Friday, June 29, 2012 | By: Lynn

Star-Filled

In his poem "Auguries of Innocence," William Blake suggests connections in our world.

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

It turns out, according to results of research reported back in December 2010 that it's possible we humans reflect the universe. As reported in the Huffington Post, scientists believe to have discovered that there are far more stars in the heavens than believed, 3 times more, in fact, or 300 sextillion. One of the Harvard astrophysicists, Charlie Conroy, got curious about that number. According to the article, Conroy looked up how many cells are in the average human body – 50 trillion or so – and multiplied that by the 6 billion people on Earth. And he came up with about 300 sextillion. So the number of stars in the universe "is equal to all the cells in the humans on Earth – a kind of funny coincidence," Conroy said.

That's something to make me go, "Wow!"

Sometimes I will write badly, draw badly, paint badly, perform badly. I have a right to do that to get to the other side.
-Julia Cameron
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 | By: HiDee

Unique Perspectives

Outwit. Outlast. Outplay. 

Survivor casting calls are coming to my town. My husband, knowing I love the show, suggested I apply. I knew he was only joking, but his suggestion earned him a dirty look anyway. I'd never make it on Survivor. The first time I saw a snake or spider and screamed bloody murder, they'd vote me out. They wouldn't wait for tribal council. And if they did let me hang around, the bugs would probably get me. If not the bugs, then the water. I can't swim underwater without holding my nose. What good would I be in a challenge?

Maybe I could just tag along as part of the camera crew and observe, under the guise of research.

Imagine being forced to live in a remote location with a group of strangers, and no amenities. Knowing it's temporary would not necessarily be helpful. Some people can deal with anything for a short amount of time. Others are not that adaptable. How many contestants remain true to themselves, playing the game the same way they live their lives? How many contestants do whatever it takes, justifying their actions because they are, after all, playing the game? And how many contestants have regrets about how they played the game once it's over?

The writer in me is fascinated by people. Our life experiences shape our thoughts and behaviors, molding us into individuals. Our differences, and our likenesses, generate conflict within our lives.

I learned that firsthand. A few years ago, my siblings and I were alerted that my biological father had pancreatic cancer. We quickly made arrangements to travel to visit him in the hospital. None of us had seen him in years. Two short weeks later, he passed away, and we attended the funeral. Over those two weeks, we spent long hours talking about our biological father - how we felt about him, our questions - with and without answers, our hopes and our regrets. That time was a real eye-opener for me.  I was shocked that my siblings had totally different memories of times we had all spent together than I had. They had different thoughts, different questions, and different feelings about him than I did. How, I wondered, could three people who experienced the same events have such different opinions of them?

We all have a unique perspective. Many things contribute to making us who we are: our age, the way we grew up, the traditions passed down through generations (or not) of our families, and our own personal successes and failures, to name a few. When I create characters, I try to keep all these things in mind.

Survivor sparks my imagination. Watching the cast as they try to manipulate their tribe mates, wondering what they will come up with next, and wondering what event will turn the momentum in another direction keeps me interested.

I am a different kind of survivor. I am a writer. My challenge?

Outwrite. Outline. Outplot. 
Friday, June 22, 2012 | By: Cafe

It is never too late to be what you might have been.
- George Eliot

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | By: Lynn

Lean Toward the Light

Do you lean toward the light? Are you a hero?

I recently watched a writer being interviewed on Public Television. The writer’s hair was gray (so he has a little experience on him) and he has won a prestigious award for at least one of his novels. The interviewer asked him to respond to something he'd been quoted saying about his writing process. I thought his response was beautiful and worth filing in my brain and heart under “things to remember.”

The writer said that every time he works on a story, every time he sits down at his typewriter (yes, he said typewriter), he feels unable to write a story. "I have a voice in my head from childhood, ‘Who do you think you are?' But I keep at the story,” he said. “I see that I am bridging the gap between despair and the light. If I denied the faith in that, that would be wrong."

Nagging Insecurities
I think the writer’s thought is very interesting. I've read about and heard other writers talk about the fact that they face anxiety and doubt when they write. Daniel Todd Noyes posted his thoughts about writer insecurities on his blog.

“Is it really my place to say that all writers feel insecure about their work at times? Probably not. I'm sure that out there in the vast expanse of our planetary dwellings, there live souls who merely need lay fingers to keyboard to create literary works that leave them feeling nothing but joy and pride at what they've accomplished. It's just, I'm not one of them.”

Oh, To Banish Self-Doubt
Self-doubt seems to be not uncommon. For the longest time I didn't know that. I knew I had that experience going on inside me but I thought it was a sign that I shouldn’t be writing. I would listen to my inner critic and it would at times convince me to procrastinate or give up, at least for the moment. To know that other writers, even very successful writers, face this struggle helps me a little. The pain of it is still there nearly every time I begin writing, on a new project or for the day. It subsides as I get into my writing and that’s always a relief. “Yes! See, I can do it.” But it presents again; that inner critic telling me I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not qualified, the story isn’t right, etc., is there for me at my next attempt. If I didn’t love writing so much, I would probably have listened to the inner critic and outer negative influences (real and imagined) and given up long ago or perhaps work at some kind of writing other than the romances I write.

What’s interesting to me is that this author I saw on TV seems to see the process—of facing the doubts and fears yet plugging along—as an exercise in "leaning toward the light" (his words). And I wonder if that process of bridging the gap between despair and the light is as important or more important for writers than the writing. The writing may be important for a number of reasons, but the process of feeling the pain, having the awareness of the struggle, and yet choosing to put faith in something—in yourself and your vision—in hopes that things will work out best if the effort is made is valuable in itself. It’s hard to acknowledge that we don’t always have confidence or know all the answers, and still choose for what the light means to us. That’s nothing less than heroic.

Answer the Big Why
In his May 2010 University of Illinois commencement speech Tim Shriver, chairman and chief executive officer of Special Olympics International, challenged graduates to address the “The Big Why. Why are you here? Why are you doing what you are doing?” Shriver suggested that a lot of people ignore answering “The Big Why,” to the detriment of society. Maybe for writers, the answer lies in leaning toward the light, despite obstacles and challenges and naysayers who say we can’t or shouldn’t do what we love, that our books aren’t good enough, that we should write in a prescribed way rather than write what’s in our heart. Maybe in our own small leanings as we express ourselves we bridge the gap between despair and light for everyone.

What better reason do you need to write?

Parts of this post are excerpted from Romancing the Prairie, the newsletter of the Prairie Hearts chapter of RWA.
Friday, June 15, 2012 | By: Cafe

It isn’t often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.
-from Charlotte’s Web
Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | By: HiDee

Why Do I Write?

I blame my mother.

Divorce made her a single mom of three toddlers, but she read to us often. Books were popular gifts for birthdays and Christmases. Once school started, there was a friendly competition not only among our classmates but among we three kids at home. I remember my first grade teacher being surprised how quickly I went through books and moved up to higher reading levels. I set the bar for my siblings, and to this day, I don’t think they thank me!

I don’t remember when I actually started writing, but I feel as if I’ve always been a writer. Short stories allowed me to explore creating characters and taking them places. Poetry brought me through my teenage years, and gained me popularity among my classmates. My poems were fraught with all the drama and emotions we were experiencing, and everybody wanted to read them. I was proud to be known as the writer among us.

Sometime in junior high, a friend introduced me to romances. I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve read books that made me laugh, made me cry, made me root for the characters, and some that made me hate the characters, too. The more I read, the more I learned that I probably didn’t actually hate the characters. I just didn’t like how they were written. I started rewriting them in my head, thinking what I would have done differently.

I was passionate about those books. I loved meeting new characters, learning and growing with them as they traversed their character arcs and became the characters they were meant to be. I loved going places with them, feeling as if I were right there with them. Reading was, and still is, an escape. Getting lost in a book relaxes me.

Today, my mom and I share books. We like a lot of the same authors. Since I started writing, we’ve talked about how much fun it would be for her to travel with me to do research for my books. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. But thanks to mom, I am obsessed with reading and writing.

People fascinate me. Every person is who he or she is because of his or her life experiences. That doesn't necessarily make them good or bad, right or wrong. It's important to remember that not all of us think alike. If we did, this world would be a very boring place!  It's our differences - and our likeness - that creates conflict in every relationship. Being a people person, I want to "fix" those conflicts and help people get along. Unfortunately, real life isn't always fixable.

As a writer, I can fix people and their relationships. And therein lies the challenge. I need to be a writer.

I want to share my passion for books. I want people to know it is possible to get lost in a good read, to meet characters very different from the people we are. I want to write books that will give other people the same pleasure I have found in reading. If I can do that, then I will consider myself successful.

If you are a writer, why do you write? If you are a reader, why do you read? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Friday, June 8, 2012 | By: Cafe

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out and proclaiming, “Wow, what a ride!”
-Unknown
Thursday, June 7, 2012 | By: Lynn

Hope

Hope is all around us, as everything is evolving, even rats. University of Chicago research proves it. Here's an article about the project in Science Life . It was reported in December but it still gives me an emotional boost.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012 | By: HiDee

Great Grandma's No-Bake Cookies

My grandmother used to make these cookies when I was growing up, and to this day, they are a favorite comfort food for my family and friends!

Great Grandma's No-Bake Cookies
Makes 30-35 cookies

Lay out newspaper on your table and cover with wax paper.

In a large mixing bowl:
3 cups quick oats
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a saucepan:
1 stick margarine
2 cups sugar
3 tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup milk

Stirring ingredients, bring saucepan to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (A gentle, rolling boil works best; if you boil too little or too long, the cookies will not set up.)  Remove from heat and pour over ingredients in large mixing bowl.  Stir until well-mixed.  Drop by spoonful onto the wax paper.  Cookies will take 30-60 minutes to set up.

If they don't set up well, cut the wax paper into strips that will fit in a rectangular container and refrigerate. Even if they don't set up well, they're good gooey!




Why Write

Whether a writer starts out jumping in with both feet without much thinking and just puts words to paper, or thoroughly assesses the field of publishing, acquires tools, and then begins creating works of writing, at some point the question arises and must be answered: Why write?

Why write, you ask? Hmm…because I like it.

Well, that’s an answer. It’s better than, “I like hanging out in coffee shops looking all author-like.” Real answers to “Why write?” are varied and sometimes actually mystical in nature. Many writers contend they’ve been writing since they were young and developing a writing career was the natural evolvement of things. Somehow knowing you’ve had a yen for something from a young age makes it more valid. I wrote my first stories in my head when I was too young to remember now how old I was. That makes me feel like at least I’m heading in the right direction now when I write, because I have a natural ability. Yeah.

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, so for many writers, a love of a reading inspired a spark that prompted them to try their hand at creating stories. Yet again, for some people, writing is a way to make money, or at least an attempt to make money, from doing something they have passion about. They’ve taken to heart the saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” It makes sense, in a way. Passion has energy to get a writer through the hard work and struggle of creation. Passion supports the toil a good story needs, and contains the perseverance required to keep going when criticism mounts, inner or outer.

Inner and Outer
Writing lives in inner and outer, and writing is an inner-to-outer thing, whether what moves from inner to outer is a way of framing life’s challenges or a description of a lover’s kiss. As writers, we get an idea, then we play with it and let it expand inside our psyche until it needs to be “outed” and given form on paper. Ray Bradbury, in discussing writing his book “Farewell to Summer,” Ray Bradbury wrote about the compelling nature of bringing inner out into the material world.


"Writing it was a response to my ganglion and my antenna. I do not use my intellect to write my stories and books; I have a gut reaction to the things that my subconscious gives me. These are gifts that arrive early mornings and I get out of bed and hurry to the typewriter to get them down before they vanish."

Sharing and Connecting
Newish writer R.K. McPherson makes reference to the sharing element of writing, when in a recent interview he said he got into writing to impress a girl, but eventually has come to understand that writing for him is a way to enjoy meaningful connections to others.

 "…I realized how much relationships factor into my writing. Whenever I get feedback on a story, or an email from a fan, that’s a connection to cherish." 

About Self
But let’s get back to me. I made a list of my reasons for “Why write?:”
  • Self-expression feels good
  • I’m curious and writing gives my curiosity a satisfying outlet
  • I have an internal drive to move what is inner to outer and a hope that my story will entertain and enrich
  • I love words
Notice my list doesn’t include, I want to be famous or rich. Though I can appreciate that some people may see writing as a way to acquire those mesmerizing experiences, I think serious writers simply love writing. They have to, because it’s hard work that is fraught with self-doubt. You truly have to believe you have something worth saying. But more importantly, you have to understand that you have to say it, in your way. 

A long time ago, I read a quote from Valerie Martin as quoted in Publishers Weekly in The Writer . The quote has served as sort of a litmus test for me over the years.

“If you want to tell whether you’re a writer or not, just see if you can stop. It’s the basic test.” However true the suggestion, to enjoy genuine staying power, a writer needs to expand the question of “Why write,” and ask, “Why do I write?” Because sometimes it takes years to publish in a venue that bestows legitimacy (in your eyes), and sometimes readers pick at your words, your wonderfully crafted sentences. Sometimes self-doubt can make you question your “right” to do what you love or authority to express yourself. It’s in those recurring moments that you must consider that you write for you. This isn’t my original thought. It’s not even one I remember very often. In fact, my blog partner just recently brought me back to center, where all things creative and healthy live, when she said she knows she writes for herself. It was an “aha!” moment for me, though she’s said it before and she probably didn’t notice the fireworks going off behind my eyes. It’s something to really know, deep inside you. Because if you’re like me, you write for the readers, you write for the fun, you write for many reasons. But they all come back to you.

Image from Dreamstime
Monday, June 4, 2012 | By: HiDee
We love quotes!  Every Friday we will share some of our favorite quotes with our readers.
We find inspiration everywhere in our daily lives.  We will be sharing our inspirations here.