The Exciting Job of Writer!

DSC03525-BSo I went to the bank last week and it’s a good thing I did or I wouldn’t have anything to say at the Muffin.

Mostly, I talked about “What Successful Writers Do (Besides Writing)” and if you want to know more about those money-making ventures, then off you go!

For those of you not interested in money-making ventures (or improving your writing skills), then stick around for a little writer philosophizing. Because it happened again. At the bank, I mean. When the guy helping me order checks found out I was a writer, he literally stopped typing and looked up. Suddenly, I wasn’t a boring, middle-aged woman. I was a writer!

Why do you suppose people find writers so exciting? What is it about this profession that’s so interesting to the non-writing world? I would say it’s an arts thing–my daughter would get the same reaction when she was a dancer–but when people find out I once worked in radio, you can see the gears shift, too. So clearly, there are certain professions that appear more exotic than others.

I get lion-tamer or glass-blower or even fireman. Those are some mighty interesting jobs; then again, there’s an element of danger there. But writer? The only danger I’m in is my checking account dipping below the amount needed to keep from paying a monthly maintenance fee.

Actually, I can see how working in radio would seem exciting, too. It was fun even if I wasn’t making much money. (And by “much money”, I mean “hardly enough money to make ends meet.”) There are lots of jobs like radio that seem exciting–professional baseball player, wine taster, paranormal investigator–but really, the excitement comes in short bursts. The rest of the time, it’s just same-old, same-old boring job.

But writer? It’s an exciting burst to get a contract or sign with an agent or even see your byline out there in the world. But I don’t see John Q. Public getting all worked up over that kind of excitement. So I’m asking you, dear writer readers. What do you think it is about the profession of writing that would make a millennial look up from his desk and start a twenty minute conversation with a woman in glasses, sporting a couple age spots?

Because it seems to me that someone in such an exciting job should be making way more money. If only I could figure out why.

What You Can Do, If You Really Want To (And That Includes WINNING!)

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Obviously, Libby (The Tiny Terror) can’t be bothered with doing much of anything on this lovely spring day. But I have been taxing my brain with Nina Amir’s (who’s currently on a WOW!  tour) book, The Author Training Manual.

Goodness, it’s a thorough–and thoroughly thought-provoking–book on writing! With training exercises! (And you can win it!) But I’ll tell you all about the book when she stops here in June. For now, I’ll just pass you along to The Muffin, where I discuss a specific thought-provoking tidbit, inspired from my recent reading.

To wit: your willingness to do what it takes to make your writing a success. But you must also know what your idea of writing success is.

I know. It’s pretty heavy thinking material for such a lovely spring day. Maybe you should read something light and funny before tackling this mind-bender. Something like Susan Nees Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe Picture Day. 

If you’re Tina M. Cho, you get to read this winning book, courtesy of me. For the rest of you, well…you’re on your own to find Susan’s books. But believe me, they’re totally worth it.

And please, don’t be a Lazy Libby. Find what you’re willing to do, writing-wise. Because that’s totally worth it, too.

Tag, I’m It! (Or How Answering Writing Questions Keeps A Writer On Track)

My friend, Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of the wonderful Cleopatra’s Moon and the soon to be released Anubis Speaks, invited me to participate in a Blog Tag wherein I must answer a couple writing-related questions.

And I jumped on that tag. Mostly because I was thinking, wheee! Now I can answer questions and won’t have to think up something scathingly brilliant for my next blog post.

Er…then I perused the questions. And realized that I’d still have to think. But in figuring out answers, I honed in on the focus of my projects! So thanks, Vicky–I needed that!

What are you working on right now?

This year, I’m striving to incorporate a little more balance in my writing. Which means that while I’m working on long-term goals (like book-length manuscripts and sending out queries), I’m also working on short-term goals (like essays or short stories for immediate markets/contests). For September, I’ll submit a short story for the Springfield Writer’s Guild Prose and Poetry Contest and I’m thinking on an idea for Kid’s Ark. I haven’t exactly come up with the idea yet, but the theme, “Store Up” has been staring back at me from my calendar so I’m counting on some kind of osmosis to kick in any day now. And for my manuscript, that means finishing the final revisions of CALLED.

I’d set CALLED aside till this summer because I kept fixing (or mucking up, depending on your perspective) little things without really tackling bigger issues in the story. Now that I know the story I want to tell, I think the edits are going much better. I don’t know that the writing’s better…Anyway, CALLED is the tale of fifteen-year-old, Tish Connery, who has been called to serve, called to help others. It’s just that the particular other who needs her help happens to be a little girl–who died six months ago. And even though Tish is not exactly the Catholic Teen of the Year, she’s pretty sure that a calling like this is against at least one of the commandments. But the spirit is persistent and Tish has always been a Good Samaritan sucker. She figures helping one little ghost can’t really hurt. (P.S. She figured wrong.)

So CALLED is a story of spirits and the spiritual, a coming-of-faith journey within a middle grade mystery/thriller. And it’s kind of funny, but not nearly as funny as it started out.

How does it differ from other works in the genre?

Gosh, I hope CALLED differs in its spirituality. I don’t think a girl with a psychic gift is that unusual in the paranormal genre. But from the start, I wanted Tish to be conflicted about her calling. And for that, I needed her faith to be a bigger part of the story. I thought about Joan of Arc and even Mary, the Mother of God, and how difficult it must’ve been to say yes when God called them to serve in ways so far beyond what they understood. But the bible is full of ordinary people who see and hear extraordinary things. And through a lens of faith, we believe, too. So I began to see that CALLED was a story of faith.

I think, too, I wanted to look at the protagonist differently. In most middle grade or YA stories, girls are kick butt heroines. Tish is more of a “kick you in the shins, then run” sort of heroine.

Why do you write what you do? 

I think for CALLED, I’m writing about questions that have rattled around in my brain since I was ten years old and my mom drove me past the notoriously haunted house in downtown Savannah. Savannah is a city steeped in spirits. But it’s also a city known for its St. Patrick’s Day parade and historic churches. The two have always coexisted, and I wanted to explore that paradox.

But in general, whether I’m writing for children or adults, I’m working out the questions rattling around in my brain. I don’t always realize what I’m trying to work out when I write, so that often, after I’ve finished a poem or a story, I’ll think, “Ooooh. Okay. Now I get it.” Sometimes, the writing of it is cathartic but not so great, and that’s okay, too.

What is the hardest part about writing?

The hardest part of writing is also the easiest to answer. Is the writing good? It doesn’t matter if I’ve received a “Congrats! You’ve won and we think your story is brilliant!” email just that morning. I’ll finish a story that afternoon and the doubts begin. Is this any good? Will anyone want to read it? I should go get a decent job, make money like normal people. 

Pffffft. Writing is easy. Sending your writing out into the world takes courage. (Fortunately, I realize that writing is not life or death and I get over myself.)

Holy cow! See what I mean about answering those questions? I had to think. And now it’s my turn to tag three authors, and I’m going to choose Lisa Ricard Claro and Donna Volkenannt and Sioux Roslawski. I’d love to read their answers to these questions!

So tag, you’re it!

I’m Baaaaack! (And Reconnected)

ImageThe last couple days, I was unplugged. I had no internet. No TV. Here is what I did:

I finished Joshilyn Jackson’s THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING. (I liked GODS IN ALABAMA much more than this one, but girl can write.) 

I talked and talked and talked to Oldest Junior Hall who accompanied me on the trip. (Except for the hours he was sleeping, he talked. Boy can talk.) I can’t remember when I’ve spent so much time with just Oldest Junior Hall, talking. And you know what? I rather like the man Oldest Junior Hall has grown up to be.

I visited with the parents and learned that my mother thinks a lot about Barbara Bush. (“If I were Barbara Bush, I’d have people doing everything for me. Tying my shoes, everything. I wouldn’t have to do anything.” My dad would probably say she doesn’t have to do anything now. But I just laughed and commiserated with her. Though honestly, Barbara’s fine and all that, but I rather like my plain-as-dirt mom.)

Here is what I didn’t do:

I never quite got around to writing. Which is very odd indeed because I’m almost always writing something, even if it’s just to scribble notes. And if I’m not actually writing, I’m thinking about what I will write.

Apparently, when I unplugged from the Internet and TV, I unplugged from writing as well. But I’m fine with that, because in the end, I did make a connection. It just happened to be with people instead of words.

(Oh! I almost forgot! The winner of Eric Trant’s WINK is GAIL! Thanks to all who left wonderful comments, and Gail, I’ll be in touch!)

A Wee Bit of Irish Wisdom

Remember Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research? It’s over now–they had a stellar auction, broke records and raised a smashing amount of money for diabetes research. Yay!

Yesterday in the mail, I received the auction item I bid on–and it was pretty stellar, too! 

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Here’s a bit of info about the calligraphy and creator, Nikki Weston (courtesy of the auction site):

Inspired by her life in Ireland, Nikki Weston created this beautiful hand-calligraphy saying in both Gaelic and English.

The Gaelic language has for centuries captured the hearts and minds of many. An teanga gaelach is rich, vibrant, and spoken daily by many thousands of people on the island of Ireland. Gaelic lends itself to creating many a wise saying, or seanfhocail. Seanfhocail literally means ‘old words’. In days gone by, the working classes of Ireland fused philosophy with good humour during storytelling or educating their children, and it was there that seanfhocail were born. Having been passed down through the generations, these proverbs are just as apt today and are calligraphed attractively for your enjoyment.

Each piece is painstakingly hand-produced using Winsor and Newton calligraphy nibs and inks by writer and artist Nikki Weston. 

Nikki Weston is a writer and artist in Dublin, Ireland. She produces non-fiction articles and short stories. Growing up in Clones, Co. Monaghan, Nikki discovered her love of words when she was just ten years old: “Christmas that year brought me my first calligraphy set, and with it, the patience and accuracy that penmanship calls for. Love of my country and pride in my language inspires me to create these calligraphed pieces exclusively for the Brenda Novak Auction for Diabetes Research. Please bid and take home a little Irish wisdom.”

I was thrilled to have the winning bid on this item! It was a lovely way to help fund diabetes research (and honor my big brother). And the saying called to my writer heart as well as the wee bit of Irish in my blood.

Plus, I love the connectedness (is that a word? I’m going to say it is) of it all. There was Nikki, all the way over in Ireland, creating and lending her talents to Brenda Novak’s auction, and here was I, all the way down South in the USA, in my little corner office, checking out items and bidding away.

It’s a small (and lovely) world, after all.