Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One Catholic Writer's Way of Dealing with Criticism

All writers have to deal with painful criticism from time to time, and no matter what, it hurts. I once had a person write me, not once, but twice, on very nice stationary to tell me just how bad a writer I am. Ouch!

Nancy Carabio Belanger recently dealt with a very critical review on Amazon, and wrote about how she coped: Life Goes On

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What About All Those Indie Bookstores?

I'll be honest - I love my local Barnes and Noble. The first time I went to one, I was amazed. So many books all in one place and they didn't mind if you sat down and read one while you were there. It was (and still is) a little slice of heaven.

But, there is something to be said for all those independent bookstores as well, and I hate to see them dying out. A few years back, I read Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Book store by Suzanne Strempek Shea about her year working at the now-defunct Edwards Books in Springfield, MA. It was very interesting! I think every writer or book lover has dreamed of working at a bookstore. This offered a taste of what it might be like.

In any event, I was thinking it might be interesting for someone (not me - no time) to go to a whole bunch of independent bookstores, photograph them and tell the stories behind them. I think it would make a great book! So, there it is - a free book idea for the taking.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Writing Historical Fiction? Check out this website.

I have definitely added the Massachusetts Historical Society Library to the places I would love to visit. I was reading their newsletter recently and they truly have some amazing items in their collection (and I'm sure it must have that wonderful old library smell).

Fortunately, for those of us who can't make it there in person, they have a pretty amazing collection on-line as well. For example, they have just put up the Online Adams Catalog - a comprehensive record of the papers of John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, and other family members. It includes every known Adams family document from 1639 to 1889. How cool is that! Imagine the possibilities.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Do You Have to Write?

Quote of the Day

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Short Story: The Aftermath

Writer's Digest was running a short story contest (the due date is tomorrow). The subject was "You return home to find out that your house as been condemned." Usually, I see these contests and pass right by them. I am insanely busy with a non-fiction project. Writing anything fiction right now just hasn't been happening, but I reached a major deadline in my other project and decided to give myself a treat and tackle this short piece of fiction.

It had to be less than 750 words. I figured that was no problem. I write 500 word essays every week - hammer them out in about an hour. One night and I should have this in the bag, right? Wrong. I wrote, I revised. I had too many words and had to cut. I decided to go in a different direction . . . LOL It turned into a mini-saga all of its own. In the end, I think I spent about five hours on it. I sent it into Writer's Digest last night. I came in at 749 words! I have no expectation of winning, but it was still fun to delve back into fiction. I've missed it and look forward to getting back into it. So, I thought I would share the story with you. Hope you enjoy it :)

The Aftermath

I had never planned to return here, to this place where I had grown up. I had ran away years before, placed the “For Sale” sign firmly in the ground and hauled away all the old memories to the dump after the liver disease had finally won its battle with my father and I had buried him in St. Michael’s Cemetery, next to my mother who had been waiting there since three days after I was born. There was nothing left for me here, but here I stood, compelled by a news story to get in my car and drive for four hours.

A tornado in Western Massachusetts? That couldn’t be. Could that pile of rubble on the screen actually be my high school? I had walked there each day with my best friend Kathy Miller who lived next-door, smoking cigarettes and trying to hike up our Catholic school uniform skirts as far as Sister Principal would allow them to go.

Kathy’s home was my refuge, a safe haven from the storm that was my father, who would come home from his job at the mill, silent and angry, ready for his evening routine that generally involved falling asleep in a drunken stupor. I was a living reminder of the woman he loved and lost. I don’t think he ever forgave God for taking her away. He certainly never forgave me. Mrs. Miller was my surrogate mother. She had eight children of her own, but she always had room for one more. She made sure I went to Church on Sunday, and made me clothes, and told me about the things a young woman needed to know.

Kathy and I had such big plans. But, she fell in love with Bobby our junior year and our dreams were thrown away like yesterday’s newspaper. The week after graduation, I wore a ridiculous pink dress with a big bow as I stood there as a bridesmaid with a pasted-on smile while my heart felt like a stone sinking to the bottom of a murky pond. She moved to Ohio, had three kids by the time she was twenty-three, and I never heard from her again. I always wondered what happened to her – always missed my friend. I left Springfield and never looked back. I had exchanged Christmas cards with her mother until she died. I should have come back for her funeral, but I didn’t. I had always regretted that.

I parked at the end of street and walked, retracing the steps of my childhood, climbing over felled trees and around pulled up sidewalks. The street was crowded – some people working hard to remove debris, others handing out water and lemonade, still others simply watching. I made my way past a painted wooden sign, “Bless this Mess,” invoking God’s protection over a home completely destroyed.

My house and Kathy’s had huge oak trees lying across them and branches and items strewn across the yard. The roofs had collapsed and windows were shattered. They were marked with giant X’s – already condemned by the city, apparently making quick work of declaring places inhabitable. A photo rested on the ground. The glass was broken, but the faces smiled back at me – parents and three children, standing in front of the fireplace in the living room that no longer existed. I was glad that they had brought some happiness to this place that had been so sad for so long.

When I looked over at Kathy’s yard, I stared at a teenage girl gathering up branches. The girl’s hair was shorter and brown rather than blonde, but she looked so much like Kathy. Could it be?

An older woman emerged from the back yard. She saw me, and looked away, then looked again.

“Oh my goodness, Donna, is that really you?”

She nodded and came towards me. We embraced in a big hug and the years melted away. We were young again, sharing our deepest secrets.

“Do you live here?” I asked.

“No, my niece and nephew bought the place after Mom died. We’re just here helping clean up. Can you believe this?”

I shook my head. “it’s incredible.”

“Oh, but it is so good to see you,” she said. “I’ve thought about you so much over the years.”

“Me, too,” I said. “It’s been far too long.”

She took my hand and led me back to her family. She introduced me, “I’d like you to meet one of my oldest and dearest friends.”

Save the Date: The Catholic Writer's Guild On-Line Conference

The 2012 Online Conference is happening March 17-31.

We've extended the dates thanks to feedback from attendees who say there's too much to balance in one week. This year, we'll be holding the forum part of the conference first. From March 17-24, the forums will be open so that you can read, do assignments and get feedback from our fantastic presenters at your own leisure. (Remember, forums are open 24 hours a day, and presenters will be visiting them frequently.) The forums will remain up, but presenters do not need to reply to posts after March 24.

March 24-31, we will have only chats. These are scheduled one-hour moderated chats on a variety of topics. We will also be holding pitch sessions and prayer time this week.

More info to come!

Monday, January 2, 2012

I Want to Buy This House, Part 2

I recently wrote about a Church/House I would love to buy: I Want to Buy this House! Well, today I did get the opportunity to go and see it. And . . . while it is a fabulous, beautiful space with absolutely TONS of potential, it still needs a great deal of work. So, the person who buys it not only needs to have those funds, but also the funds to continue fixing it up.

But, in an odd turn of events, I came to find out a bit about the current owners - an artistic couple and their small daughter. The man is a musician and the woman is a jewelry artist. She had converted the basement into this great studio space and had some publicity articles about herself posted, so I got to see her picture.

Well, after viewing the house, I headed to Thornes Marketplace in Northampton, a local artsy town. I love it there, but I don't go often - maybe once a year. It just happened that I wasn't far and had some time, so I thought I'd go enjoy myself and soak up some atmosphere. It turns out that the woman whose house I had just seen owns a shop there (named after herself) and was there manning the store. I did not go tell this woman I had just ventured through every part of her home (I think that would have seemed a bit stalker-like!), but I just found it such a strange coincidence. Me, who rarely goes much of anywhere, and has never heard of this woman before, suddenly finds myself touring her house and her store in the same day.

In any event, I would love to see the house find some wonderful artistic owners who can appreciate all that this space would have to offer. It's a pipe dream for me, but someone with enough financial resources could make it a reality. Who knows? Maybe someday after my next novel becomes a New York Times Bestseller or a screenplay I write gets optioned, I'll be able to do the same for another unique property. One never knows where life may lead.

So, here is the MLS listing, for anyone who is interested: