Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Best Ever

Ten days ago was my last blog entry. Ten days. Wow. Well, what's happened since then? Nothing much. Just Christmas. A quiet Christmas in Ohio with friends and family. A little snow. A little cheer was spread. A little time of magic. No fancy holiday in New York or Mexico. Just a quiet and peaceful Christmas. Then home. For one night. The next morning Michael and I headed to Atlanta. For more holiday fun with family.

I've eaten too much, laughed too much, slept too little, watched too many holiday TV movies, drove too many miles, but we took some much needed time off from thinking about everything. Isn't that what the holidays are for? A sedative. A time warp. A chance to forget our problems for about two weeks. But now it's back to the reality of life. My life. And this year, things are going to change.

Michael and I are on a quest for major changes this year. In every area of our beings. And by God, we're going to make it happen. No fruitless New Year's resolutions to waste our time, just positive changes to soul, mind, and body. Christmas brought things into focus for me this year. A time to reflect on the past few years and realize that although I've made tremendous strides in my career as a writer and speaker, there's still a part of me that's searching. Christmas did not consist of lots of presents for either of us. We cut way back this year and decided that our gifts to each other would be a better year ... 2008 ... a year of changes.

I've lost myself along the way. Not a big part of myself, just a few minor pieces that fell off in my move to the South. But one of my favorite lines in a movie is from Sense and Sensibility. "There is nothing lost that may be found, if sought."

My novel will be bought this year. My next book will be finished this Spring. My life as a writer and speaker will continue to face the same challenges as most writers. But this year, I'm going to enlighten my reader's minds and jolt my reader's hearts. Open their hands to discover the possibility of reaching out with compassion. I'm giving them more than Southern Fried delights. I'm tossing caution to the wind. It's already in motion.

And life as we know it ... will change.

Christmas was fine. One more done and gone. It was a merry one. I'm hoping your Chrismas was, as well. But I for one, am glad it's over. Because it's 360-some days to next Christmas ... and I'm already looking forward to it. Because I know this year will be ... the best ever.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Grand Christmas

It's been an interesting week. I've talked to two literary agents this week and received great feedback, as well as possible representation. Nothing set in stone, as of yet. So much to think about, so much to consider. Still waiting to hear from a California agent. But I'm encouraged and the next book is well on its way. A special project Michael and I have been working on is going well. In fact, January may hold a special meaning for us ... in addition to our five-year anniversary. It's going to be a great Christmas this year.

For one, we'll be in Ohio with our children. Although Christopher, Nicole, and our grandson will be in Arizona with Nicole's parents (we'll miss them) we get to spend a few quality days with Jillian, Aaron, and our future daughter-in-law, Annie. And, of course, our best friends Tina and Tim. Like I said, it's going to be a great Christmas.

Then there's a few days after Christmas ... we'll be in Atlanta with my sister and parents. Lots of traveling this season, but still ... a great Christmas.

I've had all kinds of Christmas's. (What is the plural of Christmas? es, 's, s' ... ah who cares?) Point is -I've had good ones and not-so-good ones. Sad ones. And one or two Christmas's that were so wretched and horrible, I've pushed them out of my mind. Forgotten. But there are many more Christmas's that hold pleasant memories. And this is going to be one of them.

Last night our dear friends, Dena and Blair, went to dinner with us at the Bonefish Grill and then we had floor seats for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in Greensboro. I'm hung over this morning ... from not just the wine at dinner, but the LOUD music, the smoke, the faux snow, and strobe lights. Whew. I'm not as young as I used to be, that's for sure. However, this was a concert to remember. I'm sure you've heard them, at least on the radio. But this group of musicians and vocalists were outstanding and the music made your heart swell. If you were a Grinch or a Scrooge, you were no longer after the sights and sounds of this magnificent performance. Truly remarkable.

It made me realize ... this is a GRAND CHRISTMAS!

Have a more than a merry one yourself. Have a GRAND one!

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Tuna

Last night Michael and I visited Tuna, Texas. At the Broach Theatre in Greensboro. Funny, to say the least. A play consisting of over a dozen characters ... played by two actors, Hall Parrish and Stephen Gee, they gave outstanding performances. These two men kept their audience laughing from beginning to end.

From Greensboro, they decked the halls of Tuna, a redneck town of political conservatism, religious fundamentalism, bouffants and bad taste. Split second costume changes transformed the actors into townspeople of every age, type, and gender. The characters names made me laugh as much as anything. The town sluts, Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd won the Christmas yard display contest ... too funny!

A true poke at the small-town South, A Tuna Christmas has been around for twenty years of Christmas' in cities from Greensboro to Lubbock. If you get the chance, go see it. After all, one can never have enough Tuna at Christmas. Right?

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Lite

December is typically a crazy month. Shopping, holiday preparation, cooking, all the things that come with Christmas. But this year, compared to the rest of the year, December is quiet. A slowed-down pace from Christmas' of yesteryear. The reason it seems that way, I think, is because I've been running at full steam ahead for months now. Finishing a book, speaking, and traveling. But I'm researching and working through the next novel at the moment, traveling is down to once a week or so, and I'm scaling my Christmas spending back this year. Way back.

Christmas Light.

No, not like a light on a tree. Kind of like Bud Lite. Only ... Christmas Lite. I feel good about it, too. In fact, I think Christmas has gotten out of hand for most folk. They pay for it all year round until the next Christmas and then it starts all over. I like not having to run around like a crazy person, hoping you can get to the end of your list before the stores close. That's nuts. The traffic is bad, the stores are too hot, and the lines are too long.

Instead, I've done what little shopping I need to do ... online. Now, I'm looking forward to a Christmas play this Friday at our little community theater. And next week the Trans Siberian Orchestra is coming to town and we have tickets. A less stressful December for me than ever.

Wait ... hold on.

Yesterday, Michael and I met with a marketing and public relations agency. A new one. One that has proposed a new strategy. A three-phase campaign. One that will create a huge buzz for Televenge. One that will keep me busy for the rest of my life, it seems. One that will partner with me and open doors that I've not yet touched. One that Michael and I are very excited about.

There's another personal project on the horizon that's going to consume our attention come January. I'll fill you in on this exciting achievement ... soon.

And my son and his fiancee are waist-deep at the moment, planning a June 2008 wedding.

Before I know it, it'll be Christmas 2008.

I best enjoy this relaxing December. It may be the last rest I get for a while.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Long Quote

Every once in a while a special word of encouragement from another author gets me excited. Not often, though. Writers who write books on How to Write, Why I Write, How to Publish, How to Write Bestsellers, ya da - ya da - ya da ... it's my humble opinion that these writers like to hear themselves talk. Like they got all the answers. Not that they don't have valid points, and many have great published books, but listen ... what works for one writer doesn't work for every writer.

Today I received an e-mail from a dear friend who sent me the quote below from Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote, "Eat, Pray, Love," (you know Oprah book/on all the TV shows) well, anyway, I got goose pimples when I read it. It's a great message for writers. I'm not sure where this was published, but it's strong. Every writer needs to read it. Enjoy Elizabeth's "quote" below:

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It's all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

I took a few writing classes when I was at NYU, but, aside from an excellent workshop taught by Helen Schulman, I found that I didn’t really want to be practicing this work in a classroom. I wasn’t convinced that a workshop full of 13 other young writers trying to find their voices was the best place for me to find my voice. So I wrote on my own, as well. I showed my work to friends and family whose opinions I trusted. I was always writing, always showing. After I graduated from NYU, I decided not to pursue an MFA in creative writing. Instead, I created my own post-graduate writing program, which entailed several years spent traveling around the country and world, taking jobs at bars and restaurants and ranches, listening to how people spoke, collecting experiences and writing constantly. My life probably looked disordered to observers (not that anyone was observing it that closely) but my travels were a very deliberate effort to learn as much as I could about life, expressly so that I could write about it.

Back around the age of 19, I had started sending my short stories out for publication. My goal was to publish something (anything, anywhere) before I died. I collected only massive piles of rejection notes for years. I cannot explain exactly why I had the confidence to be sending off my short stories at the age of 19 to, say, The New Yorker, or why it did not destroy me when I was inevitably rejected. I sort of figured I’d be rejected. But I also thought: “Hey – somebody has to write all those stories: why not me?” I didn’t love being rejected, but my expectations were low and my patience was high. (Again – the goal was to get published before death. And I was young and healthy.) It has never been easy for me to understand why people work so hard to create something beautiful, but then refuse to share it with anyone, for fear of criticism. Wasn’t that the point of the creation – to communicate something to the world? So PUT IT OUT THERE. Send your work off to editors and agents as much as possible, show it to your neighbors, plaster it on the walls of the bus stops – just don’t sit on your work and suffocate it. At least try. And when the powers-that-be send you back your manuscript (and they will), take a deep breath and try again. I often hear people say, “I’m not good enough yet to be published.” That’s quite possible. Probable, even. All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

I have a friend who’s an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility. After years of struggling to get his films made, he sent an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog. My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste…etc, etc. Herzog wrote back a personal letter to my friend that essentially ran along these lines: “Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.” I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.” Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place.

Here’s another thing to consider. If you always wanted to write, and now you are A Certain Age, and you never got around to it, and you think it’s too late…do please think again. I watched Julia Glass win the National Book Award for her first novel, “The Three Junes”, which she began writing in her late 30’s. I listened to her give her moving acceptance speech, in which she told how she used to lie awake at night, tormented as she worked on her book, asking herself, “Who do you think you are, trying to write a first novel at your age?” But she wrote it. And as she held up her National Book Award, she said, “This is for all the late-bloomers in the world.” Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age. At least try.

There are heaps of books out there on How To Get Published. Often people find the information in these books contradictory. My feeling is -- of COURSE the information is contradictory. Because, frankly, nobody knows anything. Nobody can tell you how to succeed at writing (even if they write a book called “How To Succeed At Writing”) because there is no WAY; there are, instead, many ways. Everyone I know who managed to become a writer did it differently – sometimes radically differently. Try all the ways, I guess. Becoming a published writer is sort of like trying to find a cheap apartment in New York City: it’s impossible. And yet…every single day, somebody manages to find a cheap apartment in New York City. I can’t tell you how to do it. I’m still not even entirely sure how I did it. I can only tell you – through my own example – that it can be done. I once found a cheap apartment in Manhattan. And I also became a writer.

In the end, I love this work. I have always loved this work. My suggestion is that you start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results. Cast out your will, and then cut the line. Please try, also, not to go totally freaking insane in the process. Insanity is a very tempting path for artists, but we don’t need any more of that in the world at the moment, so please resist your call to insanity. We need more creation, not more destruction. We need our artists more than ever, and we need them to be stable, steadfast, honorable and brave – they are our soldiers, our hope. If you decide to write, then you must do it, as Balzac said, “like a miner buried under a fallen roof.” Become a knight, a force of diligence and faith. I don’t know how else to do it except that way. As the great poet Jack Gilbert said once to young writer, when she asked him for advice about her own poems: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say YES.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

When WHAT IF Isn't Enough

My nasty red nose can't stop my fingers from flying over my keyboard today. I'm going to finish my second novel. Just because I have a cold, it won't stop me today. Not today. I'm pouring over my notes and research for Mountain Lamb. A much shorter book, Mountain Lamb is roughed out and ready for Draft number 2. I expect to be finished with this manuscript in a few months. I find myself consistently examining three conflicts in my writing: religion, the extent to which a parent will go to save their children, and issues of race. God in His wisdom, I am sure, also deals with these human frailties. So I have no answers, just messages. I present the story. The reader deals with his/her own heart and conscience.

What if? It's one tool a writer uses to create a plot. But the political and current events throughout my lifetime have created so many questions inside my brain and heart that often times--a what if just isn't enough. Questions I would love answered. Faults, flaws, and the inconsistent behaviors of mankind that grate on my mind.

In my early days of being a flower-child, my peace and love days as I call them, I protested the Vietnam war and yet my heart went out to the boys caught in the middle of that "conflict." I was only a few miles from the campus during the Kent State riots, and yet a friend of my family was one of the National Guard that day. A young man who shot into the crowd of students. Mixed emotions? Yes, you could say that.

I sat and watched hours of the civil rights movement, glued to the TV each and every time Dr. King spoke. I'm probably one of the few Caucasians that wanted to be black as a little girl and go march on Washington. And then I didn't understand why later, some African-Americans delivered a much more violent message. I was angry about it. Conflict and unanswered questions? You bet.

Unconditional love. Is it impossible?

I burned my bra and then spent my lunch money on the latest shade of Cover Girl, the shortest mini-skirt I could find, and was thrilled to take home a fifty dollars a week in 1972. A fourth of what my male counterpart took home. Preach one thing, do another?

It's human. We all find ourselves talking out of both sides of our mouths at some point in our lives. Other than the Mother Teresas of the world, the rest of us are fickle and float around in life chasing our convictions and trying to get over the guilt of not achieving the goals that go with them.

I never missed church. I believed, tithed, raised my hands in every service, answered hundreds of altar calls, gave love offerings instead of paying my water bill, Trusted and obeyed. Every day. For years and years. I ended up homeless, rejected, divorced. So where was God? My children suffered. How could I save them?

After forty years of struggling, these questions of why I can't save the world from these frailties still haunt me. I know that I can't, so to deal with the conflicts of my soul, I write stories. Deep, meaningful, strong-plotted, and character-driven stories that hopefully will touch on some level of emotion in my reader. Because to me, everybody is plagued with the guilt and pain of the world's problems. If they aren't ... they're not honest. It touches us all.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I wish I could say I'm busy writing like a mad dog these days ... but the truth is, my head is full of nothing but snot. I've come down with the cold of the century. Blowing, sneezing, fever, headache, aches and pains ... but each day I get a little better. I'm blogging today. That's something, at least.

During this time of chicken soup, boxes of Kleenex, and bags of cough drops--I've spent time reading and catching up on ideas surrounding my next book project. Televenge is still up for grabs. We're hoping to hear something soon, at least after the Holidays ... as to an agent and publisher. But for now, it remains in my computer. Waiting.

I must say that waiting is not one of my favorite things to do. Not a strength I attest to. I hear so many great stories of successes and failures. Televenge will be published, that much I know ... how and when ... is anybodys guess. There's more than one way to skin a cat, my dad says. It'll get published.

It's a ripping great story. Told from the inside out. It's well written, clean, and carries a message for the ages. A message of survival for those who have been offered little. Those who want to believe in God. Those who have been rejected, wronged, and left with nothing. It's powerful. It's eye-opening. And it's unpublished. So I'm aching. From this damn cold and from the fact this manuscript needs to find a home.

Ah, well. Faith. Something I write about, attest to. It's time to hang on to some of it. Right?

For now I think I'll put on a cup of tea, curl up in a blanket, and read. I'm starting Lisa Tucker's One Upon A Day. I pray colds and flu stay away from your door this winter.

Blessings to you and yours.