Exploring those mysterious, underlying forces fueling a writing life

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Giving Thanks

Me, age 6

Me, age 6

Most (sane) people go to college, start a career, get married, buy a house, then have kids, etc..  Me, not so sane. You might say I’ve taken more of a circuitous path, not only in life, but in writing as well.

Hence my official Acknowledgements page prior to the actual published book.

Why wait?

There are too many people I need to thank for just getting me to the place where I am at now:

  • Friends who have believed in me far longer than I have believed in myself and encouraged me to follow my heart: Billy Fallon, Peter Reeves, Dana Berenson, and Laurinda Hawkins (still have that engraved pen to sign my first  contract.)
  • Teachers who welcomed me into their classrooms to test-drive first chapters and talk about writing:  Mrs. Van Camp, Mrs. Monarca, Mrs. Govoni, Mrs. Sudol, and librarian, Mrs Phillips.
  • Those students who stopped me in the hallways of Hebron Elementary to ask me again and again “are you finished yet?” and then told me how much they liked it after they finally got to read it.  Many, many thanks to Meredith B., Brian H., Ben M., Zach S., Katelyn J., Sam B.,  I would never have finished the first draft if you hadn’t have kept asking.
  • Friends and family who graciously read the first draft and didn’t puke – Joe, Dylan, Elena, Mom, Tony, Andy, Natalie, Aunt Chele, Uncle Mike, Kathy, Tim, Julie, Scott, Esther, Sarah, Sierra, Angela, Olivia, the Oullette family, and Amy (the slow reader who I know will get it to one of these days).
  • My fellow SCBWI writers who continually offer gentle, yet honest criticism and support along with plenty of wine, chocolate and laughter: Nancy Tandon, Holly Howley, Jill Dailey, Jessica Loupos, Kristina O’Leary, Paula Wilson, Betsy Wittemann, Carol and Kelly.  I truly believe we will be popping champagne corks one day soon.  And thank you, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, for being so generous with your advice, and encouragement.
  • The very talented and supportive writers and poets of the Whispering River Writing Group – Merle and Arielle Potchinsky, Willa Correnti, Alice Kuzel and Kelly Parlin.
  • The lovely ladies of the Blue Crayon critique group – Heather Montgomery, Sharon Pegram and Linda Anderson.  Our monthly deadline has kept me moving forward many times.
  • Most especially, I must thank Carol and John Merrifield for not only opening up their home to five writers who desperately needed that quiet, uninterrupted time to create, but for raising the kindest, most thoughtful and talented daughter, Nancy Tandon, who suggested our (hopefully annual) Fireside Retreat.  And a special thank you, Mom, for being “on-call” that weekend, just in case Joe had to work and couldn’t take care of the kids and the dog.
  • And finally, I thank the Twitter/blog followers whom I am not related to, nor have ever actually met  –  thank you for that tiny thrill of knowing I’ve touched another life, giving me reason to keep writing.

I could not have come this far without you all.

I thank you all and invite you to my future book launch (date and location TBD, hopefully in this century).

Cheers –

Call it serendipity

Call it serendipity. Coincidence. Divine intervention. Author Sharon Creech calls it the great unexpected.

But I thought about all the things that had to have spun into place in order for us to be alive and for us to be right there, right then. I thought about the few things we thought we knew and the billions of things we couldn’t know, all spinning, whirling out there somewhere. – Naomi, The Great Unexpected

In her latest novel, The Great Unexpected (2013, HarperCollins), Sharon Creech explores how unexpected things can be wonderful and how connected people are to each other, even if they are strangers, living oceans apart. I was fortunate to be “right there, right then” at the recent NE-SCBWI annual conference to hear Sharon Creech discuss the relevance of connections in her writing.

In an engaging manner, she explained how two poems, written by different authors and discovered at different times in her life, collided together at the right moment to provide the inspiration for her novel, Love That Dog (2001, Harper Collins). And how she found the message of her Newbery award-winning novel, Walk Two Moons (1994, Scholastic), in a most unexpected place – a fortune cookie.

I’ve had my own great unexpecteds: a visit to an Impressionists exhibit in Glasgow, a mix- up of the words to Gary Wright’s song Dream Weaver, and an introduction to the Velvet Revolution in the book The Wall (2007, Macmillan) by Peter Sis. Random occurrences that have all somehow connected to inspire and influence my own MG novel.

We may not immediately see the underlying web of interconnecting threads linking together, but they are most certainly there. And we need only to allow ourselves to be open to let them connect.

How about you? Have you had any connections, any great unexpecteds?

Thank You Sally Riley

During his ENCORE 2012 presentation this past weekend, Mark Peter Hughes encouraged us all to thank Sally Riley, the NE-SCBWI Regional Advisor, for her efforts in organizing this event.   So, this is my way of giving ways thanks…

I arrived at the conference with some trepidation.  In addition to the twinges of guilt over missing my son’s soccer game and (I admit with much chagrin) a slight hangover, I wasn’t sure if that’s where I really needed to be that day.

Here’s what I left with:

  • A method.   I had asked the main character of my WIP, a YA novel, to tell me about herself; but the four pages of enlightenment she provided wasn’t enough.  I needed something else.  Now I know I need to prepare an emotional biography, determine what she knows and doesn’t know.  I need to sort out the internal and external conflicts.  Thank you Karen Day.
  • Exercise.  I took a long walk in search of my character’s voice.  I walked in her shoes, tried to see the world through her eyes.  I must apologize to the many squirrels I frightened along the way with my mumbling musings.   Thank you Mark Peter Hughes.
  • A bedroom.  I used the Map It exercise to create my main character’s bedroom.  I uncovered details that revealed not only more of her personality, but links to more plot lines.  Thank you Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan.
  • A larger vocabulary.  I learned a new word: ascription.  And I’m currently on the hunt to rid all my stories of those annoying ascriptions and adverbs.  Thank you Mitali Perkins.

Finally, most importantly, I left with…

  • Confirmation.   Two years ago, at my first ENCORE, I wondered what it would be like to have a finished novel.  I now have two complete MG novels and I know there’s more to come, I have found a group of incredibly supportive and encouraging women to offer critiques, I am actively pursuing an agent, I am blogging and twittering (oops, I mean tweeting), and learning all I can about the craft of writing.  It was exciting to be able to provide some guidance and encouragement to Bob and Melanie, the newbies at our table.  I know I have truly grown as a writer.

I also know I was right where I needed to be that day.  So THANK YOU Sally Riley, NE-SCBWI, ASTAL, the presenters and assistants.   I promise next year, I won’t indulge in too much wine the night before (even if my birthday does happen to fall on the same weekend again).

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