Friday, September 13, 2019

Getting Brave Enough to Publish

My novel Wheeling a Suitcase Coast-to-Coast is close to publication at last, but I am considering a shorter title. Perhaps just Suitcase or maybe The suitcase. It feels good to be this close to the end and ready to begin the big edits on the novel I finished first. I'm more confident about its title. It takes a hard look at one's work to let go of the
darlings
to whittle the verbiage out. Bravery is what I need to put my work out there for strangers to read--obviously. I don't even post on my own blog very often for fear of how possible readers will judge my writings. I'll post again when my book is available on the market.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

It's about time I wrote about my writing. As a long-time member of Idaho Writer's League, I enter the contests that organization conducts annually. Since being a member, I have entered and won prizes every year except the year I was a receiver, which disqualified me from entering. I don't consider humor my forte, but one year I was runner-up for the humor award for a silly poem on the assigned title, "The Woman in the Orange Coat." I just thought the tittle was silly, which seems to have stimulated what little humor I am blessed with. This year I won three prizes, one for an article, one for light verse, and one for serious verse. I've done better other years. My first published poem was in a high school anthology,Young America Sings, collected from high schools in eight states of the Intermountain West by National High School Poetry Association. What I learned in the class for which I wrote that poem is the only formal training I have received in writing poetry. Still, I have written poems throughout my life. Sometimes it was doggerel for a poster. Maybe much of the rest wasn't much better, but I often wrote a poem to express a deep-felt emotion. I enjoy the poetry of Christina Rossetti, William Blake, Robert Service, Robert Frost,and Emily Dickinson, have puzzled over Wallace Stevens until ultimately appreciating at least his "Emperor of Ice Cream," while wondering why anyone can be bothered with reading Alexander Pope's "Rape of the Lock"--so many words about something so ludicrous. Since I've belonged to IWL, I have used poetry as a way to experiment with language and found it a good way to find colorful words to brighten up my prose. Having my poetry judged has helped me learn more about writing it, but I would love to study with a good poet for a semester or so. Reading books about writing leaves it all up to my limited understanding. Day-to-day critique would surely help me more. Over the years I have collected a fat packet of rejection letters from publishers to whom I have submitted my work. Nowadays I flirt with the idea of self-publishing. Is it any different than the vanity publishing of the past in any way other than less costly? I did get a poem published in one of those anthologies that make money off all us amateurs by selling us the huge, hard-bound book, and I actually received a cute little red heart charm for my poem from Shoe Woman. I am reasonably successful at selling articles or at least getting them published, but I have not earned enough money with my writing to pay for equipment, ink, and paper. Yet I keep at it My husband says, "You won't get published unless your submit your work," so I recently sent off "Strangers on the Mountain," a too long short story to a contest that accepts long stories. I think it is my best work. I hope they will think so, too. and I am busy just now preparing to submit my children's book, Summer Visitors, to yet another publisher. The fat packet, however, is not getting fatter. It seems that now that we writers submit via the Internet, publishes have stopped responding to anything they don't accept for publication. That's not to say form letter rejection notices told us much other than "no thanks." See why I've been reluctant to write about my writing?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

On Artist’s Egos An artist needs ego to succeed. How this ego gets used affects the artist’s ultimate reputation. No matter which discipline the artist follows—painting, music, poetry, sculpture, fiction writing, bronze casting, whatever—at some point in the life of each artist, an important question arises: How much ego should an artist cultivate? Let us hope that every artist considers this question thoughtfully and discerns appropriately to find the point somewhere between the egotistical buffoon and the shrinking violet where ego serves him best. I got to thinking about this ego business following the opening of a new concert hall. No less than a dozen soloists and groups had been invited to perform in various musical disciplines to showcase the versatility of the hall. Each performance required a change in set up--boom boxes (the acoustical system had not yet been installed) and wires, risers, adjustment of the acoustical panels for the best effect for the type and size of the group, and so on. Although the stage crew worked fast, these changes proved cumbersome, and the program grew excessively long. For the opening of this spectacular building, every important politician in the state was in attendance. The entire staff of architects who designed the building came. The governor, who emceed, kibitzed heroically to fill in while set-ups were in progress. And of course, the donors were present. This audience, gathered for the most part for its partiality, demonstrated its appreciation for the beautiful, new hall with lively applause. Unfortunately, almost every artist interpreted this applause as a call for an encore. Good grief! Couldn’t they count the many numbers listed on the program? Couldn’t they see the logistical problems caused by so many different kinds of performances? At the ninety-minute point, when most concerts have ended, intermission finally arrived. I heaved a sigh of relief and informed our guests that the second half always goes faster than the first. My confidence discounted the artistic egos already displayed. Immediately following the half hour intermission, members of a jazz combo that regularly performs at one of the state’s major resorts took their places on stage. I admit that I am not a jazz afficionado. I prefer art songs, easy listening, and classical music. However, on a program like this, I expected two short jazz numbers to be worth a listen. The lights dimmed, and the musicians played—for thirty minutes! How can two jazz numbers possibly take thirty minutes? With continuous, boring vamps, that’s how. Thirty minutes of vamps! Maybe vamps serve those musicians well in a cocktail lounge where everyone moves about and carries on conversations, but on a concert stage? On a program that is already running excessively long? What egos! And did they notice decreased enthusiasm in the applause? Not on your life. At least their encore was a bit shorter than their program numbers, I concede. Our guests, with a baby sitter at home, were obliged to depart during the applause. Others left, as well. They had to miss the most important performers of the evening, two New York City musicians brought in on special arrangements by the benefactor who had put up most of the money for building the hall. The next two performances, local groups, probably the least egotistical of the evening’s list of artists, came and went, even with encores, in the amount of time one might have expected. I heaved a sigh of relief, looked at my watch, and thought we still might be home in bed at a decent hour, for next up, the program showed those New York City guests whose section appeared to be all of one piece with a big choir backing them up in a finale number. Why weren’t the stagehands setting up risers? “And now,” the governor announced, “I have a special treat for you.” Bless his heart, he had invited someone special, someone whom those who arranged the program either did not think of or did not have the pull to book. As the governor made the introduction, we older folks looked at each other and asked, “Who’s she?” while the yuppie crowd went wild. As she began to play, however, we oldsters did recognize music played on our stereos—much too loudly—when we were raising teen-agers. It seems that this notable composer had retired to the backwoods of our little state where the governor got to know her personally! And, yes, after playing her two numbers, she quickly returned to the stage to “honor” us with an encore. I guess it does take ego to succeed. Reflecting on this need, I came to recognize a personal problem: failure to develop my own ego properly. I used to be a singer. I wasn’t bad. I was often chosen as the soprano soloist in the church choir. I sometimes performed as the soloist at concerts or in special programs and was gratified by critics who referred to me as an artist. I sang the lead in several musicals—Musette in Victor Herbert’s Fortuneteller, for instance, no easy role, and I performed those coloratura passages with pizzazz. Leads in musicals require auditioning. Sometimes the competition gets tough. My ego proved sufficient for me to sign up, work hard, and appear at the audition. I could stand in front of the audition judge and perform. If I won the part, I could perform in front of a big audience without panic. If I lost, however, I felt the panic of total humiliation. It took time to work through that humiliation, but I was able to do it and turn the loss into a learning experience. I studied the winner’s techniques, evaluated my own performance in relation to hers, and worked hard to improve before my next try. My ego, coupled with an innate compulsion to be a singer, got me through that kind of obstacle. One might say, however, that my lack of ego created another, very major stumbling block. Something very loud and clear shouted inside my mind that I should never foist my voice uninvited on anyone. I stood back, waiting to be asked, while others pushed themselves forward volunteering to perform. I never sang an encore unless I felt sure the applause indicated genuine desire to hear more. I wanted opportunities so badly I could taste it, but I needed validation even worse. Did I lack moxie, or did I simply have a destructive type of ego, the kind that says, “I’m too good to need to beg?” Singing depends on breath. About the time I should have reached my peak, a nasty virus put an end to my dependable supply of that valuable commodity. I could still produce clear, bell-like tones over a wide range. I could still learn the words to a French or Italian or German aria. I could still work up an emotion charged interpretation of the music. But I could no longer guarantee that breath would support the phrase. My voice might die at the most inopportune moment. Invitations to sing now meant I had to say, “I’m sorry. My voice isn’t dependable anymore.” With the right kind of ego, I might have fulfilled my potential before this unfortunate disability struck, but my time had passed. Don’t get me wrong. I still love music. I still sit at my piano and sing. But the only places I now sing in public are the church congregation and community sings. There I belt it out with joy—except in those spots where my voice eludes me. Then I suck in my best breath and start again. The way I phrase the music has become—well, choppy. Thank goodness for groups. In them no one seems to care how I huff and puff. Music is but one kind of art. A true artist, no matter the discipline, must muster enough ego to get the notice required to sell the product. The little dancer with great talent who doesn’t study with a competent teacher, practice, develop her muscles, and eat right to grow strong bones will never become the prima ballerina of the big city ballet. Nor will she become the star if she hangs back and does nothing to promote herself. Sacrifice goes along with ego. In olden times when books had to be copied by hand, starving artists who earned their living with their quill pens found the ego to decorate those mundane letters with beautiful pictures and create illuminated pages prized down through the ages. Even after developing enough of a reputation to be commissioned to create great frescos, Michealangelo lay on his back on scaffolding for many months, sometimes not coming down for days on end, to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Van Gogh starved and went mad, but his ego kept him painting even though only those who acquired his paintings were to, much later, become rich from them. Louisa May Alcott was turned away by editor after editor who informed her that her books would never interest anyone, but she persisted. No matter what the art, the true artist cannot help but pursue the means of expression that drives him, that holds him captive; but without sufficient ego, the products of the art that captivates him might well languish, never to be noticed by anyone. Deprived of the art I loved, my artistic bent, of necessity, submitted to another captor: writing. A writer is plagued with the inability to not write, and so it has always been with me, scribbling away. During the years when music seemed to me the ultimate art, I didn’t notice my compulsion for writing. Writing is the loneliest of arts. It’s tools, the pen (or computer) and paper, are brandished in privacy. The substance of writing is gathered through quiet observation and solitary study. If it weren’t for writing groups, where could a writer turn to assuage this loneliness? Also alone, the writer seeks for someone to notice his art. Unlike when the choir director, hearing my soprano ringing true and sweet, invited me to be the soloist in the next cantata or during a Sunday service, merely writing something brilliant doesn’t get me noticed by an editor. No editor will accidentally stumble across my latest manuscript and beg me to let him publish it. No producer will hear my latest play and ask me to present it upon his stage unless I buck up my ego and make it happen. And then there’s that Catch 22: a writer needs an agent to get published, and agents don’t deal with writers until they are published. It’s up to me to discipline my reluctant ego and bring my newest art to public notice. It takes ego to search through Writer’s Market and find publishers that fit the writing. It takes ego to write query letters attesting one’s own ability as a writer and the marvels of her manuscripts. It takes ego to repeat that process over and over and over. I would most likely have stopped singing the first time someone so much as hinted that my voice wasn’t up to snuff, but a writer has to learn to subject herself to an ever expanding packet of rejection notices. One might say that writing has forced me to develop the ego an artist needs. If only I had developed that ego when I was a singer! This in no way infers that I don’t suffer with each rejection. I open the letter with expectation, read it, feel my cheeks begin to burn with shame, and slide into a spell of depression. It takes a day or two to get over it. Then I am able to re-read the letter looking for some hint of how I can do better next time. When it’s a manuscript that’s been rejected, I always hope the editor has been kind enough to include some reasons why, some guidance that might help me improve my writing. Even a cutting remark seems less of a blow to the ego than a form letter. Who knows. The barest critique might prove the guidance needed toward eventual success, and as I used to do when I was singing, turn defeat into a learning experience. Now that I write and promote my work, I’m developing a much more useful ego. I only hope that I don’t let it run wild. With use, the ego doesn’t just grow, it matures. It can find its proper place. It can learn to present the artist when presentable, to accept the limitations of the artist’s talent pragmatically, and to motivate continued improvement in plying the art. Yes, an artist needs an ego to succeed—a realistic, well disciplined ego. But please, please, save me from ego that hogs the limelight. My hope is for an ego more like those of the two performers from New York. They graciously allowed those of us who didn’t sneak out early to get home before daylight.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

I am pleased today to see my story, "Crazy Horse Memorial: a Great Destination," published in the June-July 2018 Montana Senior Independent. I submitted it and another story a couple of years ago, but they got lost in the shuffle when the publishing company changed hands. When contacted, Nan Parrat invited me to resubmit. I am happy to be developing an editor-writer relationship with her and even happier to see my story published. My most recent letter to the editor also came out in Idaho State Journal today. Kent Tingy has been teasing me about the long dry spell without reading my point of view on anything. My excuse was that as I get older I just don't seem to get aroused by other people's opinions as much as I used to. Apparently that depends on how much I am disturbed. An atheist who especially hates Christians and blames the worst ills of the world on them made my hackles stand straight up. Besides, he was scripturally in error, and I dashed of 400+ words telling him so. This was a banner day: two pieces published! Now if I could just get an acceptance letter for my novel about a suitcase back from the publisher ... .

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

When Winter Passes, Spring Work Begins

Editing my novel that had a successful pitch with Heidi Taylor Gordon at our IWL conference last summer kept me very busy all winter. Editing is harder work and less fun than writing. I read, corrected, cut, and elaborated three times, winding up with 25,000 words less than when I finished the writing. My two beta readers did good work on it, too, and when I got their comments back, I went through the whole book two more times. Probably it would have benefited from even more work and another 25,000 words cut. The book is at the publisher now. If it is not accepted, perhaps that will happen, perhaps not. My hope is that it will be published. Spring arrived with the apricot tree in full bloom and no frost to kill the buds this year. The garden is in the first stages of preparation. I plan to plant a variety of this this year hoping I am able to do justice to it. I missed fresh beans most of all last year and hope to fill all my pint jars this summer. It's also time to prepare for Idaho Writer's League contests. I have a teen story and a serious poem in the works and will probably write an article. I usually win a prize or two and keep trying for those first place awards. We had some interesting stuff read at chapter meeting last week, so I know the competition is stiff even just in Pocatello let along the whole State of Idaho.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Beauty Trumps Bad Language

I'm fortunate to have a husband who enjoys having me read to him. Now that his eyesight is failing, it's fortunate for him, too; Many evenings we can be found with the television off and settled with a book for an hour or two. In good weather, we read nearly every night in our back yard. Two things will bring us to not finishing a book--it's boring with little usable information to redeem it, or it contains gratuitous bad language. I have no desire to clutter up my mind with ugliness that serves no purpose other than shock. Perhaps writers of such material believe it shows how in touch they are with reality. Rubbish!
On May Day tulips bloomed copiously across the back fence with forget-me-nots beginning to show their bright blue at the left and a spreading bright pink flower with a name I've forgotten peeking out at the right. The sight stirred Wendell to haul our patio furniture out of the shed. Will the evenings be warm enough for reading outdoors? Wendell's tastes in reading material are almost as wide as mine. We read widely--fiction, non-fiction, classics, religion, philosophy, western, mystery, adventure, crime, you name it. He sits still night after night while I plow through a light novel or one after one of Michner's thousand page books--recently finished Chesapeake followed by our seventh short, self-published book written by Tom McDevitt, a member of my Idaho Writer's League writing group.

A Busy Summer of Work and Pleasure

The work commenced in April. We tossed our upcoming responsibility to host the 2017 Idaho Writer's League state conference earlier, but I was worried about lining up a really good program. Others thought it was still early, but I pushed. We settled on the theme, Writer's Rendezvous, and decided a casual atmosphere went with it. As secretary, it fell to me to invite most of the workshop presenters. Several times when I thought all was set, someone dropped out and a new presenter had to be found. In the end we had an excellent program lined up.

Time
Friday, room 1
Friday, room 2
Saturday, room 1
Saturday, room2

9 am
Welcome, LaDean Messenger, Pocatello
Keynote Speaker, Don Aslett
“Beginning, Developing, and Publishing Your Book”
Will Peterson
“Taking It to the Road: Travel WritingTips”
Natalie Bartley
10 am
“Journaling”
Gary Eckhardt
“Anatomy of a Book, Including Fonts”
Larry Telles
“The Craft of Poetry”
Rod Miller
11 am
“Writing a Query That Sells”
Heidi Taylor Gordon
 “Character Presentation in Four Steps”
Brett Wilson
“How to Make a Perfect Pitch”
Heidi Taylor Gordon
“Marketing”
Tammy Godfrey
Noon

Lunch and Writing Contest Award Presentations

Lunch and Writing Contest Award Presentations

1 pm
“What Is Creative Non-fiction?”
Rod Miller
“Writing for the Screen”
Sam Dunn
“Writing for Contests”
Kitty Fleischman
“Self-publishing”
Scott Ferrell
2 pm
“Pursuing Truth through Historical Fiction; The Assassination of Governor Boggs”
Rod Miller
“Get Out! Writing for the Outdoor Market”
Natalie Bartley
“Writing for the Stage”
Robin Wilks-Dunn
“More Than L’Amour: Writing the West in the Twenty-first Century”
Rod Miller
3 pm

Social Media
Marjanna Hulet
“Finding the Writer’s Voice”
Michael Corrigan

“Writing a Romance”
Tammy Godfrey

“Writing Fantasy”
Scott Ferrell
4 pm
Delegate Meeting
(Others can rest, relax, see the town.)
Member Meeting
4:30 pm
Rest, relax, see the town
6:30 pm
Dinner on your own

Banquet
Writing Contest Award Presentations
Poetry Readings—Randy Mecham

2-5 pm

Heidi Taylor Gordon of Shadow Mountain Publishing will hear pitches. Sign up at registration table. There is a $20.00 fee that must be paid at sign-up.

I was right about getting started early. By the time we did, it was too late to reserve our usual venue. We wound up at Travel Lodge, more out of the way, less well maintained, smaller meeting rooms, no food service, but a lot less expensive. We were able to invite writers to attend at a greatly reduced rate. The local newspapers printed six excellent stories about the conference that brought local non-members to the conference. More members came from Northern Idaho than had ever made the trip when the annual conference was in Southeastern Idaho. But, largely due to the large and closest Idaho Falls Chapter having folded in 2016 and no success getting the Idaho Falls newspaper to carry our articles, our attendance was low--thirty-five! In 2011 we drew one hundred. Thank goodness we came out on top that time. We had funds to cover what we went behind this time.

In keeping with the theme and our invitation to gather around the rendezvous campfire, our decorations were simple and casual, a frontier campfire scene and banquet centerpieces with camp chair favors, just enough to create a little atmosphere.


I designed and made or contributed most of the items with some items contributed by Cynthia Deatherage and Lynn Mickelson.

The summer wasn't all work. Our daughter and son-in-law took us to the 2017 Southern Oregon Kite Festival near Brookings, Oregon. They came and got us, and we traveled in comfort in their 42 foot coach. The festival was fantastic--at least to me. I love kite flying. This extravaganza of indoor and outdoor kite flying is a huge pleasure for kite enthusiasts. Nine experts flew big kites inside the high school gym with no wind.

We walked more than a mile to get to the outdoor demonstration of kite flying where we saw many groups of four to nine kites flown in formation each kite in exact sync with the other as they spun, dipped, and soared in time with music. Even the decorations floated one way or another. The program lasted three hours, its climactic concluding kite, pictured below, was a life-size whale! The flying crew brought it down and rolled it into a bag right in front of where we were sitting.
Brookings is a major fishing port. The marinas were full of fishing boats with a few pleasure boats also moored. On the walk back to the coach, we bought crab right off a boat. The captain had returned at noon from his daily fishing trip. He cooked and cleaned the Humboldt crabs in front of us. This was Friday. On Monday we returned by purchase three kinds of bottom fish. What treats for inlanders.

A few days (20 August) after returning home, two of our children and their families came to stay overnight as a jumping off place for viewing the total eclipse the next day. One family traveled to a dune north of Idaho Falls. The other wanted to see it for a few seconds longer, so they took a back road north of Mackay. We settled on our driveway. I took photos with my little digital camera to make a slide show of the progress of our 98 % eclipse. It shows how the moon moved across the sun, exposing an arc that gradually progressed around the black edge from the left side of the sun, around the bottom, and ended almost at top right. It took about one hour and fifty-eight minutes and produced about a minute of dusk just past the end of the first hour. I wore my sun hat and, unlike at the kite festival where it had been forgotten, did not get a sunburn.
Yesterday our birch tree was almost completely yellow. We three or four nights of frost but not sharp freezes have turned it golden yellow with some green leaves remaining and many leaves already on the ground. Last year the first frost was sharp. The tree completely turned a breathtaking lemon yellow overnight. It was so beautiful, but I waited until the next day to take a picture of it. A wind came up in the night that stripped it clean. Yesterday the weather report forecast wind for evening, so I ran out to photograph it before any more leaves could fall. It's pretty, but not so full and bright as last year.