Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lucky Serendipity: Happy Trails

Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series for the month of March. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I'm calling this series: Lucky Serendipity. I have tripped across many moments in life that really direct the whole of my writing future. I call these moments: lucky serendipity. I'm cheating a little this week because these are beautiful trails of lucky serendipity.

Once upon a time I really wanted a writing group, not just my Star Trek fanfic group, but one that wrote original stories. In college, I had my friend Susan Melenkevitz. We would dream about becoming new millennium writers and discuss how we really should go to New York and write for David Letterman. We read each other's poetry. But that was the extent of it.

Then of course, I found SCBWI and met once a month for occasional critique with Kathi Appelt, Donna Cooner, Debbie Leland, and others.  When I moved to Washington, I didn't know anyone. Nope, no one. I'm not exactly sure how I was invited into my first bi-monthly critique group, but I was. We met at a library branch. My son, J4, was a newborn and I'd take him to group. We annoyed the librarian because we would stay till past closing time. She would place this tape recorder on our table and play Roy Rodgers' "Happy Trails to You." I still smile about that.

This group included: Cathy Benson, Marion Holland, Conrad Wesselhoeft, Shelley Seely, Louise Spiegler, Megan Bilder, Susan Greenway, and a few more. Oh, I learned how to draft a novel here. These were my "million words" days that led to viable works. I learned the craft. There are no words to my gratefulness to this group of writers. We met for about twelve years.

Somewhere in here, I realized I write in multiple genres and that is sort of rare. I branched out for critique of shorter works. This led me to the Larry's Market group and Vijaya Bodach, Allyson Valentine Schrier, Kevan Atteberry, Lois Brandt,  Jen Heger, and more. Here, I learned the energy aspect of writing. I wrote boatloads of stuff for tiny paychecks with the most vibrant go-getters I've ever known. I learned the words "do it." Oh, so helpful.

In my last year in Washington, I was asked to join the Diviners. This group was like the icing on my Washington critique cake.  Holly Cupala, Peggy King Anderson, Katherine Grace Bond, Judy Bodmer, Dawn Knight and a few more. This group is so aptly named. Here, I was guided into a world of the ephemeral and the divine.  I moved beyond craft and energy and found indefinable art in my writing. I began to feel, dare I say it, worthy.

Life happened and I moved back to where my dream started. I found my critique group on the first day back at the local Barnes and Noble: Kathy Whitehead, Shirley Hoskins, Andy Sherrod, Ellen McGinty and Liz Mertz. This happy trail was about sharing all the good things I've learned. It's about ultimate confidence that we start here and we will find success. Magic. I've seen this work too many times by now to doubt it. .

Oh, yes, as usual, I have multiple projects and I need a group that reads out loud. This leads to Robin Cox, Kathy W. and Susan Haven, who is, btw, Susan M. from my college days. This is about dreamcatching. Nice, here we are in a group of new millennium authors.

Thanks for dropping by for Lucky Serendipity. I hope you find as many wonderful creative folk on your journey. Next week I will be back with more inspiration.

Here is a doodle: "Barnyard Stack."

A quote for your pocket:
Ezekiel 37: 5-6 "This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[ enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lucky Serendipity: Patricia Lee Gauch...

Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series for the month of March. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I'm calling this series: Lucky Serendipity. I have tripped across many moments in life that really direct the whole of my writing future. I call these moments: lucky serendipity. So here is the story of one of those moments.

Some years ago I had cancer. I went from a furiously busy life with four kids to run after, a huge volunteer gig, and a busy writing life, to a life that came to an absolute standstill. Into the hospital I went, weeks of bed rest to follow, and then a much slower life after that. I felt like a miserable fly caught in a spider's webbing.

Each day while recovering, I cheered myself up by doing something I hadn't had the chance to do when I was so busy. Some things were simple like enjoying the sunrise or doodling for several hours straight. One of those things was to apply for a scholarship to the Chautauqua Writers' Workshop put on by the Highlights Foundation.

I received the scholarship! A few months later I was heading to Chautauqua to meet my mentor of the week, Patricia Lee Gauch. (She still offers workshops, but they are often hard to get in.)

Those few hours chatting  and then a flurry  of emails with Patti transformed me as a writer. They taught me to trust my writerly bones, to trust what they are telling me, to trust my energy and passion.  A book is a terrifying leap. For me not every book I've attempted has worked out.  You may simply fall, dust yourself off, and leap again.

Patti validated my writing faith -- that if I keep showing up at the page somehow a viable book will appear. Patti's mentoring sent me on a journey of paring down what my character really wants and sticking like glue to as many pages as I need to tell the story. 

I've covered the some in my blog before. Here is the link back to my travels back in 2005.  Here is a link to a class I took later from Patti Gauch when she visited Western Washington.

I hope that you consider liking my upcoming book on Goodreads, PLUMB CRAZY from Swoon Romance.  My pretty cover is in the sidebar.  I'll be back next week with the last of this Luck Serendipity series.

The doodle. Look, you found a four leaf clover! How lucky!

Finally a qutoe for your pocket. 
Poets know the power in the concrete object, but I say the prose writer, knowing these elements and using them, brings a resonant power and authenticity to narratives of all kinds. Patricia Lee Gauch

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lucky Serendipity: Jubilee's Idea

Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series for the month of March. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I'm calling this series: Lucky Serendipity. I have tripped across many moments in life that really direct the whole of my writing future. I call these moments: lucky serendipity. So here is the story of one of those moments.

A few years ago, I came to the end of a project and was wondering what to write next. I had no idea. I was flailing around with ideas: something about a hurricane, a lame superhero with the ability to walk on water, and a squirrel who breaks the "squirrel code" and talks to a human to solve a murder. Nothing was really working. I had never come to a place like this before. I had writer's block! 

I was a brooding on the couch like some descendant of Grendal. Driving the car pool, three teenagers plus one, and volunteering at the elementary school mixed with writer's block does stuff like that to you.  My daughter Jubilee breezed into the living room and plopped on the couch. She was born sunny-side up and has Beowulf attitude  I grumbled and griped about my dilemma.  I could see the wheels turning in her head. "You should write about plumbing,' she said. "I love your stories."

It's a tradition in my family to tell stories about your life to your children. When I was in high school and in college, I worked as a plumber's helper during the summer. It was tough work and I had plenty of stories about those days.

"That's your next book and you'll publish it for sure," Jubilee said. She popped off the couch and ran off to chat with her friends about fashion, books, and the horror of high school.

Easy for her to say. Gosh, I needed chocolate. Her idea would not leave me. I began writing. I will say that first scene made me laugh so hard that I fell off the couch. My block faded away. I'd started a little project entitled "Plumber Gal" at the time.  This story grew into my novel: Plumb Crazy, published by Swoon Romance, coming out on June 30.

It took a while to get here. All those teenagers are new adults now and the plus one is a teenager. I have been on the best journey. I hope the lucky serendipity that inspired my book, inspires you. I will be back next week with more Lucky Serendipity.  

Now the doodle. I call this one:  "Before Goliath."
 And last of all, a quote for your pocket. 

The Almighty makes miracles when he pleases, wonder after wonder, and this world rests in his hands. Beowulf, lines 930-932.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Special Edition! PLUMB CRAZY cover!

Hi folks,  welcome to the special editon of Seize the Day. I am celebrating "cover release" day of my new novel PLUMB CRAZY from Swoon Romance! Due out on June 10, 2014.


Add it to your TBR list on Goodreads! Tweet it out! Facebook it! Pin it! Just join me in the warm glow of happiness!
See you on Saturday with more Seize the day...

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lucky Serendipity: A Newspaper Ad

Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series for the month of March. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I'm calling this series: Lucky Serendipity. I have tripped across many moments in life that really direct the whole of my future. I call these moments: lucky serendipity. So here is the story of one of those moments.

When I started out as a writer, I didn't really have any idea what I should write except for journals and "little stories" that only children would read (said my college creative writing teacher). I certainly had no clue how to become published. I had a Children's Literature teacher also tell me that I should write for children.

I wish I could say I took everyone's advice and dove right into children's writing, but that is not my story. Instead, I went for unassertiveness, gullibility, dissatisfaction with the world as we know it, naivety, and a desire for spiritual meaning. I know, rut-ro, and it was bad. But fear not, readers! An ad was placed in the newspaper, and it changed my life. It was a very smallish ad about a meeting for children's writers, a club called the SCBW.

This was perhaps the most spiritual thing that has ever happened to me, except for meeting the love my life.

At this point in history, I had three children, ages 0 to 2. Yes, I had been busy. I decided to go to this mysterious meeting. It was at the College Station Conference Center. The ad mentioned you should bring some pages to share, so off I went to my mother's day out, pages clutched in hand. A group of about twelve sat in a friendly circle. A smallish woman with bright blue eyes and blond hair cut in a bob led the group. Her first picture book was about to be published, and she chatted about the experience.

I listened in wide-eyed wonder. I had never been with a published writer as a colleague before. I read my bit and she had such great things to say: like rhyme needs to really rhyme and it's hard, like stare out the window a while each day before writing, like think about how the words roll around in your mouth --advice I have never forgotten.

I went home and re-budgeted the food so I could pay the fee to join the group. For months, I never missed a meeting. The SCBW leader was so kind to me. She sent me a note, thanking me for voluteering, and she added that a day would come that she would say: she knew me when.  She challenged me: Write every day. Voice is all about the words. Write your best work and send it in.

I sent in my first story to a publisher during this time and received a signed rejection! 1995, baby. She told me it would take ten years to really get things going. (My first publication would land in 2006.)

A day came that I learned that I was moving to some place called Kirkland, Washington, this leader encouraged me to get involved with SCBWI (there was a name change).  She told me to look up Peggy King Anderson and take every class she offered. She had it on good authority that Peggy was a great teacher. (Peggy is beyond great.)

This wonderful leader kept in touch over the years and would always remember me and my writing every time we happened to meet. She still invites me over for writerly shindigs now that I'm back in College Station after my almost fifteen year jaunt. 

So who was this paragon leader, and who placed the life-changing ad? Kathi Appelt.

I know I'm just one of hundreds that have a story just like this. Lucky serendipity had struck. Lucky me. I will be back next week with more lucky serendipity.

This week's doodle: this is a sketch from a project I worked on in those early days -- The Wild Jamboree. I hated that black background but loved the hippos and the bush babies.

Here is a quote from the wonderful Kathi.

They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but the same is not true for courage. As it turns out, when courage strikes, it almost always begets more courage.  Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Lucky Serendipity: The Tree House

Hi, folks! I'm starting a new series for the month of March and in honor of Saint Patrick's Day. I'm calling this series: Lucky Serendipity. I have tripped across these moments in life that really direct the whole of my future. I call these moments: lucky serendipity. So here is the story of one of those moments.

When I started college, I thought I would be chemist. It seemed sensible, steady work. I'm not one of those people who dreamed of being a writer since they were five years old.  I was a terrible with the conventions of writing. Grammar and me have never been on the best of terms and back then we didn't even have a dialogue going. I loved stories but I didn't think I could ever put one on the page that would, you know, make sense.

I started journaling in high school, not stories, but just thoughts and feelings. I loved to write but to be honest, when I took writing classes, there was only sort of this "meh" coming my way. It was really discouraging.  As a young person, I needed cheerleaders but all I got were critics. My tender creative heart couldn't take that. I liked journaling because no one could tell me that the writing was just awful. It was for me, and I always gave myself an A+.

In college, there was a tree house out in the wooded area of a park I liked. It was a place where I dreamed a lot. I took my journal up there, and I would write and write. I would pour my heart and soul onto the page.  I didn't think of myself as a writer, how could someone with my skills presume such a thing? But there was magic in those hours sitting up in that swaying tree and pulling the essence of who I am out of me and placing it on the page. I thought of this place as my secret place that had been put in the world for me. I had found shelter from the storms that life could throw at me in that freedom of words.

A few years later, I was finishing up college and choking at the future. I was getting that chemistry degree, but I had learned one thing in college, chemistry wasn't really my thing.  Right at the end of my college days, I met this boy (yes, the love of my life) and he saw me scribbling in my little journal time and again, and he took me by the hand and pleaded with me to become a writer. He'd never seen anyone put so much effort into writing. Then one day we went for a walk, and he took me to that tree house. It turns out that he built the special place I had spent so many hours scribbling. There I knew, even though I was a hoplessly flawed writer, I was one.

All the threads of serendipity, lucky me. I married the boy and from that day on always called myself a writer. That was 27 years ago. My first novel is coming out in a few months: PLUMB CRAZY (Swoon Romance). I hope it is the first of many.

I hope that lucky serendipity comes your way this month. I will be back with more of the series next week.

Here is the doodle. Of course I doodled that spot all those years ago.  "Tree house."

Psalm 91:6 -- He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.