Solitary

 

I just discovered this website, Sad animal facts. I love it! This particular graphic reminds me how much writers are like bees. So much of our writing life is done as a solitary endeavor, mostly in our minds and through our fingers. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome to have a writing group or other writers to go to happy hour or tea with.

Recently, I got this old familiar feeling surrounding the fact that I’m a writer. A crawling and awkward feeling. I feel uncomfortable talking about my writing to new people. It’s something that I feel often. Sometimes they are writers and sometimes not. Overall, I think the discomfort is based on fear. Mainly I’m afraid they won’t understand what I’m talking about when I talk about one of my projects or they’ll look at me and nod, but inside they are judging me, not understanding how important writing is to my emotional well-being, not to mention my soul. It’s dramatic but true.

Sometimes I wonder if I even know how to talk about writing. By that I mean, can I talk about it without sounding dramatic or odd. It’s so personal, but at the same time when a short story gets published or a creative non-fiction piece, it’s out there for all to see, for all to judge and I want it that way because I want to share my world with others. Once it’s out there it’s for everyone else to decide how it is perceived. Oh, my! That is pretty scary…

In the end, I know it only matters how I perceive the writing and the response, and I also know that I’ll keep trying new things both in writing and talking about it.

What makes you uncomfortable?


Next week I’ll have the next aspiring authors Q and A with Erin Kettle, women’s fiction writer! Don’t forget to check it out.

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Inevitable Certainty

This post is going to be a little scattered. I have a couple things on my mind and I want to talk about both of them. To be fair, the subject of each idea is linked closely together.

IMG_9680First, on Twitter, I follow Caitlin Doughty, mortician, activist and founder of the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death. I made a pledge to The Order of the Good Death a few years ago. I quietly advocate for a death positive existence, but I don’t push the topic on people. It means a lot of different things to different people. My main goal in life is to somehow “normalize” death for myself and to be able to talk about it in meaningful ways in my writing and to others. Some people are more receptive to it in conversation than others. I’m not a doom and gloom type of person, I can be serious, but overall I hope to figure out a way to deal with the overwhelming emotions that come with it, a practical response to an inevitable certainty. Granted, I fully believe that any reaction is appropriate to the death of a loved one. Emotions can’t be controlled, nor should they be. Doughty makes these conversations funny and serious at the same time. If you are interested, Doughty recently posted her 7 Habits of Highly Effective Death Positive People on YouTube. 

Now, there are many different ways in which the inevitable happens so it’s not about the actual event, but more about preparations before it happens. One way to do that is to make sure you have an Advanced Directive. Doughty has a Youtube series that talks about all kinds of things, but this is just one of many that are super important if you can wrap your mind around the inevitable. I will admit that I still need to get this done. I’m planning to sit down with my husband, make a living will and create advanced directives for both of us. I’m giving myself a deadline of two weeks from today. I’ll check in with you on the blog and let you know. It isn’t an easy thing to make yourself create. I get that.

Now to switch it up to a different but related event . . .

The second part of this post is about saying goodbye to a fantastic and well-known Portland-beloved writer. I was fortunate enough to attend the Literary Arts tribute to Ursula K. LeGuin a couple days ago. I was late to reading Ursula, but she sparked my interest again at an event about eight years ago. It was another Literary arts gathering called in conversation with Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin (thank you to Gina for giving me your extra ticket!). I’d long admired Atwood and that night I was struck by the vitality and wit LeGuin exuded from the stage. I’d only read short pieces by her. Soon after, I read The Left Hand of Darkness and then a friend gifted me her book, The Dispossessed. Both are fantastic. I also read a few books in her EarthSea series. Anyway, her willingness to be part of the literary community not only by participating in it but in supporting other writers gives me a lot of hope. Yes, we are living in scary times, but LeGuin has given us many guidelines on how to move forward through social justice and speaking out in whatever voice you call yours. I remain optimistic.

Drop me a line or comment below. What are your thoughts on death, Ursula LeGuin, or anything else?

 

Q and A with Aspiring Author, Karen Hugg

I love meeting new writers online and Karen is no exception. Last month I wrote about Beth Green, aspiring Crime fiction author.

Karen-HuggKaren Hugg is a writer and gardener living in the Seattle area. She is a certified ornamental horticulturalist and has an MFA from Goddard College. She’s been published in various anthologies, journals, and websites. She’s married to a very patient husband and has three kids, two dogs, and two cats. To learn more, check out her website at www.karenhugg.com.

What do you write? (genre etc)
Mainly, I write fiction. Last year I finished a literary thriller called The Forgetting Flower about a plant shop owner in Paris. This year, I wrote a New Adult novel about a young woman who can communicate with ghosts through plants. Occasionally, I write narrative nonfiction and short stories. I’m always writing for my blog, The Cultivated Life, at http://www.karenhugg.com.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?
This sounds weird but I think Les Miserables is underrated. A lot of people think it’s a boring literary book because it was written in the 1800s and is long but it’s actually a compelling thriller! Yes, Victor Hugo talks too much about politics but I encourage people to skim those parts and read the rest. It has nail-biting suspense and the most touching, sweet passages. Right now, as I think about Jean Valjean rescuing Cossette, I still get teary. He’s such a good father to her — and yet he’s hunted like an animal by the police.

Favorite book from childhood?
That’s easy. When I was ten, I read The Lord of the Rings during a summer and it blew me away. I wanted to live inside that fantastic world. It was so rich with mystery and beauty and darkness. The idea of Lothlorien, a city built among trees, was the coolest idea I’d ever heard of. At the time, I was in Chicago and Tolkien’s love of the natural world awoke my love for it too. It’s no wonder I later moved to the Pacific Northwest where we have giant trees!

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?
Plants. Dreaming. Sharing.

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?
From the natural world. I’m a professional gardener and I love plants. I want to bring the awe and wonder of plants into people’s lives. From a more practical standpoint, I draw inspiration to keep writing from husband, who truly believes I have talent, and friend-writers, who are also struggling to share their truths. I admire established writers too, especially the ones whose road to success took many years of perseverance.

Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?
I would encourage writers to write short pieces as well as long, and then try to get those short pieces published. You have to try again and again but when you get a hit, that small “yes” makes you feel like a million bucks. It means there is another person out there who does care about what you’re saying and thinks it’s worth publishing. It may take awhile but it’s worth the effort. Plus, it helps you build a list of publications to show off to an agent or publisher.

As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)?
Again, it’s plants. Plants are amazingly delicate and yet incredibly tough. They’re fascinating. They have little lives of their own and care nothing about us. They make their own food and don’t need us at all. Yet we think we rule over them. It’s a crazy dynamic. Without them, humans would be eradicated as a group.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?
I’d say generally the first scene of every novel is the hardest for me to write. I’m constantly wondering if I’ve backed up the tape in this character’s life far enough or come in too late into the scene, etc. I do begin the novel just before the inciting incident but how far before is always the question. There’s a lot of pressure on a novelist to land in the exact right place.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?
Reading beyond my comfort zone. We all have favorite writers or genres we tend to read but when I read a book that is very unlike what I would choose, I find I’m always changed by it more. My brain has expanded into a new way of thinking. I put sentences together differently. I write insights I never would have before. For instance, I love reading 20th-Century, Eastern European writers like Bruno Schulz and George Konrad. They are wild and absurd and amazing. The language travels like a scribble on a paper, going where ever the author needs to go and the result is a trippy dream.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?
Being someone else’s beta reader temporarily turns you into an editor and that’s a good thing. It teaches you how to nurture someone else’s vision rather than you just rewriting the book as you would have. It also teaches you how to approach a work from a distance. It helps you become a better writer because you can take the weaknesses or strengths in another’s manuscript and apply those lessons to your own writing.


Reach out to Karen:

If you like this post check out my other Q and A with aspiring author, Beth Green.


Owning Books

I’m a day late and it’s already JUNE! YOW!

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I’m currently reading these two PRINT books right now.

 

Recently, I read an article about how owning print books feels different from owning e-books. The research comes out of my undergraduate alma mater, The University of Arizona, and Twoson University. The article doesn’t go super in depth, but when I read it I kept thinking, duh. Of course, it feels different than owning an e-book. The experience is different because of the physical structure of the book, but when they pointed out the emotional aspect of it, that really hit home.

The study found that research participants “described being more emotionally attached to physical books, and said they use physical books to establish a sense of self and belonging.”

That puts a finer point on why it is I feel more connected to reading a print copy as opposed to the distance I feel in reading an e-book copy. For me, it feels like a wall springs up between me and the text when I read e-books. My preference is definitely print, but every so often an e-book or even an audio book sneaks into my reading rotation. What do you prefer?

Overall, I’m fascinated with how to describe and understand our emotions. They are so nuanced and each person has such a different experience when reading a book and in everyday life. It’s putting those emotions down into a novel or story that can be a challenge. Especially in showing specifically why someone reacts the way that they do, but oftentimes the why seems to be the driving factor.

 

Check back next week for my second Q and A with an aspiring author post.