Though we writers don’t inhabit the same buildings, or even necessarily the same continents, we do live in communities of other writers, sharing the experiences of our craft and supporting each other on the journey toward building a readership. I’ve long admired the work of Sandra Danby, whose eponymous blog can be found by clicking here: http://sandradanby.com . She kindly nominated me to be part of the weekly Writing Process Blog Meme. Sandra posted her article, How I Write, on April 7, 2014.
Sandra shared her unique approach in that post and also nominated two other writers whose work she chose to feature. Those other writers are also posting their articles today. We will all answer four pertinent questions about writing.
Before I begin, I want to thank Sandra Danby for this opportunity to be part of this writing community, sharing my strategies and inspirations about writing. Sandra divides her life between England and Spain, and maintains a writing blog (see above) as well as a blog, http://notesonaspanishvalley.com about the lovely property she and her husband live on in Andalucia. I always look forward to her photography, recipes, book reviews, and writing posts. Please tell her that she is a poet – she doesn’t believe me.
I’d also like to mention J-Bo at http://j-bo.net who asked me to consider the same request to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour about 5 hours after I’d accepted Sandra Danby’s nomination. Julia Boriss is drop dead funny funny funny, also witty, smart, and very beautiful. You will love her blog and if you don’t, something may be wrong with you. Or perhaps you are very rigid. Ask her – she’ll tell you.
These three wonderful people are the bloggers I’ve nominated for participation in next week’s Writing Process Blog Tour. All of them have inspired me and encouraged me. Their blogs are delightful – fun and informative to read. Please tune in to read their entries on April 21, or don’t even wait that long – just go see what they’re up to right now.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.
I’m Audrey, the Oldest Daughter and the Redheaded Sister. I cherish my family and friends and the stories we share.
I’ve decided that it’s time to try. To try and write and to see if there is someone out there who can relate to anything that goes on in my head.
I graduated college with a degree I didn’t fully want or understand. I can’t explain my true goal for this blog. I’m not obsessed with food, travel or photos. I’m obsessed with writing from a place of truth.
I lean towards writing a book where we can laugh at my mistakes, figure out how to learn from what I tried and then have y’all listen while I teach what I’ve survived.
I’ve found the courage to write a blog. Some would say I’m way late on this decision and that I’ve missed out on so many opportunities.
I believe in my own time I can find my destiny which has already been chosen by God. He’s been patiently waiting for a long time. He speaks through me in my writing, my conversations and my relationships. I have ignored Him for years. I’ve already tried telling Him that I need more time. Even:
I’m not ready.
I don’t have what it takes.
Possibly, that He chose the wrong girl.
Boy was I wrong.
After 25 years of dreaming, I have decided I am the writer He created me to be.
I have a story to tell.
He is God.
I am His child.
Together we will write.
Ilene writes for fun and profit, although not always in that order. She spends her days playing ringmaster to a novel, an assortment of short stories, and a bevy of freelance assignments. In 2012, her short story “Thicker Than Blood” placed fifth in Writer’s Digest’s Annual Short Story Competition. Ilene currently lives in northern Illinois with her favorite canine literary critic. You can find her online at her website (http://www.ilenegoldman.com) and on Twitter (@ilenegold).
The Four Questions: I find it rather telling that there are four questions to answer regarding this nomination. Tonight is the first night of Passover where answering four essential questions is the heart of the evening’s celebration for Jewish participants. At the end of the holiday, one is supposed to have searched one’s soul for the essence of our imprint on the world, hopefully finding it worthy, and to see if we have crossed from whatever negative attitude or habit enslaves us to freedom, just as Moses guided the Jews across the Sea of Reeds from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the wilderness and eventually to the Promised Land. Thus the holiday is loaded with symbolism from the food (no leavened bread but lots of very special, yummy treats) to the way we sit at table (leaning on pillows as free men do) to the promise to live as the Wise Child whose humble, spiritual, and generous behavior merits the status of the sages and the blessing of God.
Today, however, I will answer the four questions posed to me:
- What am I working on at the moment?
I’ve written three books, all of them complete but all needing some revision before I cast them out to catch the attention of an agent. The first is called The Inlaid Table, and is an historical novel about two women, one who finds something worth dying for, the other a reason to live. The book follows several families across two continents, all of the members caught in the savagery of the Holocaust, everyone seeking purpose and struggling to establish identity.I started this book about 12 years ago. It was born of an idea that had been chattering in my head for years until I finally yanked it into a workable book. In 2012 I entered The Inlaid Table to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, where it worked its way from one of 5000 entries to one of 250 considered for the General Fiction Quarterfinalists. It didn’t make it to the next levels but I am still proud of this baby and intend to pursue publication.
The Tree House Mother is an entirely different story though it is also founded on an historical event – a devastating fire that ripped through Orange County, California in the late 1960’s. A young girl watches her father build a wonderful tree house only to have it usurped by her mother. Andie, the girl, becomes a teenager and eventually a woman, a typical journey for an American kid, except that her mother lives in a tree house. The book shows how that peculiar circumstance of maternal abandonment and intimacy fractures Andie until she finally falls from her own symbolic tree on the path to wholeness. I began The Tree House Mother before I completed The Inlaid Table, a typical pattern for me. One book in the chute, another ready to slide down, a habit based on advice from award winning author, Kim Stanley Robinson.
My most recent book is Where Did Mama Go? which explores the options a family faces as they try to deal with their mother’s advancing Alzheimer’s disease. The six members must find a residence where Mama, whose antics are more and more unpredictable and dangerous, will be taken care of. But they don’t want her warehoused – they want her to be treated with dignity. This is a mother and grandmother who is loved. As they learn about life in the locked facility of Jade Waters, they also learn how far their own sense of humanity can be stretched. Taking place over 24 hours, Where Did Mama Go? contemplates issues of aging, illness, change, family, and compassion. As the world population increasingly falls ill with Alzheimer’s, it is a story in which many people will see their reflection.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
None of my books are quite like anything else on the shelves, even the Holocaust story. I do a tremendous amount of research – reading, interviewing, poring over photographs and maps for details of the time periods I write about. Perhaps even more is that I am able to draw from personal experience for all my stories, though not always directly. Nothing that I write is biography or memoir, but everything is imbued with the essence and authenticity of my experiences. My stories sound genuine because they are culled from events in my life. I’m able to feel what someone 100 years ago felt because I’ve lived through something that made me feel that way. Maybe not a fire, maybe not a Holocaust, but a personal devastation that left me shredded, and I take that rawness and put it into my stories. People have said how “sorry they are that I lived through that” when I didn’t. My stories are also funny where one might expect to find no humor whatsoever. That’s probably born of the little kid decades ago whose sadness became hysterical laughter until that devolved into tears.
3. Why do I write what I do?
These are stories I have to share. They all speak of acknowledgment, forgiveness, and redemption, and I believe those are three qualities we must each embrace if we are to become fully human, loving people. Years ago my husband gave me a necklace with the Hebrew word chesed crafted in silver and turquoise; it means loving kindness. I want readers to see that there is a way to make things better but it takes action, and I want them to see that it is worthwhile to do so. Nothing worth doing is easy but it’s all worth doing. My stories provide insight into the process of self-examination and resolution of problems.
4. How does my writing process work?
I write. And write and write and think and rehash and read my work out loud and take it to my critique group and put it away for a while and start a new story. I go back and review, revise, rewrite, reconstruct, reconsider, and repair all the errors, the hanging chads as I call them. I love the process of writing, researching, rewriting, and reviewing. It is not a quick process. Even short articles demand hours of my time because I have no tolerance for what I consider inadequate work. Novels take years, not one minute that I resent, but still, years go by, and my work is not done.
I enjoy helping others and believe I’ve helped other writers improve their stories through the critique process. What I don’t like, quite frankly, is querying agents. It’s a tedious undertaking, often with no result. I feel defeated before I begin because it seems there is an inside track that I am not allowed to board. I’m waiting for someone to prove me wrong. Readers respond to my writing and I know there is a market for it. So, back to work for me – more to write.