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31 July 2009

Random Friday Musing

Writing is for me like breathing. If I don't have access to pen and paper, I feel naked, exposed for the all the world to encroach upon my personal space and demand that I succumb to it's siren call of distraction, noise, chaos and over stimulation. As long as I can lose myself in a notebook or at the screen of my laptop, I feel I have, in a small way, conquered the growing madness of the modern world. I have no desire to hurry and rush and work my life away. Hard work is good; it's good for the soul as well as the body. But to throw ourselves away in mindless pursuits day after day without rest, without respite? It seems foolish to me.

I dream of a day when my work hours are filled with words and worlds, of my own creation, of inspiration. A day when I can breathe fresh air whenever I need to and not watch the clouds scuttle over a lazy summer sky from the sterile environment of an office. Until then, I'll keep writing, keep plodding away, eeking out time between answering phone calls. It's not much time, but it's my time. It's the time I've been given to pursue my dreams and I am determined to make the best of them.

Happy Friday everyone!

Enjoy your weekend,
Jen

30 July 2009

Words from the Wise: Reflecting the time in which we live

"All artists reflect the time in which they live." ~Madeleine L'Engle
What true words. It matters not what genre we write in. Nor does it matter what time line our stories fall in. Historical fiction, medieval romance, other-world fantasy, we write into our imaginary worlds truth and reality.
I heard it once said that writer's express their views of life in their writing. We may not mean to input our own beliefs, our own outbursts of cries for justice or peace, but they are there. They may be hard to find, but they're there. Every writer adds a little bit of himself, a little bit of his world to whatever he is crafting.
And that's a magical thing! We can pick up a book from decades ago, centuries ago, and through that tale, we can get a taste of what life was like for the author. We read "The Lord of the Rings" and know that Tolkien was existing in a world torn apart by war and uncertainty. We read Jane Austen and see a simpler time when class and society and family were what was at the forefront of everyone's mind.
What will people see in our writing? In the years to come, when we are long gone, someone is going to pick our books off the shelf. They are going to turn the covers between their hands. They are going to spend their hard earned money on them and settle down for a good read. I hope I give them a good read. But I also hope I can give them little doses of truth through the fiction. I hope the story they read not only satisfies their immediate need for escape, but also a deeper longing for truth.
Happy writing!
~Jen
(Sorry about the formatting. Blogger doesn't seem to want to space between my paragraphs today.)

28 July 2009

Words from the Wise

Being the on going series of personal reflections on the words of wisdom from great writers.

Hello, dear readers! Sorry I haven't commented in a while. I went out of town for the weekend and I must say, Savannah is just as lovely as I left her. For more on that, check my other blog, The Gypsy Scribe, later on today for a post on the trip.

The quote I have chosen for today leans toward the "deep" and "hard" places we writers (and all artists) must, at one time or another, venture. I'd love to hear your feedback on this one.

"There is no subject that is not appropriate for the artist, but the way in which it is handled can sometimes be totally inappropriate. True art has a mythic quality in that it speaks of that which was true, is true, and will be true."

I had to ask myself what this means, at least in regards to my own writing. We as writers have a huge responsibility in that our words, our stories, reach a varied group of people. Everyone who will ever read our work brings to it unique experiences which color what they read in a certain light. One reader's take on a sensitive issue can be totally opposite from another's.

I have been told I'm rather open minded, a trait that I am thankful to possess. That's not to say that I agree with or condone everything. Being open minded is not being stupid enough to jump on every band wagon that parades by. It's being sensitive to the fact that the world is made up of millions of different people. With those people come millions of different views.

There are situations which, quite frankly, I'm not at all comfortable writing. There are other things which would bother my writing friends that I do not mind tackling. It's all in the personality of the artist. We must be sensitive enough to our own make-up to know which issues we are best equipped to handle. I don't think we should try at all to tackle a delicate issue unless we are comfortable with it and/or we have been through it our selves.

That being said, in other writings, Mrs. L'Engle has referred to a nude painting as an example of appropriate and inappropriate art. I've seen beautiful paintings of a nude, fully expressive of the glory of the creation of man. However, I've seen other paintings that bordered on pornography. What can take the same subject and turn it into two totally different things? The perspective of the artist.

It has often been said that perspective is everything. It is most important that we know how we view a situation before we put it out there for all the world to see. I'm not saying we should change our perspective for others. Not at all. A story comes to us as it comes. Our internal filters are there to help us sift through the silt in order to make the water as pure as possible.

Mrs. L'Engle urges the writer, as artists, to make sure our internal filters are cleansed before we begin sifting through that story. No issue to topic should be off limits to an artist, especially a Christian artist. We, above all else, are required to communicate truth.

Something to think about...

~Jen

23 July 2009

Words from the Wise

Being the on going series of personal reflections on the words of wisdom from great writers.

Today's quote really struck a chord with me. We all write to be read. We all, in some degree, write to be noticed. How many of us write with the future in mind? A future beyond our own few years on this earth?

"Great art transcends its culture and touches on that which is eternal."
~Madeleine L'Engle

This is true not only for books but also paintings, sculptures, architecture. I remember the first time I saw a van Gogh. It was a special exhibit of "Cafe at Night". My husband bought me tickets to the museum for Christmas and we arrived along with a throng of people. I breathed in silent prayer: "Lord please let me be able to get close to it, even if only for a few seconds." We wandered through the sketches, all masterpieces in their own rights. When I arrived at the main event, I was stunned. So many people were crowded around I could barely see the gilded frame. However, something magical happened. Just as I was beginning to panic, the crowd parted as if Moses himself was standing behind me, rod outstretched. In a daze, I walked to the front of the room and stood against the red velvet ropes. There, obscured, was a work by a true master. His hands had painted it, his heart had conceived it. And for fifteen glorious seconds, I was allowed a glimpse at the eternal truth behind it.

What was that eternal truth? Honestly, I can't tell you. Works of art are like that sometimes. The message isn't as clear as we'd like it to be. But they resonate with us deep without our spirits, calling to us to drink from the fountain that gives eternal life. Eternal in the physical sense? Not on this earth. Our works, however, will live on. Long after we're gone. What message will we leave for those to come? Hopefully, words that will resonate with the soul of another. Words that will spark change, even revolution. For a writer to write without a message is unheard of. Sometimes we aren't sure of our message. But it's there. Waiting to be read. Waiting for eternity.

Happy Writing,
Jen

21 July 2009

Words from the Wise

Query Status: First draft completed. I'll be sending it to the executioner this afternoon *cue death scene from Braveheart*

Research Status: I've gone through the entire Writer's Market listings of agents and publishers. I had no idea there were so many people out there who disliked fantasy!
My favorite find: agents who refuse to represent you unless you've been published before and publishers who refuse the publish you unless you have an agent. Anyone up for a game of Catch 22?

With that out of the way, I've been thinking for several weeks about doing a series on writing wisdom from various books that I have read throughout the years. I know I haven't read as many books on the craft of writing as I should, but those I have read stick with me and draw me back between their pages at least twice a year. One of those books is Madeleine L'Engle, Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life. It is a compilation of L'Engle's writings, lectures, and essays on writing and the writing life put together by Carol F. Chase. Not only is it chock full of brilliant insight into the craft of writing, but it's also a wonderful window into the life of one of literature's most beloved authors. Her book, A Wrinkle in Time, has been my favorite since I first read it when I was ten years old. It's the book that made me want to become a writer. I thought it only fitting to begin this new series with a look at the writing life through the eyes of Madeleine
L'Engle.

"Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work...each work of art...comes to the artist and says, 'Here I am, enflesh me. Give birth to me.' And the artist either says, 'My soul doth magnify the Lord,' and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses..."

Many people think of writing as a hobby, as means to sorting out thoughts or living vicariously through daydreams. What most non writers (and many writers) fail to realize is that writing is a calling. When you can't NOT write, you know you have been called. I know there are many people who say they write for fun. I write because I must. I have no other choice. When the inkling of a story comes to me, I have two choices. I can jot it down and muse over it, ponder all the directions it's apt to go, mark a path and begin wandering down it, exploring the dark places of an undiscovered terrain. Or, I can shrug my shoulders, mumble something about being too busy, and trudge along on the well-lit path of the everyday.

The latter is safer. It might even make more sense. "But I am too busy! I have this other story I'm working on!" True. And I'm not saying we should stop working just to entertain every flighty thought that flutters through our minds. But I am saying that we should give proper attention to those ideas. They may be just daydreams, little flights of fancy that offer us a moment of respite to ponder a "what if?". Jot them down just the same. When your finished with your work in progress (or that wip is giving you fits and you would just as soon kill off all your characters than work out all their dramas), give this new idea a try. See how far you can run with it. Delight in the new discoveries you'll make as you uncover the meat of the story, the complex personalities of it's characters, the exotic destinations in which they live.

"What if I'm not busy?" "What if I'm not working in the next great American novel?" Even better, "what if I've never even thought about writing a book and I just stumbled onto your blog out because my finger slipped on the keyboard and brought me here by cosmic chance?" Then by all means, see where that story is going to take you! You never know where a new idea will lead. Like I said, it's a dark road to trudge down before all the details come to light. But in the darkness lies discovery. In the darkness lies mystery. Yes, it's frightening, this going into the unknown. And it's hard. Very hard. You have to look in holes, lift up stones, peak into to caverns and over steep cliffs. Sometimes you have to dive into black lagoons and swim to the slimy bottom before you unearth any treasure. Like any good treasure hunt, however, the prize is well worth the effort.

What is the prize, you ask? Why, the discovery of a new tale, a new world. At our finger tips lies the vast eternity of the blank page. The story comes to us. Only we can write it. Sounds ominous, I know, but it's true. If you shrug the call, if you refuse to give even just the tiniest bit of curiosity to the idea, the story is lost. It shrinks back down that dark path and hides. It waits for you. Only you. Why not give obedience a try? The worst that can happen is you have a great story to tell once you're through!

Happy Tuesday,
Jen

15 July 2009

Nothing Too Profound Today

Four hours of sleep do not a happy writer make...

OK, so it was my fault that I only got said four hours of sleep. Yes. I went to the Harry Potter premiere last night! Yes, I liked it. And yes, it was worth feeling tired. Thank the Lord for coffee!

I've been doing query research lately. There's so many good sites that I've found. Perhaps the most informative has been http://charlottedillon.com/query.html. She has listed a bevy of sites that discuss the query process. Some of the links aren't there any longer, but for the most part, they are all up and running.

One of the links led me to a bright pink page. I'm not a pink gal, but as I contemplated putting on my sunglasses in order to properly see the information on the page, I read this quote: "Your query letter is your key that opens the door to publication." Monica Jackson, the author of the article on http://sormag.com/query/tr.html starts her musings off with that. It's so true. We spend years sometimes on a manuscript, making it perfect, and it comes down to one page. All our hopes and dreams hinge on a couple of paragraphs. I would be lying if I didn't say I wish we could go back to the "good old days" of writers submitting their full manuscripts. I know, I know!Times change, people got busier, correspondence got pushed to a minimum.

I've only written one query before, so this process is especially daunting. I am finding, however, that the more I brainstorm, the easier it is getting. If I think of it as query, I get flustered, stressed. But if I look at it as a summary, I'm able to sit back and chew on it, play around with some ideas. I have one draft so far. It needs a lot of work, but just knowing that I've made some head way puts me a little more at ease.

I apologize for the lack of creativity in this post! My brain is still a bit fuzzy from the HP hangover. I'm blaming nargles...

Happy day,
Jennifer

08 July 2009

Finished Writing, Now the Work Begins

It's official; I finished my trilogy. Three whole manuscripts now sit upon my table, fat, happy, edited and ready to be sent out in the great wide world. Oh what a day when I put my pen down (finally) and declared, "It is finished!" with dramatic aplomb. Of course, you know as well as I do, that was not the end. Oh, no, dear reader, that was not the end.

To finish writing a novel, composing words from thought to flesh, is a taxing process. Many hours of sleep were lost, relationships deprived, my lungs went without fresh oxygen for countless afternoons on end. the first book alone is over 500 pages long. (Yes I have been told I'm long winded and yes, I'm OK with that.)

The next step is to put all those edits into the manuscript via computer and reprint them. All three of them. How many reams of paper this will require, I shall not state, for fear an army of Ents may calculate how many trees sacrificed their precious lives for my humble tale. Just know it will be a lot. Staples loves me.

While inputting these edits, market research will also be done. Not my favorite part. Why? It must be done. I must search for agents and publishers who are willing to take a chance on a yet-to-be-known author and her Ent-angering stack of paper/manuscript. And this I am happy to do. It's the next step I fear the most: the composition of the query.

the bane of every writer's existence. The query is a mysterious, frightening, yet absolutely necessary document that must accompany every manuscript which is given wings. They hold the fate of dreams in the palm of their one-page-only hands. I've read examples of great queries, terrible queries, and I've even composed a couple myself. But I'm still at a loss as how to begin.

And so, dear reader, I leave you for another week in order to immerse myself in the strange world of submissions. I will be doing a lot of research; I will be doing a lot of transferring of edits from printed manuscript to computer file. And I will be learning (again) how to compose a query so fascinating, so intriguing, that at least one agent, at least one publisher, will read all the way to the last sentence and take that chance.

"Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon."

~Jennifer

03 July 2009

The Joke's On Me

Just found this out. The article I posted about the removal of all children's books printed before 1985 is an urban legend. Seems it has been circulating for quite some time. Thanks to the Atlanta Writer's Club members for coming forward and informing us! Sorry about that, dear readers!

However, I'm not sorry that I posted it. I honestly believed this was real. I don't put it past Congress to pass something this ridiculous.

Happily, it was just a sick joke. That'll learn me ;)

Sorry to have wasted your time with the post! I'll double check stuff from here on out.

Happy weekend!
~Jen

02 July 2009

Are They Serious?!?

****Even though the information in this post has been recently revoked as an urban legend, I thought I'd leave it up for one reason: we need to be more aware of what government officials are doing to our freedom speech. I shudder; what if this had been as real as I'd first thought? Of course, now my passionate outburst could be directed to those who began the urban legend in the first place, but that's their choice. Who am I to edit what someone else wishes to say? If I expect respect for my words, I should show respect to others as well.
And to think, I was about to write to Congress...

I get emails from the Atlanta Writer's Club. I'm not a member (yet), but they were kind enough to chat with me at a book festival one year and urged me to sign up for their emails. They appear to be a very informative, very helpful group of writers intent on helping authors succeed in the publishing world. They also happen to be on the forefront of news in the industry that I would otherwise never hear.

This morning, as I sipped my tea and checked my email, I clicked on the AWC's newest email. The title caught my attention: Read and Lead or Burn? "Great," I thought, "another book burning in some obscure location." Unfortunately, this was much, much worse.

It seems that there is a group of people out there (*ahem* Congress) who has "passed a Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which has the effect of requiring the destruction of any children’s book published before 1985, due to trace elements of lead in the printed inks." I did a double take when I read this. Surely they jest! All children's books published before 1985? That's ludicrous! That would destroy millions of volumes of quality literature. They aren't kidding.

The more I read, the angrier I got. Congress is seriously advocating the destruction of all children's books published prior to 1985. Why? Because of a slight trace of lead. Last I checked, books were made to be read, not eaten. And according to the article, "a child would have to totally consume several dozen whole books to be endangered by lead content in the inks. "

I'll spare you the ranting. Instead, I'll give you the link and let you read it for yourself.
http://www.authorlink.com/news/item/2109

Check it out. What do you think? Personally, I'm going to write my Congressman and voice my opinion on this issue. No one has a right to ban books. No one has a right to tell me what I can and cannot read. And no one has the right to demand the destruction of pieces of history, of literature. To sum up my feelings on this issue, I'll end with a direct quote from the article:
"CPSIA was aimed at protecting the health of children—and who can argue with “safety”?—but if a conspiracy were bent on controlling ideas, this would be a nefariously clever approach."

Ever thinking,
Jen

PS: sorry to send a damper through the blog-sphere this morning. But I thought this was an important enough issue that needed exposure.