Sunday, September 25, 2011

Genre: Why Do You Read It? Why Do You Write It?

I was forced to watch Star Trek growing up--my brother loved it and often had control of the remote before there was one. I enjoyed all the Star Trek movies growing up, but my real love is historical romantic fiction.

                                [imagine Spock & James T. Kirk pic here]
                                (pic not posted due to copyright: live long and prosper)                                                        

So, why did I gravitate to read and write historical romantic fiction instead of sci-fi or fantasy?

I think it started in second grade when Mrs. Andrews read Little House on the Prairie to us. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. I had a sunbonnet and a centennial style cap just like Laura. I mean who didn't want to be "half-pint"?  I even sneaked the cap for my school picture after I'd seen people wearing them in the 1976 centennial parade that year. Though I haven't done that since then, I think fiction writers have a penchant to dress up like the characters they love.  Sigh.....

Was I nuts then? (or nuts now for posting this pic?!) or did I just resonate with something deeper?

There is something about history that grounds a person and ties you to your roots. I think its a basic human need to be and feel connected. At age thirteen I helped my mother search our family history and sat captivated by the old style script of the census records we viewed on microfilm. My curiosity grew intense. Who were these people, what lives did they live? What made them move or live where they did?

I learned the best way to search a family member's history is to follow them decade by decade through the census. Soon, a picture of their lives appeared on paper and I began to wonder more about them--and not just wonder, but imagine what might motivate their choices.  Choices to move, to marry, to work, to be educated. Then, if you put that individual's life in the context of the historical setting of the times they lived in, you get a sense for the culture they lived in.

This is an 1880 Wisconsin census page. I used this to research for my first book, Elizabeth's Key (still unpubbed). The census is great for getting good name ideas, or plot ideas.

The family listed first in this 1880 census is a couple aged 57 and 52 and a 22 year old adopted daughter and a 13 year old "chore boy". The head of house is from New York, his wife is from Massachusetts, and the adopted daughter and the chore boy are from Canada. They live next to the Lars family from Norway.

So, don't you want to know their stories? How did they adopt the woman from Canada? Is the "chore boy" an indentured servant? Could they even communicate with their neighbors, or was there a big language barrier? How would they forge a friendship with neighbors they couldn't speak with?

When have you looked at a historical document and imagined a story about the person?

What makes you love the genre you read or write?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ah Rejection, How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways....

Yep, I just got my first official proposal rejection. Sigh.

Strange, I thought I'd feel more dejected. But part of me felt like I'd just joined the ranks of the most esteemed authors who've been rejected before they finally landed an agent and published that long dreamed about first book. Like a right of passage into a club or something.

OR, I'm just delusional, and writing fiction will only ever be a fun hobby with great friends, fun conferences, and a wonderful network of other servants of God. That's not so bad either, right?

So, what's lost? Only my pride. Richard Rohr says we should pray for at least one humiliation a day--not to destroy our self esteem and render us incapacitated servants, but to keep us from prideful self destruction. I figure my first rejection should count for a whole weeks worth of pride-ectomy don't you?

So now what? I did take the liberty to ask the editor for some feedback--not an in depth critique mind you. But more like this:

Dear Mr. Editor, 
Did you reject my proposal because it was:
--written by obviously inexperience writer who needs lots of craft work, vs. this idea stinks, wouldn't sell.
--I loved your premise, I'm too busy to take it on, but you should shop it around.
--I loved your premise, but you really need to pay a professional editor to fix it first.
--it stinks, would never sell, its been done before, vs. needs plot restructure--keep polishing.
--great idea, but shop for an agent, and look to a different publishing house.
--shelve it and never look back, then take a class--writing 101-- before you start book 2.
--keep your day job, and pray for those who can.

So, what have you done when you've received a rejection?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Brain Fried

My dearest Crit Partner has posted her status as "brain dead" last week on her blog. I'm right up there with "brain fried".  I'm attending a weeklong medical conference this week. I was contemplating posting a challenging blog this week, but I'm afraid if I tried, I might start talking about hypertension, diabetes, and ADHD. So, unless inspiration and the need to escape the medical mindset hits me, I'll be lurking on FB and the blogs I follow.

As I sat listening to the keynote speaker, Irish tenor, Ronan Tynan, I was inspired to think of God as both the Great Physician and the Great Author. Ronan Tynan, a bilateral below knee amputee due to childhood disabilities, went on to become a Special Olympics gold metalist, joined the Royal Opera, and then to medical school when his voice gave out. He moved our audience of family physicians and health care providers to tears of laughter, then of sentiment as he told how he cared for his parents in the last days of their lives. Then he once again returned to singing when he joined the Irish Tenors.

He has worn each of his career "hats" with honor and amazing determination.

Who could have written such an inspiring story, or told it so well?

I am both health care provider, and author.

God is both the great healer and author. Its not that as the author I get to control my characters as much as it is that I get to show how they become transformed. It's truly transformation I desire in my patients and in my characters--that whatever holds them from experiencing physical, emotional, spiritual health, could be understood and overcome. As the Great Author, I don't believe God wants to control our destiny or our story any more than He wants to just walk this journey with us. As author, I see Him as allowing me to experience only that which can transform me into a more whole person.

Stories are inspiring. I pray only to be inspiring, no matter what "hat" I'm wearing.

Perhaps true inspiration is showing, not the telling?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Can't go to ACFW St. Louis?--Plan a Writer's Weekend!

Can't afford to go to a big writer's conference? 

Mourning the fact that your schedule just can't include the national ACFW conference in St. Louis this year?

So, make a smaller budget, and change the schedule and the company to something that fits! That's what my crit partner, Jaime Wright, and I just did. I booked tickets on Amtrak to her house for a Friday morning, and we'll have Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. Now, instead of crying in our coffee while everyone else is feverishly preparing one-sheets, we are so psyched and pumped for our little get away. And we've agreed to split the cost so it will work for us.

So, now I'm wondering:  How does one prep for a writers weekend with your CP?

Pray--always pray.

Shop for coffee to take along. Find out what Jaime's favorite flavor is. :o)

Be flexible.
I'm praying my train connections go without delays. I'm hoping to see a spontaneous song and dance in Chicago's Union Station during my layover!  I'll be sure to video it and post it to FB if it happens--unless of coarse--I'm dancing too!

What do I want the most out of the weekend?
The best thing about getting together is that magic that happens when we brainstorm together and feed off each other's ideas--pushing each of our stories to a much deeper level. That creative process grounds my story idea and fleshes out the unknowns of my characters. It forces me to answer the best question about my hero and heroine--"why?"  When you have to explain what motivates your character before you truly know all the fine details, its surprising what you find out about your story.

Creative minds think differently.
As in any relationship, we all bring our strengths and weaknesses. My CP balances me. Where I am too structured and so much of a plotter that I've shut down my creative process--she is a pantser, just bubbling with ideas that push me when I'm stuck. When she's pantsing her plot's pants off, I'm asking her why and what motivates her characters and their choices.

Instead of One-Pages and Pitches----
I'll be preparing plot outlines, and character sheets to discuss with my CP. I'll have a list of questions about my story. And I'll also be prepared to listen to my CP's questions, hopes, and dreams.

Still bummed you're not going to ACFW in St.Louis?

Well, how can you use your time while you're thinking--but Lord, it will be a whole-nother year until I'll have a chance to meet agents!?

If you're agent shopping, I suggest you visit the ACFW website, click on the agents page and study who will be there. Write down what type of works they are seeking, what genre? what age group--YA, vs. adult fiction? Know what they are NOT accepting. After the conference is over the agent page will go down, so study it while you can!

If you went to a previous ACFW conference, SAVE your booklet, it highlights the agents and editors who were at the conference. While I'm praying about an agent this year, I've referred back to those agent profiles while I research on them. Plus, I wrote "notes to self" while at conference, and those are good to review.

While I'm waiting for the Lord's leading to the right agent, I'm visiting the websites of agents. I'm also interviewing authors. Most authors are happy to say a few words of wisdom about how they landed their agents and what their working relationship is like. So, when I read a book I love, I check the acknowledgements for their agent's name.

So, until Dallas 2012, I'll have a lot of time to interview authors and gather wisdom....Sigh....

What will you be doing at home this year if you're missing ACFW?

Share your writer's weekend goals and stories.