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Category Archives: Inspiration

Writing Through Crisis With Guest Author Amy Freeman

Jax and Me

 *This Friday, we begin our first ever Hugs and Chocolate workshop. Tonia Harris will begin with a look at dialogue. But for now, we’re excited to introduce you to author Amy Freeman and her inspiring writer’s journey.

“You should write a book, but no one would believe you.”

I cannot tell you how many people say this to me when hearing about my life. I can think of three right now without even trying. But what most of these people don’t realize is that the degree of challenge in my life is not that uncommon. I know many people whose lives rival my own. Some far more challenging than mine ever was. Trial is a part of life, and each hardship is relevant to the individual enduring it. But how we come through it can be unique. It was during my own living hell that I managed to write my first publishable novel.

 Picture this. I was living in Florida at the time with my husband and five children. Writing was a luxury I abandoned years before to care for a disabled son and chase two teenage daughters around in the middle of the night. Somewhere in the mayhem the idea for my book pushed its way through the chaos and I began to write. I had forgotten how much I loved it. I escaped into my newly created world, becoming part of it, loving my heroes and loving to hate my monsters.

 About a month in, three major events fractured the bliss. I received a call from Orlando informing me that my oldest daughter had just been arrested and put in jail for driving on a suspended license. She bolted for New York with a friend two months prior to avoid jail time. The panic I felt when I received that call from South Carolina is not one of my fondest memories. She had come home for Christmas. She was arrested New Year’s Day. Two and a half hours away from any family, she sat in a cell. She was terrified. So was I.

 Not long after that my younger daughter, who was pregnant and also two hours away, called in tears because her friend’s mother was using drugs in her home and her boyfriend wouldn’t ask her to leave. We made the drive and brought her home to live with us. She was about two months away from delivering.

 The final blow came when our 17-year-old disabled son made a turn for the worse. Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a rare seizure disorder stunted his mental development early in his life, allowing him to function at no more than a five-year old level. Behavioral aggression is a common element of this syndrome, but never before had it escalated to events we couldn’t handle. Out of nowhere he became more violent, harming himself and others. We found him injured in the morning on more than one occasion as he would get up in the night, wandering in an incoherent fog until a seizure would bring him down. He wouldn’t eat and wouldn’t medicate. After bringing in a nurse during the day wasn’t enough we began an excruciating, year and a half long search for a facility to care for him…end scene. Whew!

 This all occurred at the same time. I dare say life couldn’t have been more complicated and frightening, but somehow a book came through it all with me, one entirely unrelated to the chaos pulling me down. “How in the world did you stay on task?” people ask. It’s a great question. I wonder myself sometimes. But honestly, writing my novel through the mayhem is partially what kept me sane. It truly was an escape for me. I would come home from work, do what had to be done, fight some battles physically and emotionally, and then I would retreat to my make-shift office, close the door and jump into another world. For those few hours every day I was able to set aside the panic, helplessness, frustration and sadness. I was able to go somewhere else and let the characters I created entertain and sooth me. There wasn’t a lot I could do about my current situation. I had to keep going. I had to take the blows and continue picking myself back up. Writing sustained me (and probably added depth to my characters!)

 We all find ways to deal with heartache, fear and pain. Some people exercise, some meditate. Other’s drink themselves into oblivion. I suppose with a side dish of constant prayer, when I feel overwhelmed by the world, I write. It’s a productive coping device, and if you can convince yourself to set an impossible situation aside for a while, knowing you are doing all you can do, it is healing and rewarding to know you successfully created something in the middle of the storm.

Amy Freeman has spent a lifetime building stories. She grew up in Salt Lake City in a family of five siblings, a conservative father and a highly entertaining mother. She spent most of her time daydreaming against her will, in class, at home, while she slept…wherever really. She holds a degree in Criminal Justice. She loves music, ballet, and ghost stories. She has lived in Wisconsin, Nevada and Florida. Five children have blessed her life and one grandchild thrills her beyond words. She has a fantastic, supportive husband and an identical twin.

Her stories revolve around the supernatural, the elusive but possible, and the potential of the human spirit. She wrote a stellar screen play at ten, her first full length book at age thirteen, with her second and third following at nineteen. She has since written two more that she plans to publish this year.  For more info go to her site: http://vedunywriter.blogspot.com

Contact Info:

Email: amyloufreeman@gmail.co

LinkedIn: Amy Freeman

Face Book: Amy Sipherd Freeman

Twitter: AmyVedunyWriter

Google +: Amy Freeman

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Performance Pressure and the Diamond in the Manuscript

20130125-172029.jpgHave you ever finished writing a manuscript, and after months of blood, sweat, and tears, you realize that even after all that work, your story doesn’t look at all like you imagined it in your head? In fact, after a second glance, you’re sure a toddler temporarily overtook your brain and scribbled 400 pages of crayon doodles? Of course you have…you’re a writer. You’ve probably felt that way about everything you’ve ever written…like I have.

Up until this point in my writing “career,” that hasn’t mattered much. Mostly my readers have been friends and writing groups. I post fiction online too but even in that venue, readers are generally pretty forgiving. Not so with publishing industry professionals. There is very little room for mistakes and if you make them, they better be small. Tiny. Miniscule. Talk about pressure.

Getting in the (Publishing) Game

Over the next couple of weeks I’m preparing for my first writing contest ever. I’m talking the big deal with two rounds, multiple judges, announcement of the finalists at the next conference, and the final round judged by editors of major publishing houses. Yeah…that kind of scary.

It’s an exciting adventure to be sure, a thrill to imagine where it could lead. The final judge for my category is an editor at Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Never before has every word, every period, and every character of my manuscript been under such scrutiny. Sometimes the anxiety to get it all right leaves me panic stricken. I only get one chance to put my best work in front of this woman who could potentially be my gateway into the holy land.

Previously, I’ve never had a reason to get this far into the process of editing. I guess I always imagined entering the chaos of the publishing world as something that would happen way down the road. Like, way down. I’ve taken my time, learning more about this, fiddling with that, but after five years of writing, getting critiqued, editing, and dreaming, it’s time to dive in, sink or swim. So despite my fear, I’m going through the first 20 pages of my manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. I’ve re-understood my characters, re-worked motivations, re-invented the details, and rewritten this novel so many times that I have more loose ends than the hem of grandma’s skirt.

Upping the Ante

Before I started this final-for-now edit, I had a long brainstorming session with my writing partners and nailed down what was working and what wasn’t, for better or worse. The time for flip-flopping has come and gone. And now, with that focus in mind, I’m sifting out the dirt and looking for the gems. And you know what? They are there. Actually, never before have they shined brighter. And I don’t think anything less than the pressure to perform at my best would have gotten me here.

I’m the ultimate perfectionist at heart, especially when it comes to my writing. I think every artist is that way. But putting myself in this position has taught me that I know more than I ever realized about who I am as a writer, what I want to bring to this ever expanding sea of literature, what my writing voice sounds like, what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it, and what process works best for me. The deadline and the stakes have forced me to stopped questioning myself and realize the truths that were already there, clouded by the uncertainty an unlimited time frame allows.

Get Out There

Do it. I know you’re scared. I know you don’t think you’re ready. Guess what–just like getting married and having kids–you’re never going to be ready. You learn as you go. Underneath all those scribbles is your story, and as soon as you trust yourself enough to find it, you will. Make the decision. Raise the stakes. And watch yourself rise to the occasion.

What’s holding you back from taking the next step? Or, what deadlines are you working toward? What steps have you taken that have forced you to grow as a writer?

Photo by Steve Jurvetson

 

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Meditation: Finding Quiet in the Chaos

Chaos“Within yourself is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”

~ Herman Hesse ~

“Without patience, magic would be undiscovered – in rushing everything, we would never hear its whisper inside.”
―    Tamora Pierce,    Sandry’s Book

Everyone has their own definition of chaos. Many of us have to rip our writing time out of the day like an ingrained splinter and be thankful for it. We have jobs, kids, deadlines, and life…beautiful, crazy life. My definition of chaos is a three-year-old fighting potty-training…and sleep, two pre-teen girls who insist they are not drama queens, two part-time babysitting gigs, and two rescue pets. Oh, and the husband- the guy who learned to never ask me, “So, what did you do today?”

Yesterday, I grabbed my weekly goal list- see, I’m making those resolutions happen- and realized I had two days to edit three chapters, a messy house I’d just cleaned before our daily Tasmanian Devil paid a visit, and an overwhelming need to finish that pack of cigarettes. My husband sat contentedly in the middle of children planning to turn our living room into a UFC fighting cage, bless his heart( which is a Southern euphemism for, “isn’t he cute? I wonder if he’d notice if I took my iron skillet…”).

I longed to lose myself in revisions, which is saying a lot for me. I wanted to steep myself in my story like a bag of Lipton tea. But I would have to ignore the story’s siren song for just awhile longer. I felt that twinge of frustration tighten, then expand.

In short, Mom needed a time-out.

“I’m meditating for twenty minutes,” I told my husband. “I’ll be in the bedroom.”

He nodded and eyed the kids. They retreated to books and video games, fighting cage forgotten in a slew of couch cushions and heaped blankets I resolved to ignore until after my twenty minutes were up.

And it happened- I sat on my bedroom floor, in uninterrupted silence for twenty minutes.

Sitting in silence, letting thoughts trail through my head like summer clouds, challenges me. I prefer yoga, Pilates, or a hard, long run. All of which are beneficial, all of which relieve stress, release endorphins, and makes room for creativity and drive by clearing away the flotsam in my head.

But there’s something to breathing and being. No miracles occurred, but I didn’t spend the rest of the day chain-smoking, and I liked my husband again. I found a few minutes that evening and jotted notes for a new beginning to my story, and I felt like I was no longer trying to pull water from a dry well.

Getting Started:

I use a simple technique at the beginning of my session. I count while breathing. I breathe in for four breaths, hold for seven, then release for eight. This forces my mind away from to-do lists and other idle chattering. Meditation is simply another word for contemplation. I’m learning to look at it as a gift to myself. I’ve included links at the end to some helpful sites to getting started. Going for a walk, a run, or any form of exercise works as well.

Benefits for Writers:

* Produces beneficial change in brain electrical activity

* Decreases tension

* Leads to deeper levels of physical relaxation

* Increased control of thoughts, focus, and concentration

* Encourages development of intuition

* Improves sense of the larger picture in a given situation(plots, character arcs, etc. Oh, and real-life stuff, too!)

http://goodlifezen.com/2008/04/18/how-to-start-meditating-ten-important-tips/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/how-to-meditate_b_861295.html

http://ezinearticles.com/?3-Powerful-Meditation-Techniques-For-Beginners-For-You-to-Try-Right-Away&id=1787961

Please, share your thoughts on meditation or any new habits you want to acquire. What do you do for yourself daily to replenish your energy and creativity? How are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along?

 

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My Favorite Hugs and Chocolate Posts

Sometimes, a hug is all what we need – Jesslee Cuizon

What a good year it’s been over here! I though that the best way for me to end off things would be to share a few of the post by the wonderful ladies I share this blog with. If any of the links go to places they shouldn’t, please let me know.

It’s been such a pleasure getting to know all of you this year. I’m giving all of you big virtual bear hugs. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring us.

It’s been an honor, ladies and gentlemen.

Jamie Raintree

My Romance With Writing

Who Cares About Writers?

Instruction Manual for a Full-Time Writer

Why Character Archetypes Aren’t Just About Commercialism

Why I Heart Scrivener for Outlining

How to NaNoWriMo During Thanksgiving

Tonia Marie Houston

Bring Your Shovel

St. Patrick and the Writer’s Trinity

Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life

33 And It Feels Divine

Give Your Characters Quirk

Synopsis Fundamentals

Heather L Reid

Learn to Love Writing Queries

Dream Big and Never Give Up: How I Landed a 2 Book Publishing Deal

The Third Perspective: Why I Love Third Person Narrative

The First Editorial Letter: Let the Revisions Begin… Again

Riding the Revision Coaster: Completing My 30 Day Deadline

Rebecca Fields

What If…

Luck of the Irish?

The Magic of Fairy Tales

A World of Ideas

Pardon Me, Social Media

Read A (Banned) Book

Courtney Koschel

Filtering Filter Words in Your Writing

Questions to ask When Hiring an Editor

I Suck Syndrome: Recognize it and Beat it

Giving and Getting the Most Out of Critiques

Common Comma Issues

Manuscript Formatting

Jani Grey

Support from the obvious places

Need a little motivation or inspiration? I have some of that for you

Personal Perspective: Why I write 1st person POV

Let me tell you why you’re a winner

The Small Things

Why the subject of your blog post is so very important

Guest Posts

Visualize Your Way to Success: Guest Post by Vaughn Roycroft

DIY Editing and Proofreading Part 1 with Karen S. Elliot

Editing, Proofreading, and a Contest with Karen S. Elliot

Pants on Fire: Guest Post by Laura Long

Guest Post by Brian Taylor: Take a Walk… On a Tightrope: One Writer’s Journey

I’ll see you next year. Have a happy and safe new year!

 

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The One Question You Should Ask Yourself(And A Personal Writing Challenge)

Corinth in Romeimage via Urban at fr.wikipedia

Corinth in Rome
image via Urban at fr.wikipedia

““If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
―    Henry David Thoreau,    Walden

My daughter made the point that my husband and I still have a honeymoon to plan. My husband and I talked about what our dream honeymoon would consist of and where it would take place. We daydreamed about Mediterranean- touring ancient architecture, chasing mythology, and tasting the warm sea air…

In doing so, we discovered some mutual interests and passions. Did we call our local travel agent? No, but we made it clear what we want, and though our aim is high, it’s something we can strive for together. We created a goal- a dream.

Which, in my usual round-a-bout way, leads me to the one question I believe everyone should ask themselves:

What is your Perfect Day?

Most of us are planning our resolutions for 2013. Some people build strategies, others, like myself, tend to write them down on scrap paper, lose them, and hope for the best. I believe goal-setting has its value. But I also believe that for those goals and dreams to become a living, breathing reality, we need to visualize those goals and what the rewards mean to each aspect of our life- including our day-to-day writing lives.

When we invest the time in visualizing our Perfect Day, we access our desires, what we expect from ourselves, and the emotions that drive us. We realize what we want, almost to the letter, and then we can recognize what kind of commitment it’s going to require. Commitment is the key word. Read Steven Pressfield’s posts on commitment, How Pro Are You and Depth of Commitment, Part Two.

Personal Writing Challenge

I challenge you to write down your Perfect Day. Go into detail and description. Think about the first thing you’ll do in the morning, what you’ll eat, wear, where you’ll go. When is your ideal time and place to write? What will the conditions be? Who are the players in your Perfect Day- family, friends, other writers? Use your imagination and don’t hold back due to any current budget or other restrictions.

Take the time for yourself to journal or log the details. Use your ideal to find the things that are within your grasp- maybe you can start your morning with that run or yoga, or writing before anyone else wakes up. Use that ideal for motivation to break the bad habits that get in the way- social networks, smoking, procrastination, Doctor Who memes…

Next week, we plan to share our goals and predictions for 2013, and we want to hear from you. Ask yourself, before then, what is your Perfect Day and meditate on the minutiae. Or use it as a prompt to spur your ingenuity.

Let us know if you decide to participate in the writing challenge.

What are your thoughts on today’s challenge? Do you think taking the time to write down your Perfect Day will inspire you to finesse your goals and find out what drives you? Or do you have a few details you would like to share?

Happy Holidays!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFtb3EtjEic

 
7 Comments

Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Goal-Setting, Inspiration, Just For Fun

 

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Elizabeth Gilbert Talks About Creative Genius

I first listened to this talk just a few weeks into November. Still grieving for my grandmother, taking care of sick children, and trying to finish my book for a NaNoWriMo had all come to a head. I felt like an empty well, with little to offer to my story. When another writer posted the link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s discussion about creative genius, I decided my genius and I needed to have a talk. If I was going to sacrifice my sleep to write and put my “butt in chair” everyday, no matter the circumstances of my life, my genius needed to do her part. This video will make you laugh, and open your mind to the possibilities of your genius, and its part in your creative process. Have a wonderful Friday. As of now, I’ve finished the first book and started another story. I have 7,905 words to complete my NaNoWriMo word count. I’ll see you on the flip side. Enjoy the video, and be inspired. Ole!

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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Chance Encounters

Pink Sherbet Photography

*A few years ago I’d been sitting at a really arty coffee shop waiting for a friend. It was the kind of coffee shop that had worn couches along the walls, bookshelves with new and second-hand books for sale, art supplies in one corner, and a real eclectic mix of patrons. It was one of those places that made people-watching a real treat.

So while I waited for my friend, I sort of spied on the middle-aged man at a table near me. He was a sketch artist, and the table he occupied was littered with pencils of various sized, crumpled pages, and eraser shavings. I think when I chose that table, he’d already been there a good half an hour, just drawing. The artistic mess in front of him might have been what made me choose that table, because my friend was notorious for being late. Most of the time very late.

But it was when I combined that mess with the business suit he wore that I chose a table that allowed me to watch him without him being aware of it. Not that he would have noticed, he was too engrossed in sketching the bus stop across the road along the lady waiting there.

In truth it was a really inspiring sight, this man in his business suit, sketching. Just by the look of him I could tell he probably worked as a manager or an accountant, something along those lines. It might have been his lunch hour, and he spent it doing something he loved. Something he was exceptionally good at, if what my spying had shown me was anything to go by. I had been an inspiring thing to see. Somebody with a day job still finding time to do something he loved. I’m sure had I asked him, he would have told me he’d much rather devote more time to his art, but he had a family to support and he loved them more than he did his art. He’d looked like he kind of guy who would have a wife who tried giving him as much time to devote to his passion as possible. Sometimes you could just tell these things about certain people.

My timing couldn’t have been more perfect if somebody had sent me there on purpose. A couple of student had walked into the coffee shop, and after they’d all placed their orders, gathered around a table and started talking about all kinds of random student things.

One of them, a guy I guessed could have been twenty or so, had leaned back on the two hind legs of his chair and looked at the man drawing. He’d complimented the man on his skill, and the man had accepted it graciously. The student then went on to tell the suited man how he used to draw until some personal issues got in the way. The man had asked the student if those personal issues were still in the way, and the student had said no, they weren’t. ‘Then why aren’t you doing it again if you love it so much?’ the suited man had asked him.

You have to understand, this conversation fascinated me. I’d once asked myself the same question, right before I’d started writing again. It had changed my life, that question. Why aren’t you doing it if you love it so much? Good question, right?

The student had replied that the man had made a good point, and the man had agreed. He’d said that there would always be things that get in the way of doing what you really wanted to. The trick was finding ways around it or making those things work for you. Bad things are only bad things until you decided to do something about or with them.

It had been a strangely wonderful thing to see, the light of comprehension in the student’s eyes as he assimilated what the man had said to him. He’d returned to chatting with his friends, but I’d seen the change in him. Good change, and maybe the change had gotten to me too. I like to think it had.

Fifteen minutes after the encounter, the artist had gathered his pencils and pages and placed them all inside his briefcase. Before he’d left, he’d touched the student’s shoulder and had pointed to the corner where all the art supplies were on sale, then left.

I have no idea if the student went to buy any of the supplies, but I like to think that he had.

* Please ignore my tense issues. I blame it on almost being the end of November and my brain not functioning properly. Any of the H&C ladies are welcome to correct anything they want. I take no responsibility 😛

 
10 Comments

Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Inspiration, Just For Fun, luck, Motivation, Uncategorized