Monday, March 22, 2010

Taking that Long Way Down

I've had a head full of story simmering inside my brain. But I've been careful enough to take my time and stop along the way. The descent into a deep revision can never be taken lightly, especially when you've gone that way before. I want to put the best version of this baby on the page! I know, though, the story will never find its way into the light if it's not clear all the way through.

This time, I've done something I almost never do. I put together a 'flex-plan.' It's not quite an outline, but it's a loose rendition of what I think I see happening to each of my characters. It's lined out chapter by chapter so I'm sure to keep it all straight. Mine is a story told in three voices, so each of these girls has to be unique and true right to the end.

Just today, I've read a couple interesting blog posts that have fired me up and made me know that the universe has a message for me. One reminded me to pay attention to the very intricate details, and another told me to keep going in order to get unstuck, and then I feasted my eyes on the lesson in just letting it all go once in a while too. You see, I look to all of you out there to inspire me, shake me loose and hold my hand along the way. You give me the steps to land on, the companionship and confidence to see it through. Most of all, you let me know I'm not alone in this journey.

Life would never be the same without the small circles of friendship and inspiration we find along the way. How about you? What small circles of inspiration do you find yourself surrounded in?


Monday, March 15, 2010

Making 'Someday' Happen

I was out on one of my daily strolls, walking and talking to the universe on a fine day just a few short years ago. I was asking for a wee bit of a connection to my roots back in the old sod. My mom died when I was just a little girl, and then my dad did the same. Sad story, right? Well...life moved on and so did we, my brother, my two sisters and me. We raised ourselves way back in the 60's, when the world of organized social work was just a dream of the future. But that's a story for another day.

My parents had come from Ireland, and even though they did the best they could to set their American dream in motion, they never lived long enough to see it all the way through.

My father dreamt of building a family and a home, having a garden, educating his children and living to see his grandchildren. I barely knew my mom, but I'm sure her dreams were much the same. My dad had other dreams too. One of them was to make it back home to Ireland one day. As a little girl, I'd ask him if he'd ever bring me there. He'd lean on his rake or the rung of his ladder and get that far away look in his eye. "Someday, Gaelie," he'd say.

Ever since that time so long ago, I've had that dream etched in the corner of my mind. Someday. It was always more than a possibility, I knew that day would come.

And then, a few years ago, my Australian cousin, Eilis, challenged me to meet her in the very cottage where my mother was born. "We'll have a nice dinner together there," she'd said. The thought was wonderful. I entertained it and talked about it, and then finally got real and put it out of my mind.

At the time, we were up to our eyeballs in new debt...kids in college, a new house that needed repairs, and all sorts of things we call life! But then? My birthday came around, and I suddenly realized that I was at the very same point in my own life that my dad was when there were no more 'somedays'. What was I waiting for? And even though it made no sense at all, we booked our trip...our 'roots tour,' and found our way to that little town of Castlebar along the west coast of Ireland.

With more of this to come...what dreams are etched in the corners of your mind? What obstacles stand in your way?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wading through the Blarney

About three years ago, we packed it in and headed back to the Old Sod, a trip of a lifetime...my chance to trace my Irish roots, to visit the girlhood home of my mom and to stand on a hilltop where my grandmother was born. Really, who could ask for more?

Well, in doing so, I discovered the wonderful nature of the Irish...and why I've been so chatty for my whole lifetime, really! My kindergarten report card said just that, "very chatty," short and to the point. It baffles me, even today. Amazing how we can be branded by others or brand ourselves without even knowing it.

I, for example, was born talking and I haven't shut up since. This is why I write, I'm sure! It was in my genes. When I went to Ireland, I met many a version of myself. Some a bit long-in-the-tooth, as they say over there, and some pretty young. The Irish stop everything for a good story! (As well it should be!)

But my goal in writing is to keep the story on the road, dole it out in small bites and captivate my audience all along the way. So now? I'm working on cutting back on the blather. Putting what's real on the page, and not wearing out my reader along the way. That, in the end, keeps them turning the pages!

If you had to boil it all down to a few small bites, how would you characterize yourself in two words? Go ahead, stretch the truth, brag a little bit...isn't that the gift of the Irish?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Inevitable Fork...Writing and Living through the Hard Parts

A week or two ago I rolled up my sleeves and took on yet another opportunity to revisit Eggshells, my young adult novel. I was excited and eager. You see, I'd known all along that something in that storyline was just not working for me.

But now? I've hit that inevitable fork in the road, and I realize that this time it's not going to be the race to the finish line that I'd first expected. I'm taking it slower, letting it simmer and writing shorter, hoping for pages that are vivid and clear. In the end, anything that's forced ever seems to work, so I might as well keep my focus and go after it.

The universe presented another opportunity...that looked plausible and seemed believable, so I took it. I realize now, I'd short-cutted the ending in the first round, because I wasn't seeing an ending that worked. I was forcing my way to the finish line. And now...I think I have a chance to change the outcome entirely. Forks in books are just like forks in real life. Often they lead to other forks, and a few twists and turns as well. The road grows clear, and then it gets crowded again. Writing, like life, is wonderful and tortuous at the same time.

What forks have you been presented with in life? How has your path changed as a result of it all? You never know, it might end up in print someday! ;)
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