Monday, November 28, 2011

The Write Connection

Peggy, the local librarian phoned me at home.  No, I didn’t have overdue books.  She had something exciting to tell me.  Unbelievably, Cathy Marie Buchanan had dropped into the Bright’s Grove library.  She was at The Book Keeper in Sarnia for a two-day book signing for her successful first novel, The Day The Falls Stood Still, and was touring the area. 

Peggy had just finished reading my manuscript and mentioned me to the Toronto author.  I can’t imagine what possessed her to do that.  When she told me that the writer left her phone number for me to call her, I was flabbergasted. 

Mildly hyperventilating, I dialled the number hoping I would not be tongue-tied when she answered.  I need not have worried.  In no time, we were chatting without reservation.  Cathy understood the frustration of marketing a novel.

Heeding her advice, I made enquiries to libraries and bookstores in search of a writing group.  The person who took my call at The Book Keeper provided me with the phone number of a local prolific writer.  Peggy Fletcher was a name I recognized.  

During our phone conversation, she introduced the group WIT (Writers in Transition).  She asked if I knew Bob McCarthy, a local historian, who had authored several books.  She included published authors Norma West Linder and Hope Morritt as regular members and my throat began to close up.  Although eager, I was nervous at the thought of joining this talented troupe.

Peggy explained the mandate of the group, stressing that it was a casual gathering of writers, and described the regular members as ranging in age from the very young to the very youthful elderly.  Songwriters, poets, and novelists.  She encouraged me to attend. 

At my first weekly WIT meeting in February 2010, the group’s sincere welcome convinced me that I was moving in the right direction.  I had found a passionate community of writers offering support, advice, and camaraderie.  They understood my enthusiasm for all things unreal. 

Bridling my nervousness, I read the opening chapter of my novel.  I could have wept with gratitude.  Finally, I had someone to talk to about my writing.  I looked from one person to the other around the table as they gave their opinion on my work. 

The discussion was lively as they acknowledged my strengths and sensitively called attention to weak areas.  Dialogue! you need more dialogue, they all agreed.  Constructive criticism and genuine interest in my story gave me hope.  I knew from that moment that I would attend every meeting.

When the Eden Mills Writer’s Festival invited one of our members, Debbie Okun Hill, to read her poetry at their event in September, she encouraged me to join her.  Browsing the book tables, mingling with other writers, and listening to their spirited readings was an exhilarating experience.  I admire all writers who have persevered to see their work in print.   

Knowing that my goal is to find a publisher for my novel, my WIT colleagues suggested I introduce short stories to the market as a means of getting recognition.  No, I don’t write short stories, I told them.  My stories span generations.  How could I do that in two or three thousand words?  Short stories, they insisted−you must.  And, so I did. 

I love writing.  Marketing the stories is a challenge.  It takes me longer to market a story than to write one.  I could build an entire village and give birth to twenty-five babies, open an orphanage, and three new churches, in the time it takes me to market one short story. 

Peggy Fletcher noted that no one other than writers care about any of these tribulations, nor do they enjoy listening to ideas for new story lines or plots.  She’s right.  Cathy Marie Buchanan knew the importance of a writer’s group.  She knew I would need their support and encouragement, not to mention their writing expertise, to further my quest.    

Following my pursuit involved stepping outside my comfort zone−this blog being an example.  However, I plan on enjoying this site and I am hoping you will as well.  Watch for a new blog each Monday.

I’d love to hear from you.  If you are unable to post a comment choosing name/Url from comment profile please forward your comments to my email address listed under comments on the right side of this site.  

If you need a laugh, join me next week as I mull over an appropriate way to celebrate a milestone birthday ...The Write Celebration.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Write Addiction

All my life I have been the oddball.  Not quite fitting.  Different from the rest−the rest of the family, the rest of the class, the rest of the co-workers.
I was the one staring off into space−lost in thought. 
It was not that I wasn’t focused.  I was too focused.  Not on what was happening around me, but what was going on in my mind....a whole other world.
I am not sure at what age I started recording some of my daydreams.  I suppose the first stories found their way to paper when I was a child living in Sarnia, Ontario and later as a teen, in Cambridge.  Even after entering the workforce, I continued jotting down character descriptions and conflicts.  Detailed note-taking became an obsessive habit. 
When I returned to Sarnia as a mature mother with a young son, I was still dabbling in a make-believe world.  Faces and personalities emerged.  Happenings grandiose and minute; happenings born of an overactive imagination.
As far back as my memory takes me I studied people. Of course, I did not consider it studying but merely a fascination for behaviour and reaction, emotion and energy.  Everyone was different.  If I could interchange all their characteristics and idiosyncrasies, what kind of person could I create?  I could develop a perfect personality but then their lifelike qualities would soon make them imperfect.
Yes, my fascination for people grew . 
My daydreams and imaginings− those minute scribbles on scraps of paper− became involved stories written longhand on yellow lined pads; the kind sold ten to a package to offices−are they still?−long before computers became the norm.  Those yellow sheets were then rolled and secured with elastic bands, and hidden in my cardboard memory box.
My writings and story tales were my secret.  Not even my best friend knew.  No one knew.  I must have appeared constantly distracted. 
There was never time to consider writing on a regular basis.  I wrote to ease the anxiety of not writing.  There, I would say, I have scrawled fifty pages.  Of course, it was only temporary relief.  My addiction to storytelling was never truly cured.
When I joined the ranks of retirees, I whispered my desire to write.  Write what, he asked.  A book.  That is what I had always wanted.  To create living, breathing characters that made their own way through hardships and heartaches: characters that made choices−some good, some bad− but each having its own consequence.  So write, he said.  Go write a book. 
I questioned why I needed validation.  Did I enjoy writing so much that I felt guilt over time frivolously spent?  Whatever the reason, I had finally revealed my passion.  Go write a book he said.
I wrote.  Words appeared on my monitor faster than I could read them.  Characters took on life: so much so that they took over my story and created their own.  They ignored my development of the plot, seeming to have something different in mind.   
I laughed over their shenanigans and wept when they grieved.  They became important people in my life.  My laptop friends.  I was immensely satisfied when the last line appeared in black and white.  However, I found it was impossible  to type The End.  I hated for it to be over.
A friend visiting from Penetanguishene saw the sheaves of printed paper.  What’s this, she asked.  I shyly admitted that it was a story I had thought up.  Just something to occupy my time, I said.  Something silly and of no consequence. 
She read.  I served her snacks and drinks, and she read.  She read all weekend.  Dawna’s astonishment and encouraging words opened a floodgate.  You have to do something with this, she insisted. 
Could I?  My heartbeat quickened over the next few days of research.  I discovered that if my story was to be the size of a decent novel it needed to be longer.  I read the manuscript looking for openings.  I found them.  I introduced several characters, new situations, more conflicts.  I fleshed out the story and lived with my remarkable new friends a while longer.
And so, I wondered, what is the next step...