Creativity on the Loose

I had a really wonderfully busy and productive day today!  I’d love to be coming here and sharing something spiritual or personal, but really all that’s floating through my head is the young adult story I’m working on.  So, once again if I’m going to write a new blog post at all, it’s going to have to be about writing.

Last Wednesday I began my new writing regimen.  I’ve done it now for four days (I took the weekend off).  In those four days I’ve written 6600 new words (about 30 new pages and 3 new chapters) in the novel.  In four days I wrote what it would normally take me about fifteen days to write.  I’m so excited about the progress I’m making and even more excited about the story.  It feels as though I’ve reached the top of the mountain and from this point on it’s going to be an easy downhill ride.

Today I was driving Callee to music lessons and thinking about my two main characters and their relationship.  I love how I am so gripped by these characters that I almost feel like a 15-year-old girl again.  I’m running the scenarios in my head and I feel as exhilarated and scared as L does.  I’m in such a hurry to finish the book just because I want to know what happens.  You’d think I already know this, but I don’t really.  What I saw in my head today completely took me by surprise.  It wasn’t anything I’d intended to happen until later in the series, but I saw it and even more incredibly I really, really, really felt it!

I have to admit I am super relieved by the point I’ve reached in this process.  I loved writing my first novel, it brought me back to life in so many ways.  When I wrote the second one, I didn’t get a lot of joy from it.  There was a lot of me in that book.  I had to trudge through some muck to create a story.  In the end, I liked it pretty well and I’ve shared it with a good many people.    After that one, I struggled to get back to fiction.  This idea I’m working on now came to me almost two years ago.  I sat on it so long, unable to write it.  In the meantime, I plugged away at this blog wondering if I was done with fiction for good.

Now I’m back writing a novel that is complete and total fiction.  It has nothing to do with me or anyone in my life.  No one should read it and wonder hey, is that me? because no one I know is in this book.  I feel so good about what I’m creating that I just want to cry tears of joy.  And if I finish the whole damn thing and everybody hates it, it’ll still all be worth it for the way I feel RIGHT NOW!!!

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Writing About On Writing

So I figured I mentioned Stephen King and his wonderful memoir/writing book enough that I should expound on it in a post.  So this post is about On Writing and what I gained by reading it.

First things first is that I had a click about what to write.  He talks about how often times people try to write what they think is good or popular but is not what they actually like.  For Stephen, he is a really good writer and he really likes the horror genre.  Critics often questioned why he used his talent to write some of the stuff he did and the answer was that he enjoyed it and it came easily.  You could argue that that is why it was so well-received by the public.  When I think back on the books I’ve loved over the years they include some magic and fantasy intertwined with reality.  The Harry Potter Series and The Time Traveler’s Wife were my absolute favorites.  That is the sort of thing I am writing now (well was writing till I came to that screeching halt..more on that in a bit) and is basically what my last book was.  So despite the fact that the stuff I write and like is not the stuff the members of my writing group are drawn to, it is most definitely the right thing for me.

The next piece of advice I got and found that it confirmed what my gut had been telling me all along was this:  “First write with the door closed, then write with it open.”  I’m not sure if the quote is exactly right but the gist is when you are working on a first draft show it to no one until it is finished.   If you show your work to people as you go you may get good feedback which will cause you to get ahead of yourself and start planning the future of the book instead of just writing it.  If you get bad feedback you may get discouraged and come to a screeching halt.  I knew exactly what he was talking about because I made this mistake.  I started writing my novel and chapter by chapter started sharing it with others, friends and my writing group.  I got some great feedback that got those wheels turning and stars clouding my vision.  I got some bad feedback that made me want to cry and tear the whole thing up.  The whole time my inner voice kept telling me to STOP sharing it.  I didn’t.  Ultimately I ran out of steam.  The balloon of excitement that contained the book deflated little by little until I found myself no longer writing it.

Which I guess brings me to the last bit of advice which is that quote I featured last Sunday.  “If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”  I don’t think I’m a great writer, in fact I still struggle with even calling myself a writer at all.  For me that phrase (I am a writer)  is more like an affirmation…something I say until it becomes true.   But I do know that I’ve always loved putting words together and sharing them with people.  I know that I feel a little more alive when I write something that moves someone in some way.  For many years (about 11 I think)  I didn’t write.  God had given me something I could do and I didn’t do it.  For three years though, I’ve been doing it.  I’d like to do it more.  The only reason I’m excited to see Callee go off to kindergarten next year is the promise of 3 or more good hours a day of uninterrupted writing time.  I think it will be my heaven or at least my salvation.

The book was filled with great advice and fascinating stories about Stephen’s life.  If definitely made me feel better about my own writing.  I don’t yet have the hours in my schedule that he suggests putting in (3-6 per day) but I will do what I can and hopefully embrace those hours when they arrive.    Thank you, Stephen King, for your wonderful book.

The Circle Home (3)

The following is the end of chapter one although it does not pick up where Wednesday’s post left off (it skips a few pages).

More Chapter 1

A few more people talked about Mom.  They said she was funny and smart and talked about how much they loved her.  No one talked about the cancer that kept her hooked up to machines in the bed in our living room  Even the home nurse only mentioned her beautiful smile and how it lit up the room on even the darkest days.

After the closing prayer everyone began to leave the room.  Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa stood in the double doorway, shaking hands and hugging guests as they left.  I stayed behind to look for the lady in white.  I ducked between the men and women as they talked about my mother, my family, and the good ole days.

“There goes Emily.  That poor darling.”  One woman whispered.

“Look at that red hair.  She looks like Matt and has Janet’s spunk.”  Another man stated.

Then I saw her.  She was tall, slender, and her skin was clear and radiant.  She was wearing a long white wedding dress, like the one in the portrait, and a crown of daisies atop her blonde curls.  She beckoned me to come closer.

“Mommy?”

“Shhh, not too loud sweetie.”  She whispered.  “I don’t think anyone else can see me.”

“I thought you were in Heaven and then I saw you over there in that box, and now you’re here!”

“I wanted to see how you and Daddy were doing so I thought I’d hang around for a bit.”

“But you died.”  I whispered.

“I know.  It was a nice funeral.”

“Are you a ghost, like Casper?”

“I’m not really sure.  I just want you to know that I’m still here for you.  I want to spend time with you and do some of the things we didn’t get to do when I was so sick.”

“What do you want to do?”

“Do you want to play hide-and-seek?”  Mom asked.

I smiled and nodded.  I ran up the aisle and past the coffin that held the body that looked like my mother.  I climbed up the stairs and hid behind the podium in a small space just my size.  I waited there for Mom to find me.  She surprised me and I giggled when Maw Maw walked right past her and picked me up.

“Emily, this is not the place for games.  Look at what you’ve done.”  Maw Maw pointed to the crowd of people staring at me.  Many of them had taken their tissues out and were crying again.

“But Maw Maw, I was just playing hide-and-seek with Mommy!”

“Don’t be ridiculous.  You need a nap.”  She held me tightly against her.  I smelled the fresh powder on her face and felt the brooch poking against my chest.  I looked over her shoulder.  Mom was following us up the aisle.  She smiled and held a finger to her lip.  I realized then that everyone in the room thought she was gone forever, and only I knew the truth.

The Circle Home (2)

As I stated in Monday’s post, this week I am unplugged and decided to post a little fiction.  This weeks posts are excerpts from the novel I wrote titled The Circle Home.

Chapter 1

My mother died on January 2, 1979, a few months before I turned four-years-old.  She held on long enough to bring in the New Year, but not long enough to celebrate my birthday.  Most of the memories I have of her before she died aren’t really mine.  They’re stories my dad or grandparents told me so many times I began to feel like I was really there.  My first real childhood memory is the day of her funeral.

It was a cold day in January.  We rode silently to McEwen’s funeral home.  We were in Maw Maw and Papa’s light blue Pontiac.  Papa drove with both hands on the steering wheel in a white knuckled death grip.  Dad sat beside him, in the passenger seat, running his hands through his red hair the way he always does when he’s nervous.  I was in the middle of the back seat between Uncle Brian and Maw Maw, perched on the hump which was as close as you got to a car seat in those days.

“Hey Emily, punch bug!”  Uncle Brian gave my arm a little tap.  A yellow Volkswagen Bug had just turned at the stoplight in front of us.

“For God’s sake Brian, we’re on the way to Janet’s funeral not an amusement park.”  Maw Maw pulled a tissue out from her sleeve and dabbed her eyes.  Her hand shook.

“I like to play punch bug, Maw Maw.  Why can’t we play?”

“It’s just not a good time for games, that’s all.”  Dad spoke from the front seat.

“Daddy, when are they bringing the bed back?”  I asked.

“What bed?”

“The special one, that Mommy had in the living room.”

“They’re not bringing it back.  It’ll stay at the hospital now.”

“So, where’s Mommy gonna sleep when she gets back from Heaven?”

Maw Maw reached over and pulled me to her chest and patted my back.  I struggled to get back onto the hump and avoid having my eye poked out by the huge rose brooch she wore on the lapel of her black polyester pantsuit.  Dad lowered his head and shook a little.  Papa reached over and squeezed his freckled neck.  Uncle Brian just stared out the window with his chin resting on his fist and his forehead pressed against the glass.

We got to the funeral home early.  There were only a few cars in the parking lot, including Grandma and Grandpa Lohing’s burgundy Oldsmobile.  Papa pulled into a spot as close to the door as he could get.  Uncle Brian stepped out and reached for me.

“Come on butterfly, let’s dance.”  He lifted me over his head and twirled me around.

He had been calling me that since I had dressed up like a butterfly at Halloween.  Mommy was really sick that night so Brian and his girlfriend, Jennifer, took me trick-or-treating instead of Daddy.  I felt special having a nickname.  “Wheeee!”  I squealed as he spun me around.

“That’s enough Brian.  Put her down and act civilized.”  Maw Maw straightened her Dorothy Hamill haircut with one hand and pulled the glass door open with the other.  I held onto Daddy’s hand as we followed his parents and brother into the funeral home.

Maw Maw walked straight over to Grandma, who was sitting in a metal chair staring glassy-eyed into space.  She was fiddling with the cross around her neck and her mouth was twitching to one side.  Grandpa stood behind her with his hands gently resting on her shoulders.  He was a really tall man, but on that day without his bright smile he seemed too far away to reach.

“Oh Sylvia, I’m so sorry.”  Maw Maw knelt down beside the chair and Grandma fell over into her arms.  They both started crying, making sounds that I’d never heard before.  I kept my distance from them.  I was scared to move closer.

“What’s the matter with them?”  I whispered to Dad.

“They just miss Mommy, Sweetie.”

“But Daddy, she told us she was going away.  I thought they knew it too.”

“It doesn’t mean they don’t miss her.”

“Am I supposed to miss her too?”

“You can feel whatever you want.”

“Is it okay if I’m not sad?”

“Yes.”  Dad replied with tears forming in his eyes.

We stood outside the entrance to the chapel.  The smell of flowers filled the space.  There were arrangements shaped like horseshoes, hearts, and crosses.  I had never seen so many flowers before.  Grandma and Maw Maw stepped through the maze of flowers, pressing their noses to each display and carefully reading the cards.  I followed behind, mimicking their behavior until my dad called me away.

“Emily, come here, I want to show you something.”  He was standing by a portrait.

“Who’s that?”

“That’s your mommy.”

“She looks so pretty!  Where am I?”

“That’s our wedding day.  You weren’t around yet.  You were just a twinkle in her eye.  If you look close I think you can see it.”  Dad pointed to Mom’s eye in the picture.

As the minutes passed I watched more and more people file into the funeral home and fill up the seats in the small chapel. Dad positioned himself at the door to the chapel.  I skipped around the sanctuary, stopping to say hello to Mom lying in the coffin.  She looked like Sleeping Beauty; except I’m pretty sure Sleeping Beauty didn’t wear a wig.

I noticed that everyone wore black and carried tissues.  There were some kids like me.  One boy skipped towards me.  He was smiling and I knew he wanted to play, but his mom pulled him back and gave him a spank.  No one else came near me, but they all watched me skip, even the grownups.  When it was time for the service to begin there were no seats left and all I could hear was sniffling noises.



The Circle Home (1)

This week I am unplugged.  In order to do everything I need to do to prepare for unplugging,  I decided to have a “fiction week” on the blog.  This will be the first of three posts sharing some excerpts from the last novel I wrote (the one that is shelved indefinitely…or permanently).  The novel is titled The Circle Home.

Prologue

Someone once told me when you can’t go any further; you’ve come to your edge.  When you come to the edge a breakthrough is about to happen and you must go further.  I want to remember the person I was and the road I’ve traveled.  If peace has found a place in my heart, it’s because I crawled over the edge and found my way home.

The house is silent, outside still dark. It’s my favorite time of day when the only light here is the 60 watt bulb in the lamp beside me.  The only sounds are the creaking of the house and the coffee mug landing gently on the side table as I set it down.

The Christmas tree is still up, though not lit.  It is almost New Year’s.  I walk over and gaze at the tree, stopping at my favorite ornament, picking it up.  It’s one of those macaroni wreaths.  We made it the last Christmas my mother was with us.  I am pulled away from my thoughts by the sound of tiny footsteps.  I look up and see Janie Beth rounding the corner.  Her wild blonde curls are shooting out in all directions and she is rubbing her eyes.  She looks at me and smiles.  Suddenly the room and my life have more light in them.

“Good morning, Sweet Girl!”  I place the ornament back on the tree.

“Mornin Mama.”  She holds her arms out to me, lips poked out.  I lift her up and give her a kiss.  “Hey, it’s our ornament.”

I learn so much watching the way this little girl moves people.  She’s breathed life into me and everyone around her. Even the dog forgets how old he is in her presence.  We all call her JB, except for my father.  He calls her Janet two, because even at three-years-old she’s the only person who can make him laugh the way my mother could.  Last month, right after he found out my stepmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, JB said to him, “Gammy Beth’s gonna be okay, Pop.”  He smiled when there shouldn’t have been a smile left in him.  I think he believed her more than the oncologist.  I believe her too.  My little girl knows things, even if she doesn’t remember why.

Once when she was just a year old she pointed to the scar on my chin and said “boo-boo”.  It was a scar I had gotten when I was a baby too.  My father had told me the story many times; it was his last tangible memory of my mother and me together.  She was teaching me to walk and I got too close to the hearth.  When I started to fall she didn’t reach me in time and I hit my chin on the bricks.  Dad ran out of the room for a towel and some ice and when he came back Mom was using her favorite sweater as a compress.  She held me tightly and rocked me as I cried.  Dad said he saw tears streaming out of her eyes.  He’d joked that he’d get her a new sweater if that one was ruined.

Losing Mom was hard.  Grandma and Grandpa were never quite the same, at least that’s how the story goes.  I was just grateful that Grandma lived long enough to meet Janie Beth.  I think in the end she knew the truth about her great-granddaughter.  It’s a truth I’ve known since I gave birth to her and have only ever shared with my best friend, who happens to be her father.  What I love most about him is that he believes me.

Absent from Cyber-space

I am going to be unplugged for a week (mostly).  As always,  I have things scheduled and ready despite my absence from cyber-space.

I am a bit unprepared for blogging tonight.  I was hoping to have a click story from a new friend but she ran out of time (the window I gave her was very small) and couldn’t get it to me before scheduling time.  You will hear from her in the future though.

Next week I’ve decided to do “fiction week.”  I will be posting scenes from my second novel, The Circle Home.  I was inspired to write this novel after attending the funeral of one of my sorority sisters who died a few years ago.  I watched my Zeta sister’s 3-year-old daughter at the funeral and hoped that she was still connected to her mom.  I imagined that maybe she could even see and talk to her.  After that I decided to write a novel about a girl who lost her mom but stayed connected to her.  What you will read is the prologue and parts of chapter 1 from the story.  I queried a handful of agents with The Circle Home and ultimately decided to shelf it indefinitely.  It’s not all bad though, which is why I decided to share a little bit.

Have a great week and if I ignore your comments just know it’s only because I am not online.  And before I send you on your way without giving you much to read, here is my favorite (of what I’ve read so far) post from Alisha @ Stories of Sommer.   Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Namaste!

Click Story by Renee

Allow me to introduce Renee Liss, a fellow writer, blogger, and friend! You can visit her blog here.

A Short Trip
by Renée M. Liss
© 2009

The words stared at Shayna from the pages of the magazine, taunting her. “Where do you want to be?”

“Well,” she thought, “certainly not here.”

This was true in reality and metaphorically. She was not living the life she wanted to live and she was not living in a place she enjoyed. The words spoke to her in a way the article’s author did not intend when he wrote them. The article was about religion. Some anonymous editor pulled out that line to highlight in the page’s layout. Was it the Universe talking to Shayna through this page? Or just a silly coincidence?

But where Shayna wanted to be, she didn’t know. Looking back over the last 35 years, she only knew that she never wanted to be where she was at any particular moment. Yet once she left a place, she wanted to go back. Because, after all, the place before was so much better than where she was. She bounced from job to job, always thinking something about the new job would be better than the old one. She moved from city to city, state to state, always seeking that elusive Perfect Place.

“It simply doesn’t exist,” she said out loud. To herself. Because there was no one else around to hear her.

And then she realized she’d been pondering this great philosophical question way too long because she looked at the clock on her computer and it told Shayna the time was 5 p.m. Time to go home. Time to figure out what to eat for dinner. Time to find anything and everything to do that was not what she should be doing.

She should go for a walk. She should go to the bookstore and sit in the café and plan her future: the one that did not include slaving away at a desk job 40 hours a week waiting for something to happen to her. This would all be so much easier, Shayna thought, if she just knew what it was she wanted.

And at that moment, Shayna made a decision. She was quitting. Her job. Her life. She was going to reinvent herself. She’d hand in her resignation tomorrow, quit the lease on her apartment, sell what she could and give away the rest. She’d pack up what few belongings she had left, clean out her savings and go on the road. She was going to drive across the United States, explore Canada, fly to Europe and backpack. She’d live on her wits alone. People had been doing that for thousands of year. Why couldn’t she?

Shayna’s long blond hair trailed behind in the wind as she wound her red convertible along city streets toward home. Home. What was home? It was where a person felt most comfortable and safe. Shayna felt safe, but not comfortable. She knew she was making the right decision. She knew it!

She unlocked her front door, kicked off her high heels and threw herself down on the couch, curling her legs underneath her body. She pulled her laptop off the desk next to her and starting researching travel routes, hotels, places she could stop and stay with friends for a while. She checked her bank account, did some math and budgeting in her head and then on paper.

“This really could work!” she said, excited.

Shayna typed out a resignation and put in writing her intention to vacate her apartment in 30 days – though she hoped it would be sooner. She posted everything she could on Craig’s List. All the while, her excitement grew. She wouldn’t stay in one place long enough to grow restless. She wouldn’t have time to learn to hate a place. She would be free of obligations. Maybe she could write articles for a travel magazine somewhere to finance her wanderings once her money ran out.

Maybe …

The thoughts and plans ran faster and faster through her mind. It made her smile. She was doing this!

Shayna finally exhausted herself, falling into bed at 1 a.m. The alarm sounded at 6:30. She dragged herself out of bed, a little more energized than she should have been. The adrenaline rush from the night before continued coursing through her, forcing her up and out. This was it. This was her moment.

Shayna showered, dressed and ate breakfast. She grabbed her printed and signed resignation letter off the desk and walked out the door. She arrived at work at 8:30, set her things down in her office and headed toward her boss’s door, holding the letter. She raised her hand to knock.

That was the moment Shayna froze. She looked down at the letter. Her stomach knotted. She returned to her own office.

She bawled up the letter, threw it away and proceeded to delete every add she had placed on Craig’s List.

“Next year,” she thought. “Next year, I will leave and never come back.”