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PARTLY TRUTH AND PARTLY FICTION

DAY 12  If your book is fiction, how could you change it to make it a nonfiction book? If your book is nonfiction, what could you do to turn it into a story?

My primary writing genre is non-fiction. In March 2015 I self-published Adoption: More Than By Chance, stories of adoptions I witnessed over my lengthy career in the field of adoption. As I’ve written in an earlier blog, over the last two years I’ve read twice as many non-fiction books as fiction. I’ve had little interest in reading or writing fiction.

December 8, 2014 was the day I decided to Go Pro. I sat in the car, reading Steve Pressfield’s non-fiction book Turning Pro, which I highly recommend.

                         You will remember this day and the place you were and the feeling you had                                       when you decided to Go Pro.

On that Saturday I woke up remembering a dream. Because I couldn’t shake it, I wrote down the dream in my journal.  A teenage girl was in my counseling office, confused about life. She told me that when she got pregnant, ‘everyone’ insisted she keep her baby, but her truth was that the baby’s father and his family wanted her to get an abortion. Her older brother told her he would disown her if she aborted the baby. “I did the right thing, didn’t I? I kept my baby, and now no one wants to spend time with me.  I don’t have time for school, the baby takes all my time and life is no fun!”

Now as I decided to Go Pro, I realized I have at least one fiction book to write. It will be called: I Did The Right Thing. It will feature this girl. I know she will return and let me tell her story.

My Inner Songs

DAY 9 – Describe how the idea for your book first came to you. Where were you? Who was the first person you told? How did they respond?

I have so many books inside me waiting to emerge – it’s hard to know which one to use for this exercise. Do I tell the beginning of the one book I’ve published so far; Adoption: More Than By Chance? Do I tell the story of the start of my book-in-progress, Helping the Birth Mother You Know? Do I tell about Chickee’s story, the book about my baby girl who died at age 5, the book that is probably the most personal I will ever write? Do I write about the beginning of the novel that started gently nudging me, the day I decided to Go Pro? Do I tell about the small book of poetry that I’m working up as a performance piece, To A Friendship? Or the book of memories about growing up in Harmony, the farming community in west Texas wrapped around the country church Carr’s Chapel?

Where to start? Each book is equally deserving.

Just last month I watched the movie that’s offered for free online, as a tribute to the late Dr Wayne Dyer. In The Shift, he talks about the Afternoon of Life as opposed to the Morning of Life. As the credits run, this theme song plays:

“Don’t Go With Your Song Still Inside You. Let it guide you every day.”

I have so many songs inside; I mustn’t tarry!

SOMEBODY ALREADY DID THIS ASSIGNMENT, AND OUT CAME A MOVIE!

DAY 8 Who is your favorite literary character? With which literary character do you most relate? Which literary character would you most like to invite for tea/coffee? What would you ask him/her? What do you think you could teach him/her?

It’s as if this question might have been put to the screenwriter of Saving Mr. Banks, the 2013 movie starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.I can easily imagine a writer interviewing the tight-assed E L Travers inquiring what led her to write her book Mary Poppins. The beauty of storytelling via movie is the lively flashbacks to the childhood of Ms. Travers (who, by choice of pen name let the world assume the author was a man) and we see the beginnings of her characters, including her choice of pen name, and the arrival of the save-the-day-nanny.

E L Travers as Ginty in Australia, was the favored first child of an Irish banker and his not-well wife who kept having babies until someone had to come to help with the children. That person who arrived held the potential of magic to the children, and we see that she comes with an umbrella that will reappear in Mary Poppins books.

Her childhood in Australia was not all pretty scenery and laughter with father as she bounced on the back of a beautiful horse. It was family tragedy involving booze and death. The trauma that turned her life upside down built the bitchy facade of the iron lady the author became.

When E L Travers finally decides to go from Britain to America to fight with Walt Disney over the treatment of her books, she implored Mr. Disney not to write silly little songs to jazz up her children’s book. You can guess how that turned out!

If you haven’t seen the movie, why not rent it and see if my analysis works!

Unblocking

DAY 7  Do you ever experience writer’s block? What do you recommend to help overcome writer’s block? Any foolproof tricks that always work for you?

I started out this blog challenge with great interest and push. Then at Day 3 (DAY THREE!) I was stuck! I struggled to write; everything was garbled, I had to go back and change each sentence more than once! I couldn’t find my pizzazz. I wanted to quit and hadn’t really started.

I could have decided to ditch the prompts and blog on something I wanted to write about, but that didn’t feel honest to the project. I piddled around until I realized that this was Writer’s Block. Plain old.

I stopped trying, for the moment. After all, it was hours until deadline. I took a break, ignoring the voice that said I should soldier on.  I took a walk. I listened to some music; early Rock and Roll is what puts starch back in my turned-up collar!

When I returned to the computer a few hours later, I sat down and did not return to my struggling blog post immediately. Instead I reread my writer’s journal. I made a few journal entries that were NOT the blog piece for Day 3.

Finally I was ready to take on the stumbling block. I looked at the few paragraphs I’d written, made a few changes, and continued. It worked out pretty well.

So. This was a minor writer’s block, and it didn’t take long to overcome it. When it comes again I will remind myself: YOU CAN’T PUSH THE RIVER. I will take energy from music to get ‘revved up.’ I will rereading my old journals. I CAN write, and I have something of value to say.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PROCESS.

DAY 6 – Take us through your writing process. Do you keep a regular writing schedule? Do you write on your laptop or longhand? Do you have a favorite place to write? Are you most inspired in the morning, afternoon, evening, or middle of the night?

I’m not a rigid schedule kind of person. I write when I need to. Sometimes it’s the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Sometimes I wake up first thing in the morning to record a line that’s burning inside. Most often I am writing from 9:30 to midnight, when the house is still, and relatively quiet.

In my young adulthood, a car accident caused Carpel-Tunnel syndrome and my hands grow numb when they are held in one position like riding a bicycle or writing longhand. My awareness that I had  limitations came about when I bought Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. You may know that her system of developing creativity is dogmatic; you must write three full pages of Morning Notes, in longhand, everyday. I couldn’t do it in longhand – my hand went numb after a half page. I am a Night Owl, not a Morning Glory, so I adapted and wrote my Nyte Notes on the computer. Yes! This also works!

My inner Rebel Child delays my efforts to work on a tight schedule. I get best production value right before something is due. Hence, by the time I’m posting today, WordPress says it’s already tomorrow.

My favorite place to write is my home office, where my computer sits at the ready. I appreciate the portability of a laptop, but I never got used to writing in a coffee shop; that’s where I do most counseling sessions. If I’m going to Skype a session, I’ll do it from my home office.

Eighteen months ago I had a TIA or ‘small stroke.’ This affects my ability to speak (“expressive aphasia,” it’s called). For six weeks I took speech therapy; I was amazed that the problem-solving exercises could pinpoint the locus of changes in my abilities. Previous to my stroke, I could easily do math problems. I kept a bank balance in my head and automatically figured how long it had been since a common event. Now I use a calculator for simple arithmetic problem. My spatial ability was affected; I get lost more easily, so I pre-plan a driving route before I leave. As for my vocal sentence structure, I find nouns are often elusive.

Right after the stroke I realized that I could sit at the computer and type out a story or a response when I wasn’t able to speak it. I published my first book, Adoption: More Than By Chance, in March, 2015. My second book is partially finished, and at least three more books are bubbling around my brain. As to the challenges: computers solve math problems, and GPS keeps me from getting lost.

We live in a great age!

Mentors?

Who are your writing role models? Whose writing has most influenced you? Who are your writing mentors?

As I cast about for “which writers influenced me most,” I think of columnists who were also humorists. My dad idolized Will Rogers. In school, I loved Mark Twain and O. Henry’s short stories.

Instinctively I looked for female writers to gain permission that I might be a writer. As a high school junior I sat up typing on a typewriter a whole scene from Jean Kerr’s “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” to send to my fiancé who was away in college; it was not as funny when I finished typing as it was when I read it. Erma Bombeck wrote columns about an ordinary household, but she did it with extreme wit. I just missed seeing Dave Berry, a humor columnist hero, at last year’s Tucson Festival of Books, because of a scheduling conflict.

As young newlyweds my drafted-into-the-Army husband and I were so broke when he was stationed at Ft Bliss, TX that our only splurge was a monthly drive to the El Paso Public Library, one of those grand old Carnegie Libraries built at the beginning of the 20th Century, gloomy and foreboding. It had an incredible collection of books on metaphysics, mystic religions, and black and white magic. We read books by Madame Blavatsky, George Gurdjieff and Alistair Crowley, as well as The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda.

Years later, I studied to be a therapist. It was the time of Esalen Institute and the emergence of New Age writers. I was influenced by Fritz Perls, (Gestalt Therapy), and Eric Berne, (Transactional Analysis). T.A. for Tots gave us ‘warm fuzzies’ and ‘cold pricklies’ that helped children (and grownups) describe their feelings.

I am currently reading I Can See Clearly Now, a memoir by the late Dr. Wayne Dyer. He believed he was destined to become the successful writer that he was. He has a bombastic, ego-driven way of expressing himself, while declaiming the ego.

The best books by far that I’ve read on becoming a writer are by Steven Pressfield: The War of Art and Turning Pro. He says, “What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We become who we always were but had until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.” He also said, “You will remember this moment, the moment when you decided to Go Pro.”

I’m ready!