Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Do You Suffer From Writer Envy?

It's only natural that writers have other writer friends on Facebook and Twitter (and any other social media that you may be keeping up with.) Out of necessity, writers use these tools for self-promotion to promote their books, latest successes, etc.,  but it can be downright painful to watch everyone else share their daily successes while yours are few and far between (if existing at all!). In "Writer Envy," in the March/April 2012 issue of Poets and Writers, Maura Kelly shares her struggles with the green-eyed monster:

A cultural shift seems to have occurred, so that Mark Zuckerberg's site is less a place for camaraderie than a platform for self-promotion. And a ton of people I'm connected to were getting a lot more successful, whereas it seemed I was only becoming increasingly resentful. . . That kind of information shrapnel tore through my small, petty heart. . . . If Sartre were around today, I imagine he'd say that hell isn't other people as much as it is Facebook. . . .

For the first time since I'd decided to become a writer, shortly after I graduated college, I seriously considered giving up. I'd indentured myself to a life of writing, initially, because I'd thought (innocently, cluelessly) that I could put down sentences that would outlast me. No longer. And without a beyond the grace goal to live for, there didn't seem much to recommend the monkish existence of a wannabe novelist. What made it especially painful (even more than the relative poverty) was the feeling of shame I had whenever I was reminded that so many other people were living the dream.

In the end, she discovered the cure was to immerse herself in her own work, to become the best she could be and try not to worry about what everyone else was doing. She took her cue from a Faulkner quote: "Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Could You Turn Your Book Into a Museum?

Could you turn your book into a museum? That is what Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk did with his book, The Museum of Innocence . You can read about it here: A Nobelist's Novel Museum

While this particular book is about a museum (and no, I haven't read it) and lends itself to this idea very easily, it is a very interesting concept. What are the worlds that we create in our stories? What objects would represent them? I have been to author's homes which have been turned into museums, and it is always interesting to see what items influenced, or made guest appearances, in their stories.

We live in a physical world. Our stories do as well. Perhaps we lack the money to create a whole museum dedicated to one of our books, but it is an idea to ponder. If we could, what would we put in it?
 Pamuk reflects on his museum: "Novels are about preserving the ways we feel, detailing the ways we hold objects, the way in which we smell something," he explained. "Even in a novel of 600 pages, the details of objects fade away, but we never forget the sentiments those objects generate. "A novel generates these sorts of sentiments in us," he added. "This museum is more about those sentiments than the story."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Don't Quit

I was feeling seriously discouraged yesterday. I was cleaning out a closet, purging a bunch of stuff, among them items related to failed career attempts. Some of this was from ten years ago, and I am sure no one cares, or remembers, but me, but I still felt like a failure. Then, I got a present-day career disappointment. All of which left me feeling, why bother?

Then I walked into my hallway, where I have this poem hanging. I first discovered this poem when I was a sophomore in high school. I typed it up (on a typewriter!) and made a frame for it and hung it in my bedroom. It helped keep me going through some very bad days. A few years later, I came across a framed print of it at a craft show. I bought it and it has been hanging in my home ever since. Most of the time, I hardly pay attention to it, but every now and then, it is just what I need.

I can't say that it totally brightened my mood. I still feel pretty discouraged, but it serves as a good reminder to keep going, even when all seems hopeless.

Don't Quit
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, 
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
- Author unknown

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lisa See on Writing

The June 2012 issue of Writer's Digest features an interview with Lisa See. I would be unfamiliar with this writer, except for the fact that one of my oldest and dearest friends sent me a copy of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel . She said that it reminded her of me because it talked about two women who had been friends since they were very young. While it was not something I would have usually picked up, I did enjoy it very much.

In Writer's Digest, See shares:

"I would say what I've always said to myself, which is that you've got to write what you're most passionate about. You shouldn't think that writing will change your life - but what it can do is create passion in your life . . .

"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was my fifth book. At that point I was what they called a "critically acclaimed writer." You know what that means? You get lovely reviews and nobody reads your books. . .

"And so I had in my mind a number. I thought, OK, if I'm lucky, 5,000 people will read this - but they're going to be the right 5,000 people. I just thought, I have to tell this story, and maybe if I'm lucky it will find this small audience. . .

"My point is, what really matters is that you're telling the story you're absolutely invested in. The outside stuff, some of that is just a matter of luck, a matter of timing, a matter of the economy of the world. You have to think of yourself as an artist first. What you're creating is all that matters, and you're trying to create the best possible story, and hope the right readers will find it."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

At the End of a Major Project

My alter-ego just finished a major non-fiction project and my first book for a traditional publisher - one day before deadline. The files have been sent. I wasn't sure how I would feel at this moment - whether I'd be doing a happy dance or feel exhausted. In reality, I don't feel anything at all.

I have devoted nine months to this project, working on it almost every day. The last four and  a half months have been particularly intense. I wrote over 120,000 words in that time.

The project came to me at perhaps the most unexpected time of my life - another illustration of God's impeccable sense of humor and timing. My spiritual director said it was my "chocolate" - my reward for saying "yes" to another of God's requests that changed my life. Could be. I said "yes" to this project without having any idea how I would get it done. I went to Church and told God if he wanted me to get it done, He had to help me have the time. He must have wanted me to do it. I took advantage of every available moment, without having to take time away from my family responsibilities and I got it done.

In many ways, this project has kept me going as I have adjusted to my new life. It gave me a sense of purpose. There were days I resented it, times when I wished I could work on something else, but overall I was thankful. I've been writing professionally for eight years now. I know an opportunity like this doesn't come along every day. It may very well be my one and only traditionally published book (I'll have to see what the future holds). I did the best I could with it in the time allowed.

 And now, it's just done. And life will go on tomorrow. I know that there will be editing on this project and more work to be done, but I'm  hoping that the publisher will give me a short breather. I have other things I have neglected that I need to do. I have a stack of books to read. I think I'll relax a bit - maybe get to bed a bit earlier, and then, who knows?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Catholic Writers to Hold Conference in Arlington, Texas

The fourth annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE will take place August 29-31, 2012, at the Arlington Convention Center in Arlington, TX. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), and held in conjunction with CMN’s annual retailer trade show, the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic authors with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe. This year's conference will focus on “Writing and the New Evangelization.”

Speakers include Catholic publishing representatives Claudia Volkman of Servant Books/St.Anthony Messenger Press, Mike Marshall of FAITH Catholic Publishing, authors Ellen Hrkach (In Name Only and Stealing Jenny) and Patti Armstrong (Catholic Truths for Our Children, Stories for the Homeschool Heart), Ann Margaret Lewis (Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes), and EWTN personalities Teresa Tomeo and Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR. More excellent speakers are still being confirmed.

 The conference will offer “pitch sessions,” allowing authors an opportunity to meet personally with publishing professionals and pitch their writing projects. In addition, attendees have the opportunity to sign up for critique with professional editors and writers. Information for this event can be found on the conference web site. In partnership with the Catholic New Media Conference, also taking place in the convention center, writers conference attendees will be able to attend a special track on blogging for $25. Information on this opportunity will be made to attendees upon registration.

 “It's not just writing, it's not just fellowship, it's inspiration, too!” says 2011 Conference attendee Sarah Reinhard, blogger and author of Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative or Clueless and several other Catholic family books. “It was great to put faces with names and personalities with suspicions. It was also great to share the Eucharist and evening meals in person with writers who inspire me, encourage me, and motivate me the rest of the year. I enjoyed it so much I'm afraid I'm addicted.”

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization, sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. “Our conferences are totally focused on encouraging faithful Catholics to share genuine Catholic culture and faith in their writing no matter what genre,” says CWG President Ann Margaret Lewis. “These events are integral to our mission of ‘creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”

 Registration costs $70 for CWG members, $75 for non-members and $40 for students. There's also a discounted combined membership. To register or for more information, go to