

post by Lynn


We were visiting my stepson and his family in North Bend, Oregon. The kids were napping so I stepped outside. Georgie and Razzy, the family dogs, bounced around my feet, begging for a walk.

Up the road that looped through the hilly neighborhood we went. Georgie, the alpha matron, ran in front and Razzy followed, nipping at Georgie’s tail like the annoying teenager he was.

I slowed on a downhill, trying to see through the dense foliage to the ocean that lay just beyond, but from the road there was no view or access.

Georgie dove off the road into the undergrowth. She turned and looked back at me with a question in her brown eyes:

Are you game?

I peered into the gloom to see where she was headed and spotted a small path – well, not a path, really, just some trampled leaves and ferns. The dogs had probably done the trampling. It didn’t look like humans used the route.

Georgie wagged her tail and sat, as if to say that she would wait for me to decide. Razzy plopped down beside her. I stood in the road. The dogs panted.

Then I thought, why not?

For the next half hour I followed Georgie and Razzy through an obstacle course of long-limbed trees, leviathan ferns, and lichen-splashed boulders.

At one point, I had to slide down a muddy slope on my butt. More than once I panicked – I’d never find my way back and had no cell phone with me. I might fall or sprain an ankle. Neither Georgie nor Razzy struck me as a Lassie kind of a rescue dog, and nobody knew where I was.

I could be in a heap of trouble.




Finally, a blue vista, spangled with light, opened up before us. The dogs splashed into the water of a rocky cove.


It was the perfect secret spot.

I straddled a giant slick-skinned log and soaked up the scene.

I pulled smooth stones and shells, tinged with pink, from the silky sand and stuffed them in my pockets.

I sucked salty air deep into my lungs.

I hummed along to the tune of the tide.


When at last I said, “Time to go home,” Georgie led us back to the house where my husband took one look at my muddy shoes and pants and asked, “Where have you been?”

“On an adventure!” I said.

An adventure I would never have experienced had I not given control over to a brown-eyed mutt and just followed.


I try to remember this often in my writing life. Not everything about writing will come in a familiar package. Not everything I need to learn will be taught by a workshop leader or a writing book. Sometimes I will need to stray from the route I have planned for myself.


If I keep an open mind and a willing heart, life will present me with learning detours and unusual guides who'll take me to magical places.


So that's my question today: 




Are you game?