Archive for the ‘Writers and Writing’ Category
I’m reading “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett. 802 pages long, the first in his trilogy about the 20th century. Since he is 62, I suspect this trilogy will take years of research and writing, and may be his swan song after a long, successful career that began with “Eye of the Needle” when he was 27. Prior to this, he had already published five books before striking the mother lode. He is one of those dedicated, working writers who can now choose to write the books that he wants to.
After reading about him, I ask myself, What if I had stayed on the writing path that I started on when I was 12? Would I now be a recognized author? Maybe, but I would have spent my life doing something that I loved. While I also loved my advertising career, the difference is that I worked for others to promote other people’s products rather than my own.
When I was 12, and reluctantly living in Mexico (after being informed that we were not going home to England), I sat down at my mother’s Remington and typed my first book, “The Glass Stag.” 240 pages, double-spaced. Then I revised and rewrote it three times. My next book came at 13 (considered and rejected by MacMillan as excellent but no audience for a book written by a teenager). At 14, I joined an adult read and critique group, where I wrote my third book.
I knew for certain that I would become a writer.
Then why did I stray from that path?
Young love, having fun, moving, a career, New York and London took over my life. Until I was 21 and in a dull marketing job where I wrote lots of poetry. One day, I looked out of the filthy office window and thought, Is this how I want to spend my life? I quit, typed scripts at the BBC part-time for a living, and spent several months writing a book. This time, I was on track.
Until the day I met the love of my love who whisked me off for a year of high style living and travel before we broke up.
Back I went to a high-flying job as PR for an airline (pun intended) until marriage and a kid led me back to the corporate world and to Mexico, another marriage, another child, and then as a single mother supporting my kids.
Once, a friend from my first read and critique group, who had published several books, took the manuscript written years before in London to his top New York agent who got all excited about it. “Just clean it up and send it back,” he asked. It was a week before my second marriage, I was about to start a new job, and I had a two-year old to look after. The timing was off. I never did.
Fast forward to forced early retirement from advertising, a failed business, and the urge to create came back. In a golden four and a half months, I typed out (yes, an electric typewriter) the first draft of my opus, “Recognition.” As I rewrote 2nd and 3rd drafts, I supported myself with part-time work teaching English and selling my belongings. The agent from before, one of New York’s best, agreed to read it twice, both times sending me encouraging rejection letters. Over the following years, I wrote another seven drafts, joined several writing groups, and often followed up on comments made by agents in the numerous rejection letters. My first chapter won an award. But after seven years with “Recognition,” I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I stuck it in the closet.
I wrote another first draft of a novel, and a personal memoir (five drafts) that everyone, except for me, in three writing groups praised and loved. I was a weekly newspaper columnist and had shorter pieces published.
Next, inspired by Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed”, I took a Writers Digest book proposal course. When I approached several agents, they all wanted to see the book. For several years, while working freelance as a Hispanic report writer, I wrote “Don’t Hang Up!” Initial response from agents: great book, excellent writing, current and relevant theme, “but you need credentials for a publisher to be interested in it.”
An impasse of sorts until online opportunities unfolded before me.
Another writers’ conference and I knew where I was going: Found a small publisher willing to publish my book if I’d promote it. Put up my website, contacted a publicist, ready to go, and …
Hit by the economic downturn that depleted my resources, left me jobless again. And book less.
However, I still had a blog so I decided to make a go of that. Try to create interest in “Don’t Hang Up!” and then publish it.
I became addicted to blogging, not so much writing posts as to reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them. Many blogs inspired me or filled me with such enthusiasm that comments flowed, and I’d spend the better part of a week happily blogging.
I realized I’d lost my focus.
I wasn’t looking for or doing much work.
I got hustling and found freelance work. A lot.
That issue solved.
The other, my writing has been on hold. Meanwhile, several friends have published their books. Where am I with mine? What have I done to get it published? Too busy blogging.
Do I want to be a blogger or a book writer?
I already asked this question in a blog post months before, “Out to Sea. To Blog or Not to Blog.”
The answer is right in front of me.
I’ll never have the time or experience to aspire to reach Ken Follett’s level.
However, I do have two finished and edited memoirs, one first draft, and the outline for a trilogy that starts with “Recognition” (needs another go round/editing).
For me, at 68, time is at a premium.
So I’d better get going – and fast – with my writing.
And I can’t let life and work get in the way again.
Photo credit: Jacob Tron
“Your friend is your needs answered.” Kahlil Gibran
There are no words to fully express how much I will miss you, but I will try.
• I’ll miss your welcome, the fact that your arms were always open to me.
• I’ll miss the fun and enjoyment I found with you.
• I’ll miss the comfortable shoulder to lean on for advice, help with difficult projects, information, and the knowledge from your 40 years of experience.
• I’ll miss your way with words.
• I’ll miss hearing about and meeting all the great and outstanding people you knew. For example, you introduced me to Barack Obama when he published his first memoir.
• I’ll miss our regular meetings, the many teas I drank in your company.
• I’ll miss the refuge I found whenever I sought you out.
• I’ll miss exploring new worlds, new ideas, new authors, and new books with you.
• I’ll miss the heady feeling of being in the presence of greatness.
• I’ll miss your smell – that comfortable mixture of warmth, age, tranquility, understanding, powdery paper, and something indefinable that always permeated your surroundings.
• I’ll miss the friend I made in 2002 and who added greatly to my personal enjoyment and development.
• I’ll plain old miss going to visit you in downtown San Diego.
Yesterday, when I read the announcement that Borders Books was closing all its stores, I felt not surprise but resignation. Ever since it started closing stores several months ago, I knew its time was limited.
The end of an era.
For me, personally, Borders became part of my downtown San Diego experience. It was too good to last – and I sensed it almost from the start. A big bookstore set in the pleasure-seeking Gaslamp District mainly populated by young people out for a good time, tourists, cruise ship sightseers, homeless, and ball game lovers seemed out-of-place. The aisles were often empty as was the large music area upstairs.
Downstairs, the comfy armchairs and tables next to the coffee shop were occupied more by students who used the bookstore as a library, people reading the books and especially the magazines for free, or taking a rest/having a snooze. How often did I get angered to see someone defacing a new book, pulling back the pages and thus rendering it unsalable? How often did I wonder at the high maintenance and overhead of such a place, and how long could Borders accept their losses?
Of course, as a budding book author, I dreamed of the day that my books would grace their shelves. Even when I realized how illusionary this dream was, I still held on to my hopes.
For me, Borders downtown (which closed several months ago thus signaling the fast approach of the Borders Books’ demise) is akin to losing one of my close San Diego friends. A gap in the tooth. My old neighborhood is changing.
This comes as a result of two dominant forces: the dramatic switch to online book purchases, mainly Amazon. And importantly, it signals the change in book publishing – the almost overnight switch to e-books and readers (Kindle, Nook, etc.) in little more than a couple of years.
People will continue to buy print books but in less quantity. I foresee the day when I will also use a Kindle, simply because it’s more convenient even though I belong to the dwindling group – mainly older – who prefers the touch, feel, enjoyment of turning real pages. It will be the same as replacing the typewriter with a computer – I balked at first – but as everything else in this rapidly changing world, I’ll get used to this new book presentation. Almost.
Is the print book, the one we have known all of our lives, on its way to be relegated to the world of typewriters and radios and CDs? The printing press has been with us over 500 years since Johannes Gutenberg invented the it circa 1439. How many more years will books, in their current form, exist? Maybe just table top books, picture books, and a few special ones. Maybe limited press runs.
Or am I predicting too dismal a future for print books? Perhaps Harry Potter fans will grow up and this industry will rebound, though never to the same level as before.
For now, Barnes & Noble reigns supreme and long may they live to carry on the baton in this world of dying print books.
And long live those bastions of immortality: the independent bookstore, and the second-hand bookstores, and even the book sections in your local supermarket.
Photo credits: Mary Osborne
A couple of years ago, a writer friend started a blog. Her sharp, concise, informative posts received a lot of comments – or so it seemed – 38-40 on average. Much to my surprise, after about four months, she stopped. What happened? She told me, “I’m writing a book, but when I was blogging, I spent so much time reading and commenting on other people’s blogs, that I didn’t have time for my own writing. And that’s more important to me.”
In a recent blog post, “Kick your blog up a notch, Come to Blog World,”Gutsy Writer included the following statistics:
Over 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog.
* Over 120 thousand blogs are created every day.
* There are over 1.4 million new blog posts every day.
* Blog readers average 23 hours online each week.
That’s a lot of blogs, a lot of readers, a lot of posts, and a lot of hours spent writing, reading and leaving comments. No wonder 50% of all blogs go dead within 6 months (like my friend’s).
Many bloggers, including myself, start off thinking blogging will be easy or like writing a journal – and for some it is. Most of us expect that good writing, interesting topics, important keywords and social media such as Facebook and Twitter will appeal to readers and it’s only a matter of time before we find a wider audience. Instead, we discover we’re writing for friends and family and after a while, even they lose interest.
My blog was originally intended to support my soon-to-be-published book, “Don’t Hang Up!” and is attached to my website. When my publication plans – and my economy and personal life fell apart – I decided to carry on with it. I joined a LinkedIn blogging discussion forum, a fascinating experience that led me to such an interesting variety of blogs that I subscribed to as many as I could. The blogging world had me hooked.
Some newbie bloggers, like me, in search of a wider audience, find ourselves caught up in the blogging world. To our surprise, it is fascinating and enthralling to the point where trying to find ways into it becomes the focal point of our lives.
At first, it was like taking an intensive course in blogging, learning about blogging from the pros, about content, traffic, message, communication, etc. Only after six months of this have I realized that I still have a lot more to learn, which will require much more involvement before I can even aspire to improve my disappointing Google stats.
And frankly, it’s becoming boring, often repetitive – though I have discovered some pearls of wisdom and outstanding bloggers and posts that I file under Advice or Best Blogs Ever, as well as some delightful and informative personal blogs.
However, in this time, I have not written a word – not a single word – of my book. I haven’t even made corrections or done any editing.
So I face an important decision.
What is my goal in life? To be a book author or a really good blogger with a big following?
What is my job profile? It says book author/freelance writer/Hispanic research writer/analyst. Nowhere does it say Blogger.
Have I gone off track or just wandered into another world?
Or has my focus changed?
If I want to be a great Blogger, I should have something to sell – a product, a service, an idea. So far, I have nothing.
My life’s dream, ever since I was 12 and wrote my first full-length book (240 typewritten pages, double spaced) has been to become a published author.
It appears that I’m ambushing my dream in the rather elusive quest of becoming that one in a million bloggers to get a reasonable following.
What am I to do?
Stay out at sea, sailing around in the blogosphere like a lost ship?
Or go back to my own writing, get my books in shape, and try to find an agent/publisher or to self-publish.
Sounds like a no-brainer.
This would not mean that I’d stop blogging completely. Just slow down, and instead of reading and leaving comments on 20-30 blogs a week, I’ll pull back to about 10.
So what do you think?
I’d love to hear from you so as to erase any doubts as to which road to take.
Photo credits: Veronica Valades
“Don’t live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.” Wendy Wasserman, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize playwright
At the request of a fellow blogger, Janine Ripper, who writes Reflections of a Red Head, this post is in honor of International Women’s Day. Unfortunately, like many women in this world, I don’t have the time to write one myself. I just went through a major move and upheaval in my life and today, I’m leaving for a visit to Mexico City where I used to live.
Instead, I’m giving over the podium, so to speak, to several great women and their inspiring words.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaїs Nin, novelist and diarist
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller, activist for the deaf and blind
“We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Oprah Winfrey, TV personality
“Everybody must learn this lesson somewhere – that it costs something to be what you are.” Shirley Abbott, magazine writer and editor
“I’ve got a woman’s ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it.” Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Great Britain
“None of us in Superwoman. We are by turns industrious woman, harried woman, organized woman, and sometimes cunning woman, because we all agree that one can always find time, in the most hard-pressed life, to do what one really wants to do, whether it is dancing the tango, playing the harp, or writing a book.” Valerie Grove, journalist and writer
“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt, activist, writer, and former First Lady of the U.S.
Dear friends and readers, if you know any inspirational quotes from women, please share them with us, and I will add them to this list.
Is it taking you years to achieve your goal?
Or much longer than you envisioned when you started out.
Only a few of us ever make it on our first try, and many, not even on our second, third, fourth or more attempts.
So how long should we keep going before giving up?
It depends on how much we believe in our dreams and goals, and wanting them badly enough to battle for them. It depends on our determination and perseverance.
It depends on treating every setback as another learning experience rather than as another defeat.
And ultimately, it depends on never losing sight of what we want to achieve.
The Spider That Wouldn’t Give Up.
The quote, “Try, try, and try again,” comes from a legend about the 14th century King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, and a spider.
After Robert the Bruce was defeated for the sixth time by the King of England, he fled and hid in a cave. He lay there, ready to give up all hope, when a spider caught his eye. It was hanging by a long silvery thread from one of the wooden beams above his head, and trying to swing itself to another beam. It tried again and again, failing each time. Six times.
Robert thought, “I too have failed six times in my fight for Scotland. But if this spider succeeds the next time, I will try once more to regain my kingdom.”
The spider swung again – and on its seventh attempt, it succeeded.
Robert the Bruce threw off his despair and went on to battle the English and eventually, won at the Battle of Bannockburn.
He regained his kingdom – all because of one spider that wouldn’t give up.
This story’s premise holds true in almost any battle in our lives. Robert the Bruce’s success followed a series of failures. The same can happen to any of us – if we’re willing to try again and again and have the courage to look beyond failure.
My own story is not a success story – yet.
“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” ~Author Unknown
Youthful dreams vs. adult reality
I wrote my first, full-length novel – 240 typed double spaced pages – when I was 12. And rewrote it twice. I dreamed of the day when I’d become a famous writer.
At 14, I wrote my second novel. It was “considered” by MacMillan but rejected because a book written by a young adult would not find an audience. Years later, “Eragon” written by 16 year old Christopher Paolini would become both a bestseller and a hit movie.
I wrote my third novel at 16. I still hope to get it published – some day.
When I was 22, I started another book, but gave it up to travel around Europe. Several years later, a published friend showed the first chapters to his agent at William Morris. I received a note saying it was magnificent, and to clean it up and send him the rest.
This happened one week before I was married, two weeks before I started a new job, and a month before my three-year old started pre-school.
Instead, I shoved my manuscript into a box in a closet where it remained for the next quarter century.
The long road to nowhere.
In my early fifties, I pulled out the yellowed pages of my unfinished manuscript from its box. I’d revive my “magnificent” book and this time, it would be published. I wrote a whole new draft in four months on a manual typewriter. Once more, I dreamed mt childhood dream and that my novel would become a blockbuster.
My “blockbuster” required tons of research, dedication, brushing up on craft, and editing with a read and critique group. I spent five years working on it – ten drafts – until it was in good enough shape, I thought, to look for an agent. Rejection letters piled up, including from the same agent who had loved it years before.
Reality set in. So the book went back into the closet.
In the next years, I wrote three more books. I received the best rejection letters (one, two-pages handwritten) ever, but no takers, for one of my non-fiction books.
The computer age had changed everything. More people than ever were writing books. Agents, inundated with query letters, seldom had time for unknown authors. You had to go to a conference to meet them. And publishers were accepting fewer books.
In the decade of 2000, the publishing world experienced a radical change.
The way I’d hoped/expected to be published, the traditional route, seemed barred for me.
I’d missed the boat. Time to give up.
There’s still a way – just not the way I envisioned
Then I thought about all the people who had encouraged me and believed in me over the years. All the work and the sacrifices I’d made to become a good writer.
I thought about my father who, when he died, left an attic full of finished manuscripts.
No, I couldn’t give up. Or better said, I’d come too far to give up.
So I’m still at it, as anyone reading this blog can see. I’m learning as much as I can about this, for me, daunting new world of Social Media, and focusing on my non-fiction book, “Don’t Hang Up!”
And what about that all important novel?
I’ll be damned if I let it wither again on my closet shelf again.
If I don’t lose sight of my goal, it will find a publisher. Of that, I am certain.
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- Get In the Hot Spot with Annabel Candy
- I've Become My Parents
- Just My Thoughts
- Reflections from a Red Head
- Stuart Nager
- The Adventures of Cilgin Kiz
- To Gyre and Gambol
- Unlock the Door
- What Little Things