Sunday, November 27, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Musings

(Free image courtesy of

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Well, not quite gone. The feel of the week-end lingers, perhaps because I didn't take part in the Black Friday feeding frenzy. Instead my husband and I took time off from our busy lives and enjoyed slowing down and savoring the splendid fall we are having.

Autumn came late to Sacramento and its surrounding areas. The air has only recently turned nippy. Consequently, the leaves have been turning colors slowly, steadily becoming more brilliant against the gray sky before they fall. Their leaf litter on sidewalks or piled in gutters makes a walk through Midtown an uplifting experience. No matter how much I like spring and summer (even winter with it's own beauty carved from branches splaying the air in webby patterns), autumn has become my favorite season.

It seems ironic that in such a cool season, the colors are from the warmest tones of the palette: yellow, gold, bronze, orange, every shade of red and brown. The colors both cheer and sooth—comfortable colors associated with pumpkins and pumpkin pie, with yams and carrot cake and corn on the cob. Or roast chestnuts.  A glowing fireplace. Bouquets of golden mums by a window. 

Spring may burst out in a rainbow of blooms and promise. Autumn is a promise kept, a season of harvest and sharing the bounty, a sharing that doesn't require standing in long lines at midnight in order to grab the latest bargain, but instead calls us back to fellowship and the abundance in our hearts. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Time Out

Dear Blog Friends,

I won't be blogging again until next week, due to the holiday week-end. But I do want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I Have Learned About Perseverance

From the cool site shown above

Learning the market and submitting takes so much time and energy! This is not a whine, just a realization. When I decided to write full time, I didn't have a clue. 

Oh, I belonged to writing groups, revised my manuscripts, studied my copy of Writer's Market or Children's Writer's Market, Guide to Literary Agents, and sent my manuscripts out. But I was pretty naive. I didn't expect to have to revise so many times, study the market so many times, submit my stories/books so many times, write so many cover letters, etc., etc.

And then I started getting published -- mostly stories, poems, and flash fiction in magazines, both print and online, both for adults and for children. I won "honorable mention" in some contests. And I was still . . . pretty naive. I thought I had broken into the market, so to speak, and it was going to be much easier to get everything published.

But, I learned about blogs and networks in addition to my writing groups. I picked up terms like "pitching" and "beta readers" and "WIP", etc. And I revised and revised, and studied Writer's Market and Children's Writer's Market, Guide to Literary Agents, and sent things out again. And again.

And that's what I've been doing for the last few weeks: Sending things out again.

But, I know some things I didn't know before. I have a keen appreciation now for the word "perseverance," and what it r-e-a-llllly means. 

Even my husband, my chief emotional support through thick and through thin, who always has had faith in my writing, shakes his head at how much perseverance it takes to be a writer. He says he couldn't do it. But I know why. The reason he couldn't do it is that he is blessed not to be a crazy writer. 

If you are a crazy writer, you have to persevere. It's impossible not to. You can set the writing aside for awhile (and sometimes to great benefit and perspective), but sooner or later, the fingers itch, the imagined scenes well up, a character's voice has a particular lilt that makes you wonder who he/she is, or would be, if you can nail it just right in a story. And there you go again, noticing the way light hits maple leaves in the fall, the way ginko leaves scatter like gold coins on sidewalks, and you have to write about all of it. 

Once you've done that, well -- it's not like that manuscript can ever be happy just sitting in the file cabinet. It nags and nags at you until you make it better and go research the market to find it a good home. Perseverance is nothing more than being beholden to a manuscript that will NEVER LEAVE YOU ALONE until you get it through those gates to the reader beyond. 

I sleep better, knowing that. 

How about you?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life Returns to Normal

So, now I'm over jet lag and getting back to my routine. Well, sort of my routine. Normally my routine would involve writing for two or three hours a day in addition to house chores, email, and studying Spanish. But, I haven't been doing the writing part of it at all except for journaling. My writing time has been spent studying the 2012 Writer's Market and querying or composing cover letters for snail mail submissions. I have to confess great guilt over not working on revising and rewriting my novel for some time. Trips and visits seemed to take priority.

On the other hand, these visit were spent in heartfelt talks with friends and and family, filling my mind and heart with memory and insight, tapping heartwise into some of my deepest feelings. An outcome that can only enrich my future writing, I would think.

Last year I had the opportunity to interview an author whose writing I admire quite a bit, Kirby Larson, author of Hattie Big Sky and The Fences Between Us, as well as many other books. You can read the interview here. I asked at one point how her busy life impacted her writing. In addition to writing award-winning books, she teaches, presents at conferences, does school visits, etc.. Her answer was: 

"I am reminded every day of Katherine Paterson's powerful words: "The very persons who take away my time and space to write give me something to say." (Katherine Paterson is another author I greatly admire.)

So I take solace from the words of these two marvelous writers whose books shimmer and reach into the heart of things. After all, if we had no life outside of writing, we'd have nothing to write about. In fact, writer's block may often be about living too much in your head and not taking renewal from the life going on around you.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back and Home, Remembering the Trip

Mont Blanc
Julien and Camille

What a lovely week I had with my nephew and his family in France. They live just outside the village of Moisin in a rural area with several small farms and breathtaking views of the Jura mountains on one side, and the Salève mountains on the other. It was a trip long overdue. The morning after I arrived, my grand-niece, Camille, and my grand-nephew, Julien (who visited us in March), took me to the top of Salève where I was able to get a good view of the French alps and Mont Blanc. 

Later that afternoon, I took a walk through the village of Moisin to the road that is a French part of the road to Santiago in Galicia, as I mentioned last week. The road goes up to a little chapel that the pilgrims visit, although I was too tired to walk up that far. 
Here are a couple of pictures of the icon marking the road, though:

Notice the clam shell motif on the blue background.
 My nephew, David, had been away on a business trip when I first arrived Tuesday evening, but he returned Thursday. He works in computer technology, and Brigitte teaches English and also has a hypnotherapy business. One day we went into her office in Geneva. 

Brigitte in her office.
Both are wonderful cooks. I felt spoiled with wonderful dishes like quiche, and fondue, and salmon with a lemon bechamel sauce, and some increidible baked cheese dish called Mont d'Or, as well as beans and potaoes persillade, a treatment that basically cooks vegetables with parsley and garlic. (Sigh.)  David cooks a pretty great tomato pie, too.                            

Most of the week was really spent in catching up on news and sharing books and interests in the ways you never really can on Facebook or emails -- although I'm glad there are those ways, because one can't always bridge the miles any other way. But face to face and hugs to hugs are unbeatable. 

Nicolas singing.
David and their kids have a band (that includes other friends as well).  David plays guitar and sings. Both sons play guitar; the older son, Nicolas, and the daugher, Camille, both sing, and the younger son, Julien, pays drums. His girlfriend, Jessica, also sings, and another friend, Valentin, plays bass. Here are some pictures of them rehearsing Sunday in the basement for a gig they'll play next month:
Valentin on Bass

Camille singing.
Julien on Drums

The whole shebang.
Jessica singing.
And afterwards they gathered around the table to enjoy the pumpkin pie David baked.


The week slipped by, listening to music, reading, talking, and eating great food. The day before I left Brigitte and I went into Geneva, and she showed me around the old town with its historical buildings before we had lunch at a cafe, sitting outdoors and people watching. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera. But that afternoon, I took another walk through the village, and here are just a few pictures of this picturesque place.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to paint such lovely buildings? Trees were just turning despite the late fall and the mild temperatures. Hillsides werebursting with beautiful colors. Too soon, too soon it was over, but I came back with a treasure of memories.

On another note, Eve E. (who has a very enjoyable blog) passed the One Lovely Blog Award back to me about a week and a half ago, but I was too busy packiing and unpacking to acknowledge that. thanks Eve!