Posts Tagged ‘Writing is an Art’

I’ve never had a great memory. Whether it was genetic, from being thrown under the dash, in an auto accident, when I was two, or a random neurological problem I have had, I will never know.  I have always worked very hard in school to remember things. I take notes, transcribe notes, transcribe my transcription, make index cards and go over them again and again to set facts in my head. The strange thing is that I will often shock myself by making a statement that I did not know I knew.

Gosh, that sounds strange. I don’t know if anyone else can relate to that. It is how I feel though when I find myself mentioning a name or fact, I had no idea I knew. If you would have asked me outright, “who is x”, I would have probably blanked. If I got into the “cash cab” I would have a brain freeze of unimaginable proportions.

Then there is my “professor” mode. This is the mode I go into when I teach art or talk about art. I have given up trying to figure it out, but all the things I have to look up to be sure I am doing it right or just plain remember how to do it, come pouring out of my mouth when I am teaching an art class or talking to a client.

For my writing, I have notebooks.  Notebooks with research, characters, location, mythology, the whole thing. I have folders for the same stuff in my computer and on a flash drive.  Okay, I’m paranoid. But, I’m not losing it.  I knew of an artist who shipped all of their sketch books to their new home and they never made it there.  That would be like losing part of yourself.  I have years worth of sketch books and guard them closely. I lost a lot of artwork in a move one time.  They are my memory. That and photos.

And, this is why, I treasure some memories, that I don’t need help with, so much. I’m sure everyone has their favorites. A few I left off my last list are here:

We start in the sky where so many of my memories are. I was at a backyard picnic once and someone brought a telescope he had put together with his father. The moon was suddenly closer than I had ever hoped to see it.  I wasn’t just seeing dark shadows, I was seeing valleys and craters and mounds. It was inspiring.

I used to travel from coast to coast twice a year doing art shows and placing work in galleries. I had a large Chevy cargo van, customized with household insulation and tongue and grove paneling. I slept in it at 120 degrees and at 30 below, comfortably, during the weeks I was on the road.  I shampooed in the highway reststops. I found out you can keep squeeky clean with wet wipes. The occasional motel bed and shower were appreciated all the more for it.  I would use the opportunity to take photographs too. I love the darkroom. It is my deviation to being an environmentalist. I love the smell of developer.

I used these trips for resource material and just because I love being outside.  I could live in a tent. I was one of the first cars allowed to enter Yellowstone  Park, I believe it was in 1988, right after their huge fire.  They were still dropping water from the helicopter buckets. I will never forget the smell, nor seeing a perfectly normal forest and then turning a corner to see black, devastation as far as the eye could see.

I worked in Chicago when they started the Music Festival on Navy Pier. One night I sat in near empty bleachers to watch B.B.King sing and play piano. How cool!  I felt like he was playing a concert for me.

Think about your great memories today and share them with someone


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I was pre-law at University of Illinois- Chicago Circle for two wonderful years.  I would have hated to be a lawyer, but I have since done legal research and the Internet makes me one happy girl.  I love to do research. I can spend two and a half days researching something that turns out to be one sentence in my novel.  It is worth it though, to bring the book alive. The problem with research, is I am easily distracted by all the fantastic facts out there.

I have worked on this particular novel for probably two years now. I have a “nearly” complete first draft. I’m lacking parts of the final chapter; from fleshing out the final action scene to a type of wrap up. I’m six chapters in to my first edit. I call it my word edit.

Words must conjure and relate to the story:  Doing research on writing for young adults, and just plain good writing, I have a file of words that are passive,  weak, redundant, and unnecessary. I use my find option on each of the forty plus words and rewrite sentences as I find problems.  This really tightens my writing. It is not my favorite part of writing. It is very time consuming, but worth it. I find that my writing improves as I learn not to use these “extra” words.

Further edits:  I have seven files of things I do not want to forget to add into the book.  There are two files of lines I might put in the book yet.  I have one character I am adding into the book yet. Then, there is the issue of four separate openings I am dealing with.  Then there is my eternal problem with tense.

The opening: The opening has changed four times. I have thought about having a contest on the blog for choosing a favorite opening. I just cannot make up my mind. 

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I believe you have to write from your heart, and about what you believe in. Then, you hope that others will find it interesting too.  This book came from all of our hearts. I am only an interpreter. Like, most ideas, this book started off as a “what if.” It started from the following:

I watched two of my three grandsons leave the only home they really remembered and start a new life. They braved a thousand mile journey, in a Plymouth Caravelle, in ninety degree heat, without air-conditioning and with their eighteen year old (oldest) brother.  Every time we stopped, we traded places in the front seat to give everyone a break. We had no idea they were coming home with us or we would have brought the van.

The youngest walked out with, basically, the clothes on his back. Since he only owned two pair of ripped jeans, some worn shirts, two pair of underware and a single pair of shoes that were one and a half sizes too small, that wasn’t a big deal. The older of the two took only clothing and items he had paid for himself. He locked what he wanted to take in his foot locker and when we had no room for it in the trunk, he left it behind.  He left all his CD’s and some Memorabilia that he can never replace. They also left behind their beloved siblings and dog.

They came here and started a new life, in the modern world. They attended school for the first time in their lives, found out what people are like, made some mistakes, and battled life. They have had good friends, and been taken advantage of a few times. The eighteen year old is an EMT now, but has one more year of high school. He had to start as a freshman to get credits. He wants to be an RN and we finally convinced him to take a break from working (they have worked all their life) but he is now returning to work after having a few months of being able to attend ball games, dances, etc. They both volunteer at the Township Fire Department and the younger boy is in the Nashville City Choir.

The younger boy came to us at age thirteen and read at a second grade level and did third grade math. He could barely read anything over three letter words and could not write. His inability to write put him down for a disability and he was put in special ed in Jr. High so that the teachers could give him the time needed to catch him up five grades of missed schooling. 

Why are home schoolers only required to report their curriculum? I think every home schooled child should have to test ever two years to make sure they are being educated.  And, if there are problems, then the system can help them. 

Two years later, he entered high school as a regular, mainstreamed student. That’s not to say he doesn’t have some struggles. He does. He will never be able to write as he should. It is a skill he needed to learn at a young age.

His testing took several weeks and during that time I started reading to him. Each night, I would read a chapter and he would read a paragraph. His reading was halting, word by word, and the only book he was interested in was the Harry Potter series. The only way I got him into that was to let him watch the first two movies. That’s all we had at the time. Then he wanted to buy the third movie and I said that I would buy it but only after we read the first three Harry Potter books.  By the time we got to the end of the series, he was reading on his own.

I have written all my life. I was Quill & Scroll in high school, on the school paper, have taken writing classes every chance I got, I enjoy writing essays but not short stories, I’ve been in writer’s groups, written a picture book and several starts at others, and have a first draft mystery novel. This time I approached it as a professional. I write seven days a week and the internet has allowed me to do research like never before.

I read fantasy novels when I was young and enjoy the imagination involved. In the beginning we sat down and brainstormed. It had to be about three boys who leave their home and leave their sisters behind. They find a magical world. Pretty soon, I was stopped them and saying, “What would it feel like to be shrunk?”

I decided that I would take as much magic as I could from Native American mythology.  I have a few words in here that I have yet to find an interpreter to tell me how to pronounce them. I believe it will be unique enough to find it’s audience. After working on it for over two years, with a lot of edits in sight, I’m still excited about it and have a long road ahead for it.

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After we took the second and third boy from their mother’s home, I was so stressed out that I did not sleep more than two hours at a time for a good three months. I still find it necessary to sleep with a book on tape going to keep my mind from wandering/remembering.


The stress resulted, or so I am told by doctors, in my having a spasming artery that necessitated emergency open heart surgery. It has been a year and a half now since my surgery, and I am trying to balance things out with good memories and funny movies.


With that in mind, I have a few of those, the memories, that I did not list in my first list.


I attended an outdoor party one night, long ago, and someone brought a very good telescope, they built with their father. The moon was a full and awesome sight. I almost touched it. Honest!


The first time the music festival was held on Navy Pier in Chicago, I had the privilege of sitting on bleachers that were far from full, and spending time getting lost in the music of B.B. King. It felt like a private concert.


I think that everyone should spend two years of their early twenties living in Chicago. There is so much to see and do there and, while I never lived in Chicago, I did attend two years at U of IL, Chicago Circle, over eight years working downtown and another three years at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Another memory is Venetian night when the illuminated boats sail on the river. I was watching from one of the bridges when the fireworks that lined everything started going off. I was right in between fireworks strung on each side of the bridge. I don’t think they allow that anymore, but I am glad I was able to experience it.


The fireworks over Lake Michigan are another fantastic thing to see. One of my big childhood disappointments was when dad felt I was too old to bother taking to the fourth of July fireworks in our Indiana town.  No one is too old for fireworks. 


I was driving through, maybe Kansas City, KS on a fourth of July and saw some spectacular ones once. But, the best ones were spent on the porch of a friend’s house on Lake Dale, in Indiana. He lives right on the lake and the homeowners there try to outdo each other with fireworks. We sat on his porch, with refreshments, and watched for hours as they set off one after another of their fireworks. It is especially beautiful when reflected in the lake.


This memory is not so happy, but is very memorable. I was one of the first cars allowed into Yellowstone after the fire they had, ?in the late 80s? I was alone, on an art selling/placing trip out to California. The water bucket helicopters were still dropping water and the burn smell suffocated the air. I drove for a time and all looked normal, then I would turn a curve and it was mass destruction. The last half of the trip, the tears were flowing quite freely.


I will go to sleep tonight remembering these special memories.

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I keep telling my family that I am two chapters, partially written, from the end of the first draft of my book. I told them that in February, and in March, and now it is April. Guess what, I think I am still two chapters from the end of the first draft of my book. 


I was fudging it in February. I kept adding things like, “Oh, and chapter 11 needs fleshing out.” But, the real problem is the book just keeps growing. It was sixteen chapters, then seventeen, now it is nearing nineteen.


I do this constant edit thing. Until this past month, every day that I began writing, I would start by going over the previous few chapters. So, you would think that Chapter one is pretty well done. I doubt it, because last month, I went back to my original first chapter. Yesterday, I changed a few things in it. I think I am an editing addict.


I did this when I was painting full time too. When I was near the end of a painting, I would bring it in the house and hang it above the kitchen table. I would often leave dinner, to correct a mistake I had found. Maybe I can call that the painting diet.


This may be why I have always found creating pottery to be soothing. There is no going back. You fire it. It’s written in stone (pun intended). I don’t obsess. I just do it. I do my research, I have my reference material and I do it. I put it out in the world to stand on it’s own and move on to the next piece.


But, pottery seems like more of a temporary thing to me. I know in my hands it is. I know artists whose pottery is so outstanding that I stand before it and appreciate it like a good painting. But, not mine. Not yet anyway. It’s a fun hobby that takes part of the results, out of my control. The kiln decides. I can relax.  


But, in the end, even with ideas from friends and families contributing; in the end, this book is mine. It is the first part of a story told in five books. It is a story that I would not have written, had I not taken in three of my grandchildren. It is an important story. It is a tribute to the bravery of children. It is too important to sit in my drawer.


So, you’ll excuse me, if I tell you, I’m two chapters from the end of the first draft.

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