Saturday, December 26, 2015

Gifts: Empathy

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Holly Cupala. Holly is someone who has been generous to me in so many ways I cannot count.  She is one of the most deeply empathetic people I know. She aware of the feelings of a wide range of people; she feels deeply what they are going through. She is a gift to us all.

I tend to be socially awkward. I do care about other people, but I end up seeming really callous sometimes. One reason is I don't always feel what others feel. I recognize they are feeling something, but inside me I don't feel it. I have deep sympathy for them, but that is not the same as empathy. Everything I write has to relate somehow directly to my experiences, what I have felt. This limits my creative spectrum, but there it is. Exposure to the empathetic has helped me become a better writer and a better person. 

Here is how this thing works: I've been bullied so I can write authentically about that. I wasn't at 9:11 and did not personally watch anyone die that day so I cannot write authentically about that. Empathetic people feel what others feel. The clueless part of me is I forget that people are feeling what others are feeling, because I don't. When I see someone writing about something outside his or her experience, I struggle with: "Is this authentic? Some rare individuals really do connect with experiences that are not their own. I'm blessed to know one of these people.

Holly has helped me learn to respect how others feel even if I can't feel it. She has taught me how empathy expands your world. When I am hurting, my first thought is to get away from everyone, wrap myself in blanket and deal with feeling pain.  Empathetic people feel something and realize there are people all over feeling that and reach out to others that feeling the same thing they are feeling. Empathetic people surround me. I think they get it more than most that I need some help. 

Holly's writing really shows off  her empathy for others. Her characters have greatly varied experiences. Even when she is working out of what she knows, she's injecting what she has felt from others too. Her influence has forced me into the shoes of my antagonists. No character should be flat, but each one should be full of life. Exploring the intersection of characters has greatly expanded under exposure to Holly's empathy.  

I hope something about empathy helps you march toward authenticity. I will begin a new series in the new year! Happy New Year!

Here is the cover of one  of Holly's books. 

And finally a quote for you pocket.

Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life.
 Barbara Kingsolver

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Gifts: Tapestry

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Janet Lee Carey.She is a friend, a writing mentor, and critique partner. She is also one of the best living fantasy writers. Through critiques, conversations, and reading her books. This week's gift is tapestry; everything is interconnected.

I've read many of Janet's books and love her characters. They are always part in this world and part of another. Janet understands we are not just flesh and bone; there is an immaterial part of being human. STEALING DEATH. I still feel the weight of Kwaja, the sack of souls that main character Kipp has stolen. His family has died in a terrible fire, and he stole Kwaja from a grim reaper type to stop death. Kipp will never see another person die. Death disconnects us from whom we love. It must be stopped and yet death cannot be stopped. Pull one thread and the fabric unravels.

We all have these moments in life that transcend the drudgery of day to day living. The warp threads of tapestry are hidden; the stuff that backs everything up. The weft threads create the colorful picture. Janet's characters are not blinded by cold intellect but are lit with light of love. Her series The Wilde Island Chronicles: Dragron's Keep, Dragonswood, and  In the Time of Dragon Moon reveals her skill at broad canvas. Janet recreates the Pendragon myth with this series. Tapestry is especially important in the last book, where two hard-to-weave-in threads find their place.

This is vast storytelling at it's best, but what is so important about it, is every thread is given attention. There are no blank spots on this tapestry.  Read her books to uncover the value of tapestry in writing. You are welcome.

Finally, Janet was one of the precious people who put together their pennies and brought me to Washington State for a writing retreat earlier this year. I had a tough year. My poor noggin' let me down, and I spiraled into Depression. I am much much better now. But just like her characters in her books, she is interconnected to those around her.  When I was struggling to swim in the life's ocean with it's seasonal storms. She reached out and put my feet on the ground. She made sure my little warp thread continued to be a part of the tapestry of writing. (Yes, I was a hairbreadth away from never writing another word.) All of are co-creators together. No one is an island. We need all the voices.

I hope you continue your creative work. Weave your threads. I know it is hard work. Don't stop. Our life is so much richer if we create our tapestries of story.

Here are the covers of the Wilde Chronicles!.

Finally a quote for you pocket.

We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something.
Sandra Day O'Conner

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gifts: Audacity

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Chris Eboch. I have had the opportunity to hear Chris speak many times. She is a friend and a writing mentor, and through critiques, conversations, and reading her books I've learned the importance of being audacious. This week's gift: audacity.

One of her books (that is not published) has had a huge effect on me as a writer. In this book, she offs the main character several times and then follows a new main character.  I can't tell you the shock I felt the first time I read her story, and the first main character died. It was an audacious move that has kicked at me for years. She did something I've never seen done in a book before. She was fearless. Her story demanded the death of her main character and she did not hesitate. This is the lesson, if you are hesitating you are not really sure of your story yet. Dig deeper.

So what exactly is audacity in writing. It's a very good thing for your plot. It's about going there in an original way. I think it has to do with the author getting out of all the muck of writing advice and serving the story. Can you march to your own beat? You are not going to make folks turn the page unless you are fearless. I mean moxie is where it is at. Chris is a soft-spoken person who climbs sheer rock faces for fun. A fast hike across the Grand Canyon, OK! She translates her own gutsiness into her characters, and readers are happy about that. Translating your daring spirit into your story will give it a mega-boost.  

 Be audacious. Scoop out the best of yourself and thread it into your work. Plots must turn with sharp, clean moves.  Don't be muddy or wishy-washy -- good advice for life too. Excellent writing should force the reader to test his or her own mettle. Yes, characters need to be dimensional to get a reader  that involved. Great stories need to get under a reader's skin. They need to demand the reader not just sit there but become involved; in the end the reader needs to changed--forever.  

Sounds hard? You bet, but totally worth it.  

This week be audacious. Write something irresistible. If you want help. I suggest you look at some of Chris's work. She writes as Chris Eboch for children and Kris Bock for adults (romantic suspense). Her books will shake you up.   You may also want to check out her writing books: ADVANCED PLOTTING too and YOU CAN WRITE FOR CHILDREN.   You are welcome!

More gifts next week. 

Here is the cover of one of Chris's (as Kris Bock)  romantic suspense books. It's so beautiful. 

You want to turn the world upside down?  
Here is a quote for your pocket.

Audacity, more audacity, always audacity. Georges Jacques Danton

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Gifts: Tenderness

Hi folks, I'm starting a new series. I'm sharing creative gifts that I've received from others in my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Bonny Becker. I had the opportunity to hear Bonny speak many times when I lived in Washington State. I also took the time to really study her books and think about her writing.

I received a bag of creative gifts from her but one stands out. Bonny taught me the importance of  a light touch--tenderness--in storytelling.  (It works for life too, believe me.)  Tenderness is about making vulnerable characters. They may be armored up top, but turn them over and they are squishy and soft. The story journey really is about turning that prickly character over and letting them get a little sun on his or her belly.

As a storyteller, I want to pack in stuff, get the plot going. Bonny has shown me it's about not rushing forward, but instead being patient and letting things work out. It's about heart with flaws. It's about tiny and mighty against huge and timid. Tenderness is found in the intersection of these opposites. Bonny has taught me about the absolute power of awareness. Tucking the truth about one character into the pocket of another transforms a flat story into something amazing.

Finally,I learned this from Bonny: how tenderness brings the beauty of the lilies of the field to story. She offers not just vulnerable but fragile characters. Beauty springs up like Texas bluebonnets when you thread in devotion and affection. Tenderness brings gravitas to storytelling. If you write quiet stories, tenderness will infuse them with  the sunrise. It is so quiet before dawn, but the sun rises and glory!  The birds' cacophony amazes. The clouds burn. The sky eats the darkness. This is the power of tenderness. Add it to your work.

Bonny teaches at The Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.  Her newest picture books is just out: Cloud Country. This was done in collaboration with Noah Klocek. It is amazing.  Don't just take my word for it. Give this and all her books a peek. You are welcome.

No doodle this week. Here is the cover of Bonny's new book in collaboration with Noah Klocek:

I will be back next week with more gifts.

A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. Victor Hugo