Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Pumpkin Patch

Last weekend, I was out for a nice leisurely drive with my family and had a chance to just stare out the window for a half hour or so just taking in the scenery: the rocky brown terrain of inland Southern California as you climb gently over the recently burned out slopes to reach mini-mountain elevations. Okay, well, truthfully - we were on our way to the pumpkin patch with an over-tired 18 month old singing her version of the Barney theme song, the digital shooting sounds of a 10 year old on a Star Wars DS game, and an ornery 8 year old complaining of hunger and heat. In her defense, it was 92 degrees at the pumpkin patch, so maybe she was hot. But regardless of the chatter and noise, I DID manage to get 30 minutes sitting still and looking out the window. I wasn't handing over cheerios or lathering sun screen on bare arms, I was just sitting. And what I realized while I was looking out the window was that I love scenery. Now my husband would call me a liar because I am rarely moved by the view from a skyscraper or the view from a cliff overlooking a lush, green valley...and frankly, I never knew why. Why am I not in awe of these inspiring views when I truly love beautiful places. And what I discovered was that I don't love a good view. I love scenery. I love driving through an area and picturing how people live there. I love how scenes float by the car window slowly so that you can draw out the experience and almost become one with it. A view is simply one dimensional to me. But scenery is completely 3D.

I mention this - not so much to ramble on - which I tend to do, but because I realize that most of my ideas for stories come from scenery that is intriguing or places I've been that speak to me so strongly that I just HAVE to create characters to experience it for me. My first novel was set among the cattle ranches of Oklahoma where I had been just once but held so much passion and heart that I had to get back there if only on paper. My current novel is set on the rolling hillsides of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where people live a simpler life...perhaps a nod to my inner need to reduce stress in my life?

I just find it amazing when a piece of my writing process becomes clearer to me - more concrete.

It's an amazing journey we are on as writers. I'm so glad to be here among you all!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tortured Souls

Sometimes I wonder if we writers are simply a collection of tortured souls agonizing to get our stories out. It seems to me that writers, the really good ones anyway, are able to tap into raw emotions that seem to transmit effortlessly to the page. Of course, those of us endeavoring to do just this know how difficult it is to not only harness this emotion but find words to portray it.

I believe everyone has a story within. Everyone has at some time or another felt so deeply that their little pinky toe radiates the feeling. But it is the courage to share these feelings - the sorrow, the embarrassment, the tenderness - that sets a great writer apart from a mediocre one. And it is precisely this courage that I continue to strive for with each sentence that I write. And I find that it is those emotions that scare you to death are the ones that you need to put on paper. It is the courageous writing that stuns its readers into voracious consumption.

We always hear: write what you know. Well, it makes sense then that to successfully transmit deep emotion - whether it be joy, love, fear, worry, agony - the writer needs to relive it in a way. The challenge is to relive it while remaining focused enough not to be lost in it: to hover on the brink of insanity it seems. We need to kind of fade in and out of a deep emotional consciousness so that we can get the words on the page before the feeling is lost. For me, this is the hardest part of writing. I could write endlessly about a character and about her trials and tribulations or I can feel intensely. But to infuse a one dimensional being with three dimensional emotion that allows her to come alive for everyone who reads it is the true test of a successful novel.

What it wouldn't mean to me to have someone read my novel and cry when my character does - then I'd know it was a job well done. But occasionally when I am writing, I know that I am on the verge of something great, something unique and important, but I just can't get there. The intensity is missing.

What do you do when the emotion just isn't there? Have you ever had the courage to write about something that terrifies you?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Creative Blogger Award!

Many thanks to Fran Caldwell for passing on the "Kreativ Blogger" award...though I'm in agreement about the "Kreativ" use of spelling here...

As stipulated by the award, I need to let you all in on 7 things you don't know about me. Hmmm...the pressure to be interesting yet not weird is somewhat overwhelming! Nonetheless, here it is:

1. I wanted to be a pediatric nurse in high school...but decided to major in creative writing instead.

2. I would love to take my next vacation to Nashville.

3. I played with Barbie dolls until I was 12 (perhaps getting the creative juices flowing?)

4. I wanted 5 kids up until I had number 3...now I'm good.

5. I dread public speaking and break into a cold sweat whenever the need arises.

6. I like cleaning...I find it therapeutic!

7. My biggest accomplishment thus far in life was potty training my first child...if you don't have children, please withhold judgement!

And although it is difficult to narrow it down, I'll now reveal my nominees for Creative Blogs that I enjoy regularly and think you should too: Barb at Finding My Voice, Cindy R. Wilson, Sonia at The Gutsy Writer, and Charlie at Approaching Utopia. Thanks to all of you for your inspiring posts!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Submission Tally

44 queries sent, 1 request for partial received.

Although the ratio of query to interest may not be the best, I'm over the moon about it. Thank God that little bit of interest from a "highly intelligent" agent came through when it did...I was beginning to get a bit of the rejection blues.

So now I'll wait cross my fingers...and my toes...and well, yes, maybe even my eyes...and hope that she likes my partial as much as my query.