The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

Rain has been pounding on my roof all night. And most of yesterday. Today it’s going to be the same. I’m stuck inside my house, longing to stretch my legs and feel sunshine on my face.  

Storm after storm after storm. No chance to catch my breath.

I’m not the only one who’s gone through storms over this holiday season. Each person has their own storms to face. To someone else, my problems would only be annoyances. For me, as each problem piles on top of the next, it becomes mind-numbing.

Incessant rain. Grey, swollen skies that hold the day captive.

My creativity is held captive with the California sunshine. My hands hover over my laptop keyboard yet nothing is typed on my screen. Maybe the query rejections were right. Maybe writing a novel is too hard.

Maybe my story is not important.

My responsibilities come tumbling out like junk out of a woman’s purse. Days fill up with important tasks. People I care about need me. When things break, it takes time and money to fix them.

Cars drive by my house, splashing up water from the gutters.

An email arrives. A short story I wrote last year was shortlisted for a fiction contest.

Silence catches my attention. The rain has stopped.

Maybe I can write a story that is important.

My hands fly over the keyboard. Characters, storylines, wonderful places flood my mind. When my stolen moments pass, the story takes hold in my mind and rests there, waiting for my next writing time.

Out comes the sun and dries up all the rain.

And the itsy-bitsy spider climbs up the spout again.

Today She Needs to Write

Homework, Girl, Education, Studying, Student, School

 

A short story about a short story.

When I announced to my third grade class that one of my Harley stories was going to be included in an anthology coming out next month, a serious-looking girl in the second row shot up her hand.

“Did you have a question?” I asked.

“How long did it take you to write the story?”

Hmm. I knew this student loved to write in her journal, and her quick write responses often filled the entire page. Adults who share my writing addiction know that years can pass before a story or book is exposed to the light of publication. Would my answer cause her to close her journal and pursue another dream?

How long did it take?

Last fall I went on the Harley overnighter that became the subject of my story. When I returned, it was back to my normal life as a teacher. (Often I have compared my life to Indiana Jones, especially the part where he has to go back to his job as a college history professor after outrunning the Nazis.) A few months passed before I found time to sit down and think about that adventure.

Actually writing it didn’t take more than an hour. I read through it, adding and deleting for another half hour. After I thought it was finished, I sent it out with my other submissions, the dark hole where you rarely find out your story’s fate. Meanwhile, some of my other short stories were accepted into online magazines. Nothing for that story. I took UCLA extension classes and worked on my YA novel.

Early in the summer, I heard that my California Writers Club branch was going to publish their first anthology. I took back out that Harley story, edited it again, and submitted.

That story was accepted into the book. The editor wanted some minor revisions. Five months later, the book is almost ready to come out.

So how did I answer? My smile reflected in her eager eyes, I replied, “Only about an hour.”

She’ll find out about the rest someday, but today she needs to write.

 

 

 

 

On being published, and how it changed my life

i-am-a-writer

Two years ago, I got sick and tired of my pathetic longing to publish my novel. My book project was only one year into the revised drafts, and I felt like time was running out. Let’s face it –I’m not getting any younger, and if I want to be a best-selling author I need to get my first one on the New York Times bestseller list. So I sent out an army of queries to any agent that represented my genre. My submission spreadsheet grew into several pages with polite rejection notes. The agent I met at a very expensive writer’s conference never responded to my query. I was desperate for a new approach.

My critique group was supportive and gave great feedback, but they were not professionals in the writing industry. I wasn’t going to improve my writing without higher standards. Should I go back to school? Seeking to improve my craft, I enrolled in a local university’s online creative writing program. What I expected was that my writing would be pulled apart, equipped with upgrades, and become the shiny sports car I needed to catch a literary agent’s eye. What I experienced was a barrage of articles about writing that I could have Google searched myself. The students provided feedback on each other’s assignments, although most were not qualified or bold enough to give more than vague compliments. Curiously absent were concrete suggestions from the teacher. Although it was great to have structure and deadlines for creating short pieces, I didn’t really learn anything new.

However I did enjoy discussing the art of writing with other people interested in pursuing a writer’s life. There had to be other writers out there like me that wanted to be taken seriously. So I searched the internet and found the California Writers Club. It was a state club with local branches, so I checked out the Inland Empire Branch. What an exciting moment when I walked into a room with thirty other writers, most full time professional ones, and listened to a presentation about marketing books on social media. These people were living the life I dreamed about! I joined the group, and the members have become some of my dearest encouragers.

One of the club’s suggestions was to set smaller goals along the way to my big goal of publishing my novel. For my WordPress blog, I include articles about riding with my husband in the HOGs (Harley Owners Group). I found a database called Duotrope where you can find submission information for all varieties of print and online magazines and contests. A new submission spreadsheet was begun, and within two months one of my articles, “Backroads to Pioneertown” was accepted into an international travel journal called Coldnoon Travel Diaries. There was no money award, but my work was validated. Buoyed with my success, I continued to submit articles and last month “The Almost Grand Canyon Trip” was published in the literary journal The Courtship of Winds.

            My blog caught the attention of our HOG chapter and I was asked to become the editor of their newsletter The Handlebar Star. My responsibilities include collecting and editing articles written by the club officers and adding my own touches.

Success with my nonfiction writing sparked my creativity toward my novel project. Instead of giving up, I asked for help from my social media audience. One of my Twitter followers agreed to become a beta reader for me, and sent me seven pages of notes and revision suggestions. I was surprised to discover that the roots of my story were still alive, and I am weeding out unneeded sentences and watering my characters. I am learning to persevere in editing, long past the point where I’m in love with any of my sentences.

What began two years ago as a desperate search for help has shown some small victories. I’m not giving up on writing courses yet, although I will do more research on the best programs. Joining a professional writers group has given me a supportive family that helped me discover opportunities I never would have found on my own. And becoming an editor has reinforced the basics that I need to practice.

And so I start this year as a published writer. Did it change my life as I thought it would? Absolutely. Criticism and encouragement have sharpened my writing sensibility and I’m ready to do the work necessary to perfect my writing style. Today I’m even more dedicated to improving my writing and finding new ways to get my stories out to readers.

The Rebel Mind

“You can’t make me!” This is the battle cry of children of all ages when confronted with brussel sprouts or taking a bath or cleaning up their rooms. Parents clench their teeth and use their superior logic to force compliance. The brussel sprout disappears into a napkin, and the adult enjoys a false victory. But the rebel never ceases to find opportunity to object against anything that is required of her.

Then adulthood changes everything. The rebel discovers no ones cares if she stays out until dawn. No one makes her wash the tower of dishes in the sink. No one forces her to make her bed before company comes over. This absence of tension confuses the rebel who enjoys conflict. The quiet voice of responsibility is no substitute for loud voices and slammed doors.

The rebel is driven outward to find a cause. If her apartment building forbids pit bulls, she has to have one. If the parking sign says 20 minutes, she leaves her car there for hours. Of course she smokes even though it will probably kill her. She loves to jaywalk and jump over “Do Not Walk on the Grass” signs. Speed limits and traffic lights are for submissive slaves, not her. Instinctively she finds ways to rebel against the parents that no longer lurk over her shoulder.

The only parent the rebel must still contend with is Her Creator. As a child, she readily accepted that God made her and loved her. Some of His rules, like not murdering or stealing, sounded good. When she was caught in rebellion, it was a comfort to know He forgave her. But a moral life? Too restrictive. Instead she went her own way, doing what seemed good to her. What made her happy.

Years later, the rebel is alone. Her selfishness cost her everything. As her best plans collapsed in ruins, she knows there is only one person to whom she can turn. Entering the church building she has scorned for most of her life, she brings her white flag to the altar.

ssplash 008

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑