writing

Advice to a young writer just starting out

My poor younger friend Mike, also a writer, innocently messaged me a question.

M: Cathy, what do you tell aspiring writers?

C: In what regard?

M: When someone says they want to make a career out of it?
C: Driving, will brb.

Danger, Will Robinson, this gives me time to actually think about it.

C: Okay, first YAY!

M: Yay?

C: 2. LEARN YOUR CRAFT AND FORM! (Currently struggling with screenwriting 28 years after tying for a playwright award with someone who went on to write for a major soap opera for 20+ years!)
3. Go all in or forget it. You have to not just “want to be a writer,” you have to do the work, finish the projects.

4. Find a love who respects and is supportive of your work. GENUINELY SUPPORTIVE. This will show up in a myriad of ways when you’re with someone who isn’t: time, solitude, need to discuss, bounce ideas, sometimes financial, because your projects won’t pay consistently like a day job.

Yay for creativity!

Find someone who can handle writer weirdness. Need for long periods uninterrupted, drifting mind during conversations, because writing in head at same time, etc. because WE ARE ALWAYS WRITING!

5. Find a job that works with writing, so if you want to write comedy, nudge yourself into a production assistant at a show or movie, be in the industry. Or at least live close to it. (I hate my Virginia suburb for this. Loved Boston for it. See 4. financial, your projects won’t pay until they reach the right hands.)

6. LOVE IT HARD!! Enjoy it!! Get out of your own way! Finished is better than perfect.

7. EDIT, say more with less, be clear.

M: Damn. Alright. Alright.
My response was: FLEE! FLEE FOR YOUR LIFE!

C: Oh good, because my short answer was go big or go home.

And don’t have kids! Lol!

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Not really on the kids, but if you want them and you want to write, understand that your life will take a tectonic shift in focus, especially if you’re the primary or default parent.

I once read about John Updike’s writing habits of at least 6 hours a day out in the shack out back, “or he didn’t feel like a writer.” What he failed to mention was where his wife and kids were during his long uninterrupted daily time in his writing haven. Did his wife have a career? Did she write? I KNOW NOTHING OF HER!

Virginia Woolf had an excellent point about A Room of One’s Own for women, that we are either biologically built for (seriously, there are quantitative brain function differences that serve community focus vs individual focus between men and women. Google it, I’m not a scientist, just a curious geek) or trained societally over generations, or both to be at everyone else’s beck and call. I find it becomes very difficult to transition focus back to writing when you always have someone in your family vying for attention, either by necessity, fun, or logististical reasons.

The long alone silences (or with music or whatever works for you, I often half-listen to podcasts, it reminds me of sitting in cafes and writing while overhearing conversations) are necessary not just imaginatively, but for problem solving when you know something isn’t quite right about what you have written so far.

So, to my friend Michael Wagner, my apologies for the flood response in text, but thank you for the inspiration to blog about writing life again!

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Glistening

When last we met, I blogged about working on two projects and having more time with the start of the school year.

“Ha!” I say, more time, yes. More time to take care of a variety of things. More time for school issues for two of three spawn to crop up. Interestingly, more time to move away from adapting book to screenplay to a new screenplay idea, definitely not children’s topic. Time for a laptop to burn itself out, and a smart phone to decide to quit working simultaneously. More time for me to twiddle my thumbs on ideas while dealing with school issues, taking care of myself and home. More time to journal and read actual books, and listen to podcasts on creative process when the replacement phone came in. Still haven’t replaced the laptop. Currently using an old slowpoke one that cuts out on me in the middle of things.

I’ve really been processing how my writing process works. Some people can do the daily grind well. I think of an old college friend who is making her living as a steamy writer, Cherie Noel. or another old college friend, who also is pumping out words daily, at an admirable pace and whose latest steamy book is due out at any moment, Jenna Kendrick. These two write in the romance genre, and I have tried, I really have, but I just can’t. I was never much of chick flick girl. I have read my share of Harlequins as a teen and beyond, but it’s just not where I live in writing. Anyway, these two genre masters can pump out thousands of words a day! Day after day! I admire them greatly for it. Their books are fun, by the way, go check them out!

But it’s just not how my creativity works. I do journal almost every day, and sometimes that is all I get. I have finally learned about myself that on one level I am always writing, waking, sleeping,  no matter what I am doing in a given moment. For that, I am grateful. I am swimming internally in creativity and ideas all the time. However, actually processing those thoughts and getting them to paper or typed on a screen takes me a lot of time in fits and starts. I can see an entire movie version of an idea in a moment’s time, and then take years to get it from that initial mental burst to a viable story. I struggle to come up with the words to match the thoughts, and I love doing it. It is hard and constantly editing work for me. It makes me a little jealous of my friends above.

I have done Nanowrimo a handful of times and never completed it. It helped me learn that I have receptive creativity and productive creativity spates of time. Some days or weeks, I just have to process internally while dealing with other aspects of life. Some weeks, the train tracks of thought link into each other and I can get from city to city in my mind really easily on the page. I’m calling plot points cities for the sake of the set up. The first couple of times at Nanowrimo were pretty damning for me, because life happens a lot around here, my old blog was musingsinmayhem for a reason. I beat myself up a lot for not making the daily word count. Later, I used Nanowrimo as a way to knock out chunks on existing projects, to plant myself in a chair and just do it. I can’t say I was always happy with the results.

I learned it’s okay to be me and accept that some days, I just don’t meet the chair. Some days, I steep myself in life and books, movies, podcasts, what a world we live in these days! Those days inform my writing for the better. Some days, I don’t seem to do a whole lot of anything from the outside, but worlds are revealing themselves inside. Some days, a walk brings a poem, and that is a necessary part of who I am, and leads to stories, book projects, screenplays.

So, if you’re thinking of your writing process, and feeling a little frustrated, that is just fine and part of the process, too. Enjoy it, the next wave of creativity will rise, and break on the shore. Sometimes that hovering moment before the words spill out is the best moment of creative process. When everything is glistening like glass in the sun, that’s where the magic is.

I haven’t dropped off earth, just writing

I spent much of the summer balancing family needs and working on adapting Felix the Comet into a screenplay, not the easiest endeavor. I always envisioned this story as both a book and a movie. There is so much more editing to be done, but a few other avenues are presenting themselves, too… Time to wait and see how this may pan out.

Since school started back up last week, with one back to college, and two in school here, I have a bit more freedom for my own thoughts to collect and do something productive. I am currently working on the text for an animal characters picure book with a great artist. We discussed for years working on a book together, but my attention was involved in other projects, unable to devote time to a sweet little story. However, she and I have spent those years emailing back and forth developing the project on the side. We both know what we want the story to be, have a decent arc, I just need to actually write it, in one place.

It’s a real shift from pretty straightforward fiction to screenplay or picture book writing. The shift from screenplay adaptation to creating a picture book plot and dialogue isn’t nearly as far. I have conditioned myself over the summer by deleting a great deal of the descriptive elements from fiction, This task as prepared me to approach this smaller project more mindfully, not fill a lot of unnecessary detail that will show in Cathy J’s illustrations.

May this project move swiftly now from the working title “two cathys project” collection of notes into a viable draft by the end of this week, maybe beginning of next. Wish me luck and uninterrupted time, please! The other Cathy’s swift sketches are adorably inspiring!

Staycation

I swore I wanted to write this week before it started. Alas, the kids are home for Spring Break, and most of my writing has been puttering on paper. I am getting ideas out, but mostly lounging with kids, and going to my usual appointments. No big blasts of productivity as I felt on Sunday night to Monday morning that this week would be.

I am, at least, writing. They can’t all be gems, can they? But these sessions are like building blocks where I am figuring out where the story is going and exactly why certain characters are there. I really thought writing a small children’s tale would be easier than this, but I guess, in my way, I want it to turn out exactly how I see it in my mind. However, making the imaginary movie into a world of words is the same process, no matter how big the story, I suppose – every word matters.  Everyone in the story has their role to play, and it must be essential to the story, not just decoration for pretty pictures. The artist for this one has a lovely hand, she will make it beautiful. It was originally her idea!

Writing and why it hurts so good

Weird to be writing a blog post about the poem that interrupted the story that was waylaid by the next novel idea in this evolving companion series that is pocketed before I get back to the novel I am currently trying to finish.

Can anyone else relate? Without going into too much, chalk it up to my usual mayhem, I was not sparking on anything for months. Now that one or two life things have transitioned a bit, the ideas are popping again, fast and furious.

I was going to write more, but above was notes from this morning, and I can’t recall now what I was going to say otherwise, because, I wrote and posted the poem and now I really need to write the story for my friend’s fundraiser that I started last weekend!!

When that is done, I may write the story for the picture book i’ve been delaying for two years at least, with my artist friend, and then just maybe, I will be able to dip back into the “current manuscript” I am working on.

Oh, I recall now, these shorter things, poetry and short-short story are really where I live writing-wise. This is what comes easy to me. The longer arc of a novel is more like work, even though I really love exploring the depths and layers of the tale, it is so much harder for me to write like that. So, I  need to pull out of the manuscripts now and then and play around where I’m more comfortable, and love writing again, for the sake of the creative spark.

How Love Works

Steel sky stealing some robin’s blue
from the spring morning rain,
I think of where we are. You are at work, I am driving through,
through the day to things and writing, and this is not enough.
We know, we posted two pictures online of a date in rough time.
We laughed at ourselves as we did, too.
We tried to be present, we really did, but your eyeballs were spinning work,
I was exhausted, from trying so hard to hold our life together,
separately, and the pictures told no lies.
Some friends laughed, able to relate, the kids, the work, the bills.
Some family asked, “Why the hell did you post that?”
I am nothing if not honest, even if I don’t divulge everything,
And this, these pics, this moment in us is true,
more that the flower colored cocktails we drank.

These two pictures capture the bigger one, of us drifting and drowning at sea.
This lean slice of hard winter is starting to open into spring of us,
of trying to come up for air.
We are working on it, trying to get out from the undertow,
reaching for the robin’s blue, we aren’t done yet.
We are here, we love.
We kiss on the stairs of our coming and going days,
even now, when it’s hard.

Announcing The Release of “Felix the Comet”

 

 

It’s Official! Felix the Comet is available for order through Lulu.com!

Melissa Gay‘s art translated into a beautiful cover!

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A couple of authors I admire very much gave me blurbs for the back cover. Thank you to Veronica Chambers and Laurie Krebs!

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Lulu.com’s design team came up with a great page break paw print to represent Cosmo!

 

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The ebook is coming very soon, and the paperback is currently only available on Lulu.com, but the ebook will be available through many sites. I will let you all know where when I know, and provide links. Of course, I make a little more from sales through Lulu. 🙂

 

I am so very excited to share my book with everyone. Thank you to my donors through Pubslush.com, and to Pubslush.com, and Lulu.com.

Donor ebooks PDFs will be sent as soon as I receive, as well as the signed paperbacks and other incentives. I will sign and ship out as fast as I can!

 

Projected Ebook Announcement!

I am very excited about announcing the availability of Felix the Comet after our long journey through writing, editing, and publishing. So much, that I am still a wee bit …anticipatory.

As it currently stands, Felix the Comet should be available in ebook format through Lulu.com sometime on Monday July 14, 2014! I will let you know better when I know better myself, as I am curbing my enthusiasm while remaining cautious about the prospect. Expect a definitive announcement on Monday.

For those who donated to my Pubslush fundraiser, I will be sending you a PDF version via email. My hope is that you will read and add a review on Lulu’s site for Felix the Comet.

I am hoping to offer a deep reviewer discount for bloggers who review children’s, middle reader, or YA novels. I will work that out as I can. Inquiries or contact info appreciated via comments below.

A few more weeks are needed for the printing process, and to offer Felix in other ebook venues. Then it will be available by print only through Lulu.com, because of the smaller format I chose. Ebook versions will be available through virtually every major ebook source: Lulu, Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo.

Thank you for your patience, your time, your support, and your donations. I am truly happy about this entire experience.

I may be going dark on the internet before Monday, July 14th, but watch for more on my Facebook page and Twitter via links in the right column here.

Yay, Felix!!

 

 

Success!

Thank you to all of my supporters who helped make my Pubslush campaign for Felix the Comet a success! 

I have raised a bit over my campaign goal in just 30 days! I will be giving readings at two elementary schools, one in San Antonio,Texas and another in a small town in New Jersey. I am very excited about these two trips! After all, I love a good adventure, and can’t wait to meet students and teachers in different parts of the United States. It has been about 25 years since I stepped foot in Texas, and I have never been to San Antonio! I do pass through New Jersey frequently in my East Coaster travels to visit family and friends. It will be nice to get off the highway and meet some new friends.

I will also be baking a lot of snickerdoodles, and sending out ebooks, paperbacks, bookmarks and quality art prints.

Speaking of quality art, thank you, also, to Melissa Gay, a brilliantly magical artist for my cover art. She painted Felix and his dog Cosmo, as I first imagined them, looking up at The Big Dipper.

I can’t wait to get this book into production!!