Watching Your Writing Role Model Strip Bare: Iris Graville Publishes Hiking Naked

If you’ve published your words in any form, you know the feeling when someone looks you in the eye and tells you they read what you published. It’s not like singing at a concert or displaying visual art. These are YOUR WORDS, your literal, expressed thoughts, straight from your brain into someone else’s. Who is about to tell you what they think.

Now imagine those words you’ve published are your MEMOIR. And imagine the people who are looking you in the eye are your neighbors, folks you bump into at the market, at the post office. 

My friend Iris’s new memoir, Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance, could not be better titled. As Iris tells it in her latest blog post, “Baring My Soul”:

I reel a bit each time someone says something like, “I’m reading your book, and it really speaks to me.” Or, “I was right there with you.” And, “My back hurt just reading about your work in the bakery!” What stuns me is the realization that, as I go about my life each day, some number of people are reading about it. There’s an intimacy in that knowing that I hadn’t anticipated. I’m discovering that the metaphor of “hiking naked” extends to how I feel about others now reading my words.

(Courtesy Homebound Publications)

My own forthcoming book, Altitude, Book Three of the Flying Burgowski series, could not be more different from Iris’s. My book’s a novel. It’s Young Adult (although I’m finding that Older Adults seem to like it just fine). It’s fantasy–not vampires nor zombies nor dystopian archer-warriors, certainly, but hey! my heroine can fly. So, yes. Fantasy enough.

The only thing my book has in common with Iris’s is that she helped “midwife” mine, via critique, while I did the same with hers (both of us with a LOT of help, and in her case, Masters-in-Fine-Arts-level help).

Well, maybe two more commonalities: they’re both set in the northwest, and they’re both about strong females.But that’s it.

So how can Iris be my writing role model? Because she is, to borrow her metaphor, hiking ahead of me on that rocky path called publication. She started years ago, creating her own press to co-publish Hands At Work: Portraits and Profiles of People Who Work With Their Hands, with photographer Summer Moon Scriver.

Then last year she published Bounty: Lopez Island Farmers, Food and Community–which is just what it sounds like, only more mouth-watering.

But all the while, Iris was working on that memoir. Crafting and drafting, re-crafting, re-drafting; pitching, pitching, pitching; writing and submitting short pieces to increase her visibility; keeping her chin up through inevitable rejections…until one day…

You go, girl.

I am still bummed to have missed Iris’s launch party because of some silly plane tickets to Ireland. But now that I’ve heard about it, I’m totally planning to follow in her footsteps at my own launch party in November.

(Not sure who took this photo…but Iris will tell me.)

Iris introduced by her own writing mentor, Ana Maria Spagna? How ’bout Gretchen Wing, introduced by Iris Graville? 

I better ask her, huh?

You’ve Come a Long Way, Daddy: A Personal Evolution Story

When I say Personal Evolution Story, I mean that literally: this story has to do with me and my dad, and with evolution–as in, Darwin’s Theory Of.

My first post-college job was teaching at the school I had graduated from only five years prior. Since it was a private school–woohoo, Carolina Friends School, go Quakers!–ahem, as I was saying, since it was a private school, no certification was necessary. They knew me, they liked me, they hired me, and I trained on the job. Some of the Upper School courses I taught included Lit & Comp I and II, Geography, History of the Vietnam War, Running, Romance and Satire…that’s all I remember. For a brand-newbie, I wasn’t bad. Considering how at home I felt at CFS, that’s not too surprising.

I felt a bit of pride in myself, becoming a teacher. But as a college graduate, I was well aware of my lowly status compared to the rest of my family. Both my sisters had a Master’s; one was working on her Ph.D, the other on her veterinary degree.

Some time during my second year, as I remember, one of the science teachers needed to go on maternity leave. My father offered to step in as a long-term sub.

This is also not surprising, if you know that my father a) was one of the founders of the school and a perpetual Board member, and b) taught Zoology at Duke. As far as he was concerned, science teaching was science teaching. Apparently the school agreed, and they took him on (probably for free). He taught good ol’ Biology.

After the first couple of weeks, he gave a test. Most of the class failed. Dismayed, he came to me with the test: did I think it was too hard? I remember reading it and thinking, “No, this looks like pretty standard stuff.” Still, his next practice quiz–yuck. Again with the failures. My dad couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

To his credit–and my surprise–Dad then asked me to observe his class to see if I could spot the problem. I’ll never forget how proud I felt at that moment: proud of him for having the grace to ask his youngest daughter for help, and proud of myself for being enough of a Teacher that I could teach a tenured professor a thing or two.

The Upper School Head Teacher and I observed Dad’s class together. Minutes into the period we looked at each other and smiled. Bingo.

The problem wasn’t the scope of my dad’s lessons, nor their sequence. The problem was that, in his normal, everyday speech patterns, he rarely used words of fewer than four syllables. Latin phrases like sine qua non or de facto were a dime a dozen. Having grown up with this high-falutin’ conversation, I didn’t notice, but as soon as I heard him through the ears of a hapless 10th-grader…ohhhh. Uh-huh. It’s not your lessons you have to bring down a few levels, Dad–it’s yourself.

Fast-forward to the end of the story: my dad learned to simplify his language, and to ask his students when he needed to rephrase something. His passing rates went up. Biology was learned.

Now, fast-forward another 30 years, to 2014. I publish my first novel, The Flying Burgowski. That is to say, I self-publish. My dad is supportive and proud, but I’m pretty sure that, as the author of a dozen traditionally-published academic books, he’d be even prouder if my book boasted the imprimatur of Random House instead of Amazon’s CreateSpace.

Meanwhile, however, my father and my veterinarian sister have teamed up to write a children’s book about evolution. It’s well written and clear: nice, pronounceable words, not a Latin phrase in sight! Beautiful illustrations grace the text. It’s a gem of a book. I’m excited for them, and for it.

Unfortunately, as with my novel, they can’t find a publisher. So, this past month, they self-publish. Through CreateSpace.

Here’s the result:

51515907_high-resolution-front-cover_6057779

And here’s the link, if you want to check it out or, even better, buy a copy: Darwin and the First Grandfather

And here’s the point of the story, in case it’s not clear yet: for the sake of the science he loves, my hyper-academic father has come a LONG way. From speaking only Academese, he has (with my sister’s help) made himself fluent in Common-Tongue Science. From publishing only with traditional, academic publishers, he has joined the proud ranks of the Indies. 

(Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia)

(Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Not to mention–did I mention?–he and my big sis have written a damn fine book, one which fills a need. Please take a look and pass it on.

Writers, dental blocks and spotted owlets

Gallery

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Originally posted on verseherder:
A writer’s block can be the most perfect thing in the world. It isn’t a melody that went?out of tune. Neither a slip of a brushstroke nor an itch on a sculptor’s wrist.?A writer’s block is…

Themes to Me Thomebody Needth Kicking Out of Her Comfort Thone

“Your problem is,” said my website angel consultant the other day, “your website theme doesn’t include a menu with social media buttons. You need a new theme.”

That’s what came out of her mouth, anyway. This is what I heard:

“Return ye to that fearsome Land of Tech where live every vile Insecurity and Fear of Failure your puny writer mind can devise!!!”

Yep. I have to go back to  Wordpress Central, whose user-friendly greeting might as well say, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

(Orig. drawing Dr. Guillaume Duchenne, presented by Charles Darwin, via Wikimedia)

(Orig. drawing Dr. Guillaume Duchenne, presented by Charles Darwin, via Wikimedia)

So…this should be interesting. I’m gonna take a few days off to welcome Son One home from his year abroad and celebrate a couple of late holidays with the whole fam. (Merry Thanksmas, everyone!) Then I will pull on the big-girl panties and try. To. Update. My. Blog. All by my ownself.

You should know by next week how that went. Wish me luck, people! Oh, and send me recommendations for great, easy-to-read WordPress themes if you have any.

See you later! And Merry Thanksmas. 

 

Fair Trade…Fiction? A Different Take For Writers (and other artists)

As a consumer, I try to buy fair trade chocolate and other imports-from-countries-with-iffy-production-practices. As a writer, I never made the connection between that and buying people’s books (or other art) until I read this post by Author & Social Media Maven Kristen Lamb. What IS wrong with encouraging reading “consumers” to support the writers who provide their steaming daily cup of fiction? Nothing, right?

When you’ve read it, let me know what you think. Take it away, Kristen!

(Courtesy theoatmeal.com)

(Courtesy theoatmeal.com)

I think consumers could change publishing if we let them. If we stopped assuming they didn’t care, that all they wanted was cheap books no matter the consequences.

Source: Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction

My New Year’s Resolution: Keep Writing New Year’s Resolutions, Damnit

Who cares if I still have an unworking Stairmaster in my barn?

[Last year’s resolution: By the end of 2015, I will have either fixed my Stairmaster machine or gotten rid of i])

Who cares if I’m still in the middle of Chapter 16 in a 21-chapter book? 

[Last year’s resolution: By the end of 2015, I will have finished the first draft of Altitude (Book Three of the Flying Burgowski trilogy) and be actively re-revising the first half]

Who cares if I never got beyond the “we should get together for a walk or a cup of tea sometime, huh?” stage of inviting someone I don’t know well for a walk or a cup of tea?

[Last year’s resolution: By the end of 2015, I will have invited someone I would like to know better for a walk or a cup of tea]

As I wrote last year, “The secret to success is having really low standards.” It’s also, I believe, the maintenance of the feeling of forward progress–the alternative to which is stepping into that swamp of grumpiness and self-pity where the only escape is too much chocolate…you see where this leads, right?

So let me take a minute to celebrate the two resolutions that I DID keep last year:

  1. riding my bike in to work at least as often, if not more often, than driving: check!
  2. developing a fitness regimen that includes daily strength and stretching exercises: check!**

** ahem ** Honesty compels me to admit that I officially adopted said fitness regimen all of **cough** four days ago…but HEY. I’ve kept it up for four days, in 2015, so that still COUNTS.

023 (2)

And all of those so-far-unkept resolutions are just that, I’ve decided: not failed, just late bloomers. Who’s in charge here? That’s right. So here are my new low-resolution resolutions:

By the end of 2016 I will have…

  • Finished, revised, and published Altitude
  • Kept up my biking vs. riding to work ratio
  • Kept up my daily fitness regimen (the secret to success here was  Son Two’s idea: “Why don’t you do it while you watch The Daily Show, Mom?”)
  • Made reservations for a 2017 trip to New Zealand to research my next novel (New Zealand?! Good on ya!)

…oh, and that Stairmaster? Maybe the unknown person I invite for a walk or a cup of tea will help me figure out what to do with it.

Got a resolution to share? Don’t believe in ’em? Tell me about it either way. And…Happy New Year!

Does Your Muse Have ADD?

What’s your M.O. when your creative brain refuses to buckle down and do its thing?

Here’s me the other day, arguing with my Muse:

Me: OK, so, Vivian [new character in Book 3] originally was going to ___________, but now I need her to ____________ instead.  [sorry–no spoilers!]

Muse: la, la, la, I can’t hear youuuu….

Me: Help me out here! If Vivian _______ then Jocelyn would have to ___________, and that’s totally out of character.  What should I do?

Muse: Well, I dunno, maybe you could–ooh, shiny! Squirrel! All other indicators that my attention is elsewhere!

Don’t know what you do in this scenario. Me? I took my Muse for a walk in the wind. It took an hour and a half, but when we got back, I had my plot unsnarled, and hey! I got some exercise too.

This has happened to me enough that I even wrote a song about it. Don’t have a recording good enough to share, but all you need are the lyrics:

Muse

My Muse detests the interstate—in fact she hates to drive

But set my bike on a country road and then she might arrive.

My Muse is happiest outdoors; she’s never at the mall

And in a doctor’s waiting room I can’t find her at all.

 

But walk along a windy shore and soon she’s joining me

To whisper, prompt, or point me toward what she needs m to see.

She doesn’t love computer keys, but visits when I think

With notebook full of paper and a pen with real ink.

 

Her favorite drink is Earl Grey—it makes her twirl and leap,

But though wine may make me cheerful, it puts her right to sleep.

She’ll drop in when I exercise; she loves to see me sweat—

Not in a gym all safe and warm, but out in the wind and wet.

 

A nest of pillows on the couch she doesn’t seem to min

But never if there’s company of the distracting kind

Unless it be a small café with loud, generic din

Then she’ll consent to visit me to lay her treasures in.

 

But if I’m stuck inside a car, she’ll trail sadly along

And toss me wisps of poetry to turn into a song.

And though the life I call her to is busy, loud and crude,

She’s granted me these humble lines to show my gratitude.

DSC03360

 

Yeah. So that’s me. What do you do to get your Muse to settle down? Go for a walk, then let me know.

And the Winner Is…My Book; Now, How Much Do I Owe You?

What newly-published Young Adult novelist  doesn’t want to see this in her email inbox? 
The DANTE ROSSETTI 2014 AWARDS for Young Adult Fiction Official First Category Winners

dante-rosettiThe Dante Rossetti  Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genre of Young Adult, T’weens, New Adult, & Children’s  fiction. The First Place Category Winners will be recognized at the Chanticleer Authors Conference and Awards Gala held in late September 2015.

The DANTE ROSSETTI FIRST PLACE 2014 Award Winners are:

  • Steampunk: Padgett Lively for Odette Speex: Time Traitors, Book 1
  • Contemporary: Gretchen Wing for The Flying Burgowski
  • CyberPunk: Jesikah Sundin for Legacy: The Biodome Chronicles, Book 1
  • Romance: Roni Teson for Twist
  • High Fantasy: S.A. Hunter for Elanraigh: The Vow
  • Blended Genre: Nely Cab for Fruit of Misfortune: Creatura Book 2
  • Science Fiction: Chris Pawlukiewicz for Dreams of a Red Horizon
  • Dystopian: Scott Smith for  An Outcast State
  • Mythological:  Stephanie Keyes for The Star Catcher
  • Lighthearted/Humorous:  Elizabeth Barlo: Ruth 66
  • New Adult:  Tiana Warner for Ice Massacre
  • Teen Fantasy: Elisabeth Hamill for Song Magick
  • Tweens : Mark Murphy  for The Curse of the Thrax
  • Children’s: Kirsten Pulioff for The Escape of Princess Madeline
  • Manuscript: Ben Hutchins for The Lackawanna Prophecies: Black Shadow  
  • Honorable Mentions:  P. J. Martin for Riding with Crazy Horse (manuscript)

See my book? I highlighted The Flying Burgowski in red just to make her stand out. 

This is great news. I’m totally bragging on myself announcing this to everyone I know.

The email goes on to wish all the winners luck in competing for the Grand Prize, and to invite us to the conference and Awards Gala:

Good Luck to the Dante Rossetti First Place Category Winners as they compete for the Dante Rossetti Awards 2014 GRAND PRIZE position!

The 2014 Dante Rossetti FIRST PLACE category winners will be recognized at the Chanticleer Authors Conference and Awards Gala that will take place in September 2015. The Dante Rossetti 2014 Grand Prize winner will be announced at the Awards Gala.

But there’s a teensy catch: $$$$. I won’t go into details about how much this conference costs, even with the discount given to winners. I can’t fit a weekend conference into my current work schedule, so I’m thinking of just attending the final day, with the cocktail party and awards gala…and even that price tag makes me choke a little. I know, I know, these events are expensive to put on. And I really can’t pass up this opportunity for mainstream exposure for my book. And I’m super excited and grateful for being chosen.

It’s just…yikes. That’s a lot of money for one day. And I can’t help but notice that the organizers have misspelled Dante Rosetti’s last name on their invitation. Makes me a little uneasy.

My question for Wing’s World, then, is: should I attend? Anyone have any experience at these events? Worthwhile? Bad idea to miss? Missable? I would love some input here.

Happy New Year! Share That Resolution Here

The secret to success is having really low standards.

Joke. Kind of. What I really mean is making sure your goals are achievable, not pie-in-the-sky. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all S.M.A.R.T. goal-y on you. I’m just going to share mine for 2015. And since I know what a difference it makes in motivation to SHARE your goals, I invite you to do just that…as soon as I’ve shared mine.

By the end of 2015, I will have…

  • finished the first draft of Altitude (Book Three of the Flying Burgowski trilogy) and be actively re-revising the first half
  • ridden my bike in to work at least as often, if not more often, than I’ve driven
  • invited at least three people I would like to know better for a walk or a cup of tea
  • developed a fitness regimen that includes daily strength and stretching exercises
  • either fixed my Stairmaster machine or gotten rid of it 🙂

005

Your turn. What are some of yours?

 

In Praise of Writing Retreats…and Advances

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been made to attend a Retreat that you wished you could retreat from.

Yeah. Thought so. Been there too. But the retreat I get to attend this week is NOT one of those. My writing group–seven women–gets to spend 27 hours or so at the guest house of a generous islander. During that time we…

…each get a half-hour to focus the group on our writing, whether that means workshopping a piece or just talking through a difficult issue related to our writing lives

…go for walks, solitary or in groups, along the (very wild and windy this week!) coast

…curl up on couches and read or write quietly

…cook and eat and drink together

…share, laugh, and yes, at some point there is usually some crying as well

…wash dishes and clean up

me

Afterwards, we feel individually renewed and empowered, but we also feel our mutual trust fortified and revitalized. In a group where each of us has gone WAY out on the trust limb, in poetry or memoir or even just plain old publishing and marketing issues, this sense of mutual KNOWING is essential.

Oh, and the orca-watching from our generous host’s incredible living room view? That’s just a bonus.

What do you think is the secret to a good retreat? Is it the voluntary aspect alone? The blend of group and individual activities? The wine? 

 

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