The Brevity of Roses

“That book does not exist.”

Those were Ed’s words the day I drove out to his bookshop to order The Brevity of Roses written by blogger friend, Linda Cassidy Lewis.

Ed thought he was being clever, that I wouldn’t have a clue what he meant by that, but I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, Ed. I know what print on demand means. (It actually seems like a very good idea, although I’m sure Ed might not agree seeing how he likes to stock books on his shelves.)

So many bloggers were writing wonderful reviews of Linda’s book, raving about it in fact, and for awhile I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to get my hands on a copy. Luckily, I discovered there’s a bookshop a little less than an hour from home that would order Linda’s book for me. All I had to do to get my hands on Linda’s debut novel was to prepay. No sweat. I could do that! So you see, even if you don’t own that little piece of plastic you don’t have to deprive yourself. There’s always a way around everything. (Okay, so the lack of a credit card is a personal decision, one that I’ve been rethinking lately.)

This past while, I’ve followed Linda on her journey to self-publication and, I won’t beat around the bush, I’ve admired her initiative, all the work that went into getting her book out there. She’s a determined kind of gal and I’m all for determination.  (She even designed her own cover! How cool is that?)

If you haven’t already checked out Linda’s book, you might like to slip on over to her blog out of my mind, and check it out. You’ll find two sample chapters of The Brevity of Roses to read on the sidebar right under the book cover, and if you like what you read they can print you off as many copies of that “non-existing” book as you want. Non-existing! Oh Ed, I do beg to differ.

Linda’s writing speaks for itself. Oh yeah, the lady can write! For me the mark of a good book is one that leaves a lasting impression on the reader and, I have to say, I thought about Jalal, Meredith and Renee after the book was read. Bravo!

I also feel moved to mention that when Bitter, Sweet was released in the US last year, Linda was right there to support me as a debut author. What some people might not realize is that, as authors, we truly do appreciate all those people who buy our books. Without them, our words would not reach a larger audience. And it is for the reader that we put our selves and our work out there,  knowing that there will be those who will rave about our efforts, and those who may be less enthusiastic about it. We just can’t satisfy every reader. It is not an easy business to be in, and yet here we are.

So, congrats, Linda, on a job well done. Enjoy your time as a debut author, you deserve it!

Waiting For The Bus

“Dear God—I pray for patience. And I want it right now!

—Oren Arnold

When I came across this quote it made me laugh, but I could also see some truth in it as well. Patience is something many of us struggle with, myself included.

Granted, it might be nice to have our lives unfold in a timely fashion, but lets face it life doesn’t work that way. We wait and we wait and, then to add insult to injury, we wait some more.

I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for others over the years. When my daughters were away at school we’d go to the bus station to wait for them to come home, one from Fredericton, the other from Shelburne. The bus they travelled on was always late especially in the winter months. Sometimes we’d sit and wait for an hour or more. Of course once we saw that bus coming in the distance we were so happy to see them that we soon forgot about the long wait we’d just endured. Over time, we came to accept the fact that the bus would not be waiting for us when we arrived. It would be late as usual and there was nothing we could do about it.

Writing is like that. There is nothing fast about the publishing industry. Who spends more time waiting than a writer? A writer needs patience during every stage of the writing process. Patience is needed to keep us writing even after our initial love affair with that brilliant idea is over. Beginnings are filled with enthusiasm. Good thing or we wouldn’t bother to see it through to the end.

Stories do not just come about without a lot of work. Sure, it might be nice if we could have a polished story in three months instead of three years, but the truth of it is, some stories can take a long time to work out. Sometimes the buffing and polishing can take more time than the initial story, and yet we patiently rework sentences and paragraphs reaching for those perfectly sounding prose. Even during those times when we’re almost certain we’re writing pure drivel.

More patience is required to ensure that we do not become too anxious and send our work out before it is ready. I know I’ve been guilty of that in the past. Taking some time away from our latest masterpiece helps us to see any places that require more work.

Again we need patience as we await a decision from a busy editor. As much as we’d like to think that we are an editor’s priority, we are only one of many hopefuls out there. Even after our work has been accepted, we must have patience as we wait for our book to finally be published. My book was accepted in April and was not published until October of the following year.

I sometimes think those writers who are awaiting publication need the greatest patience of all. Once we’re published there is no going back. No one can take that from us. But for those still waiting it is easy to become discouraged and give up. This is when we truly need patience. This is when we need to remind ourselves of the day “when” publication comes and not “if.”

I wrote for many years before my book was published. When I first started writing it was my goal to be published in book form. I spent many years working at short stories, setting aside what my original goal was until the time was right. It wasn’t always easy. I wasn’t always patient. I often complained out of frustration.

Patience isn’t something we can hold it in our hands or sit it on a shelf and show it off for everyone to see. We can’t wait for it to find us and it’s not something we can go in search of. But it can be ours if we choose to allow it with a little change of thought.

How about you, do you struggle to find patience in your life? Or have you found that place of peace where you are content to wait for your bus to arrive?

Reflections: One Year In

This past year has been exciting for me. It’s been a year of many firsts; first novel, first book launch, first book signings, and(most importantly) first grandchild.

Tomorrow it will be exactly a year since my daughter set up this site for me. My intentions were to have a place where people could come find me once Bitter, Sweet was published should they be interested in learning a bit more about me as a writer.

I have heard from quite a few people after the publication of my book, and it’s been so nice to hear that my little book has somehow touched their hearts. In this respect, I consider that my site has certainly lived up to my expectations.

I never expected to be writing regular posts. Other than what might be happening in regards to my upcoming book I didn’t think I’d have anything to write about, certainly nothing that anyone would care to read.

I don’t kid myself into believing that I’m a blogger by any means. I know some of you are probably thinking that sounds a bit silly. Yes, I write blog posts, and I do have a blog, so technically…..

But, when I visit other blogs and read their posts, I find myself thinking— now they really know what blogging is all about. The posts are informative, not to mention entertaining, and so, so inviting to read. I visit them whenever possible. But to be honest it is all very time consuming.

Most of you who read my blog are not bloggers, and likely don’t read other blogs on a regular basis. You are my friends and family, and I SO appreciate you dropping in to read what’s on my mind. Thank you for leaving comments from time to time to let me know you’re out there. When my book came out you were right there to offer support. Many of you helped out the day of my book launch. I will forever be grateful for you support, and will never take you kindness for granted. You have been MY cheering section! Give yourselves a well deserved pat on the back.

I’ve met some really wonderful bloggers during this last year as well. Most of you are listed on the sidebar to the left. If you’re not it’s just because I haven’t got around to adding you. You’ve all been supportive and friendly, you’ve made me laugh, you took the time to leave comments, you’ve made me feel welcome. And I thank you!

To be truthful, I’m not very affluent when it comes to the workings of this site. Many times, in the past, I depended upon my daughter to lend a helping hand. (Thanks Mel!) But I’m slowly learning the ropes. I’m figuring things out as I go. I don’t have to bug my daughter so often.

So now, with one year into this, I find myself asking many questions and wondering in what direction this site is heading. I still haven’t figured that one out. I don’t offer writing advice. I’ve never taken a writing course, and I can’t imagine what writing advice I’d have to offer someone other than to write as often as you can and stay persistent. Don’t let rejection stand in the way of finding publication for your work. If your writing is good, someone somewhere will see it and recognize it for the gem that it is. If it’s not good enough it will get better, guaranteed.

Somedays I wake up and think I’ll never write another post again, other times I can hardly wait to hit “publish.” I’m starting to realize that this blog is just as much for me as it is for those who come to visit. It’s been a lot of fun!

Often I find myself struggling to figure out just where my own writing is headed, and for that reason I don’t feel anywhere near qualified to advise others. But one thing I will always, always do and that is offer encouragement to anyone who needs it. I will cheer you on. If you need a pick-me-up, I’m your person. I do firmly believe that we need a cheering section along the way; people who can genuinely share in our accomplishments and maybe even help pick us up when we’ve hit that brick wall again.

One year later, these are the thoughts that are on my mind. I can’t believe just how quickly this year has gone by.

The Mountain and The Valley

Every day an inspirational email comes into my inbox. Sometimes that little dose of positive affirmation is like a shot in the arm. I gobble it up. Sometimes it’s not such a big shot but I still look forward to reading it.

I’ll paraphrase what came the other day. It said that we shouldn’t try to recreate peak experiences but should accept them as gifts and move on. Also that we can’t stay on that high forever because it would no longer be a high, it would just be a normal everyday occurrence and would eventually end up feeling hum drum and boring.

“So, savor the peak experiences and compliment yourself upon your achieving of them, and expect more of them, and leave everything else out of the equation.”

I thought how true that sounded. Life is full of mountain peaks and valleys. It’s wonderful when we are high on the peak, licking the clouds, savouring the delicious taste. We’re full of energy and smiling at the world. Life couldn’t get much grander.

And yes, it’s true, we often want to stay on that peak forever. It’s a wonderful feeling. Why not? The peak might be higher than any you’ve ever been to before. You’re looking down at the world, waving from above, and it feels as though the whole world is cheering at you.

Of course the publication of any book would be considered a peak. You’re at the very top of the mountain. You climbed hard to get there— first the book, then the launch, the reviews, the signing, the hype. Believe me, it’s a great feeling. A truly wonderful gift.

But then, as my little email reminded me, we can’t stay on the peak forever.

How true.

Published authors always talk about what a wonderful experience publication is. I love hearing about other authors’ journeys, finding out how smooth or bumpy their path was, what obstacles they might have had to overcome, the valley they were in before publication, and of course that peak when the book was finally published. I have yet to read about the valley that comes after they’ve been high on that peak. Maybe it’s because no one wants to admit it. Maybe it’s because they think they will look ungrateful to the rest of the world. What have they got to feel down about their dream came true for God’s sake?

But I’m telling you that yes, I’ve experienced that valley. It’s that feeling of “Now what?” You’re book is out, the “hoopla” (as one author called it) is over and you still wanting to be up on that peak. The peak felt good, the wind blew through your hair, the sun touched the top of your head.  Your heart was warm. You loved the whole world. You smiled a lot.

What I’ve discovered is this, the sun can still reach you even when you’re standing down in the valley. It just has a little further to go to find you. As great as those peaks in life are, being down in the valley will help us to appreciate the mountain even more. No one ever chooses to be in the valley but it sounds to me as though we’re given little choice.

Sooner or later we’ll all enter the valley, no matter what we do in life or where we go. But you can get used to the scenery there if you take the time to look at what the valley has to offer, and stop lamenting about your time spent on that glorious mountain.

I am no longer lamenting. I’m waiting for the next gift to come along. I’m breathing in the scent of the valley flowers, admiring the trees and enjoying my walk. The sun found me!  I knew it would.

Maybe when we’re down in the valley we need to remember that it is just a valley, not a trench, and we’ll get our time on the mountain peak sooner or later.  Life goes in cycles. If it didn’t we’d be standing still, wouldn’t we? And tell me what ever got accomplished when we stood in one spot without the courage or strength to take another step?

Where are you in your present life, on the peak or in the valley? If you’d like to share, I’d like to listen.

Story Update

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off but I did. The short story—– it is finished!

I’ve decided I work best under pressure for some reason. When my time is squeezed between a whole bunch of different things that seems to be when I’m more mindful of how precious time really is.  Felt good to set a goal, one that I wasn’t altogether sure I’d be able to meet, and actually get it done.

The short story is a piece I had taken out of another story a few years back titled, “There’s This Thing About Leaving,” published in the fall 2008 edition of Transition (a story within a story).

I decided to break the original story up because the editor suggested it at the time (It did make the story fairly long for publication in the magazine) and because I knew it had the potential to be a whole other story all of its own. At the time, I was sad to see that bit cut but I also understood that it made perfect sense to take it out. By adding to the original cut part I’m more than happy with the final results.

I still haven’t figured out a title for it. A few readings of the story, without trying to pick at it, and I’ll come up with something appropriate and hopefully a bit memorable. I realize that titles are important but at this point a title seems like the least of my worries. Did I mention I completed my short story?

Oh right, I guess I did.

Happy writing to you all.

What goals did you meet this week? If you’d like to share please do.

Keeping Dreams Alive

When a friend of mine became a grandmother she loved to tell stories to her grandchildren. In fact she even she tape-recorded some of them. Her family thought she should try and have her work published. With a bit of encouragement, she wrote a few of her stories down. Another friend offered to type them up since she didn’t own a typewriter. While she admitted that she loved creating stories, and dared to dream of being a published author one day, over time she managed to convince herself that it wasn’t worth her time trying.

Let’s face it, not all of us were encouraged to express ourselves creatively when we were growing up. If we spent too much time writing or painting it took time away from something “more important.” Pursuing the arts was, considered by some, to be self-indulgent. After all it’s not something necessary for our survival and realistic people measure the world in practicalities.

Some might say:

It’s just a passing fancy,

a notion that holds no substance,

a complete and utter waste of our precious time.

Those are the ideas that often hold us back, that squash our dreams before we are able to get them off the ground.

We allow our fears to prevent us from even trying.

—I’m not good enough. I’m too old.

I know that my friend would have found rejection very difficult. And let’s face it, as writers, we’re all going have our share of rejections. But I’m convinced that it’s better to suffer the disappointment of rejection than to spend our days thinking about the “if onlys”.

We won’t always succeed at everything we do. But if we try enough things we’ll eventually succeed at something. It might take a bit of time to find out what that something is, but the yearning to try can eat away at us if we give up before we ever have the courage to get started.

Although publication was a dream my friend had for herself, she lacked both confidence and courage. Still, she rarely missed an opportunity to encourage me. I’ve always been grateful for her little notes of encouragement, in her faith in me to one day have a published book, faith that I did not always have in myself.

A few years back my friend passed away.

How I wish she’d had the courage to pursue her dream.

Are You a Closet Writer?

I find it amazing the number of people who have admitted to scribbling poetry and prose in journals then neatly tucking it away from the rest of the world. Maybe they’re afraid that others might think it’s a waste of their time or they’re worried that no one will ever think their work worthy of publication. Who knows? Whatever the case I’ve had many people tell me that they once wrote a story or else they write regularly, or their mother or daughter or sister or uncle writes stories, usually adding that they have no desire to see their work published. Yet it is obvious that they have a innate desire to write or else they wouldn’t even attempt it.

Many years ago I was one of those people who wrote in secret. I believe I actually felt embarrassed to admit that I enjoyed writing, and that I loved the way words flowed upon the page, the images they conjured up. The truth was, I couldn’t begin to imagine not writing something down on paper even though it seemed a frivolous indulgence and, something that I really didn’t have time for. To be honest it seemed impractical. Would it end up being a waste of my time if I was never able to see my work in print? Back then publication seemed like a pipe dream. How could I possibley become a published writer? I was just too ordinary. I didn’t have good enough ideas. No one would ever want to read something I had written. Or so I thought.

I’ll admit publication isn’t for everyone. It’s not an easy road to travel. And let’s face it, having your story out there in the world leaves it open not only to praise but to criticism as well. Praise is something every writer enjoys hearing. Heck, who wouldn’t? It’s like someone telling you that you have a cute baby.

I believe that we all have a creative side, and that we are born with a need to express this creativity. I’m not sure I know anyone who doesn’t create on some level. It certainly doesn’t have to take the form of writing. It can be knitting, sewing, scrap booking, painting, drawing, crafting, cooking, baking, gardening—-these are all ways of expressing our creative abilities. It’s an endless list. I find it curious that people will hide the fact that they are writing,but at the same time have no qualms showing off the latest sweater they knit or the scrapbook they put together for their grandchild. They send off homemade greeting cards without being the least bit self-conscious. So, why are these same people ashamed to admit they write? And why do we seem to place so much emphasis on words, worrying that they might not be good enough to share with others?

Like every craft, writing is something that we need to practice. The more we practice the better writers we become. Not only that, it needs to be our own, a story that no one else on the planet could write, from a perspective unique only to us. Pretty cool when you think of it like that!!

I sometimes wonder how many gifted writers are out there who are afraid to share what they do with the rest of us. How many scribble away in secret because they’re afraid they just aren’t good enough? And do they ever dream of what might have been if they only had the courage? I think one of the saddest things in life is allowing our dreams to die away to nothing because of fear. I think that’s why I always try to encourage other writers as best I can. We all deserve to have a dream.

So, what about you, are you now or have you ever been a closet writer? It’s confession time. Time to step out of the closet. Be brave. We won’t laugh…

The Art of Dragging One’s Heels

This week I decided it’s time to dust off some manuscripts and get them ready to send off. I’ll admit I’ve been rather slack in that area this past while. I guess there’s an obvious lesson here—- Is it’s not enough to write the darn thing, I also have to get it in the mail.

At the beginning of each New Year I start a list of submissions so that I can keep track of where things are and how long they’ve been gone. For anyone sending out submissions it’s also a good way to keep track of where you’ve sent things in the past. You wouldn’t want to waste your time sending a story to the same magazine more than once. Since I rarely send out multiple submissions, it can often be a long slow process before a story is actually accepted for publication.

With the publication of the book it’s been easy for me to forget the fact that —hey, you know what? I write short stories, too. I can guarantee that a story sitting in a file on my computer isn’t going to miraculously appear in a literary journal one day all by itself. Mind you, it would be a welcomed thing but life just doesn’t work that way for some reason. I also like to remind myself that simply because there’s a book out there with my name on it doesn’t mean I can sit back with my feet up.

I have some projects that have been idling for awhile that I want to get back to, but in order to do that I have to resist the temptation to start something new. I’ll admit that I’m hearing some whisperings in the background that I’m trying very much to ignore —at least for the time being. I’m not sure how long I can hold off.

So there I am this week, printing and mailing and starting all over. Guess I needed to remind myself that there’s still work to be done. I believe I’ve perfected the art of dragging my heels long enough.

So speak up and admit it—- what have you been dragging your heels about lately?

From Novels back to Short Stories

With “Bitter, Sweet” soon coming out, and with all the work I’ve been doing these past months with the ms, I have sort of forgotten about some of my other writing. This novel has been all consuming. I’m even starting to wonder what will happen to my characters in the future. The more I work on the book the more I become wrapped up in my character’s lives.

When I first began writing I started out with short stories. I love writing short stories because there is not a whole lot of room to move around. The story gets told in a few thousand words and those words really need to count. They are a challenge to write. I have had over forty short stories published in literary magazines as well as some non-fiction articles over the years and it is something that I feel is a great accomplishment for me.

Another good thing about short stories is that you are not investing a substantial amount of time writing them and with any luck you’ll see results quicker than if you are working on a novel. A novel would have been too ambitious an undertaking for me to start out with. Besides, I freely admit that I had much to learn, never having taken a writing course and anything of that nature. Short stories are a really good starting point for anyone wanting to get into something more challenging like novel writing.

So here I have been so wrapped up in the novel that when I received an email from the editor of TRANSITION, a publication put out by the mental health society of Saskatchewan, I was really quite surprised. Not surprised that he had chosen my story for publication as this will be my fifth appearance in their magazine but because I wasn’t even thinking about the story being out there and awaiting a decision.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that every publishing credit counts and they are all something to be celebrated along the way. One is no more or less important than another. They all help shape us as writers and we all work at our own pace to obtain what we consider to be that ultimate goal.

The Road to Publication

It’s been over fifteen years since my first short story was published in The Amethyst Review, a small literary magazine that has since ceased publication. Although I was thrilled to be finally seeing my work in print I didn’t share my accomplishment with very many people—mainly my family and a few close friends but that was about it. Yes, I was published but I sure didn’t feel like a writer. What if this was my one and only story? We are all supposed to have one story in us—right? Not only that, I still had a great deal to learn about writing and I knew it.

All I had in the beginning was an eagerness to communicate, to put words down on paper, hopefully words that would flow smoothly and eloquently and leave me with a sense of accomplishment. In the early years I was floundering about like so many would-be writers do, trying to find out who I really was on the page and searching for that voice that was uniquely mine. It was a slow process and it was a year or two later until I had another story accepted. But I hung in there either out of pure determination or sheer stubbornness. I was going to figure this out one way or another and, slowly but surely, more and more literary magazines began publishing my work. Some places were able to pay while others were not but I knew that with each publication I was growing as a writer. Did I receive many rejection slips along the way? You bet! And I came to see those rejections slips as most valuable because the closer I got to having my work accepted I went from receiving form rejection slips to ones with wonderful bits of advice and encouragement.

So when I received a phone call from the editor of Nimbus Publishing in April 2008 telling me how much she liked “Bitter, Sweet” I politely thanked her for all the wonderful things she was saying. Play it cool, I silently told myself, what if she’s calling to say, “I really like your story but unfortunately…….” So, I played it cool up until the point where she told me they wanted to publish it, after that I’m not quite sure. I laughed a lot, my legs felt like rubber and my mind was going off in a hundred different directions. She asked me a few questions about the setting and I’m sure I blurted out some sort of answer. Hopefully I made sense. I’m pretty sure I made sense. Oh well, if I didn’t make sense it hardly matters now.

The next few days I literally had my head in the clouds and believe me it took a while to come back down to earth. I can’t compare the difference between having a first short story accepted for publication to having a first novel because there really is no comparison. The short story came at the beginning of my career and served as encouragement but as valuable as that encouragement was it still wasn’t where I wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong it was pretty exciting to think that someone wanted to publish something I had written but the novel was my goal from the very beginning. It was where I someday wanted to be. Now that someday is here and it feels great!!!!!!

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