Posts tagged ‘non-fiction’

May 17, 2013

Growing pains

When she was just a year old...

When she was just a year old…

Something big happened this week. Something that, even though my family talked about it, I didn’t see coming, didn’t expect, wasn’t prepared for.

Finding jobs near where we live has become next to impossible for teenagers. A downturn in the local economy means that all the jobs youth used to take are now filled by adults struggling to take care of their families. As a result, my eldest daughter started looking for work elsewhere.

On Tuesday, we traveled to my parent’s home, hours and hours away.

On Wednesday, my daughter interviewed and was offered a job with a local fast food franchise. She accepted it.

That night, I left her in the wonderful care of my parents–for the next few months. She’ll come home to visit only a handful of times. We’ve both had some tearful moments. I imagine the rest of the spring and summer will be that way, and she’ll come home completely grown up.

For a few days, I was heartbroken enough to not want to write. At all. That hardly ever happens to me.

Thankfully, she seems to be settling in pretty well. Her co-workers seem to like her, she likes her job and she loves spending time with her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. She has school work and her job, and she plays with her dog when she’s  not busy with school or work. Most likely the time will fly by.

It’s caused me quite a bit of introspection. Have I taught her the confidence she needs to face society without me? Will she find ways to be happy when she’s homesick? What tools have I passed on that will help her reach her goals? What bad habits that she’ll have to overcome?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit this week about life with her when she was tiny. She is one of the reasons I started writing. I wanted to be home with her, and with her siblings when they came along. I still needed a way to connect with the outside world, and I needed a way to help with finances, even if what I brought in was meager.

I wouldn’t trade it now for anything. I took her with me on all kinds of interviews. She traveled with me to towns I visited and wrote about for ND Business Watch. She came into shops with me, sat quietly in armchairs while I visited with people in their homes, followed me everywhere. We had fun. We still talk about the towns we saw, the museums we wandered through, the parks and the libraries and the rivers and the way tiny old shops on forgotten Main Streets became treasure chests.

Writing meant we were together.

Even during the hard times, the long days I spent away from home during legislative sessions, we were sometimes sneaky enough to find ways to eat lunch together. She pampered me on deadline weeks by sorting the laundry and starting the dishes, and I spoiled her when I could.

All in all, I think I got the better end of the deal. There’s nothing like just spending time with your child, nothing as wondrous as seeing them enjoy what you do.

And nothing is as difficult as letting them grow into their own thing when it’s time.

These are just growing pains. We may not be together all the time, but we have ways to keep in touch, and we use them often. As broken-hearted as I feel, I also feel that this is right. This is how it’s supposed to be.

I’m finally getting over the poor-me syndrome. I’m wanting to write again, and again, she’s a large part of my motivation. She’s old enough to really understand what it’s like to work, and I want to make her proud of me. It pushes me on.

I will always be grateful to her for that.

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May 13, 2013

Write more and sell more

If everything you write is a pebble or a grain of sand, someday you'll have a beach where good things will wash up.

If everything you write is a pebble or a grain of sand, and you write a lot, someday you’ll have a beach where good things will wash up.

Does anyone else follow The Passive Voice? I’ve been getting updates from this site by e-mail for a while now. On the whole, there’s a digital warehouse full of good information for authors—what’s going on in the publishing world, for instance, and what’s going on in the self-publishing world, and tips for marketing your books so you can make money as a writer.

Most of the posts here have been reposted from other spots around the internet. My favorite so far was a post entitled What’s Your Novel Worth? NVP and Cash Flow, by author and publisher Jeff Posey (check out the comments on his site, too–some are very insightful).

He said this:

The most productive thing a publishing writer can do is write and publish.

And, a few paragraphs later:

Lesson: Write more, do other stuff less.

Posey has an MBA in corporate finance and uses this article to teach authors to think of their writing in terms of Net Present Value, or what your novel is worth financially. He uses three examples to show how to evaluate this, and then says it’s not cash flow. His advice, for authors who want to build a nice residual income, is to be persistent, talented and patient. It takes some time to get where you want to be.

This particular post was inspiring for me partly for two reasons:

  1. I was wondering how much time I should be spending marketing and promoting books. Although I believe this will always be a large part of the formula for success for any author seeking to actually make money through writing books, perhaps it still can be looked at in a different light. Writing and writing well is still the most important thing. That makes me happy! Writing a lot, and getting it out there where people can find it, seems to be a true strategy for success.
  2. Knowing that it takes some time to build up a clientele makes writing feel like a business rather than a hobby. It becomes something you can build a solid business plan around. Most of the writers I know hold other jobs, too, but this allows them to at least daydream realistically about the future when they will be able to set everything but writing aside.  I read somewhere else—and now I can’t remember where—that it takes nine years for a nonfiction author to build a solid platform for marketing books. Perhaps fiction writing is similar. (The lesson here, I think, is not to give up if your first few books don’t magically change your life. Keep at it, and chances are this dream can still come true. )

Although the analysis was geared toward authors, I bet this advice can be applied to photographers, painters, poets and artists from every other persuasion. Just enjoy what you do, and don’t give up. It’s the whole Rome-wasn’t-built-in-a-day thing.

With that in mind, I’m wishing everyone a happy and productive week. 🙂

May 2, 2013

Thoughts on getting to work halfway through the day

A completely random side note--I'm hungry for Spaghetti Squash and haven't been able to find any in the stores lately. Guess I'll have to plant my own this year!

A completely random side note–I’m hungry for Spaghetti Squash and haven’t been able to find any in the stores lately. Guess I’ll have to plant my own this year!

The dishwasher is running. The laundry is sorted. One daughter is studying chemistry, another practicing for her violin lesson, and my toddler is playing with his cars in his room. What about this seems unusual?

I think it’s just the I’m finally starting to catch up feeling that comes after a huge event.

Not that there’s been any huge event here…just a myriad of little things that seemed big at the time.

Yesterday was incredibly challenging that way. I woke with a knowledge that I had to start a new project, and it had to be right then. Every time I tried to work methodically, this project stared holes into the back of my head until I finally gave up. I spent the better part of the afternoon hammering out a decent outline and a first chapter of something I never intended to write–a political piece.

I promised myself I would never do such a thing. Now I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I guess I’ll add it to my list of works-in-progress and just see where it goes.

This morning, I ran errands and did some shopping with two of my children, visited with the lovely BR Chaston about her wedding dress and nearly fell asleep on the way home. That meant I napped when we finally reached the house. Needless to say, now I’m staring at a to-do list that will refuse to be completed by nightfall, and that new project is dancing around the edges of my office, waiting for attention.

This time, it will have to wait.

Sometimes I don’t think my time management issues are all my fault. Sometimes I think my projects just don’t know how to take turns. They’re as demanding as any toddler.

I can’t help loving them.

On another note–I found poem I wrote in April but never published in my draft file. Rather than letting it sit there, I’m including it here:

e kingbird log crop

Eastern Kingbird

There’s more to majesty than thrones or crowns,

or crowds of admirers, applauding, lauding praise.

There’s more, even, than power. Freedom rises,

calls the royal heart into the air.

My throne is any place from which I sing.

Have a great day, everyone!

December 13, 2012

Why writers network with each other

MadnessMelody! We network.

MadnessMelody! We network.

Early last summer I discovered there was a writer’s conference nearby. It was too late for me to make arrangements to attend the entire conference, but I did sign up for a consultant with an agent.

Not that I had anything ready to publish. Far from it. My great question was this: based on my style of writing, who should my target audience be?

“Definitely young adult,” the agent I spoke with said, perhaps a bit too emphatically.

I was half happy to hear this (since most of the fiction I’ve actually tried to write has been for my teenage daughters) and half dismayed. In spite of wanting to tackle tough issues, to write parables that will mean something to someone in some distant time, I think I have a tendency to be unrealistically flamboyant with my creativity and too simple in the way I word things.

In my mind, my first fiction ideas are like plain yogurt. Each story might have a decent base, but I’d never eat plain yogurt without adding something sweet. I tend to add too many ideas too soon. It becomes complicated. Imagine dumping half a bottle of chocolate syrup and a bag of M&Ms into a yogurt cup—when I read my fiction later, that’s what it tastes like in my mind. No one can stomach that for very long.

If I could temper my fiction, balance it with thoughtful prose and self-control, it might stand a chance of becoming elegant—something more like yogurt with strawberries mixed in. Something healthy.

That’s what I strive for, but it’s not something I do well on my own. This is probably why writers are told to network with each other, to learn from each other and to teach each other. We who read and write have to be valuable to each other in order to succeed.

This is difficult for me. It’s easy to appreciate the work of other writers, but I know my sticky-sweetness. I have trouble sharing that with others even when I know they can help improve my writing. There’s this wall of shame I have to climb over or break through every time.

It might not look that way from the outside. In April 2011, I self-published The Night Ones Legacy, a fiction story I wrote for one of my daughters for the previous Christmas. There have been times since then when I’ve berated myself because the editing wasn’t finished, because I had holes in my plot, because my character development was lacking—and I self-consciously wonder what others would think of me if they knew what I had done. Was it shameful to self-publish a book of fiction? Did I do something wrong?

My motivations, at the time, were only partly to become published. Deep down, I had a drive to learn about HOW to publish something. I thought self-publishing would be my only chance for a long time.

That still may be the case. I don’t know. I believe the next time around, I’ll probably seek an agent or a publisher. The more I learn, the more I see that this would be a different kind of education altogether. I hope I have the chance to learn that lesson.

Meanwhile, I push forward with the lessons already in front of me. Learning about the writing craft is painfully, deeply imperative for my happiness. I’m beginning to understand non-fiction. Fiction is harder. Acquainting me with the art of loving my own work is more challenging still.

I have made some attempts. I gave a few copies of The Night Ones Legacy to friends in North Dakota. I tried internet advertising, once.

Mostly, I began to seek out other writers to talk with—a single mother of eight who writes during her breaks at work, a college girl who makes incredible lemon pies, some enthusiastic in-laws with a thousand interesting book ideas—and then I went to the agent consultation, and then I joined a writer’s group. Talking about my writing is getting easier.

It’s one step closer to learning a new set of lessons. More than that, talking about the art of writing (even if I must share my own work) with others who write is completely enjoyable. Networking is becoming its own reward.

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