Category Archives: Preambles to Writing

Words of encouragement from Ira Glass

On January 16 of this year I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 in 2016. The goal for members is to write a picture book draft each month so that by the end of this year we will each have twelve completed drafts or manuscripts, hence, twelve by twelve. There’s no penalty if we don’t manage it but there is a huge amount and variety of encouragement to help us get there. I’m happy I did this for myself.

I participated when Julie first concocted the idea and made it public for 2012, the year she decided she needed accountability writing friends who would join her in this challenge she had set for herself to push forward with the ideas she had come up with during Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. 12×12 (twelve by twelve) has grown into an amazing program during the years since, with hundreds of participants, and I am very glad I signed on for 2016. Three weeks in and I’ve learned a lot already. I’m among a group of writers who encourage and learn from one another (as well as learning from professionals who join in at certain times), plus – I might be in a small critique group soon.

There is still a little time left should anyone else want to join 12×12 for this year before the door is closed. I can’t recall exactly when that is but I think you have at least another week if you’re interested. 

Now I want to share with you a quote someone in 12 x 12 brought to our attention for encouragement. Do you know Ira Glass? Well, he said the following – and I have it written exactly as he said it:

“Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me …  is that all of us who do creative work, like y’know we get into it and we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap. That for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, okay? It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. Y’know what I mean? A lot of people never get past that phase and a lot of people at that point they quit. And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have and the thing what to do is … Everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase you’ve got to know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap. And your work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. In my case, like I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s going to take you awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. And you just have to fight   your   way   through   that. Okay?”   – Ira Glass

 

What do you think of this advice? What has been your experience?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Baby steps toward CHANGE

2016, my year of change.

I’ve stated it publicly. I am determined to achieve it. I am committed to accepting it.  (Thanks, Darlene, for that last point.)

For me, change means stepping beyond myself, my comfort zone, my place of safety.  Even if that step is only a baby step, it is a step forward to my goal.

I am not saying I want to change everything about myself, or that I want to make drastic changes in my life. What I mean is I am working on my attitude and beliefs about my God-given abilities, talents, gifts, creativity. And fear – I am making baby steps away from the fear and toward the reality of who I am as a creative and what I am capable of doing.

“The key to change … is to let go of fear.”  – Rosanne Cash

 

My goal, which I’m sure you all know by now, is to write children’s books for publication. The changes have begun for me to achieve this:

  1. I have my own writing coach as of September 2015;
  2. I’m ending my publishing of a newsletter I (very sadly) haven’t had the focus and leading to do anymore; after many years it’s hard to let go. I have the final issue to complete and loose ends to tidy up;
  3. my publishing room will become my writing room, my creative space, which I’m excited to prepare;
  4. I’ve continued with Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo each November, keeping the ideas coming. To take those ideas further, Friday I signed on for a year of *12×12, making that huge (for me) leap in commitment when I’m not sure how I’m going to manage the challenge. Having said that, I signed on because I need what is being offered through it in order to reach my goal. (I did 12×12 in 2012, Julie Hedlund’s first year offering 12×12; now it’s much advanced from those beginnings.)

The biggest change for me is my private outlook, my self-talk, what I believe about myself. Change in those will bring about the most change in me and how I approach my writing.

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” – Steve Maraboli

Yes, 2016 is my year of CHANGE, the follow-up to and continuation of POSITIVITY – my word in 2015.

I am determined.     I will need reminders. And energy. And focus and refocus. (That’s not a negative already, I know how it’s been and I’m needing to not go there.)

My life as caregiver will continue as it has been, with the change being in me, in how I use my other time. There’s no progress in wishing things were different.

“Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself.” – Thegoodvibe.co

This could be an exciting year, a challenging year, a surprising year.

2016.

My year of change.

* If YOU are interested in writing children’s books, it is not too late to sign up for 12×12. Just follow the link I provided above in my point #4.

Can you relate to the struggle of staying the course? What are your goals and determinations that you know will make a remarkable change for you? (Or put that in past tense, what were your goals … and how did you manage to meet them?)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

My word for 2016

If you could choose any word at all to fit YOU in 2016, what would it be?

I’ve thought about this a lot, and waited, and listened, and waited, and thought some more. The result of all that is a word I’ve been feeling is for the year of 2016. It may be for my own life as well as extending far beyond me. Although other words came to mind, this one always rose to the top. That word is CHANGE.

Therefore, my word for 2016 is CHANGE

What I foresee in my limited vision and understanding is the following, as applies to me:

  • letting go of some longstanding commitments, thereby allowing space for other things
  • seeing myself as the writer I am, thereby freeing myself to create
  • pushing forward, thereby completing and preparing stories and manuscripts for submission
  • still applying my last year’s word .. POSITIVITY .. thereby disallowing negativity and discouragement to pull me down or stop me
  • allowing God to affect change within me in those places that can not remain the same if I am to grow and move on

Change may seem a simple thing for you. For me it is a little unnerving, a little off-putting, while at the same time it is exciting, hopeful, and alluring.

Change is my word and also my goal for 2016. What is yours?

Thank you for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

PS: Giveaway Reminder: tonight at 9:00 EST I’m drawing for the planner. Did you enter for yourself, or maybe for a friend?

2015 in review

I didn’t think I did much blogging this year because I know my posts were fewer, however, according to WordPress it seems as if I’ve been quite busy here. I do enjoy blogging, so it’s rewarding to read a report like this one. If you’re interested in reading the whole thing you can follow the link included below.

Here is my 2015 blog report:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,900 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Do you have any thoughts to share about Polilla Writes?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

What books did you get for Christmas?

Another Christmas is past and the clean-up has begun.  Where do we put all these new things? Another incentive to purge and declutter?

This year I received a variety of books from several of my loved family and friends. Here is a  picture (poor quality – sorry!):

Books I got for Christmas '15.1

 

 

 

 

You know I love books. :) 

Close ups:

Books I got for Christmas '15.5

 

 

 

 

Books I got for Christmas '15.3

 

 

 

 

 

Books I got for Christmas '15.4

 

 

 

 

Books I got for Christmas '15.2

 

 

 

 

You can see (I hope, despite the dark views) I received the following:

  • two adult colouring books with markers and coloured pencils. Have you tried colouring again now you may not be a child anymore?
  • a drawing instruction book. Do you love to draw?
  • a writers’ book. Do you doubt yourself or push on through?
  • a novel. Have you read any of Ken Follett’s series? If so, which is your favourite? or what are you reading?
  • a daily devotional and two different types of journals – one for notes of gratitude, one for recording of blessings. Do you refer to any kind of inspirational reading/writing?

These books remind me I am a creative – in a couple of ways. I also love to read so must read more. I have to get writing more, too, including from my Christian perspective.  Yes, 2016 is going to be a different kind of year for me, and I already have my word for 2016 which I’ll share in the new year. :)

Now, I’m eager to know: What books did you get for Christmas … or during the season, however you celebrate it?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension”, part 35: Fare Thee Well

Welcome back for the final installment of Sue Harrison’s writers’ workshop: Writing The Third Dimension. We invite you to return here anytime to read and learn from the fabulous thirty-five segments from January 2013-December 2015.  (There was no post for WTTD in December 2013.) Simply click on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Quotes, Helps & Workshops on my drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. I’ll be sure to let her know when you do so she can reply. We both love hearing from you.

Now for the topic for month thirty-five:

*****

“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 35: Fare Thee Well

When I began writing these posts for Polilla Writes, I thought I would have enough material for about a year, maybe a year and a half. It turns out that I’m much more verbose than I ever dreamed! However, the time has come for me to conclude the “Writing The Third Dimension” series. What a joyous privilege has been mine to write these posts, get to know all of you, and to learn so much from all of you!

This is not good-bye. I’ll be back, commenting on the wonderful posts Lynn, “Polilla,” shares with us all, and from time to time, I’ll drop in with a post about books — mine and those of others.

In this, my closing segment, I thought perhaps you might like to read the second chapter of the novel I’ve been writing during the time I was also writing for Polilla Writes. Sharing stories is one of the great joys of my life. So here’s another story, at least the beginning of a story. I hope you enjoy it!

[Note from Lynn: Please note, the shared segment is COPYRIGHTED, no copying by any method allowed. Thank you.]

IMG_2172

BONE FIRE, A Novel of Ancient Europe

*******

Chapter Two

Awna the Woman

The-Month-of-Dying-Sun

(November)

5814 B.C.

 

The earth was frozen less than a hand-length down, so Awna needed only half a morning to chop away the soil and the tree roots to carve out the old man’s grave.

Under the oak trees that spread their autumn-broken leaves against the sky, she used the wide, flat blade of her digging stone to pry up pads of moss. Webbed with the night’s meager snowfall, the moss carried the heavy scent of rich, wet earth, a smell the old man had loved, so Awna layered it as a bed at the bottom of his grave. The size of an eight-winter child, that old man, smaller even than Awna, but she was strong from the years she had spent as his slave, carrying his packs. She easily pulled his body to the hole, her fingers cupped gently over his brittle bones. She lowered him in, feet first, and, when he was lying in the grave, she crouched on the edge as if she might slide down and claim space for herself.

“So Rolf, finally I am free. You could have waited until spring. It would have been easier.”

At least he had died quickly, his hands suddenly fisted against his chest, his teeth clenched, his breath pulsing out in one long hiss. She should not have told him. What was there about that crooked old man that so easily coaxed out the truth even when it was best forgotten?

Sunlight, shredded by the canopy of oaks, cast splintered shadows over Rolf’s pile of trade goods. Perhaps all those things were hers now, being who she was. Perhaps they were not, considering what she had done.

She did not care much about the shell necklaces, the birdbone needles, the small flint darts, the arrowheads, not even the oval bracelets cut in one piece from pearled edges of sea-clam shells. The bags of dried and pounded pot clay? She could dig up more.

Most of all, she wanted his thick fox-pelt blanket. Once, in the summer, when some bird spit a fever into Awna’s head, Rolf had wrapped her in that blanket, and the cool, soft fur chased out her blighted dreams, lured her back into the real and living world.

So what could she take and what should she bury? Would the old man come back to curse her if she did not give him enough?  He needed gifts for his ancestors.

Of course, she would not bury the hand-sized flakes of salt sewn into their deerskin packets. If she buried the salt, the earth would leech it away from Rolf’s grave. Perhaps then it would poison the guarding oaks. Why put herself into the middle of that fierce battle?

Always, always, though, that salt had been dearer to him than Awna could ever be, except during the one moment which had killed him.

She gave first what was easiest to give, the flute Rolf had made from the hollow wing bone of a vulture. Rolf had drilled five finger holes into the vulture bone and given it a strange fishlike mouth – pike, not carp — that somehow caught his breath and turned it into the low trembling melodies that only Rolf knew how to make.

She lay flat on her belly at one side of the grave and leaned down, slid that flute into his clutched hands. Some contrary part of her spirit wished for one more night song, firelight dancing. That wish made her eyes burn, so she stood and shook herself loose of the memories. Then she untied her grass cloak, swung it away from her shoulders. She had cut the grass for the cloak and dried it, then stitched it length over length until it hung long enough to reach her ankles. It shed water far better than fox fur ever could. She dropped the cloak into the grave, watched it settle in stiff folds over his beautiful fine-boned face, over his thin crooked legs and large clever hands.

“For you, Rolf, a trade.”

Awna held his fox-pelt blanket close to her mouth, blew into the fur to make it hers. Then, except for the salt, she divided all things between them, gave him half the blades, half the dried meat, half the smoked fish, half the beads and bracelets, half the pot clay, even half of her furred suslik skins, although she herself had caught those tricky ground squirrels, and she herself scraped away the flesh, stretched the small pelts on greenstick hoops, and knuckled soft fat into each flensed side.

When Rolf’s share lay with him in the grave, Awna pushed the forest’s thick, dark dirt over top until the hole was full. She layered leaf mold over the dirt then searched out what stones she could find, those rocks carried high into the forest by the Mother River, one year or another, as that river bucked herself free of winter ice. Awna piled the rocks over the grave so no digging animal could get to the old man.

She brushed the soil from her deerskin tunic and from her leggings. She licked the dirt’s dark stain from the palms of her hands. Would the old man follow her, his spirit given breath by longing? She had buried him so far from his home, traveling as they had been on their last trade journey before winter. Surely he would be restless, even under the comfort of the oaks. She cupped her hands over her belly. Would he try to take her baby now living there?

As small as the cap of an acorn, that baby, as the stem of a cap.

Perhaps Léleks would try to steal it, since she had lost the old man’s protection. Those deadly Léleks, twisted spirits, offspring of lost curses.

The wind sent its edged breath deep into her lungs, making her cough. Winter. Too close.

Always, since her mother sold her, Awna had only followed. How does a follower learn to walk her own path?

She leaned close to the grave, spoke loudly so Rolf could hear her through the stone and earth. “So what should we do, this baby and me? We cannot live outside in winter. Would you let me return to your house and use it as my own?”

A long journey that would be, but better than spending winter’s hard, cold days alone in an oak forest.

As if Rolf had traveled back to answer her, underbrush snapped and voices came from just beyond the stand of oaks. Awna crouched low and small, raked her fingers through her hair until the dark curls fell forward to cover her face. Her breath squeezed in so shallow that her acorn-baby lifted a thin cry of protest from her belly. But as she peeked through her hair, she saw those noisy ones walk into the oak clearing and realized they were just ordinary men.

Dark of hair and eyes they were, as are all people. Two carried a dead boar, hung by its legs from a sapling they balanced on their shoulders, an old boar, blood dripping black from age-stained tusks. The third man, although muscled thick in his arms and shoulders, carried nothing but throwing-spears, cradling them as if he were a woman holding a baby.

The three men stopped and stared at Awna, and the one holding the spears opened his mouth, ready to speak, but said nothing. His hair and beard had grown into a tumble of ringlets; his eyes were large and his ears. He shifted his gaze to the packs jumbled in a heap against the nearest oak. Then he pointed at the grave and asked, “A child?”

Awna pushed her hair back from her face and stood up. “No. He was old.” Why tell them more than that?

The spear-carrier turned and spoke to the others, and he spoke with such a wide swinging rhythm that Awna’s ears were not quick enough to catch all his words. Dried blood marked the men’s faces as if they had used it for paint, and their wide belts bristled with flint-blade knives.

So what was best, she asked herself, to pretend she had people waiting for her? Or should she try to find a place with these three men?

She did not want them to think the old man’s packs were theirs to take, so she walked to the pile and slung the largest on her back. The smaller ones she tied to her belt, and she hung the packets of salt from her shoulders. Slow she was, doing all this, but the men stood and watched. She tied the fox-pelt blanket around her waist. When she had taken all there was to take, she stared down at Rolf’s grave, wondering if she would hear his high, thin voice scolding her for greed, but he said nothing.

Awna pulled in a breath and was sure she could smell the moss of his sunken bed. So how terrible would it be if she and her acorn-baby were killed and left in this good place? They would be safe from winter. Everyone knew the dead did not feel the cold.

She pulled a small chert blade from her belt and cut a few stitches at the top edge of a greased packet, lifted it so the men could see the hand-size flake of salt inside. Then she waited for them to kill her, salt being more precious than any woman’s life could ever be.

The one who carried the spears stepped close and pinched the edge of the salt. He licked his fingers and looked at the other two men, shifting foot to foot under the weight of the dead boar. The salt-taster laughed, a low troubled sound, as if suddenly he had something to worry about.

“Where are you going?” he asked Awna, his words slow enough that she understood.

She pointed east and then south.

He said: “My village is close.”

Of course, their village was close. Men did not carry a dead boar, dripping blood, any great distance. Wolves, dogs, soft-pawed mountain lions would catch the scent. In near-winter, those animals would be glad for the meat, even of an old bitter-flesh boar.

“My village is not close,” she said, trying to match the rhythm of his words. She was a fool to admit she had no protection near, but her back ached and her arms, and she had blistered her hands digging that grave. Inside, she felt so empty that she wondered if her soul had stayed down there with Rolf. Why not give the salt-taster greater reason to kill her? Better to have the pain over soon than waste more time listening to his high-singing words.

Awna breathed in one last smell of moss and earth and oak. She would be a part of it whether these three buried her or simply left her body for whatever animal found it first.  Be strong, she told her acorn-baby, and she tilted back her head, so the man could see the long vein at the side of her neck. “Quickly,” she told him.

He set the butts of the spears on the ground, braced them in the crook of his left arm. He ran his thumb down the length of her pulsing vein, and Awna pulled her thoughts into that warm, dark world where her acorn-baby lived.

The man caught a handful of her hair and tugged gently until she lifted her head to look into his eyes. His voice was little more than a whisper when he said, “My name is Cob. I need a wife.”

copyright, 2015, Sue Harrison

*******

 So this is not Good-Bye, only Fare Thee Well, and Thank You

More than Words can ever Say.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah!

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. Sue has generously shared her knowledge and expertise with us for free all these months. This has been a tremendous gift, one for which I am very grateful. If you want to let Sue know what this has meant to you, if her teaching has benefited you in any way, I’m sure she would be thrilled to hear about it.

Thank you, Sue, so very much. I look forward to receiving posts from you when you have something to share with us. 

 

 

PiBoIdMo — I won the challenge!

It’s December 1 already –

twenty-four days to Christmas.

December 1 –

the day after PiBoIdMo ended, and …

the first day of Post-PiBo.

Post-PiBo is the week after the inspirational Picture Book Idea Month (brain child of Tara Lazar), the week when daily guests post encouraging and helpful advice on how to proceed with all our ideas gleaned in thirty days.

Yesterday, November 30, was the last day of the 30-day challenge to write a picture book idea each day – any idea that could be used in creating a picture book. This was my fifth year of taking on PiBoIdMo and it is my most creative to date. I’ve completed (won) in the other four years I’ve done this, but this year? This year I surprised myself. On day 17 I already had 30 ideas! By the end of day 30, the final day of the challenge, I completed with 65 – yes! 65! – ideas. 

Here’s my badge to prove it.

piboidmo2015winner

Yessiree … I’m doing my happy dance! 

the-seinfeld-happy-dance

Not quite like that but you get my point.

Actually, if when even one of my ideas is developed into a picture book and makes it to being published, the above will be even less of the happy dance I’ll be doing. You can be sure of that.  :)  Perhaps you will join me? 

One year I won one of the prizes given out at the end. It was a cute caricature of me, based on the illustrator’s insect characters. I may show you sometime what he sent me. I think it’s meant to be a combination of a firefly and a mosquito – or a misinterpretation of a firefly.

Tara Lazar does an amazing job of putting together six weeks of inspiration for writers of all skill levels and experience. She is a published picture book author herself, having written The Monstore which I reviewed hereLittle Red Gliding Hood, I Thought This Was a Bear Book, and Normal Norman.  She has two more picture books coming out in 2016. I urge you to buy, borrow, and for sure .. read and share .. her books.

Right now I am happy and feeling a little proud of myself for managing to go beyond what I’ve done before. This time I will complete manuscripts.

What or who inspires you? What challenges helped you to go beyond what you thought you could do?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)