Day Brightener

Not long ago, I did something I don’t usually do: I bought flowers for myself. They immediately brightened my day. Even the cashier complimented them.

A picture can’t adequately show dimension. The daisies are four inches in diameter. Every time I look at them, I feel a tiny spark of happiness. Gerbera daisies are my favorite flower—the one I go to on flower-giving occasions. And no matter how sad or ill the recipient feels, he or she usually mentions the beauty of these flowers.

They are a reminder to me today to give a ray of light, rather than darkness. The other day, a well-meaning person snail mailed to me a long, negative news article. I’m not exactly sure why, other than to ask me to comment on something that frightened her. I won’t say what the story was. I sent a note back saying I didn’t have a comment—that I could only provide an uninformed opinion that wouldn’t change the situation. Yet there was a noticeable contrast to how I felt in that moment and how I felt the moment I saw those daisies at the grocery store.

I didn’t mention the above to shame the person, nor am I soliciting comments that would do so. I couldn’t give her the assurance she seemed to want. After all, I’m not God. And I totally get it. Things are happening. Sometimes life feels like it’s out of control. In those moments I’m often tempted to share whatever bad mood I’m in or whatever horrible thing that has happened.

But the daisies remind me of the effect of sharing joy. As I mentioned, even the cashier complimented them. Her countenance noticeably brightened as she rang up the purchase.

How has someone brightened your countenance lately?

Photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: Big Rig

With me on the blog today is the amazing and gracious Louise Hawes, author extraordinaire and member of the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts! She’s here to discuss her recently released middle grade novel, Big, Rig, published by Peachtree. I love this book, so I’m thrilled to have Louise here! Louise is represented by Ginger Knowlton.

El Space: Louise, what inspired this story? This might sound weird, but as I read your book, I thought of Route 66—the iconic route discussed in the first Cars movie, though that route is not a focal point of this book. Cars made me nostalgic. I had a strong sense of nostalgia as I read Big Rig, the trucking industry being so iconic. Back in the day, when my family traveled, we stopped at truck stops.
Louise: Honestly? What inspired Big Rig is the same thing that inspires all my books—a character. I never start with a story, you see, or even a premise or idea. It’s always a beating heart, a voice, that grabs me. Of course, Hazel, my 11-year old protagonist grabbed me harder than most and held on longer, too. She insisted on having her way as we hit the road together. She made it clear that she’s highly allergic to those two words, THE END. And even though my inner writing teacher tried to tell her about turning points and resolution, she just wasn’t buying it; she didn’t ever want to our story to end. She got her way, as folks will see when they read the book!

At Louise’s book launch—McIntyre’s Fine Books in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC.

And that’s funny about Route 66. I wanted the book’s flyleaves to feature the major U.S. truck routes in a double spread. I never won that battle, but we did get road signs as chapter titles! Oh, and I wore a route 66 tie to the book launch!

Photo by Karen Pullen

El Space: How did you research this book?
Louise: Very unwillingly! At first, when Hazel popped into my mind and told me she and her dad had been traveling across the country for seven years in an eighteen-wheeler, I said to myself, and to her, “NO WAY! I know nothing about trucks, and I don’t want to know even the slightest thing about them.” But of course, after she popped into my mind, Hazel burrowed into my heart. And three years later? I know a LOT about trucks. I’ve researched trucks and the trucking industry. I’ve interviewed dozens of drivers, put plenty of miles in on big rigs. As a passenger. No, I’ve never driven one; at 100 pounds and 5 feet, I wouldn’t trust myself in the driver’s seat. I reached out to organizations like Trucker Buddy, who pair up individual drivers with classrooms; and Women in Trucking, who work with organizations like the Girl Scouts to publicize the fact that there are lots of women active in, and crucial to, the industry.

El Space: Hazel/Hazmat is a great character. She felt like an old soul—a marvelous blend of the past and the present. So confident and engaging. What was your process for finding her voice?
Louise: As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t find Hazel, she found me. But as with any character that inspires one of my books, I needed to trust her before I could begin an actual draft. I have a notebook of free writes (in the form of first-person letters from her to me); that notebook was full of her voice, cover to cover, before I ever wrote a single page of the novel.

   

Canine book reviewers: (Left) Jenn Bailey’s pooch, Ollie. Jenn is a VCFA grad and author. Photo by Jenn Bailey (Right) Bella, the canine co-author of “BEAGLES AND BOOKS,” a blog by Laura Mossa, an Elementary School Reading Specialist. Photo by Laura Mossa.

El Space: You have such wonderful characters. Even Hazel’s mother’s ashes (not much of a spoiler, since you learn that on the first page) is a character with weight in the book. What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
Louise: What a great question! I think the toughest moments to write were the ones where I needed to stay inside Hazel, and not give myself up to feeling sorry for her, which she never does for herself. The moments when she’s talking to her mom, or afraid of growing up, or angry at her dad—during all those times, she’s just right there in the moment, never feeling “poor me,” or “life sucks.” She’s just bringing her whole self to every experience, knowing better than most of us, that it will give way to a new one before we can truly catch hold.

The feline reviewer is an assistant to a Twitter follower and middle school teacher, Kate McCue-Day. Photo by Kate McCue-Day

El Space: What do you hope your readers will take away after reading Big Rig?
Louise: Besides the fact that a good story doesn’t need a beginning, middle, and end? I guess I’d like readers to undergo the same change-of-mind I did about truckers and trucking. Drivers and their rigs are crucial to all of us—to the economy, to the culture, to our whole way of life. And yet we pretty much forget about them, once we grow past the age of 6 or 7 and stop asking them to pump their air brakes when we drive by. We forget about automation and the driverless trucks that may well be destroying and brutalizing a whole way of life. That’s a thread that winds through the entire book, and I’d hope folks pay attention.

El Space: What inspires you these days?
Louise: Being outside, plain and simple. I need fresh air, and water in the form of the sea, or a lake, or a rainstorm. I need the bull frog in my pond with whom I engage in daily ten-minute dialogues. I need to see how relentlessly beautiful the world is, how it keeps going with or without us. I need something bigger than myself or my day. And nature gives me that.

El Space: What writing advice do you always share with your students and anyone else who’s asking?
Louise: The same advice I’ve been giving ever since I set myself free from slaving over every word via free writes. My first drafts are still like other folks’ second or third passes, and that’s because I can’t leave a word or a sentence alone until I hear it ring true. But with free writing, the loose, free times I spend with my characters, I can relax into them, get out of me. Which is why, behind every chapter I write, painstakingly, laboriously, there is a poem or a free write that came first. So, whenever myself or one of my students has a writing problem that’s stumping us, I advise taking it to our characters. To let it go, turn it over. That doesn’t mean I won’t edit or revise those free writes, or advise my students to do the same. But it does mean that what’s at the start, the heart of our work is something unhampered and flowing, something free.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Louise: I’m working on two things right now—one is a project I started a long time ago and am only finishing this year. It’s YA historical fiction, and the protagonist is Salomé, the biblical character who supposedly performed the dance of the seven veils and won the head of John the Baptist. The other project is a new novel for adults. The character who won me over there is a failed playwright who’s fallen in love with a dead poet. See? There’s just no telling with me, who’ll come out of nowhere and sweep me up and away!

Thank you, Louise, for being my guest!
Looking for Louise? Look here: Website, Twitter, VCFA, Facebook, Instagram
Looking for Big Rig? Look no further than Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, Amazon.
Comment below to be entered into a drawing from which one of you will receive a copy of Big Rig! Winner to hopefully be announced next week!

Other books by Louise:

    

Book launch and author photos courtesy of Louise Hawes. Tree photo by L. Marie. Other book covers from Goodreads and Louise Hawes.

Reactions: A Tale of Three Adaptations

Ever have a polar opposite reaction to something someone shared with you? Perhaps a friend urged you to read a book he found life changing or watch a movie she truly resonated with, then having tried it, you discovered you disliked it immensely. Maybe like me you questioned yourself, wondering how you could dislike something your wonderful friend loves so much.

That has happened to me with books I won’t name here that friends loved and I didn’t finish because I didn’t like them. In case you’re wondering, if I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it, unless my loathing for it is a late discovery, the book having taken an unexpected and unwelcome turn.

There have been many movies that reviewers loved and highly recommended that I loathed. I was prepared to loathe a recent Netflix adaptation, since the book adapted is my favorite of those written by the author. I didn’t like what the trailer showed, which told me the main character’s personality was markedly different from the book. (And yes, I know the book and the character well enough that a trailer would show that.) I told myself I would never watch the film because I didn’t want to see a dumpster fire made out of one of my favorite books. But I gave in after reading an article online on the subject of why viewers should see the film. Nevertheless, I didn’t have a good reaction to what the person said about the need to “freshen up” the story (hence the changes in the adaptation).

I was immediately reminded of Clueless, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, which changed the setting to the twentieth century. I loved the novel Emma and I loved Clueless. The issue for me about Clueless is that though the situation changed to fit our times, the main character’s personality did not change. Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) is a wealthy, likable young woman who thinks she knows all about matchmaking but is horribly . . . well . . . clueless. That is how she is in the book.

  

By now, you might guess the film that I have yet to name. And I still won’t. Even if you guess it, I will neither confirm nor deny. I watched it, and my immediate thought was, Can you dislike something and find it entertaining at the same time? I found that to be the case with this film. People who know nothing of the book but love adaptations of this era might be entertained, especially with the gorgeous scenery and well-known actors. People who know the book might also enjoy it. Or hate it.

For me the arch looks, smiles, and clever, sarcastic quips of the main character seemed antithetical to the character I sympathized with in the book. This is where I took umbrage to the remark to “freshen up” the story. You see, I went through what this character went through, which is what drew me to the story in the first place. I felt sad and broken and filled with regret. Therefore, I didn’t like the twenty-first century moralizing as the character archly judged other characters in ways people probably wouldn’t have done at that time. If “freshening up” a story means revamping the personality of the main character, you can keep your adaptation as far as I’m concerned.

The issue I have with some modern adaptations is the avoidance of deep emotion or weakness in a character. Characters must seem strong and clever most of the time, even while telling us how sad they are. (Insert laugh track here, since we gotta have humor.)

This is why I loved Dune 2021. I know I talk about that movie a lot. There are aspects I love about it way more than the first book. In interviews and books the director (Denis Villeneuve) and crew discuss their love for the source material, which inspired them to produce the film I instantly loved the moment I saw it.

c  

Okay. Enough of my opinion. I feel like Negative Nelly here. You might have a completely different opinion about this movie. But that’s where I am. And I know how easy it is to criticize something I haven’t done much myself (screenwriting). I just feel sad that I didn’t quite get what I had hoped to see—a great adaptation of a book I love.

Polar opposites Venn diagram from iSLCollective. Clueless and Dune 2021 movie posters found somewhere on the internet. Other photos by L. Marie.

Surprise!

Some surprises are more welcome than others. Years ago, when a friend and I took a trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica, every day we would wake up in our hotel rooms to this sight on our curtains.

This is the Jamaican turquoise anole. According to Wikipedia, it is indigenous to Jamaica.

Though I was surprised by them, I wasn’t bothered by them. Not as bothered as the people in this thread. I just shooed them out the nearest window.

When I was a kid, I got up to go to the bathroom one night in the early morning hours. I flicked on the lights and—surprise! I walked softly, so that was probably why the two mice on the rim of the bathtub didn’t immediately scatter. Instead, they stood there, looking as startled as I felt. This moment is what I can only describe as a pregnant pause. It was like the world stopped, waiting to see what would happen.

Well, my shout woke up my grandmother, who was visiting at the time and sharing my room. She ran into the bathroom, grabbed a tube of toothpaste, and gave chase. One mouse escaped, while the other foolishly ran into my room, which was directly across the hall. Grandma cornered it under the bed she had been sleeping in, and . . . Well, I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, we had to get another tube of toothpaste.

So, since I had suffered through mice and roaches at different points (the fruit of big city life—you just never knew what would surprise you when you flicked on the light), I wasn’t bothered by lizards. They were too chill to be a nuisance.

Now onto what I hope is a good surprise! Jennie and Charles—surprise! You are the winners of Coming Up Short by Laurie Morrison (Jennie) and She Persisted: Temple Grandin (Charles). (See interview posts here and here.)

 

Thank you to everyone who commented!

Lizard image from Wikipedia. Mouse from Clipart Panda.

A Few Baking Facts

(WARNING: The images below might make you hungry. Sorry about that.)

I am a fan of cooking shows, particularly baking shows like Sugar Rush (and its various forms like Sugar Rush Extra Sweet and Sugar Rush Christmas), Baking Impossible, and Zumbo’s Just Desserts. The shows I watch via Netflix are filmed in the States and in other countries, and often involve terms and techniques with which I am not familiar since baking and I are seldom on speaking terms. (Though baked goods and I are old friends.)

On the shows, the why behind an action—i.e., why do you need to temper chocolate? What exactly does that mean?—isn’t given because the contestants are supposed to know this stuff. So I’m faced with a choice each time: watch in a state of semi-confusion or look stuff up. I decided to do so and found stuff like:

The why behind tempering chocolate. According to the Ghirardelli website, tempering chocolate is “heating and cooling chocolate to stabilize it for making candies and confections—gives chocolate a smooth and glossy finish.” If you want to know how to do that, go here.

Tempering chocolate

Buttercream choices. Love frosting on cakes, cupcakes, and other baked goods? Did you know there are several different types of buttercream? Swiss meringue, American, German, French, Italian meringue. For more on that, go here.

Swiss meringue buttercream

The difference between a macaron and a macaroon (besides the extra O). The Food Network site helped me out here. A macaron is a “French cookie that’s made of finely ground blanched (peeled) almonds suspended in a meringue.” Comparatively, a macaroon is a coconut cookie.

Macarons:

Macaroons:

Crème Pâtissière. This is pastry cream bakers use in eclairs, tarts, and other pastries. It is made with milk, eggs, sugar, and cornstarch. This site talks about why cornstarch is preferred over flour.

Maybe you already know all of this. Or, maybe you’re wondering: Why go through the trouble of looking for that information? Well, besides natural curiosity, looking up information is a habit, really. Whenever I write a book, an article, or curriculum, I have to do some research. And whenever I edit a book, I have to check every fact.

When you hear a new term or are made aware of information you don’t know, do you search a library or search online to gain more knowledge? Do tell in the comments below.

Macarons from WallpapersHome. Macaroons from the Food Network. Show logos from somewhere on the internet, via Bing.com. Tempering chocolate photo from Real Simple. Crème Pâtissière found at idee-cuisine.fr.

Board Games or “Bored” Games

Every day, I pass by the board game in the photo below, which has been waiting patiently by the door for ages. It was a Christmas gift from some dear friends. (Click here for more information about this game if you want to know more about it. This is not a paid advertisement for it, however.)

I have yet to play it due to work busyness, the virus (still going around in my area), and other factors. But this is the type of game I usually like to play—role playing games with certain actions you take each turn.

Like this one:

Though I haven’t played it in a while.

The first board game I bought—yes, actually bought with my own money when I was a kid—was Clue. My best friend at the time and I pooled our money—$6.00 (which was equivalent to 600 pieces of penny candy at the gas station; oh, I’m going way back in the day)—to buy it. Today, the game is double that price at Target.

The version I bought way back when (this is not my actual game, however):

Clue and Monopoly were favorites. These games, and the Game of Life, were the incubators that hatched my love of RPG games. One time, my brothers and I played the same game of Monopoly for three days before a winner (my older brother) was declared. Yes. Three days. I’m fairly certain that win was clinched with the surreptitious acquisition of unearned $500s into his stash. Not that I didn’t help myself to one or two of those, to be honest. But board games came out when we were bored and wanted something fun to do.

Nowadays I see more kids whipping out a Nintendo Switch and playing a videogame when they’re bored. I have a Switch, so this is not a criticism. Still, a board game costs a fraction of the cost of a new videogame on the Switch, many of which are $60. Click here to be taken to an article on the subject, if you are doubtful of that fact. PlayStation 5 games are $50—$70. And of course, some of the older games are cheaper. Some are even free. I downloaded Tetris 99 for free on the Switch.

Do you play videogames? Board games? Both? What are your favorite games to play with friends and family?

Bonus question: Based on the title, did you expect a criticism of board games? I’m asking out of curiosity. 😊

Clue image found at eBay. Other photos by L. Marie.

Just Coasting Along


This kind of goes with what I last posted.

Back in the 90s, I took up inline skating because I thought it looked cool. One day, I up and decided to take a class and—voilà —I learned to skate and loved it!

I really needed these pads though.

I also learned to write a screenplay, because I wanted to learn.

In 2010, I decided to return to a graduate program, having quit one (journalism) many years before that. This time, I switched to writing for children and young adults (fiction/nonfiction) and finished the program two years later.


My hood

In 2018, I wanted more of a career challenge. So, I took on the challenge of developmental editing. Didn’t take a class. I learned by being thrown into the deep end through a freelance assignement given to me by a publisher to work with an author on a manuscript for eight months.

In 2019, I . . .

In 2020, I . . .

In 2021, I . . .

You might wonder how I would finish those statements. I was trying to think of a way to say, “I rested on my laurels” in a way that didn’t make me look like the poster child for the subject of a sermon I recently listened to—complacency. Before you run for the door, thinking I plan to tell you point by point what I heard, I brought that up because of the subject matter (complacency, if that previous sentence was too convoluted). And yes, I know we were in the mniddle of a pandemic. But I had a computer and a wifi connection. What was to stop me from learning anything?

Not that you need this, but let me give you the definition of complacency given in that sermon:

Complacency is a feeling of quiet pleasure or security often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.

I can finally admit that I have been complacent about where I am and what I’ve learned so far. I didn’t think I needed to learn a new skill or improve an old one. Just telling you the state of things. Scold away if you want. But I want that to change. Maybe you feel that way too.

With that in mind, for my annual birthday giveaway—if you are a regular follower of this blog, perhaps you thought I forgot all about that this year—I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card (or whatever equivalent it has in the UK). Why? To stir you to learn something new or make some other change. That’s only if you want to. No judgment here. Maybe life is A-OK for you. If so, great!

Maybe you want to use it to buy a craft book (writing, gardening, needlecraft, art—whatever). Or maybe, because you’re stressed and want to change that, maybe you want to buy spa items or something else to help you relax. Maybe you’ll buy art pencils (which aren’t cheap) to start sketching again. Twenty-five dollars may not be a king’s ransom. But if it helps inspire you to take the next step to where you want to be, I’d call that money well spent. Winner to be announced sometime next week, hopefully. (I had a deadline last week, so I didn’t post.)

Photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga)

With me on the blog today is the amazing composer/musician/performer Laura Bruno Lilly, who is here to talk about her album Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga) and the process of composing.

Cover designed by Rita Moore

First, here is the intro:

El Space: How long was the process from composing the music to this finished product?
Laura: The actual length of time from start (inspiration) to finish (digital/cd music release) took 11 years. However, it took only a month or so to compose Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon. While it was a complete piece in and of itself, it just didn’t feel finished. It wasn’t until after our between-homes journey came to an end that I realized it could be developed further in keeping with the structure of a suite. More accurately, those goats insisted there was more of their musical story to tell!

Photo by Terry Lilly

My Goat Suite (Saga) was composed and written while my husband and I were living on the compound in the desert outside Las Cruces, New Mexico from October 2010 through August 2011. It is a self-contained, yet complimentary slice of a larger project, Swimming with Swans: the music & vignettes of our three-year journey between homes which encompasses two standalone, yet related segments comprised of musical and literary material I created during that time on-the-road from June 2009 through June 2012.

Goats in the Garden naturally morphed into the middle movement within a larger three movement piece. Both the first and third movements were completed within a few months of each other, making the total composition time of the piece about a year from start to finish.

So you see, the composing itself didn’t take all that long. I’m very hands-on. Doodling with multiple parts on different instruments, putting it all together—I love that stuff! Composing is my sandbox where I get to play with all the parts of the piece in the course of creating it.

Next came the technical aspect of setting the music into a readable score for use in recording and later future performances. To that end, I purchased and learned a score notation program that enabled me to write down the parts more quickly than if I continued to write it all by hand. as it is scored for two classical guitars, mandolin, 12-string acoustic guitar and rainstick, I’m sure the wisdom in this time investment is obvious!

Once in final score format, I set it aside. The journey from that to the finished product took a more circuitous route. I applied for and was awarded a small grant from the Puffin Foundation to aid in the financial aspect of recording my Goat Suite (Saga). Around that same time, my 93-year-old Dad in Colorado entered hospice. Already juggling long-distance care-giving for a few years, this catapulted my focus 100% on Dad’s final days, shelving everything else.

After Dad’s passing, while getting his house cleared out and ready to sell, I managed to schedule some recording studio time with two longtime colleagues in the area. This effort yielded a finished mix ready to send elsewhere for mastering.

Once mastered, it was just a matter of finalizing the cover art, designing the physical product, pressing the CDs, registering the music with various agencies, sending it off for distribution on various streaming platforms and setting up an internet storefront.

And here it is. Now. Finished.

El Space: When did you decide to become a musician/composer? How were you encouraged as a child?
Laura: I don’t know that there was ever an actual decision made to become either. Most composers are/were also performing artists, so I view composing as a natural outgrowth of being a working musician.

As far as receiving encouragement as a child, most of my upbringing was taught by example. This quote expresses how my Jazzman Dad influenced my musical journey in general.

Each jazz musician when he takes a horn in his hand—trumpet, bass, saxophone, drums—whatever instrument he plays, each soloist, that is, when he begins to ad lib on a given composition with a title and improvise a new creative melody, this man is taking the place of a composer. He is saying, “Listen, I am going to give you a new complete idea with a new set of chord changes. I am going to give you a new melodic conception on a tune you are familiar with. I am a composer.” That’s what he is saying.
Charles Mingus

El Space: Which composers inspired you on your journey?
Laura:
Beethoven, Vivaldi, Berlioz. John Cage, Philip Glass, Max Richter. Janet Feder, JoAnn Falletta, Joan Tower. John Duarte, Eduardo Falú, H. Villa-Lobos. Mike Oldfield, Herbie Hancock, Ry Cooder. Ennio Morricone, Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck. Foday Musa Suso, Billy Strayhorn, Anonymous. And more! Google the names and give them a listen.

        

Ennio Morricone (left), Eduardo Falú

Billy Strayhorn (Photo by Carl Van Vechten)

El Space: What leitmotifs occur in the music? Why?
Laura:
The second movement revolves around the most obvious one, introduced by the solo guitar within the first three measures. This Goat Bleat Motif was inspired by conversations held between Mama Goat and her kids. Based upon the intervals of each goat’s voice pitch, I assigned each goat a note and when bleating all together, their monotones made up a minor seventh chord. Then as a compositional element, a Reverse Goat Bleat Motif was used for further development of the second movement—all in keeping with the flavor of goats in the garden frolicking and dancing about.

El Space: What advice do you have for budding composers?
Laura:
Learn an instrument! It doesn’t matter which one. Noodle around with banging pots and pans, humming tunes or sounding the odd finger harp thing hung on your mother’s front door. Music composition in its most basic form is merely an organization of sound. The best instrument for understanding music theory visually is indeed the piano, but that does not have to be your primary instrument. Use it is a tool in context of understanding the underlying structure of composition. Strive to actively participate in a swirl of musical styles. This will surround you with tonal possibilities, blasting through untold sonic boundaries. Along with all that hands-on sort of stuff, listen, listen, listen to a plethora of musical genres. Explore translating your feelings into a compositional piece. Try your hand at arranging already created music. Hone your craft by taking classes, studying alongside a music teacher/professor/mentor and then, just do it. The more you do, the more your own voice will emerge.

Thanks, Laura, for being my guest.

Looking for Laura? Look on her website.

Looking for Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga)? Click here
I’m giving away two copies of Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga). Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winners to be revealed next week.

Album cover, embedded intro, and photo courtesy of Laura Bruno Lilly. Photo by Terry Lilly. Ennio Morricone and Billy Strayhorn photos from Wikipedia. Eduardo Falú photo from secondhandsongs.com. Music note from wallsave.com.

The Whole Story?

The other day, I discovered on Netflix an interior design show that was new to me. I’m not going to tell you which one. Suffice it to say that in the introduction, a fresh-faced young couple mentioned (in a couple sentences or so) an eleven-year journey from self-trained interior designer to internet sensation to having nearly 100 employees, an affluent clientele, and a we’re-working-on-it-still dream house with over five thousand square feet.

All the while I watched the show, at the back of my mind, I wondered, What’s the whole story? Interior design is not a field that I know anything about outside of watching HGTV shows years ago and a few Netflix shows. I’m someone whose friends, out of pity, came and hung their own pictures on my walls because I didn’t have any. So I don’t know how easy or difficult it is for someone to go from friends admiring his or her taste in decorating to acquiring a huge internet following with paying clients willing to shell out huge amounts of money to redo their rooms. Not when I have family members who have done the same thing in that amount of time who have neither a huge internet following nor wealthy clients.

I often think, What’s the whole story? when I hear success stories of any kind. How many times have we heard a debut author say something along the lines of, “I wrote a book. Two weeks after querying agents, ten agents were interested in my manuscript. Seventeen publishers fought to get it. Once it was published, it hit the NYT bestseller list, where it currently rests after being on it for six years.” Okay, that is a slight exaggeration. But only a slight one. I know publishing journeys that fit this description pretty closely. So for some authors, that might be the whole story. But those situations aren’t the norm, even if they make for a good news story.

I will be the first to tell you I have queried a book that was rejected 91 times. You read that number correctly. By the way, I know an author whose book was rejected three times that amount before an agent and a publisher picked it up. So in her mind, I’m just getting started. You might be thinking, “Why would you query it that many times? Why not give up on it?” I mentioned that fact not to get into whether or not I should have continued querying but to let you know that this is my reality. And yes, I have felt the sour grapes sensation when someone has talked of querying for a couple weeks only to land an agent. Please hear me when I say I don’t begrudge people their agents. The point of this post isn’t to gripe about that but to ask, are we hearing the whole story when we’re told about these things?

Why am I asking that? Because many, many people over the years have come to me asking me how they can get into publishing. Many had the idea that they could easily get an agent or a publishing deal because they saw such-and-such a news story describing what seems to be the instant success of someone.

During a school visit years ago, a group of kids asked me if I made as much money as J. K. Rowling, because that was their frame of reference. None of them seemed to know that she had received many rejections. This article tells how many.

I’ve heard several speakers say there are no overnight sensations. One person in particular (Person A) mentioned that someone said to her, “Where did you come from? What an overnight sensation!” because she had been invited to speak in a huge arena. But Person A explained that for twenty years she had been doing what she was doing in obscurity before stepping into the limelight. Twenty years of faithfulness.

Those are the stories I appreciate. I love when authors mention how they toiled at it for years before getting the visibility they later acquired. Like Jill Weatherholt who has posted numerous times of the multiple rejections she received, but persevered through. I’m not suggesting that people have to toil for years, sweating and suffering. But I remember their stories more because I haven’t had an easy road either.

This is not to say that authors who quickly get agents or publishing deals have had an easy road. Somewhere along their road they had to have hit a snag somewhere. But often we only get a quick soundbite, rather than the full account.

Spotlight from clipartix.com. Rejected imaged from clker.com.

Are You Hungry in 2022?

 

This is not a Snickers commercial, assessing your physical hunger level. (Actually, I could go for one of those, right about now.) Let me back up. I was thinking today of my own hunger level in regard to writing. From a young age, I wanted to write anything I could write: stories, novels, play scripts, movie scripts, poetry, graphic novels, essays. I attempted any and all forms of writing. But as I grew older and rejections happened, my hunger slackened. In other words, I played it safe.

But who was I hurting by doing that? Me. So in 2022, I’m tired of avoiding an activity just because of the fear that someone else might not like what results when I try it.

Maybe you feel the same in this dawning of a new year. So with that in mind, my new year’s giveaway is a $50 gift card to Amazon/Amazon UK or some other source that will inspire you in your goal to advance in your writing or illustration, your artistic endeavors in needlework, or your whatever is legal. Maybe you want to purchase a craft book to boost your skill. Or, if you’re like me, you want to buy a coffee table behind-the-scenes book featuring a movie you enjoyed because you’re fascinated by the process of the filmmakers. (The Art and Soul of Dune, anyone?) Or maybe you want to buy a book from a trusted source (like Bookshop.org) or some crafting supplies (Hello, Michaels or JOANN) to inspire you to greater heights.

   

Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Be sure to name the place where you would want to spend the money. I hope to post the winner sometime next week after my next deadline.

Happy New Year!