Be A Writing Example!

I’ve always been jealous of retired teachers who have taught in the same city for 30 to 40 years, and have former students come up to them, remembering them. We’ve moved around too much for that to have happened to me. But today there is the Internet. That changes the entire game. Or can.

A former student contacted me via Facebook. She asked if I was the Sandy Carlson who taught in her elementary school when she was in second grade. She was so impressed that I had a story published in Cricket Magazine that it inspired her to write. In high school, she finished her first novel. She has since finished college and has a job about 2000 miles from our school where we first met. And years ago, my husband and I moved about 1000 miles away from our school in a different direction.

Again, Yay for the Internet! And…boo for the Internet. Her message to me was buried for five years. (Shaking my bowed head in shame.) The good news is she is still interested in writing and still excited about her one particular book even after her one reject. 

I suggested some newbie-writer things to her, like attending a writers conference, joining a critique group, not fretting over a rejection, and then I asked if she wanted to exchange three chapters with me (as author equals), that I would be willing. She is. We will. 

I remember Moriah as an intelligent and observant child. I can’t wait to read her grownup chapters. Yay for the Internet. 

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More on Mad Marketing Skills

I just read an interesting post about marketing by Laura Wolfe: http://rockinghorsewriting.com/2015/09/02/eleven-ways-to-support-a-friends-book-release/

I couldn’t have said it better myself, so if you’re interested, go there (after reading here, of course).

Three things I would like to add to Laura’s words of suggestions using friends to help you market (buy a book as a gift, give a review, etc.). Mine are more like a pre-list:

  1. It helps if you have friends (and/or family), the more the better;
  2. The writing has to be very, very, very good; and
  3. Start local (local bookstores, schools, libraries, etc.).

Also, if you don’t have a book published (yet), it’s never too early to start beefing up on your mad marketing skills so there’s no fainting or panic on your book release day.

Oh, and keep on writing!

A Writer’s Death. A Writer’s Vow.

A writer friend died this past Sunday. It’s rare these days that writers actually meet face-to-face (except at conferences), as writing, out of necessity, tends to be such a solitary activity in our busy lives. But writers bond, no matter our differences. Deb and I were in the monthly Black Hill Writers Group 10-20 years ago. I moved to Michigan. Later, she moved to be with family in Indiana. We’d both left “the group,” but now we were only five hours near to each other! We often wrote of getting together. We never did.

Deb and I didn’t write in the same genre, nor even for the same age group. We also had major differences of life opinion, but we still called each other “friend.” She, too, lived long enough to be a Grandma. She will be missed, both by her family and friends, and by the writing and reading community who knew her.

Besides just the life and death thing — making the most of our time on this earth before we haven’t any more — I can’t express how old I feel at the moment. As my parents aged, they’d hear of friends dying, friends they’d always intended to get together with one more time. Too late. Now, for the first time in my life, I relate. I see The Lion King song “The Circle of Life” relates not just to births, but also to deaths.

I write this post still numbed and raw from the news of Deb’s death, yet think for the millionth time wonder again why I am here and how can I best make use of my mortal life. As a Christian, I feel certain of my life after death. My death is not a worry for me. I’ll be sad for the sadness I’ll leave behind, but for me it’s merely a step from shadow through a doorway to clarity. My concern is more about what I do and say and think here in this time, in this body, on this earth. Unless we humans destroy each other, or a meteor puts a big bang into our planet, etc., I want to make my moments count. I’ll never be a great politician, nor famous for my work with poor or diseased or spiritually deprived, but I am a writer.  I can’t stop school shootings, nor planes crashing, but I can write. And writing goes beyond the grave.

This writer’s vow is not just to pound out word-counts, but each month to improve my craft so my words can relate smoothly to my readers. This writer’s vow is to maintain contact with and encourage other writers, both on-line and face-to-face. This writer’s vow is to be more observant of people and events around me and to deeply think about them so I can not only help, but someday perhaps write about them.

Live. Observe. Write.

Who Are Your Inklings?

Part of my husband’s Study Leave revolves around two of my favorite authors: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In preparation, he purchased the book, The Inklings of Oxford, text by H.L. Poe and photography by J.R. Veneman. It’s a five-star recommendation from me. The research and words in the book are great, but the photos have prepared my brain for what I will see.

Both Lewis and Tolkien were professors at Oxford for many years. They didn’t particularly like each other at first, but their interest in Norse mythology and then weekly sharing of what they’d written couldn’t help but draw them together through the years. Several others were also part of this group which they dubbed The Inklings.

Three things struck me (this time around) about these intellectual geniuses:

1) It was a men’s group;

2) They were all academics and university connected; and

3) Because they were tenacious with and about their weekly readings of their creative works, they finished their projects and had their manuscripts published.

I’m not a man. I’m not a college professor (although I did teach one college summer course). But I do have a weekly critique group where we share our writings and offer each other suggestions, clarifications, encouragement, and laughter. I’ve been in many critique groups in the past twenty years, some face-to-face in groups or as individual swaps, or sending manuscripts through the postal system, or chapters via email. Critiquers have come and gone, like with the Inklings. Some have held on since nearly the beginning, like with the Inklings. And within my 12-year-pld critique group, we have slowly published our works over time, just like with the Inklings.

The Inklings (and more than just Lewis and Tolkien) are an inspiration to me. I look forward to walking the paths and roads the Inklings strode. I look forward to drinking in the pubs they drank and ate in, and where they read to each other from their latest WIPs, encouraging one another as writers.

Who encourages your writing? Who are your Inklings?