All posts for the month May, 2012
This is a difficult post, and something I’m having a hard time reconciling with, so please bear with me.
Open Letter– to whom it may concern
How can you get rid of me like this, toss me out as if I never meant a thing to you? Have you forgotten the laughter, the words we shared, the time we spent snuggled up in the armchair together while you held me close? What about those times when I brought a smile to your face, shared my deepest darkest secrets, presented my thoughts to you like an open book?
Have you truly forgotten all the years we spent together, those years I waited for you to acknowledge me the way you once did? Do I no longer fill you with excitement? Does the thought of me no longer fill you with desire?
I won’t go into all the times you’ve ignored me, walked past without giving me a sideways glance, the times you treated me as if I didn’t exist even though we were residing under the very same roof. I was unable to cry out for your attention. Would you have listened to me anyway?
There was no warning, no exchange of angry words. How was I to know? You became bored one day and figured you’d had enough of me. You were tired of looking at me. Keeping me around was a waste of your time. Your life needed decluttering. I was part of that clutter. I was in the way. You had better things to do.
You picked me up, dusted me off, and packed me away.
You wrote about it on Facebook a few days ago. You and your friends made jokes. You bragged your intentions. You were getting rid of me you said. A few objected, but most just laughed it off. Perhaps they thought you were joking.
And so now you expect me to find a new home, far away from here, from you. Be honest, it was your plan from the start. I’m surprised it took so long for you to execute it. I hope you don’t mind this parting picture as I go. A little something to remind you of me.
Yes, my friends breaking up is very hard to do.
Do you find it difficult to part with books? Impossible?Do you donate them, pass them along, or *gasp* throw them in the garbage?
Posted by Laura Best on May 26, 2012
But have you written a novel yet?
I got asked that question often when I was writing short stories. What is it about novels that people assume every writer wants to write them? Is there a certain prestige for the writer who can add “novelist” to their CV? Forget the fact that short stories are challenging to write, keeping the word count to a minimum, writing tight prose, finding the perfect flow, most people seemed only to care if I’d written a novel. Some how the 40+ short stories I’d managed to get published did little to impress some. (Not that I was looking to impress. I was just looking toward that next submission, that next chance to see my words in print.) Truthfully, I knew my stories would be read by a few as literary magazines are pretty much available only through submission, and circulation numbers tend to be low. Still, that didn’t matter. Someone, someone who knew something about publishing, wanted to publish what I’d written. Yippee!
What is it about writing that causes some people to ask such a question? Would they look at a potholder someone sewed and asked, “But have you made a quilt?” A pair of knitted mittens and ask, “Have you knitted an afghan?” Does this mean the short story is looked at as something less, as if the writer isn’t good enough to write a full-length novel? Maybe I’m just sensitive.
Perhaps in some people’s books (pardon the pun) real writing comes in a book bound with your name and your name only, the rest of it doesn’t really count.
Well, I’m here to say that writing short stories is REAL writing. Writing is writing, simple and true, and has little to do with the length of a story. The story is what counts. Some stories are short while others have longer, more intricate plotlines.
I happen to consider myself lucky. I have many wonderfully supportive friends and family who would cheer me on if I had a paragraph published. Seriously. They’re really the best. They help keep me going those times when I feel like forgetting about it all.
I know it is a goal for many writers to craft a novel. It’s an admirable goal. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s right, more than right. Why not? Heck, having an entire book with your name on is nothing less than sweet. But while it’s nothing less than sweet, it’s not the goal of every writer out there nor should we assume it is.
Here’s another thought as well, once you’ve had enough short stories published, a publisher somewhere may be interested in publishing your work in a collection with YOUR name on it! Now there’s an admirable goal as well.
What are your goals, writing or otherwise?
Posted by Laura Best on May 23, 2012
Writers never know where their source of inspiration will come from. For some time now, I’ve been interested in some old Standard magazines that were given to us many years ago. These magazines were saved by my husband’s grandmother when the King and Queen came to Canada in 1939. Since the main character in my next novel was born that same year, I decided to make reference to this visit in the novel plus the captions provided little tidbits of information about the tour.
So here are a few of the photos from the magazine of the King and Queen from way back in 1939.
No wondeer the King has a strained look on his face. I would too wearing that head gear. * Note: I said “head gear” for lack of a better word. I’m sure it’s ceremonial, and hopefully something they did away with years ago. On the other hand the Queen looks a tad smug. I’d say she faired a bit better.
They obviously brought this poor veteran outside for photos. There were other photos in the magazine were the veterans were outside in the hospital beds.
The coloured photo is of the Queen with Princesses Elizabeth (future Queen) and Margaret. I think this photo is my favourite.
I hope you enjoyed this visit back in time.
I’m not expecting that many of you have seen these pictures of the Royals before.
Posted by Laura Best on May 20, 2012
Recently, I started receiving emails from Klout. Okay, so these things don’t just happen out of the blue for no reason. I acknowledge that. Apparently I signed up for it, bright cookie that I am, but forgot I had. I do have a vague recollection of this awhile back. I mean, you hear about something on someone else’s blog and you go to check it out. You sign in and bam! they’ve got you in their clutches.
So more numbers, more stats to deal with, more reasons to make me want to bug you all with my presence on the Internet. But really, is all this necessary? Is this actually going to, in any way, enrich my life? Or is it an attempt to keep me chained to my computer?
Maybe we’re becoming a society who worries too much about the numbers in our lives rather than the people who are there? We fool ourselves into thinking we’re being a good friend if we *like* each other’s posts on Facebook when this good friend is a cup of coffee away from us. You know, back in the old days when people actually dropped in to say Hi! They maybe even sat across from you and chatted about things that actually mattered, none of which involved numbers.
Truthfully, I’d like someone to explain why I should even care about the numbers on Klout.Will knowing how many people I have influenced in anyway make my life richer?
I know, I know, why complain about something that I signed up for, just ignore it or embrace it. :) Hmm, I wonder if this post about Klout will improve my Klout ratings.
What are your thoughts on Klout? Is it a great tool to measure our influence on others or just one more way the internet has of tracking our lives?
Posted by Laura Best on May 18, 2012
An email from a literary journal, announcing an extension on their fiction contest made me wonder how many of you have entered such contests over the years. I’m referring to contests for unpublished manuscripts. To my knowledge, publishing companies submit books for awards on the author’s behalf–that was certainly the case with my book.
I know many people have thoughts on writing contests. While some people think they aren’t worth the entry fee, many think that these contests can help your career along. (Of course, this would only true if you win or final in one.)
Truthfully, I have entered very few contests over the years. I often questioned the judging process not to mention that every contest requires an entrance fee. This fee could be anywhere from $25 -$40, maybe even more. This is often the subscription price of literary magazines and you also end up with a year’s subscription. If you’re planning on subscribing to a particular magazine, then entering a contest might be well worth the money. Years ago when I was first getting my work out there, I often didn’t have the money to spend on entry fees. My kids were small and we were a one-income household. We had a mortgage. I could go on. The few contests I entered were those with very modest entry fees.
While I know some people argue the point that these contests are worth your time and money to enter, I seriously wonder how true this is. I’ve known people who have won such contests, but still had problems finding a publisher for longer works. It seems to me that publishers make their decision to publish by evaluating the submission that is before them. While having won a writing contest might look good on your bio, is a publisher going to publish your book because of some contest you won five years ago?
Here are some of my thoughts:
When we submit our work to a literary magazine it is already being judged against hundreds of other stories. I’ve had literary magazines tell me they receive 1200 + submissions in a year and publish about 30 so when one of my stories made it in their publication I felt like a winner. Whoopee! Best of all, it didn’t cost me a cent. Being in the top 30 out of over 1200 submissions wouldn’t mean I’d have won first place had it been a contest. It wouldn’t even mean I’d place. I also found that as my work improved, I’d receive valuable feedback from editors who made suggestions or told me a particular story almost made it. Let me tell you those comments were like gold.
For every contest there are winners and losers. Had I only submitted to contests, and never placed, I might have come to the conclusion that my writing was no good. I might have given up. So while entering contests may be something you love to do, I would caution you not to become discouraged if you don’t final. Failing to final doesn’t mean your story sucked.
Occasionally a contest will offer feedback on your work. This is something that could prove to be quite valuable. Let’s be honest, feedback from our friends isn’t always helpful since our friend’s judgement could be clouded. (I’m sure my mom would love every bit of drivel I wrote, regardless of how bad it might be.) If you’re looking for feedback, and a particular contests offers this, then it may be worth entering. Truthfully, the contests I entered over the years didn’t offer any feedback. So make sure you understand if feedback is being offered if that’s what you want.
What are your thoughts on writing contests, are they a good idea or a waste of time and money? Do you regularly enter them? Have you entered them in the past?
Posted by Laura Best on May 17, 2012
Just so you know, I wasn’t doing any roaring twenty years ago when I first started writing. The sound I was making was more like the soft whispered cries of a day old kitten. Privately I was happy to be writing, even feeling as though I had just as much right to be doing so as the next person, publicly I kept it all to myself. Who was I to even use the word, writer?
I remember how odd it felt once the time came for me to openly admit what I’d been doing in secret for so long. It felt like this huge big deal as I slowly began to open up to others. My face would flush, my heart would quicken whenever they asked what I’d been up to. And yes, I sometimes got a few strange looks when I’d say, “I’ve been writing.” Never once did I admit to being a writer, though. I was simply writing.
I still had miles to go.
Getting to the place were we’re willing to admit (under duress) that we write still doesn’t mean that we believe ourselves to be writers, but it’s the first step. Remember, we’re in our infancy, our eyes and ears are closed off to the outside world, and some of us just take longer to mature than others. No right or wrong, no hurries to get to where we’re going because no one knows how long it will take us to get there, and what all we need to learn, what steps we need to take.
While our mouths may regurgitate what is running through our minds, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, our hearts know the truth. When I reached that place where I could finally admit I was a writer (maybe I even talked myself into believing it in my head) my heart was silently objecting. Still, I didn’t understand why. I had the proof in front of me–several literary journals that contained my work. Something I knew many others couldn’t say.
Outward proof means little. I could wave those journals about all day long and I might feel good for a time, but feeling the need to prove ourselves to others can not stop that nagging little voice in our heads. When we truly believe something the need to convince others of it seems to vanish.
It is inward proof that we need, that knowing inside that we’re doing exactly what we were meant to do. And why not? There’s nothing out there stopping us from pursuing our dreams of writing except ourselves. No one is standing over us and telling us we can’t, we mustn’t, but that little voice inside our head.
“Someday I’ll write that story,” we say, which is fine so long as that “someday” come around. Someday allots us the opportunity to pretend our dreams are still out there. But it’s a lie. Those someday stories are impossible to get down on paper, as fleeting a summer breeze.
To go long with those someday stories we’re writing we have those silent objections that we’re never going to published anyway.
So what? That shouldn’t stop us if we truly love and enjoy what we do. Many of us follow our dreams for pleasure and nothing more. Does there always have to be this huge big prize waiting for us at the end to tell us that what we’re going has validity?
Write. Tell your story to others. Entertain them with your work. Listen to what your heart is saying. You may not be roaring quite yet, but eventually those quiet little meows will grow loud enough to be heard by others.
Having you reached the place in your writing life where you’re ready to roar or are you still quietly meowing while working away on your someday story?
If you’re ready, I’d love to hear you roar!!!
Posted by Laura Best on May 15, 2012
I should probably put a warning on this post. “Content is highly controversial.”
Now I know that there are two taboo subjects that we should never bring up, politics and religion. Understand I didn’t write this post to spark any religious debate. What I’m curious about is your feelings on freedom of expression.
“Your Life is Wasted Without Jesus”
These words, written on a t-shirt, have been the centre of a controversy this past week at a high school here in Nova Scotia. The student wearing the t-shirt was suspended from school for a week, after being asked repeatedly not to wear it, as some of the students found it offensive.
From an outside perspective, it seems to me that the purpose for him choosing to wear this t-shirt could have been to spark such a controversy— and that he did. It made national news.
One article I read on the issue stated that the t-shirt was simply rude. I was amused by one comment that ripped into the writer for calling the t-shirt rude while at the same time defending the student’s right to express himself. I mean really, if we truly believe in freedom of expression we can’t, in turn, criticize others for expressing their opinion just because we don’t agree. If the writer found the t-shirt rude then so be it.
I’d like to think that in this day and age we are all at a place where we respect the beliefs and opinions of others even when we don’t agree. While I’d like to think that, I know it’s not the case. Many of us will fight to bend someone’s thoughts and beliefs to match our own. We do it all the time. We become angry when someone can’t see things the same way we do because we know we’re right and why won’t so and so just listen. Okay, so I’ve been guilty of that in the past. I’ll admit it.
My question might be, if this student truly wanted to express his religious beliefs was it right to do it in a way that could be interpreted as an insult to other religions? But then, we need to ask if that was even the student’s intent in the first place– something we really can’t know. We can make assumptions, but assumptions are often far off track. Was the student actually suggesting that all other religions are a waste or has the whole statement been misconstrued? Media can do that.
In contrast, I am curious as to whether or not this same student would find a similar t-shirt offensive if it said, for example, “Your Life is Wasted Without Buddha.” How do I know, maybe he’d welcome a fellow student wearing such a shirt?
Was it right to suspend the student? (I don’t believe he was suspended for the t-shirt per se, but his refusal to listen to authority.) I’m betting with all the publicity the school is rethinking its actions. Perhaps the whole situation could have been handled differently.
I’ve been giving this subject some thought. While I agree with freedom of speech and expression, I do think there is a time and a place for everything. Being respectful of others is not mandatory, but seems decent and moral. As a society we draw invisible lines when we judge what is acceptable and what is not. The problem with invisible lines, however, is that we’re never really sure where those lines are until someone crosses them. Only then do we immediately know what offends us and what doesn’t. Not only that, those invisible lines are as varied as we are. Wow! So much to think about.
I just want to say it was a t-shirt that some people found offensive, one that obviously hit a nerve across the country. Turning this whole story into a huge controversy managed to spread this student’s message far and wide. Who knows, maybe this was his intent all along. If so, he succeeded.
Truthfully, I believe one of the best ways to express our beliefs is to lead by example. I can tell you right now that someone walking in peace and harmony, spreading love and joy, doing acts of kindness is going to influence me far more than a few words written on a t-shirt.
Some tough questions for discussion.
Do you find what was written on the t-shirt offensive ? Do you believe in freedom of expression regardless of the circumstances? If you would place restrictions on freedom of expression do you know what those restrictions would be? Do schools have a right to place these kinds of restrictions on students? While we’re on the subject of freedom of expression, do you believe in banning books?
Posted by Laura Best on May 10, 2012
God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into its nest. ~~J.G. Holland
Today, I found my first robin nest of the season and thought I’d share it with you. There’s something about finding pretty blue eggs in a nest that brings joy to my heart. I love finding these gifts from nature. Sometimes living in a rural area feels pretty darn good.
Posted by Laura Best on May 7, 2012