Renewal

It’s not enough to want to write. It’s not enough to write in your head–although that is usually very good writing.  Why do I write?  I’m not a good speller. I am a lousy proofreader.  My English methodology is sketchy at best.  And Latin did not help.

 Attending the NYC mid winter conference last weekend was that push to sit down and write.  New York in February is not my ideal trip.  It’s cold. Sometimes blizzardly cold, no clean air….

I’m late in doing this. The conference was 10 days ago. And yet. I had things to get done before I could, shoot, I hate that word–process, but yes. Turn it over in my mind, figure out how and what to say.

This I know. I must write. I am not a huge fan of the inspirational keynote that lets us in on the successful writer’s/illustrator’s life.  I have no connection with how they get there and where they started. I want the keynote of the person who looks at writing and brings their passion to the fore

This is my year of renewal. No. More repurposing.  I’m at that place between getting a request for a full and hearing nothing afterward. I have this character, a cozy mystery.  I was told that mysteries are a ‘dime a dozen.’ Definitely not what I wanted to hear.

Keynotes. Intensives.  Seeing friends. Discussing writing. Let me tell you what I get out of the international conferences.

Depends.

This year a lot hit home. While it was interesting to hear the story of Jarrett Krosoczka, and to hear Christopher Paul Curtis cruise through his childhood but it was the passion and fire, the language and oratory of Elizabeth Acevedo that took my breath away.  

I have no connection to her story, her history, the society in which she grew up. But I was stunned by the acuity of her phrasing, the depth of her commitment to her writing life, and the confidence by which she communicated.  Would that we could bottle all of that and give it to those kids who don’t get that whatever—love, support, or just plain belief in oneself tattooed on her spine.  What a gift! 

This year, more than in those past, I got a lot out of the intensives. I learned about the four faces of a character. I re-learned classic POV, tropes. Revisited Aristotle. About tent pole moments, the diagram of narrative nonfiction. To discover what is at stake in a nonfiction story, using prologues and epilogues. and Zotero and sprinting and the Pomodoro method of writing.

and I signed up for a mentorship program. “About time”, said Tom. And I agree.

every book should be….

I have been a reader of mysteries since, well, I don’t remember not reading them. And I love how each author makes their journey from problem to solution differently.  Some are better than others. When I was growing up Nancy Drew remained pretty much the same and it was the plots that were unique. Now, the main character has to have wants and needs and should change in someway, probably for the better, although….

Truth be told, I am really a fan of mysteries that involve murder. And find it amazing how many different ways writers are able to kill off people, and it seems we do it regularly and with a lot of enthusiasm.

Thanks to the North Carolina Digital Library I can read a lot of mysteries. Right now I am reading the James Runcie Grantchester series, Sydney Chambers and his non-clerical adventures in detecting. Although I think I will never ever understand cricket, I find his very English voice of the 1950s to be fascinating, almost as interesting as the murders.

A lot of children’s books which are mysteries do not include dead bodies and I get that. They are perhaps finding a precious family heirloom, or noticing something strange with a neighbor and getting involved in maybe rescuing a family pet or helping someone in a bad situation. Personally, I like the idea that a person or persons with really bad intentions is out there and it is scary. I like that idea that a person or persons is willing to kill again, perhaps, making it dangerous for the main character.

 

The swallows….

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. A little research led me to the fact that it wasn’t until 1955 that Pius the XII declared March 19 his feast day. Hmmm, right smack dab in the middle of the twentieth century. How about that!

Besides fond memories of Capistrano in March (usually cold, well cold to a southern Californian)   I always thought of this as my dad’s feast day. There is a Saint James, the Apostle. His feast day is in July. But Mom always said this was dad’s. I think it was to drill into our adorable little heads that it was dad’s work that brought us all that we had. His dedication to the ethic of providing for his family was important, this was a way, as catholics we could honor dad. As a matter of fact when dad retired, none of us had a clue what he was going to do, until he told us he was going to fish. We were amazed. We had never seen dad fish, heard him talk about fishing, zip, nada, nothing.

And then he told us that as a child, his grandfather taught him to tie flies, wrap a rod and then go fishing in one of the lakes near Scranton PA. And that’s exactly what he did. He went to fishing camps in New England and in Northern CA.  He made his own pole rest so he could wrap a rod. Used the down from a duck I shot in the bay off Provincetown to make flies. He was, as always, meticulous, exact, tidy and patient.

When I was young the swallows returning to Capistrano was considered a miracle in honor of St. Joseph. They probably have a very scientific explanation for it now! Me? I prefer to think of it as a miracle–one that continually reminds me of my dad and how incredible he was!

Six pages….

We all know it’s hard to write. No, that’s not true.  It is hard to write well! I can write anytime, but I can’t write well anytime. I need to be able to get into the story, remember the characters, know where I want to go.

This year has been hard. With Tom an hour away since December of last year, getting the nursing he needs [certainly not on this planet or any other would anyone consider me to be a good nursing caretaker] and the rehab he requires to live a good daily life! For me it has been making sure I eat and sleep, take care of the puppies, the laundry, the bills, and any other part of our lives until he gets back home.

I have always written, not a good speller, and my grammar can be challenged by just about anyone, anytime, anyplace. But I’ve always been a writer. I like putting words into thoughts and ideas and having them come together and make sense, well, sense to me.

I have not been writing and I can feel the twitch in my hand and the itch in my brain to write. I have assuaged it by writing in the comments section of magazines, newspapers, articles, but it is not moving me forward. Our spring retreat is upcoming and I wanted to submit. Ten pages is not a lot to deal with, and I had comments from an agent and beta readers to consider. So I did. I considered. I re-read. I revised. I thought about wants, needs, what the resolution would be with what I had. I pulled out the synopsis. I read. Re-read. Revised.

I’m still driving that hour each way. Spending time with Tom. Getting him to stand. Walk. Talk. Having lunch. That open wound right at his tailbone is a mind numbing pain! And a second has opened! Not infected, thank God~ and yes, I mean it as a prayer~ months it will be until he is whole again. But it will happen. Yes, I could use this as an excuse. It is a good one! But no.

New year resolutions can happen any time. This is mine. Every day print off six pages. That’s doable. And while Tom is on a pressure release, or at therapy, I read and make notes. I revise. Six pages. It’s not fast. But it is what I can do. Getting it done is what counts.

Six pages at a time!

from…..

Think on it: Ireland in the mid 1800’s ruled by English overlords as British plantations assaulting the Catholic religion and Irish culture. Congo, at the turn of the century, the personal fiefdom of the despot Leopold II thoughtlessly annihilating  the native civilizations that already existed. The economic and cultural failure of the Weimar Republic giving rise to the totalitarianism of the National Socialist Party and almost consuming western Europe in death and destruction. The rise of communism enveloping eastern European countries oppressively almost wiping out previously thriving nations. The dictatorships of Idi Amin and Joseph Mubuto in Africa. Today, the dysfunctional government of Yemen, the civil war in Syria, the socialistic driven collapse of the Venezuelan economy, the drug cartels of Mexico, the graft and corruption in Haiti.   And, none of this includes the impact of the sometimes unnamed apartheid systems western civilization imposed during the Empire Era and continued to impose  on countries that provided them with goods and wealth.

Are you saying, wait, what, Ireland? I know, I know,  rolling green country side, lovely castles, quaint villages. Not a country you would think of as awful, but it was.  My family is from Co. Mayo, which was a British stronghold.  I like to think of it as a ‘rebel’ county. My greats and grands, like many of our ancestors, immigrated to the US because they were denied their basic freedoms; individually, culturally, religiously, ethnically. America looked like a place they could be Irish and more, or for others, be Jewish and more, or be Indian and more. Mine came during the Great Potato Famine, no history lesson here. One million died, one million emigrated.

I love that I am an American. I am grateful that my ancestors sought a different place that would provide a different outcome than the one they faced in Ireland. I have always hoped that I would be that brave. That I could, would, leave behind the gawd-awful aspects of my home country and forge a new life under a new set of rules, one that provided more of, well, of just about everything I cherish about being human. And I am proud that I still love my Irish heritage. My heritage is different from the country, think of it as its soul!

I want this sort of realism to imbue my writing. Middle grade should be a time to understand charity. Not the charity of gifting, donating either time or money. The charity that is love, a love of a better future. That’s what our ancestors did, in love they left behind all they had known for the unknown. All that was familiar for the unfamiliar. Maybe they had to learn a new language. Maybe they were discriminated against when they came here. The Irish certainly were! But they held on. They made it better. I want it to ring true as much for me as for readers.