Tag Archives: Finding Inspiration in the Writing Life

What Goes Around

What Goes Around

What Goes AroundI love the topic of this month’s Fictorian posts. Community is so important to writers. I started writing almost ten years ago, and approached it like many of us do: huddled over a keyboard in a quiet little corner. Just me, my computer, and my story.

Alone.

There’s a better way. Yes, as writers, we need to spend a bunch of time alone getting the work done, but we don’t have to BE alone. There are many resources and people out there to help make the journey more efficient and more enjoyable. And everyone I’ve ever met has lots to offer in return.

When I first started attending writing classes and conferences, I was looking for things I needed to help me get my stories off the ground, to learn the craft, to understand the business. I found so much more than that.

I was amazed to find that authors, more than almost any other group I’ve known, are friendly and open to helping each other. Over and over, authors who paused to extend a helping hand to me shrugged off my thanks, saying, “Someone took the time to help me. I’m just passing it on.”

That resonates strongly with me, as it ties in with how I try to live my life. In writing, as in other businesses, personal pursuits, religious beliefs, and family, the concepts are similar:

Give more than you take.

Smile.

Encourage more than you criticize.

Take a moment to help someone. It makes you feel good, and means more to them than you probably know.

How you treat others always comes back around on you. Those who are too self-absorbed, mean-spirited, or even just inattentive to the needs of those around them usually end up as alone as we all feared we’d be as writers.

The rest of us build a community. The more I try to help, the more I offer feedback, suggestions, or encouragement, the more the floodgates open and I find friends ready to help me out when I need it. I don’t help others with the intention of getting something in return. The rebound happens all on its own.

So every day, look for a way to give.

If you then need to receive, the help will come, and that’s such a better way to live.

Author Frank Morin
Memory HunterFrankFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on his popular YA fantasy novel, Set in Stone, or his other scheduled book releases, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Turkeys Can Fly

A Guest Post by Lee French

I’ve never needed inspiration to write. From the moment I figured out letters could be arranged to form words which in turn could form sentences, I’ve been brain barfing all over the place. At the age of 6, it all clicked in my head. A few years later, thanks to the influence of Charlotte’s Web, I wrote a magnificent 6 page epic about turkeys and eagles and a crotchety old man. It got a shiny gold certificate of merit in the regional Young Author’s Faire, which probably had about the same value as a pat on the head.

It sat in a box in my closet for a long time.

Last summer, I moved after living in the same place for 15 years. The distance of the move—from Massachusetts to Washington state—meant that every square foot of stuff cost me a fair amount of money to get from point A to point B. In the process of preparing to move, I went through everything and tossed/donated/recycled umpteen bags of crap.

By the time I decided to move, I’d already self-published five books. With those five books, one of which is no longer available, I made a lot of mistakes. Looking back, it’s amazing how many awful, horrific blunders I committed. At that point, in May of 2014, I knew I’d made mistakes, and had an understanding of the scope of them. The idea of fixing them bore a great deal of resemblance to the process of packing up one’s voluminous belongings and leaving a house forever.

Two daunting yet necessary tasks converged and weighed me down. This was a dark moment when writing ceased to be a joy and became a chore. I saw it as a job instead of a diversion, the kind of drudgery best handled with a bottle of wine or three. Bang, bang, bang, went my fingers on my keyboard until I wore out the C key and space bar. Thanks, me, good job on making this even worse. True frustration is typing with an intermittently functioning space bar. It’s extra bad if you also like to play computer games like Orcs Must Die.

There I was, going through all my stuff and my kids’ stuff, thinking that selling my house and moving across the country could be the worst thing I’ve ever inflicted on myself besides the decision to self-publish a book. I had to fight with my kids to convince them to part with things they never used but refused to accept parting with anyway. The logistics of ensuring our pet mouse survived the journey seemed ridiculous. I had just surfaced from the unpleasantness of a divorce, and because of the move, had to dive back into contentious negotiations for visitation and child support. On top of all this, both my kids have wildly different manifestations of autism, which is a constant source of…lots of things.

Of course, there’s more. I’d been getting involved in local Worcester politics for a couple of years. In many ways, it never seemed like I, personally, had an effect on anything. We marched in the streets, we held standing protests and vigils, and we attended city council meetings. While the people I did these things with sometimes won small victories, I had the sense of being an ant among giants. They knew all the right things to say and do, and I had nothing to offer beyond holding a sign. Though I believed in all these causes and things, participating made me feel smaller than standing on the sidelines.

And then I sorted through that box.

Early July 2014, I sat in my bedroom with my old box of stuff. Sun poked through the cheap PVC blinds we’d never replaced after moving in. The window A/C unit chugged away, keeping the room pleasantly cool. I finally threw out the broken Discman I’d held onto since college for unknown reasons. My old high school drumsticks went into the trash too. I flipped through folders of old D&D characters and campaign notes, and then I found my first book.

I ran my fingers over the hideous red and green plaid fabric covering two pieces of cardboard for a cover. The sticker, though worn around the edges, was still shiny. Cracking it open, I found worn and yellowed pages of high quality paper on which I’d hand-written blue ink with a felt-tip pen:

A New Adventure in the Mean Old Man’s Backyard

LeeFrench1

Written and illustrated by Lee French

Along with these words, I found colored-in stick figures of a frowning person with a cane and feathered hat, a mouse, a turkey, two eagles, and a pond with three orange fish. My allergies may have acted up right then. Or something. I’m sure there’s an explanation for all the water that rushed to my eyes. Turning the page, I found black ink. The lines I drew in pencil with a ruler to keep the text straight had never been erased.

This book is for Heather Feather, Miss Moussese and Garfield Whale, who inspired this story.

Clearly, I should be outraged that I didn’t use Oxford commas then.

The world stopped while I paged through the book, reading my early prose. I remembered my mom, who has a degree in English, being proud of me for entering it into the Faire in the first place. I remembered the original story about The Mean Old Man’s Backyard, which involved turkeys because that was the only thing I knew how to draw. I remembered going to the Faire and seeing all those books and thinking…I’d have a real one of my own someday.

Sometimes, it takes a child to reveal a simple truth. Sometimes, that child is you.

I tucked the book into a new box and have never looked back again.

 

About the Author:Author
Lee French writes fantasy and superhero stories in Olympia, WA. Her favorite non-writing pastimes include tormenting D&D players, destroying weeds with fervor, and arguing in favor of Oxford commas. She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association and serves as one of two Municipal Liaisons for the NaNoWriMo Olympia region. Find more of her babble about bicycling, books, and bedevilment at www.authorleefrench.com.

 

For Christmas, I Made My Mother Cry

When I was eight years old, my brother and I were trying to figure out what we were going to get for our mother for Christmas. I had already made a crude bookmark out of yarn in my second-grade art class, but it wasn’t good enough in my opinion. Gilbert and I thought about it for days, although most of the time we drifted off-topic and started wondering what Santa was going to bring us. Christmas was fast approaching, and we couldn’t find that “perfect” gift for her.

I came up with the notion that we could buy her something. My brother had a whopping five dollars, which was only five dollars more than I had. I had to find a way to earn some money, but people were not hiring little kids in Far Rockaway, New York back then. While walking home from school, I struck upon the idea of collecting Coca Cola bottles and returning them for a nickel each. I hit up every neighbor for their bottles, and when I told them what I was doing it for, they gave me all they had. One nice elderly woman paid me a whole dollar to “help her out by taking those nasty old bottles off of her back porch”.

I made a little over seven dollars this way. This was more money than I had ever had at one time.

On December 23rd, my brother and I walked from our second-floor apartment on Beach 19th Street to Central Avenue, our pockets filled with coins and a couple of dollar bills. We strolled up and down several blocks window shopping, occasionally getting in some additional ideas for ourselves at the toy shops. After over two hours of wandering, we came upon a jewelry store. Not just any jewelry store, mind you, but one of the most expensive ones in the area. I was convinced Mom would love some jewelry!

We went in and started looking at the diamonds. The saleswoman eyed us for a bit, and went in the back to get the owner. He was a kindly old gent, and he treated us like important customers.

“What can I get you two fine gentlemen this afternoon?” he asked with a smile.

“We’re looking to buy our Mommy some jewelry for Christmas,” I replied. Shopping was fun!

“Hmmm,” he mumbled. “What price range are you looking at?”

I pulled the dollar bill and a few handfuls of nickels out of my pocket. My brother pulled out his cash, and we placed all of it on the counter.

“Wow, that is a lot of money,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. The saleswoman and the two older ladies she was helping had stopped their transaction to watch us. The owner poked through my nickels. “I may have just the thing for you two gentlemen. Please wait here while I go to the vault.”

My brother and I started grinning. We were going to buy our Mom some expensive jewelry! We felt so grown up.

The owner came back with two items. One was a large pin with a bunch of red stones, and the other item was a green and gold bracelet. I picked up the “ruby-encrusted” treasure in awe. I was sure Mom would love it. My brother gravitated more towards the bracelet.

“How much, Sir?” I asked. The owner poked through the nickels again, and took exactly three dollars. He charged my brother three as well. The saleswoman and her customers came over and began to ooh and ahh, saying we got a good deal and that they were sure our mother would be pleased. The owner wrapped our gifts in shiny metallic paper with bows and ribbons. We thanked them all for helping us pick out the perfect present.

When Christmas came, we first tore through most of our presents under the tree. We then decided to give Mom her gifts. She was very pleased with my bookmark (“What a wonderful job you did!”). When she opened my ruby pin, however, she began to cry.

I was very confused. “I can take it back if you don’t like it,” I said.

She choked back her tears, and told me that it was the first time we had actually gone out and bought her a gift. When we told her of our shopping adventure, she cried even more.

“I’m crying because this is the sweetest thing you two have ever done,” she finally blurted. She gave us both a big hug.

So that Christmas, I gave her a ruby treasure, and a treasure from my heart she always remembered.

When my mother passed away twenty years later, I found the pin in her jewelry box. She had kept it all those years.


 

I originally started writing this story as an entry for one of Glimmer Train’s contests. It was one of the toughest ones to finish. My mother never had the chance to read any of my published work, although she used to play Dungeons & Dragons with us when we were still in our teens, so she did get to experience some of the modules I wrote.

When it comes to your work, make sure your loved ones have the opportunity to read it. Don’t force it on them, and don’t ask for feedback unless you’re just looking for the obligatory, “Oh, it’s wonderful, honey.” Should you be lucky enough to have a family member who will give you constructive criticism, consider yourself blessed.

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award®; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

SF&F Saved My Life

A Guest Post by Lissa Woodbury Jensen

Science Fiction/Fantasy saved my life. My first year in college was a disaster. I arrived at University with huge dreams and the belief that I mattered to the world. One month into classes, reality set in hard and fast. My rose-tinted glasses had been wiped clean and I suddenly had a startling view into what others were seeing, most notably, of me.

I was a big girl. The fact that I had weighed over 200 pounds in high school hadn’t stopped me. I was cocooned within protective friendships and loyal family. I was even the lead in our musical that year, Hello Dolly. I distinctly remember “dieting” (starving, eating only broiled hamburger) and losing ten pounds. I will never forget the morning of opening night, when I stepped onto the scale and it read one hundred and ninety pounds! My heart soared in ironic delight as I performed Dolly with the combined gusto of Ethel Merman and brash exaggeration of Carol Channing.

No one made fun of me. Everyone stood and cheered. I chalked it up to talent, ignoring the fact that perhaps they were cheering because I had walked a long road of recovery from teen-age drug and alcohol abuse.

The problem in college was that no one knew my background or history, nor did they care. The encouraging smiles were absent and the continual words of support ceased. I was a five foot, nine inches tall “lardo.” Oh, and I also had acne. Top that off with (then undiagnosed) ADHD and I became the proverbial bull in the china shop. I overcompensated, trying to be “the funny one.” I just got looks of pityo I withdrew into a different kind of cocoon. Night after night, I sat alone in my dorm room while others cavorted socially and worried about who their next date would be. Instead of cutting back on calories, food became my BFF. I tried out for plays but was never the right “type.”

Late one lonely evening, I ate a family sized bag of Nachos. After shoving the last chip into my mouth, I started licking the orange residue off my hands. As my tongue rolled off my pinkie finger, I glanced in the mirror. I was ashamed. Sad eyes looked back at me. Tiny orange crumbs caked the inside corners of my mouth and I hated myself. So much so that I decided I would rather be dead. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became. I planned how I would do it and actually looked forward to the day of my mortal release.

A few days before my planned exit, I was walking through the dorm lobby and found a book that had fallen to the floor. It was a thick tome that piqued my curiosity. The title read “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J. R. R. Tolkien. Having nothing else to do, I took it to my room and began to read. I was captivated. I read on through the night and well into the next day. My death obsession was put on hold as I became Frodo struggling towards his epic destiny. I disappeared into my head and battled orcs, demons and evil wizards. Gandalf was my beloved mentor and I wept with abandon at his demise.

The day of my planned exit from this life came, yet I had begun reading “The Two Towers” and wanted to find out more about Gollum. I decided I could wait a while longer while I marched towards Mount Doom with Frodo and Sam. Setting sleep aside, I joined my comrades as we raced to our journey’s epic conclusion for “Return of the King.” My self-esteem soared and food was forgotten when, finally, the ring was destroyed and we crowned the true king of the land. I lay there, exhausted, and grieving for the loss of my newfound friends as the last few words of the book were seared into my brain. I surfaced back into the present and was reminded that the time for my deadly plan had come.

I balked. Had Frodo given up when in the dredges of Mordor? Had hefty Samwise Gamgee let the difficulty of his assignment stop him? When Frodo won the acclaim and adulation, did Sam think less of himself because he didn’t get the same recognition? I felt changed inside. I hadn’t just read the book; I had been part of the Fellowship.

And I couldn’t quit now. I contemplated my paradox. Perhaps I could prolong the day of my death a bit longer.

I went to the school’s library and left, clutching the librarian’s recommendation, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. If I thought I could never love another being like Frodo, I was wrong. Andrew Wiggins’ trouble fitting in at Battle School in space endeared me to him like no other. As he grew in experience, gaining the trust of his peers and overcoming those who would bring him down, I felt a new resolve blossom within my soul. My problems were still evident, but I knew now that I could find a sense of identity, companionship, and unlimited adventure in worlds beyond the one I currently inhabited.

This realization gave me hope and I devoured all the science fiction and fantasy I could lay my hands on. I no longer obsessed about which day I would end my mortal pain and threw away all the tools I had kept for such an event. I continued with the Ender universe and many others, eventually learning to construct my own worlds and the stories within them.

Science fiction and fantasy opened worlds without end, where anything was possible for an inexperienced and uncertain young woman teetering on the edge. Strong and creative characters taught me to persevere and believe in myself, despite all odds. I lost weight, gained focus and never looked back. Years later, I continue to write, imagine the impossible, and look for new worlds to explore.

About the Author:Author
Lissa Woodbury Jensen lives in Alaska and loves imagining the impossible. Her initial career was in theatre arts. She did some filming in Los Angeles, but her primary love was the stage. In addition to performing, Lissa directed and choreographed many Broadway hits. She began her writing career by authoring short plays, dramatic presentations and original musical productions. She now concentrates solely on fiction. She loves to write about flawed characters that redeem themselves. Her favorite quote is from the movie Chariots of Fire: “God made me fast; and when I run, I feel His Pleasure!”