Tag Archive for stories

When did I know I was an author?

by Sharon Anderson

I think I probably always had stories coming out of me. As a kid, I would gather up the neighborhood gang on the front lawn and tell them ghost stories – sometimes in costume. I’m not certain how I could have done anything else, really. But the kicker for me is looking back and seeing those moments in my life where I didn’t trust myself. Time where I thought there was no possible way I could ever make a living at telling stories – that was a dream that would never come true. There were times – don’t laugh too loudly – where I thought that if I were meant to be an author, then I would put perfect words on the page and never have to edit them. I sorely misunderstood the process…

I came from a family of story tellers. My dad had all sorts of stories with which he would regale us over dinner, my mother, too, had her fair share of tales from work. I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents and those two – Esther and WP – were full of stories. Each visit brought out another hilarious and poignant adventure I hadn’t heard before, from scraping through university during the Depression to my grandmother hearing a whistling sound emit from her dead brother in the parlor, those stories are so rich with texture and identity, I think they play a big part in who I am today. My paternal grandmother was quite a story teller as well, and I’m glad I knew her when she had calmed down a bit. She was a child evangelist and my dad used to say that when she took the pulpit, the parents would send their kids to children’s church – but when his dad preached, everyone would gather around to soak it up. I never knew William McDonald, my dad’s dad, but I would have loved to meet him. In fact, I heard so many stories about his life, I wrote a children’s play, God is in the House, that was performed in church a few years back.

Stories are important. Even if they are bad stories.

Michel de Montaigne asked himself every morning, What do I know? Of course, he asked it in French, because, you know, he was French… The point is, I am beginning to ask myself the same question. What do I know? And to take it a little further – what can I learn? These last few years in my career as an aspiring author, I have won a prize for a dark fantasy piece, signed on with a publisher, put out a book, started a blog, supported countless fellow authors in marketing campaigns, published a non-fiction piece in a parenting magazine, sent a second book to an editor, survived the death of my publisher – and do you know what? Dreams do come true.

Author’s Bio:   Sharon Anderson is the author of the paranormal romantic comedy, Curse of the Seven 70s, and the award winning short story, Stone God’s Wife. She lives in Skagit Sharon Avatar 2Valley with her amazing husband, two brilliant children, a sweetheart of a dog, two cats, a small grouping of fish, and a sketchy guinea pig. Sharon is just about ready to release her second paranormal romantic comedy, Sweet Life of Dead Duane. You can find out more about Sharon on her website http://www.SharonAndersonAuthor.com follow her on Twitter @SharonEAnderson and make friends with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SharonAndersonAuthor

In praise of editors

My first creative non-fiction article tortured me during the middle drafts, as though I was in a river too frothy to comprehend from the seat low in my canoe. I was always scraping into one rock or another. I like a bit of whitewater as much as the next paddler, but my desire in taking up serious writing, the desire to bring readers something rewarding, was in danger of being swamped by struggle and overwork. If I didn’t change something, I might quit.

A few years ago, I didn’t think of myself as a creative writer, nor a storyteller, for that matter. I was an amateur essayist, which I thought was a whole different animal. Yet I knew the power of story and wanted to harness that power in my writing. I thought it would be easy enough to write out two stories of real events, stories that friends had said were good ones.

When I wrote them out, yes, they were good stories, but I was tripping over myself in various ways. And, to me, they had to have a point, which always seemed clearer in my head than when it arrived on the page. And my really big bugaboo was finding an order, a structure, that would engage the reader fully. While my friends may be sincerely fascinated by an animated account over a pitcher of beer, a different thing altogether was telling my story to strangers, clearly not a captive audience. Especially because with the words committed to the page, and my readers at some remove, I can’t see reactions on their faces and adjust what I say accordingly. Doesn’t the chief problem always come down to how to show readers that our stories are going somewhere that they’ll enjoy following us to?

I was going to need help. Help beyond taking a creative writing class here and there. Those were good, and encouraging, as I began to see the science—the methods—in the writing arts. Though I was also skeptical—I didn’t want to tart up a true story, or let filigree weigh it down. And the big question, which structure to use when, baffled me. I needed a river guide to avoid the brushy “sweeper” trees lying across my stream, not to mention the dreaded drop holes.

Then one day, my mother offered to pay me to sell the cemetery plots she’d inherited and didn’t want. My writing fund was born.

So, starting with the first piece that I wanted to see published, and after struggling awhile, I sought out a developmental review from an experienced editor. To me, an editor is a professional reader who has a bead on other readers’ needs, wants, reactions. And knows what to do about these things. With help, the obstacles could be navigated, the chosen eddies could be playful asides, or crucial explication, and I could smoothly return to the main channel with my readers still with me. With each draft I could get much closer to an intimate conversation with my readers that I hoped for.

I found very fine and insightful editors right here in our local writing community. I needn’t have worried about decorative flourishes, because my editors haven’t pushed me in that direction. They have pushed me to work hard, but have guided that work insightfully. I suspect I will always have some blindness about structure. Now I don’t let that bother me. It’s great to get comments back and feel, Yes! That’s right, that’s what I’m trying to say. Editors, thank you!

Author Bio:

Jean Waight sqJean Waight is an essayist and memoirist who formerly worked in communications for Group Health Cooperative. Her first person account of the twists and turns in a snow rescue, “Through the Floor,” appeared in Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim, winter 2015. The Bellingham Herald published her beach clean-up essay. Her blog of life among the trees in Bellingham, full of shady opinions, is at greenteasympathy.blogspot.com.

Thanks!

When I signed up to write this blog post several months ago, it was at the Red Wheelbarrow Writer’s happy hour and—as I’d been indulging in happiness for well over an hour—I was, um… easily manipulated. And writing a blog post for a bunch of writers at some random future date seemed like a great idea. No problem.

As the deadline neared, however, the idea shriveled: what could I possibly contribute that could be of value to such an amazing group of writers, most of whom have been at this far longer than myself? I tried denying that I would have to do it: the project would be abandoned, no one would notice if I let it slip, the Internet might break, etc. Of course, Diane called me right on cue. Sigh.

But then it occurred to me that everyone likes gratitude, especially when it’s genuine and directed at them, and that would be my honest experience of the Red Wheelbarrow Writers – a great giant heaping serving of gratitude. I am perhaps on mile twenty of my novel-writing marathon, and I have high hopes of reaching the finish line entirely because of this great community. So here’s my thanks to you all:

Thanks for the start.

On October 31, 2011, Cami Ostman texted and challenged me to a Nanowrimo duel—odd, as we didn’t know each other well at the time, and I had never expressed any desire to write a novel. She must have had an intuition that I had a story lurking, or maybe that I am madly competitive, because I picked up the glove. Mostly from a desire to beat her daily word count, I began writing the first story that came into my head, and was surprised by the end of the first week to find a whole crowd of characters had woken up in my mind and were clamoring for freedom. I haven’t had much peace since.

Thanks for the community

As a professional creative, I’ve participated in any number of conferences and activities with other folks similarly inclined, and have always rolled my eyes at what can quickly devolve into—for lack of better words—a big ol’ pecker contest: who has been published, who is connected to which publisher or producer, who won the award, who is sleeping with the drummer. Ick. I prefer solitude. When I reluctantly joined in with my first RWW meeting, what I found in you all was instead a marvelous group of people, all in different parts of their writing journeys, but all wonderfully supportive of one another’s successes and challenges. Each time one of you has garnered an award or new contract, or even just finished the first draft of a difficult project, others in the group are genuinely thrilled as if it were their own success. What a delight to be welcomed into such a group.

Thanks for the stretch.

Just like a really good yoga stretch is often done with a little help from the teacher, and usually hurts, (but not too much) you all have helped me stretch, even when it might not have been comfortable. You’ve been brave enough to tell me I used the same phrase four times in one page, that my characters needed more fleshing out or that (thanks Laura) a whole four pages are a waste of narrative space. Critiquing another’s work honestly is a brave and generous act, and I so appreciate those of you who have been willing to make it hurt a little!

Thanks for the laughs

The group Nanowrimo novels. Enough said.

Thanks for the stories

When I head to Uisce on a Saturday, I no longer see a group of strangers, but feel as if I am entering a big top tent teeming with wild and colorful stories. Because of you all, I have experienced the Alaskan wilderness, the thrill of blue water sailing, the joy of running, and the delicate insights uncovered in a garden. I have bird-watched on remote islands, been a civil war soldier, an African diplomat, a displaced gringa, and a woman obsessed with Elvis. I will never again cook a king salmon without a profound understanding of its arrival on my plate. Thanks for becoming my friends.

 

AGabrielPhotobigAuthor Bio:

Andrea Gabriel has written and/or illustrated a number of picture books for children, and is currently lurching toward the finish of her first novel. She makes a living creating pictures and websites.

Teller of Tales, Lover of Life

Ask me what I am, and I’ll tell you I am a storyteller. That hasn’t changed over the years.

When I was just a child, my mother had to wait patiently for an answer to what she believed a simple question.

“Why did the principal of the kindergarten call saying you were very persuasive?”

A big word for a four year old, but I simply told her that, “When my teacher asked me to invite the other class to join us for a snack, I mimicked their birds voices, showed her the pink flower petals, and the picnic table. By the time I had finished, the entire school was outside. I guess the teachers thought it was a good idea too.”

At fifteen, when my older sister and I went out for a drive in Miami Beach, our new home, we arrived home past midnight. My sister sent me in with my version of the night. My mom listened with experienced skills, trusting my view. I explained that arriving late wasn’t accurate. We had made good time considering how my sister had driven up the exit ramp on the freeway in the wrong direction, and I had to slip below the seat to push on the pedal as my sister went into reverse, backing off the ramp. You see she was so upset that her leg was shaking and couldn’t find the pedal. And then when we turned right off Collins Avenue—the parking lot was the beach and the tires to our car got stuck. “Good thing Harriet called the tow truck, and had me explain to him that we had no money to pay.” My story kept us from being punished that night and has reminded me that the true story is in the “spin.”

For a time I made my living crunching numbers, a bookkeeper for forty companies. I read between the lines of numbers to discover fraud, rainy day sales, sloppy methods of ordering, waste of materials, and discontent. Patterns spoke to me with stories behind figures, truth that exposed characters, settings, and plots. Honest owners took my advice as I was their editor, their conscience. Dishonest owners fired me.

Each morning begins the same. I wake early and make my latte, prepare to work. I write quick notes to my husband who remains asleep. First thoughts jotted down before the critic’s analysis. A flittering feeling attached to words, future lines in a poem, chapter, or discussion. Non-sense, with heart and brain synced with the aromas of a new day.

My mother passed away last year. To her I was the “little bird.” How fitting that a hummingbird feeder hangs in front of my kitchen sink. Each rapid flutter of their wings reminds of stories not yet experienced or told. Love never ends and neither do stories. The more I see, the more people I meet, the more places I go, I still begin the same. I spin facts to gain perspective, to share stories.

Join me here: If you’d like to see my morning notes please visit my website and subscribe to Abbe’s Notes.

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Author Bio:  Abbe Rolnick grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. Her first major cultural jolt occurred at age 15 when her family moved to Miami Beach, Florida. In order to find perspective, she climbed the only non-palm tree at her condo-complex and wrote what she observed. Here history came alive with her exposure to the Cuban culture. This introduction to the Latino Culture proved fortuitous. At Boston University she met her first husband, a native of Puerto Rico. Her first novel, RIVER OF ANGELS, stems from her experiences during her stay in Puerto Rico.

Stateside, she capitalized on the knowledge she gained as an independent bookstore owner and worked for one of the finest bookstores, Village Books, in Bellingham, WA. More recently she opened a healthy foods cafe.

COLOR OF LIES, her second novel, brings the reader to the Pacific Northwest where she presently resides. Here she blends stories from island life with characters in Skagit Valley.

Her short stories and travel pieces have appeared in magazines. Swinging Doors won honorary mention by Writer’s Digest. Her next novel, FOUNDING STONES, will be the third in the series, continuing the stories of characters from the two previous novels, introducing new themes that connect Skagit Valley to the larger world.  

Her recent experiences with her husband’s cancer inspired, COCOON OF CANCER: AN INVITATION TO LOVE DEEPLY. Presently she resides with her husband on twenty acres in Skagit Valley, Washington.

Tell a Story or Two

by Laura Williams

The Three Little Bears, The Bernstein Bears, and Dr. Seuss were the formative books at four years old. In fact, many of these books have teeth marks in them where I chewed the covers. I’d like to think this occurred because the books were so wonderful I wanted to literally devour them. Unfortunately, I fear it was just because I wanted to chew on something. Nonetheless, my hunger for the written word grew steadily as I got older. That hunger for reading slowly gave way to the hunger to write and tell my own stories.

Though sometimes the reading and the writing comes in waves where I read and write all the time to other moments where I forget entirely I should do either, both are very much a part of me. But the question is why? Why do I itch when I haven’t read for a while or written anything creative? My guess is because of the stories. We crave the exciting, the tantalizing, the adventuring, the romancing, and sometimes even the mundane. When we talk with people, we want to know the stories of their lives. When we get together with people we haven’t seen in a while, we catch up by telling stories. Stories punctuate our relationships. As a reader, I love reading new stories. But I want one that captures my imagination and teaches me new things about the world. As a writer, I want to learn the stories around me. I want to peek in to people’s lives and see what makes them operate the way they do. To put it another way, the curiosity may have killed the cat, but the curiosity fuels the writer.

To be curious, means you’re aware of the world and you ask questions. My grandmother, who passed away recently, was someone who asked questions. Not in a gossipy kind of way but in a genuine, care for people kind of way. She was a woman of 99 years on this planet and was full of stories. She always told me I came by the writing game honestly. When she was ten, she won an award for the best essay in class. She liked to try new things and get to know people. She learned their stories and she was interested in those stories. It’s a legacy I wish to continue.

We often choose to escape our world and our stories for those of others. I get that; sometimes our own stories are really hard to live through. But it’s those stories that make us better writers, make us better consumers of the written word. We walk in a lens that is uniquely our own, that no one else has. It’s time we shared that. It may be subtle, it may be quiet but getting thoughts on the page is what fuels this society. It’s what gave us some of my favorite books: To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, and The Night Circus. All have a unique perspective on the world and only those authors could have told it the way they did.

We walk daily with stories. They may be stories of our lives or they may be out this world. But they need to be shared. I guarantee that once outside of our brains and down on paper, they will make an impact. Maybe that’s what fuels my fire to write. I want to make an impact. Some people use medicine, some sports, I choose the written word and for all of you who hear that same written music, I hope you’re choose stories to make a difference in this world.
LauelLaura Williams is a reading, writing, theatre-ing nerd who loves to find a good book and hide from the world but who also loves to express herself by portraying many different characters on stage. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she has done her fair share of traveling around the world to experience many different cities and cultures but she is proud to call the PNW home. She blogs about books and movies and loves a good story. Her favorite kind to write are fantasy pieces.