Sunday, May 6, 2018

This is Writing

Full disclosure:  This blog is originally on Women On Writing's Muffin.  Please check in and see the latest from their other bloggers as well!

This week, I had my writing center students complete an assignment based off the essay series called “This is Childhood.” In the series, bloggers for the Huffington Post reflect on what the various ages of childhood look like to them. This series inspired another blog, where author Emily Mendell muses about being 45 years old.

I have yet to see my students’ finished products, but it got me thinking about what my age says about me and, more specifically, where I am in life as a writer. It's long, but it's worth it.  So here it is:

This is writing for ten years.

Writing for ten years is remembering the delight of crafting your first novel. Each word - each page - was a step towards greatness. Your enthusiasm was at an epic height. You envisioned the literary agent of your dreams, a Random House publishing contract, and a billion-dollar movie deal. Writing wasn’t work, then.

Writing for ten years is accepting that the “first novel” magic is gone. You left it behind - perhaps on the same thumb drive where your novel now makes its sweet repose. You never access that file anymore. It’s a reminder of your “youth” when adverbs and dialogue dominated your writing. It’s cringing at the word count of your first novel - above 120,000 words - which is a major faux pas in the writing world. It’s regretting the name of your main character, because its a name you’d like to use in a different book, but it seems cruel to rip it away from your first “baby.”

Writing for ten years is understanding you’re no longer a fledgling but are far from accomplished. You’re an average, everyday sort of writer. You think about writing all the time, but put it off for your children’s after-school activities. For cooking and cleaning. For trips to the grocery store and Target and the doctor’s office. For grading papers and planning lessons. For family obligations. For calming down a hormonal teenager who is having her fourth minor crisis of the day and for the rare time you can go for a 30 minute run outside. You put it off for ten, quiet minutes on the couch without someone calling your name or needing something.

Writing for ten years means having a list of story ideas on your phone. You probably don’t understand half of them anymore, because they were written in the middle of the night or after that third glass of wine. It’s listening to a song on the radio and picturing a vivid scene for your book. It’s replaying that same song ad nauseum until the scene is solidified in your mind because you’re driving, and you don’t have the capability of writing it down.

Writing for ten years means finding that precious hour to work on your current novel, only to spend that hour going back and re-reading in an attempt to rediscover your intended path. You fix problem after problem along the way. Sometimes you discover an excellent scene and congratulate yourself. At the end of the hour, you’ve written, perhaps, for ten minutes, before you are called away on another errand.

Writing for ten years means letting go of the strict grammar conventions of high school and recognizing that style, complex characters, and rich settings are of paramount importance. It’s okay to break the rules, because it creates depth.

After writing for ten years, you cling to the hope that your writing is worthy of an agent. You’ve sent out over one hundred query letters. You also recognize - with painful acquiescence - you may never land one.

It’s finally getting published by a small press and loving every minute of the publishing process. It’s jumping up and down when you receive the acceptance email. It’s spending grueling hours in front of a computer screen making all of your verbs active and removing the word “look” from your manuscript 300 times. It’s delighting in the cover art and sharing your accomplishments with anyone who will listen.

Writing for ten years is realizing, a year after you’ve been published, that book promotion is the most difficult part of the publishing process. It’s getting royalty statements with “0” next to “books sold.” It’s fighting the urge to give up.

After writing for ten years, you are aware of your responsibilities as a writer. You write as much for your audience - for that one person who might connect with your work - as you do for yourself.

Writing for ten years means embracing the joys and the rejection that come with writing. You acknowledge that you will not be the next Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates. You accept that you will, most likely, never be able to quit your day job.

Writing for ten years means you love the craft. That never goes away. You know you will always be a writer. Especially because your license plate says "WR1TE."

This is writing for ten years. This is me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Writing with Concussions

Hi Friends.

Turns out writing with a concussion is difficult.  I wrote about it over at Women on Writing.  Check it out!

The Best Laid Schemes:  When Life Forces a Writing Moratorium

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Need Character Ideas?

My newest post over at Women on Writing gives some great ideas for forming characters based on the people you see every day!

Check it out here.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My New, Improved (and freaking beautiful) Website

As I was posting my last blog over at Women on Writing, it occurred to me that I never promoted my own website on my blog!  Time to fix that.

If you read my other post, you'll see why I waited so long before updating my website.  But, to make a long story short, I paid a student to create my original site because I was busy, tired, and too scared to create one for myself.  At the time, it was a perfect solution.

The problem?  I had no way to update it.  Only he knew how to make changes.  Four years later, I had no access to him.  Once he graduated, we completely lost touch.

My choices were clear:  keep the outdated site with information from four years ago and an unflattering photograph of myself, or wipe the slate clean and attempt to create a new website on my own.  It took some courage, a large serving of wine, and a short prayer to God before I made the leap and told Host Monster to delete all existing content.

I then started my rocky journey with WordPress.

WordPress and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love my final product.  I hated the road to get there. Before using WordPress, I had zero experience creating a website.  Blogger doesn't count, since a two-year-old could figure it out.

I made mistake after mistake.  I tossed four-letter words at the screen.  I stormed into the kitchen to get more wine when I failed to achieve what I wanted.  I spend hours researching how to complete every tiny aspect of the program.  Finally, however, it came together, piece-by-piece.  Each small accomplishment pushed me further, until I was satisfied with the end result.

Personally, I think my website is wonderful.

It showcases my writing, my (super amateur) photography, and my brand as an author.

If you haven't had a peek, please do!  And feel free to leave feedback in the comments!

VISIT MY WEBSITE HERE.

Beth - 1
WordPress' Difficulty - 0
Beth's Courage - 1

Author Websites

It turns out is IS important for authors to have their own, updated websites!  Read my latest post about my struggles to update mine and the stunning end result.  Then, of course, feel free to visit my website!

Even if you aren't an author, having a website is a great way to showcase yourself and your talents.

Read the blog here:  The Need for a Website.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Summer Reading

Over at Women on Writing, I discuss the importance of reading - especially in the genre in which we write.

I also admit to nerding out when I discovered our local library has a summer reading program for adults.  I'm six books away from an ice cream cone, courtesy of Chick-fil-A.

Read the post here.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Hidden Gems - Reading the Quotations Before Reading the Story

New blog post over at WOW!  I talk about why I love reading the quotations authors use at the beginning of their books.  I also share a few of my favorites!

Read it here.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Naughty Words

Newest Post for The Muffin's Women on Writing:  Read it Here.

I discuss which words to avoid when you are writing.  And no, I'm not talking about your typical four-letter naughty words.  :)


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grade Grubbing

Grades.  I've come to loathe the word.

It took ten years of teaching for me to reach this level of hatred for the entire grading concept.  I think my feelings towards grades began to sour a few years ago, but my dislike has now reached epic proportions.

Students are obsessed with grades.  For example, it wasn't until I started teaching that I realized the monumental difference between a 92% and a 93%.  The difference is a tiny little dash (-) at the end of the letter "A" which can rip a student apart and send them spiraling towards failure.  Students will do anything for extra credit - and I mean anything.  They've offered to leave campus and buy me lunch.  They've offered clean my house.  They've called me a dream crusher who has prevented them from getting into college.  They've cried, begged, pleaded and threatened.  All for the tiniest half of a percentage.

They behave - and, as I've come to believe, truly feel - as if that .4% defines them as a person.

So, perhaps you can see why I've started to cringe when I hear the word "grades."  These students are bright and inquisitive.  They are funny, and kind, and intelligent.  They share knowledge with me. They grow as writers over the year.  The surprise me with their resilience and their dedication to their dreams.

They learn so much over the course of 10 months.

Now, there's a word I can get behind.  Students are sent to school to learn, aren't they?  We want them to have enough knowledge to make them productive citizens, to help them lead our country in the future, to give them the fortitude to survive a world which isn't always kind.  School is about learning.  Lately, though, students and parents have largely lost sight of that.

I don't have any solutions to this problem.  I understand the fundamental need for a feedback system and for a way to measure a student's progress.  Maybe the larger issue is the incredible rise in competition over the years.  Students think they have to have a 4.0 or higher with 20 AP classes under their belt in order to get into college.  Either way, based on the trend, I don't see it stopping any time soon.

Until then, I'll continue to resist their offers of food.  And a tall, skim, toffee-nut latte from Starbucks is my favorite.

Beth - 0
Students - 0
Grading System - 1

Friday, May 5, 2017

Writing Hacks: Using a Bulletin Board

My latest blog post is up on The Muffin.  I talk about using a bulletin board to save time when you write.  :)

Check it out HERE.