Reader Appreciation and the Power of Story

Let’s end June with a bit of fun!

I’ve been honored with a Reader Appreciation Award by author and blogger Michael Rupured. You really should read the wit and wisdom of his blog My Glass House. I’m not just saying that because I had the honor of editing two of his manuscripts: Until Thanksgiving, a wonderful work of romantic fiction, and his memoir Glass Houses, that illustrates in vivid color that it’s never too late to discover your truth and start again, and that in a crowded world it only takes a handful of the right people to shape a life. Michael’s a fabulous storyteller and his blog is an appetizer. The main course is coming.

Like Michael, I realize awards like these aren’t Pulitzers, but there are so many bloggers out there who write from the heart, write well, and tell stories of importance. We read each other’s entries, like them, share them, and support them. It’s hard to blog to change the world, but nothing says we can’t create a few ripples. I love and appreciate every award I’ve been given, and I try to pay it forward every chance I can.

Paying it forward is one of the stipulations of the Reader Appreciation Award – and you’ll find those recognitions below. I chose five individuals I’ve only begun following recently, and I hope you’ll check them out as well.

Having a little Q&A is one of the stipulations too. And again, like Michael said in his blog, if anyone wants to know anything about me, they just have to ask. But here we go…

1.   What is your favorite color?   Orange – from mimosas to sunsets to pumpkins. Construction barrels? Not so much.

2.  What is your favorite animal?   The South American Harpy Eagle. I saw one up close a few years ago…well, as close as one can get without becoming a snack…and I looked into its eyes. I understood at that moment why some cultures worship animals. Even in captivity, it radiated enormous power and dignity.

3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?   Regular ol’ brewed coffee with half & half.

4. Facebook or Twitter?  I don’t have a Twitter account…but I’m not sure Facebook is a favorite hangout anymore either. Mostly because they keep messing with a good thing. I keep in touch with friends and family around the world though, and that’s a good thing.

5. Favorite pattern?  The tartan of the Isle of Skye

6. Do you prefer getting or giving presents?  Giving! Especially when I can give one for no reason at all.

7. Favorite number?  139. Psalm 139 changed how I viewed myself – my physical self and my better self.

8.  Favorite day of the week?  Friday! There’s a whooole weekend ahead!

9. Favorite flower?   Any that are growing in wild abundance. Picking one favorite is tough. Sunflowers are high on the list, so are zinnias and bachelor buttons.

10. What is your passion?   Storytelling. I enjoy sharing stories – verbally and in writing. I love helping other people tell their stories as well, whether it’s set on another planet or in their own backyard. Not everyone will have a best-seller that’s optioned to Lucasfilms or Warner Brothers…

But that does not make the story any less important. I had a memoir writing instructor tell me once, “Because you remembered, it deserves to be told.” The same could apply to fiction – because you imagined it, it deserves to be told.

On that note, I have five blog nominees to share…and a special kudo for a young writer who turned her NaNoWriMo effort into her first book at the age of eleven.

My fellow bloggers:

And a special Reader Appreciation Award for Hannah F., whose book Woodlands Fight will soon be available on CreateSpace. I know I appreciated being able to read it! And I know you have an excellent future ahead of you!

Write like your heart’s on fire…


24K – and I’m not talkin’ about gold


Image by shaylamyst via Flickr

Twenty-four-thousand words.  That’s what I need to generate in the next twelve hours (or less) if I’m going to hit the magic 50-thousand-word mark for National Novel Writing Month. Even if I ignore all else – laundry, children, groceries, errands, meals, choir practice – or happen across one of those Atanik armbands from Stargate SG-1 that give the wearer superhuman speed and dexterity, odds are 50K isn’t going to happen.

And I’m okay with that.

I’ll squeeze in another 4-5K before midnight, which will put me at around 30-thousand words. And that is 30-thousand more than I had 30 days ago.

Anyone else out there who is attempting NaNoWriMo and not feeling very optimistic about your chances for success tonight, do remember this:  if you consider yourself a writer, and you are writing, then you have won.

I’m not advising you to quit right now. Not at all. Do what you can before midnight. And then on December first, open the document, or pick up your pen, and keep going. Participating in NaNoWriMo is as much about building a writing habit as getting the start of a novel.

I’m willing to bet that if you believed in your idea enough to attempt NaNoWriMo in the first place, then your idea – your story – is important enough that you’re not going to let the turn of a calendar page or the ticking of a clock keep you from finishing it.

When I confessed to struggling with my own story, a friend said, “Well, does it have to be 50-thousand words? Maybe it’s really a novella and only needs to be about 30-thousand.”

In my case, no, the story isn’t a novella. It won’t be done at 50-thousand words either. I suspect closer to 75-thousand when all is said and done. But think about your story:  do you have a novella? Or could it even be a short story?  50K is the NaNo goal, but maybe you can say all that needs to be said in 15K.  So keep working on that first draft, and fine-tune it later.

(By the way – does anyone else find it ironic that we sometimes nickname this venture “NaNo” when there’s nothing small about it?)

I still believe in  my characters and their digitized lives, and they have a story to tell. I’m convinced that the scope of their story requires a little more patience and deliberate thought than I can give it in a mere 30 days.  But I’ve at least learned that.

During the course of November and telling my couple’s story,  I started to fear I’d grown too misogynistic to write romance…that I just don’t believe in it enough or maybe that I believe in it too much and anything I write doesn’t do it justice. As I wrote in a guest blog for my Northwest Ohio NaNo Buddy, Feliza Casano, I can’t wrap my writer’s head around certain kinds of romances – as much as I enjoy reading them and may desire to write them, I don’t seem to be wired correctly.

I like my heroes to be real. They have graying hair, labor-intensive non-romantic jobs (or no job), and genuine fears. The hero of my NaNo novel has a disability. At the moment, it’s the proverbial gun on the mantel that Anton Chekhov says you should use by Act III if you introduce it in Act I – I’m working on making it work. But my point is, Real isn’t always pretty…but when it works, it’s beautiful. It appeals to the hopeful romantic in all of us. It’s a very delicate balancing act. I have to use grains of sand – not bricks – to balance the scale that is Real on one side, and Romantic on the other.

Also, I know of some NaNoWriMo participants who take shortcuts or play “fast and loose” with the word count just to hit 50K.  For example, I might consider including any blogging about NaNo toward the word count. I know of people who have done it, and I thought about it too. But in my mind and for my intentions, it defeats the purpose. I’d rather fail to meet the benchmark honestly. And since I plan to keep the manuscript around and continue working on it, what is the point of adding ten-thousand words of “fake” content that I’d have to go back and cut out anyway?

When the clock switches over to 12:01 a.m. and it becomes December 1st, your manuscript will not vanish in a cloud of sparkly fairy dust. It will not cease to exist. You may be someone who took on NaNoWriMo as a dare or a lark and have no intention of pursuing writing beyond November. That’s all good. Congratulations on sticking it out this long! Seriously!  But if you are a Writer, believe in yourself and your abilities, not the clock and the calendar. Believe in your characters and listen to what they have to say. They won’t stop talking at 12:01 a.m. So don’t stop writing.

Kudos and a peppermint mocha salute to all of my NWO NaNites who hit 50K!

End of the Year To Do List

Damaged portrait of Elizabeth I of England, To...

Image via Wikipedia

I should be freaking out.

It’s November 20th. Thanksgiving is in four days. Christmas comes in a little over a month. The New Year comes about a week after that.

Instead, I’m breathing.

At this point, I have ten days to finish NaNoWriMo and to break 50K, I have to pull in about 3,400 words daily. In the past, I’d have felt defeated.  Not this time. And on top of it all, I’m feeling encouraged to think about what else I’d like to do with the rest of my year.

My blogger friend Elizabeth at Mirth and Motivation posted her year-end-to-do list, and since I’d been thinking about what I’d like to accomplish before the end of the year so I can dive into 2012 without feeling like I’m trying to get caught up…I think I’ll join her in making it public.

1.  Finish National Novel Writing Month over 50K.  NaNoWriMo is going to end at 11:59 p.m. on November 30th whether I have 50,000 words under my belt or not. I’d like to chalk one up in the “win” column.

2.  Box up books and music I’m not reading or listening to and find a good home for them.  Odds are that book I bought 5 years ago that “sounded good” and yet never opened is not going to be opened any time soon.  Someone will enjoy it. And I’ll have room on my shelf for something new.

3.  Redesign and rebuild my web site and blog.  I’d originally planned to keep this blog separate from my business site, but I’m feeling more confident about merging the two. There will also be the addition of a business page on Facebook, and possibly even *gulp* a Twitter connection.

4. Post once a week during December with a Christmas story. I’ve loved Christmas as long as I can remember. All the shopping will be what it will be, but the Spirit of Christmas is infinite and beautiful.

5. Continue to cultivate the professional and creative relationships that began this year. I haven’t been as interactive as I would like with my fellow bloggers and creatives. Why wait till the new year to do better?

6.  Take my daughters out. Just out. Not sure where. Maybe the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art followed by lunch. Maybe I can get my mom to call in sick to work and join us.

7.  Develop new classes and a five-year plan for my freelance business.  I enjoy teaching as much as I enjoy learning.  Every class I’ve taught through Owens Community College’s Workforce and Community Services program has been so much fun and I’ve met some terrific people as a result. I want to construct more learning opportunities for writers and storytellers, and over the next five years, I want to add podcasting and webinars to my web site.

I’d add a general “declutter” to this list, but I don’t think I can get that done before year’s end.  Started, yes, but not completed.  But I can purge old catalogs and magazines; shred multiple copies of documents I no longer need; and, of course, the aforementioned book and music purge.

There are things that are totally out of my control. I have to give those over to God and let Him manage it for a while. There are things I can take care of.

I’m on it.