Sunday, October 16, 2016

Coming next to a bookshelf near you!

Can you believe it? It's not the mystery I was working on. It's not the novel I worked prior to that. It's not the sometimes-promised sequel (or companion story) to Tiger Hunting. It is a collection of my short stories and it is near-enough complete that I will be sending it to beta readers by the first of November, with plans to publish it early in 2017. I have a lot to work on still... like order... a cover... and a title...

I watched a book promotion video this week that said Indie authors should talk more about their works-in-progress! So this is me, talking about what I expect to be publishing next.

If this book comes together as I expect, it will contain at least 14 of my short stories. Some of them have been published and/or won awards. Some of them will be printed here for the very first time. I am considering the inclusion of a piece from my 9th grade English class. If it makes the cut, I will be able to truthfully say that this book took me 32 years to write!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Imagine - 2016 Kansas Authors Club Convention in Lawrence, Kansas

Home from a weekend with my writing tribe and family -- grasping for a way to bottle up this energy and store it for later days. At this moment, I imagine myself coasting on this energy through the completion of the next several projects I have on the table.

Just a few my take-homes (posted mostly for me to return to and savor on another day):

Performance Art -- The convention featured several examples of poetry as performance. We had some really awesome entertainment. I've gotten much more comfortable as a speaker and presenter over the years, but I am a little surprised at how much this performance aspect appeals to me. I may have to devote a teeny tiny bit of my time to writing poetry and then a teeny tiny bit more time adding a bit more performance to my presentation.
Barry Barnes was a stellar performer. He looked like he was
having fun doing it, as well.

River Cow Orchestra -- the improvisational nature of this performance absolutely fascinates me. As writers, we are taught to write, write, edit and rewrite. This group would listen to a poet, and on the second read, start playing. It was entirely unscripted. The results were delightful.

And the award for best workshop... actually, I don't think there could be an award for best workshop. We had a good variety this year and all were high quality. Darcy Leech, however, is the one presenter where I honestly could have sat for another hour or two just soaking up her story. It was one of the most engaging and useful workshops about marketing that I have been to in quite some time. I'd like to be a mouse in her pocket for a few days. I look forward to studying her website -- and reading her book!

Darcy Leech was one of the 2016 KAC Convention Workshop Presenters.
My good friends, Mike Graves and Wendy Devilbiss were the contest managers this year. It has been a delight to meet with them and work with them on this project over the past year. They did a wonderful job of presenting the awards, as well. And it was so much fun to see so many of my friends have their work acknowledged in the contest. (Full disclosure -- I entered one poem and one prose piece this year -- no winners!)

Wendy Devilbiss - Poetry Manager, Roy J. Beckemery - Poet of the Year, Reaona Hemmingway - Prose Writer of the Year, Mike Graves, Prose Contest Manager. Well deserved awards to our writers of the year. It was good to see these two honored.

That message intended just for me... In 15 years as a member of KAC, I believe I have attended 13 conventions. Each year, I have come to expect that at some point during the convention, I will encounter that message that was "just for me." Sometimes it is something in the keynote speech, and sometimes it is something discovered in a workshop. Sometimes it is something found in conversation with another writer at the event. There's always this moment when I think to myself, "THIS is what I came for this year. This is the nugget I've been needing to hear."

This year it happened on Sunday morning. Ann Fell (2x Coffin Award Winner -- Sundrop Sonata in 2016) talked about the process of writing her suspense novel. Her first task was to distinguish the difference between a mystery and a suspense. Ta-da! Bells are ringing. I've been calling my most recent work-in-progress a mystery. Quite clearly, it is a suspense story. I look forward to getting back to it now. In a one-hour presentation, Ann's words opened up for me the problem I was having in completing this novel.

Ann Fell is the author of In the Shadow of the Wind, the 2015 Coffin Memorial Book Award, and Sundrop Sonata, the 2016 Coffin Memorial Book Award. 

Last, but certainly not least, I was thrilled and delighted that two books near and dear to my heart were awarded the first ever "Looks Like a Million" Book Design Award. To Leave a Shadow, by Michael D. Graves, was the winner. MoonStain, poetry by Ronda Miller, received an honorable mention. Both are books I produced as editor and publisher through my very own press, Meadowlark Books. I was also recognized for 15 years of membership in Kansas Authors Club and honored with a service award (Thank for the nomination, Gloria Zachgo!)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Muse Chasers Walk Across Kansas

My writing gang is growing and taking on new challenges. This month, six of us have banded together to form Muse Chasers, a team for Walk Kansas, a K-State Research and Extension Health Initiative. We mostly walk on our own, but have added a short walk together (for as many as can make it -- me, that's about half the time) prior to our usual Monday meeting write-in routine. Last Saturday--that's two Saturdays now as it has taken me just that long to get from draft to publish--three of us started the day at the Tallgrass Preserve for a little hiking.

Writing is often thought of as a solitary activity, and much of the time I suppose that is the case. Maybe writers don't suffer from loneliness because there is simply so much going on all the time inside their heads. For me, walking has often been the first step to very satisfying writing. A really good walk, in fact, often ends in hours and hours of time at the keyboard. This happened the day we hiked at Tallgrass--hours and hours... though nothing was completed because the current work-in-progress has several weekends of hiking/writing to go. In a perfect world, when the fingertips slow, the body goes on a walk again to refuel.

I have learned that walking with other writers is fun, too. When one shares a story, the others are often quick to point out that it's one that should be written down. And writers never seem to tire of talking about books... those we've read, and those we would like to read, as well as those we'd like to see written so that we can read them, and those we'd like to write just because...

How many muses have been caught? It's hard to tell. For each one I catch hold of, there's another one or two that manage to evade my grasp. Our team has made it about 3/4 the way across the state with 4 weeks left to go. Seems like pretty good progress for a group so easily distracted by the sparklies we pick up (both real and imagined) along the trail...

Hazel, Michelle and I hit the trail at Tallgrass Preserve. What do writers talk about as they hike? Books, of course.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hibity Hibity: An interview with me!

From a birthday greeting on Facebook from an old friend (my second mother) ... hbty, hbty... I immediately read "hibity hibity" and I liked the way it rolled off my tongue. Hibity is a happy word. It's a new word (to me) and I'm keeping it.

My 2nd birthday, a few years ago, and the family dog, Poochie.

Today I celebrate 45 years on this planet with a little sleeping in, a lot of chocolate, and a nap! Inspired by my writing friend, Nancy, I have settled on an interview with myself for my 45th birthday.

Q: Are birthdays important to you?
A: Not the actual day so much; certainly not the way it used to be. As I've written elsewhere this year, I tend to kind of roll my age forward with the year these days. I've been thinking of myself as 45 since the beginning of 2015. I do enjoy giving myself a day of pure leisure, though I try to make that happen a time or two a month year round! A birthday is a good excuse to be spoiled a little. I took the time to respond to every single note I received on FB today. It was awesome to think about the web of connections I have after 45 years on this planet. I am proud to be the age I am. I have never been a 20-something, 30-something woman. Every year is a badge. I wear it proudly. I will not waste time mourning the years that are behind me.

Q: What is the best thing about getting older?
A: Growing confidence. With each year, I am less concerned about fitting someone else's image of what a writer should be, what a woman should be, what a mother should be... and more willing to simply embrace and BE what I want to be, moment by moment. I don't look for a prescription anymore. I don't need someone to tell me how to walk the path. I am simply walking it. Taking my steps and choosing the way I want to go, even if it means backing up, turning around, skipping over or finding my way around an obstacle or two.

Q: If you had one thing to do differently in your life, what would it be?
A: This always feels like one of those really dangerous questions. Sure, I have ideas (what about all that free time I had pre-kids... why didn't I finish a book or two then?) but what it always boils down to is this... I love where my life is at right now. The problem with doing any part of it over is that I might change the course that got me here. And while it might be another acceptable place I get to, I don't really have any desire to give up this place, so I guess I'll leave the past as it was, embarrassing moments, wasted time, and all.

Q: Okay, but if you were to pass on some writing advice to your past self, what would you say?
A: Stop worrying about it; just write it. Have fun with words. Say what you want to say. Don't be shy. Get your stuff out there and write, write, write some more.

Q: If you could save time in a bottle, what would you spend it on?
A: My family. No contest. I fill a lot of hours of my day. I probably work too many jobs, juggle too many balls. But nothing -- no money, no book, no completed essay -- is worth the price of time with my family. I have raised three very busy and involved people, and I will drop everything/anything, just to spend a bit more time with any one of them. Hubby, too!

Q: And how about your future self? What would you expect her to say, looking back on you today?
A: I would expect her to admit that the second 45 years went a little quicker than the first. That seems to be the trend, anyway. Each year passes a little more quickly. I hope she says that I learned to be a little more selfish and less giving... but in a positive way. That I learned to guard my time and keep it mine, still willing to share, but perhaps narrowing the focus of what I am available to do for others. I hope she says that I finally learned to never committed to projects I later resented (maybe I am already there?) and that I was bolder in my second 45 years, and more experimental in my creative endeavors. Above all, I expect her to say, "No regrets." Life is too short for regrets.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Let's Talk about the Illness

I am on page 65 of what I have decided to call the third draft of the current work-in-progress. It's proving much harder than it should. I've got a complete story, for goodness sake! A start to finish story with a beginning, a middle and an end. But this is my weakness, I understand. I love starting things. I enjoy diving head-long into a project and spending countless hours, days, weeks in the flow, losing track of time. Now I can see the finish line.

This is the biggest, hardest, most complicated story I have ever attempted to complete, and I feel myself slowing down. It would be SO EASY to walk away right now. It would be simple to start a new project that was full of fun, creative energy.

But that's not going to happen with this one. There is no doubt in my mind that I will finish this book. In spite of the fact that it may actually be crap.... in spite of the fact that people may hate it... I've been down this road so many times and I understand, now, how to cross the finish line.

That doesn't make it any easier.

That doesn't mean it's going to be effortless.

"You still have those doubts?" I asked my friend, Cheryl (who has published two books, and has nine years under her belt as a newspaper columnist, and has won awards with her writing and gets invited -- regularly -- to speak at events and do readings).

"Every day," she said.

What is it about being a writer that makes us feel like we are a continual work-in-progress, not quite there yet?

I fell into bed exhausted last night, scolding myself (just a little bit) for not getting more done on the work-in-progress. A little while later -- still not asleep, wondering if I was really as tired as I thought I was, or if I was just avoiding the work ahead -- I realized that I was plotting the NEXT novel. The one that follows the current work-in-progress. As if I haven't had enough of these crazy characters already. Full scenes from part II of this story are already being written in my mind.

This is the illness, the affliction.

It would make more sense to walk away, to just be done with words. I could get a job tending bar. I've been thinking of that as a job I'd like to try out. Pouring drinks. Watching people. Absorbing stories.

Like that would give me nothing to want to write about.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Writer's Progress...

is changing a word in a work-in-progress because it occurs to you that you wouldn't feel comfortable saying the word out loud... like at a reading, perhaps... then changing it back again because you figure you have plenty of time to learn how to pronounce it correctly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Long Overdue Tribute to Writing Friend, Dorothy Masters

Dorothy Masters: January 9, 1936-February 21, 2014
Photo Courtesy of Carol Yoho

Dorothy wrote me a note after I published my first book, Tiger Hunting. I could always count on Dorothy for kind notes. Often by email, sometimes by snail mail, she always took the time to say hello, to acknowledge my efforts, and to thank me for my time.

When I think of the kind of person I want to be, Dorothy is a role model. She once told me that she wrote her stories for her family, to leave something of herself behind. I collected Dorothy's books, though we were not relation, and I enjoyed reading them, too. Dorothy's stories were about making connections and nurturing relationships. They were fun stories and always full of the sunny view of things. One of her books was titled, in fact, Keep on the Sunny Side of Life. In her professional life, Dorothy was a nurse. She lost her husband in a farm accident at a young age and spent many of her younger years as a single mother. Dorothy wrote a column that was published in several rural Kansas newspapers for many years. She published several volumes of her memoirs and some short stories, as well.

The second year I was editor of the Kansas Authors Club yearbook (2008), Dorothy submitted The Rose Bush Theory as her entry. I am sharing it here, with permission from her family.

The Rose Bush Theory
by Dorothy Masters

I relate life and death to a big, beautiful rose bush. Picture a large blooming rose bush and you can see your family or circle of friends. Some of the roses are in full bloom with gorgeous color and perfect shapes. Some roses are starting to form buds. Some of the buds never complete the full growing process, and remain undeveloped on the bush. some of the roses are dead and remain on the bush, while others are starting to wither.

Now, relate each and every one of those blooms to different members of your family or your circle of friends and you can see the living and dying process. Life is a process with death being the final phase. Please do not wait -- live life to the fullest each and every day.

Keep in mind, to maintain that rose bush (loved ones) big and pretty, it must be fed, watered, nurtured, pruned and protected from the elements and given gentle caresses, plus some tender talk. The care is even more essential when caring for people.

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