I want to say a public thank you to the very talented Lauren Groff.
Back a few years ago, a good friend handed me a copy of The Monsters of Templeton. It wasn’t his style of book, he said, but maybe I would like it.
Like? I loved it. Loved everything about it, in fact -the setting, the characters, the beautiful writing, and the blending of reality with the something beyond. More than anything, though, I fell in love with the soul of the book. Lauren’s writing captured a deep and abiding love for humanity, even while fully acknowledging all of the ugliness of which we are capable.
It was the soul of the book that inspired me to write my first ever fan letter. I searched out Lauren’s website and from there her email address, and I sent her a letter to thank her for the book. Somewhere in that email I mentioned that I was writing a novel and just beginning to query.
Imagine my surprise when she not only responded to my email, but offered to read my novel. She even meant it. I responded with initial shock and disbelief, and wrote back to offer her an out. Lauren replied that so many people had been helpful to her in getting to this point in her writing career, that she really wanted to pay it forward.
She not only read for me, she gave me some wonderful feedback that inspired a complete revision of the novel. Although that book is currently sitting in a drawer, her feedback helped me get it to the level of a couple of full reads from great agents who provided even more helpful feedback. It gave me the courage to keep on trying.
So I want to publicly say thanks for the lifeline of totally unexpected encouragement tossed to a total stranger, as well as pointing the rest of you toward some wonderful books.
A couple of days ago I woke up in the dark, just as I have been doing ever since The Man told me I must turn my clock ahead one hour. Yes, I resent this intrusion on my life and freedom, but after the first few days of bitter complaint I have tried to keep my mouth shut since so many of you are enamored by the whole thing. You know, out of appreciation for your feelings and all that.
Anyway. As I was saying, I woke up in the dark, to which I am growing accustomed again, and comforted myself with my usual fire, coffee, and cat routine. But when, at last, light began to grow outside my windows, oh what did my wondering eyes behold?
Not just a skiff or a dusting appropriate to the first day of spring, either, but a thick white blanket of snow. Four inches. A lot. And big fluffly flakes continued to fall, as if they’d gotten the date all wrong and were showing up for the Christmas card photo shoot.
To make matters worse, a whole lot of you out there in other parts of the world were going on about beaches and flowers, sunny days, unseasonably warm springs and 80 degree temperatures.
I confess that I was less than happy about this. I whined. I indulged in extra coffee.
And then I gave myself a shake (partly to get rid of the snow after going outside to drive a kid to school. And shoveling off the truck. And driving home in freaking four wheel drive). Ahem. As I said, I gave myself a shake and reminded myself of a few things.
Or only one thing, really: good and bad is all about perspective. In November, I would have thought the snow was lovely. And when I was six, or even twelve or sixteen, not only would I have thought the snow was lovely, I would have been playing in it the minute I realized it was there.
And as I thought about this I started to have memories of playing in the snow and how wonderful that was. I thought about the adage about lemons and lemonade. And I put on my boots and a pair of gloves and I went outside and built myself a snowman. That’s him up there, at the top of the page, looking out into the draw.
His life was short. By the end of the day he’d already fallen flat on his face, unable to enjoy the scenery any longer. But he had his day, and so did I.
I’m grateful. And I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any “when it snows, make a snowman” stories to share?
When I met Trudy, she was published and knew things I was missing out on. She introduced me to Nanowrimo and the Princess Bride, not necessarily in that order. She encouraged me with my poetry and with the beginnings of my very first novel and continues to read for me on a regular basis.
She was also a co-participant in My Most Crazy Writing Experiment Ever.
I was writing a character who was blind, and wondered what it would really be like not to be able to see. I told Trudy this, and she mentioned that she had always wondered what it would be like not to speak. We looked at each other. The plot was hatched.
Shortly thereafter, the two of us went to the mall on an expedition to buy a shower gift for a friend. Trudy drove, of course, because I was wearing eye patches and dark shades. She couldn’t tell me where we were going, though, because she had lost the gift of speech. We ‘looked’ at a variety of articles, Trudy dissolving at times into helpless laughter as I tried to ascertain where exactly we were, and what on earth we were thinking about buying. One interesting fact we learned was that salespersons and cashiers will inevitably speak to the sighted person, which grows complicated when said person does not speak back. She also forgot where she had parked the car.
Ah, the memories. So – back to Writer Wednesday. Trudy has published an impressive selection of books. She has an inspirational line as well as several wonderful historical novels, the most recent being That Forgetful Shore, and is currently writing something about a time traveling monk. She’s smart and knows her history (unlike me, the historical idiot). I’m sure she’d be delighted to have you stop by her blog or say hi to her on Twitter, where you’ll find her as @trudymorgancole.
As always, remember to love yourself and give a hug to any writer nearby. Happy Wednesday.
Today I’m guest posting over at Beyond the Margins about the combination of hard work and luck that ended in a publishing contract. It would be awesome if you’d like to click on over and read. And while you’re there, take a look around – these folks have some fabulous posts.
So two nights in a row I dreamed about babies. And last night I dreamed of war. This worries me, although the war part is quite clearly explained by the fact that I fell asleep right after watching The Immortals.
The babies are another issue.
No, Mr. Freud, babies are not wish fulfillment for me. Even when I was a much younger woman I never wished for a house full of babies. One at a time was plenty, thank you very much. And I haven’t been hanging out with babies lately, so it’s not just my brain processing the day, as modern thinkers would have me believe. And although Jung asks me to consider the possibility that my own self is represented by every character in the dream, I’m not buying that all three babies are some extension of me.
The first night of baby dreams I barely remember – only that there were a lot of babies in the house. They did not belong to me, and I didn’t have the full responsibility of them, but because they were in my house I felt obligated to provide some level of care. The second night, the baby dream was stranger.
I was driving in a car with two other people and three babies. I was in the back seat with two of the babies, and my very own baby was riding in the front with the front seat passenger. In a car seat. On the FLOOR.
This being a dream, the car seat on the floor was tethered somehow, but I expressed some concerns about the situation. The woman who was driving pointed out that since my car seat was flawed and didn’t have three point restraints, she had only restrained her own baby with two point restraints so that they would be at equal risk. Which really only made things worse because somebody was risking their own child in order to honor some bizarre notion of fairness.
Hardly profound as dreams go. But when I dream about the same thing several nights in a row, or when a dream stays with me, I do like to give some thought to whether it’s trying to tell me something.
Just for fun, I consulted the internet, since it is always so right about things. And was rewarded with the knowledge that according to Freud the number three in dreams always has to do with the “male sexual organ.” Erm, I don’t think so. Let’s move on to babies. The internet offers up that babies are symbolic of innocence, warmth, and new beginnings. Another and better site tells me that a baby neglected or harmed in a dream usually does represent some aspect of self that is not being protected or cared for.
Looked at in that light, I could interpret this dream to say that I feel out of control and inadequately protected on a journey to somewhere. Also, I suppose, slighted.
This doesn’t ring true, for me. Life right now feels more like a roller coaster than like being helplessly assigned to an inadequate seat on the floor of a car.
I think, maybe, it’s a good old responsibility dream. Lord knows I have them often enough, although my responsibility dreams tend to be about chickens. (Yes, I know – another post for another day.)
There are a lot of metaphorical babies in my world right now. New publishing contract. Brand new book under way. New friendships. New experiences. New challenges and opportunities.
All kinds of baby projects requiring attention. Inevitably, some of them are relegated to second class car seats. Too many babies? Perhaps. But they’re mine now. All I can do is buckle them in as snug as I can, and be sure to drive carefully.
Having said which, I remember this other dream I had last week of driving on roads so coated with ice my car drifted sideways and I had to walk along beside.
Maybe I’d be better just to crawl back into bed and dream again.
(Photograph from www.morguefile.com, by tangle_eye)
Julie has been an inspiration to me since I first met her online. In the beginning I just knew her as a total dynamo who led writing challenges online, parented six kids, and volunteered at the food bank on a regular basis. Her attitude was amazing: no whining over query letters allowed, get your words in, just keep writing.
Over the years we’ve developed a friendship and are now crit partners and agency sisters (hurray Deidre and the Knight Agency. Sorry, can’t help it. I love
my our agent.)
Julie has a wonderful writing voice, and a consistent level of discipline and dedication. She writes. And revises as necessary. And writes some more. No fuss, no drama, just get it done. And in all of the spare time she magics up from somewhere, I think she feeds, clothes, shelters and parents all of the inhabitants of an entire city.
You can find her website here, and follow her on Twitter as @Julie_Butcher.
If you know me at all, you know I love my caffeine, preferably in the form of quality coffee, steaming hot and with a shot of cream. Or just maybe a shot of Kahlua or Baileys. I’ve also been known to enjoy a glass or two of wine, a gin and tonic over ice on a summer afternoon.
As far as harder drugs go, the closest I’ve ever come to being high was totally legal: a shot of morphine as an antidote for premature labor. No danger of me ever turning into an opiate addict – I really didn’t like the floaty sensation and have no desire to replicate it. I’ve got no objection of marijuana but I’ve managed to reach this age without ever trying it. Speed – well, I have to admit there’s a bit of a temptation there. I love a good adrenaline rush and I imagine there’s a similar effect.
But I’m fascinated and drawn to the idea of psychedelics, maybe for the same reason that I’m intrigued by dreams and paranormal events. I do believe there is a reality beyond the one I perceive with my senses. The idea that I might get a glimpse of this by taking a dose of mescaline or Peyote is tempting, even though the loss of control scares me.
I can’t predict all of the future, or where my curiosity might take me, but it’s unlikely that some shaman type will show up on my front porch and offer me a spiritual journey any time soon. It’s also unlikely that I’ll go seeking these substances out in order to satisfy my curiosity.
For now I’m researching the idea for writing purposes only. Today I learned a lot about Peyote but there’s only so much you can learn from the internet. When my character takes the journey I intend for her I hope it will suffice.
So – does anybody have experience with psychedelic spiritual ceremonies? Ever eaten Peyote or had a drink of Peyote tea? I’m interested in your thoughts on the subject.
It was an adventure – stepping out of my writer shell, meeting people I didn’t know, talking (gasp) to agents. Johanna Harness and I teamed up as roomies, which was wonderful, and found ourselves hanging with a small group of Twitterites for moral support.
Everett was one of these people. He was friendly, warm, and funny, and always seemed to draw a little group around him. He was looking for an agent for a memoir with a title that sounded to me like an instant hit: Bumbling into Body Hair. Not everybody can come up with a title like that.
Everett, you see, has a fascinating tale to tell – he began this life as a woman, and has been through the process of changing to a man. He now lives with his wife and their baby in Walla Walla, Washington. But, enough from me about that – the book is about to be released and you can read it for yourself.
I asked Everett when, exactly, I can expect to see this memoir available for purchase. He responded that the release date is a bit of a surprise at this point in time, but it ought to be out this week or next. Information about the book is available here.
You’ll find Everett on Twitter at @EverettMaroon. You’ll also find him on Goodreads and Facebook and all of the usual author hangouts.
If you see him, tell him I said hello.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” ~Shakespeare
I used to be a Horatio. Not surprising since I grew up with very practical parents in a strict religious environment that taught the dead are truly dead. Not up in heaven watching, not inhabiting another dimension, certainly and absolutely not drifting around in this one. Anything hinting at the supernatural was clearly marked as the work of angels or demons with nothing in between.
Now I’m not so sure. I’ve heard a lot of stories from trustworthy people. I’ve seen things that make me go hmmm. Not that I can claim to have actually seen a ghost, or even encountered anything completely inexplicable.
But I have seen my cat stare at a wall with great intent, and then attack as though something was moving when I could see nothing. And I wondered what she saw that I did not. If any creature can see ghosts, I would expect it to be a cat. I’ve had a feeling that my dead were with me, from time to time. Sometimes discussing my behavior while watching over my shoulder; sometimes offering comfort and support. (And no, I don’t actually hear them talking and I’m not hearing voices – no need to call my colleagues and have them evaluate my sanity just yet).
Once, shortly after my co-worker Wes died, I was dealing with a psychotic client in the local ER. All of a sudden she looked up in the air, shook her fist, and shouted, “Curse you, Wes Minter! This is all your fault!”
Easy enough to explain away. She was frankly psychotic. She had reason to be angry with the dead – he had previously caused her to be sent to a psych hospital for involuntary treatment. Even so, I found myself wondering. Did her psychosis maybe allow her to see what I couldn’t see? Was it possible that he was really looking on? If so, I knew he’d be laughing at me in that moment, or maybe with me, and I felt very close to him in that moment.
Honestly – I don’t believe one way of the other about the ghosts. I think it’s possible that they walk among us, but I’m not quite convinced. Still, it’s a subject that fascinates me, and tends to find its way into my books.
Several of you have dropped hints about ghostliness as we’ve been discussing dreams of late. So now I’m curious – what encounters have you had? What stories do you have to tell?