However, as I get older, my perspective has changed, and the scene has more real meaning to me.
Time seems to be moving faster and faster, birthdays piling up, kids growing older, so much that I still want to do with my life,
“and the rowers just keep rowing…”
Birthdays and New Years are my big times for reflection and self evaluation. For me these are timed perfectly. My birthday is in July, halfway through the year. It gives me a motivational boost to prioritize and push myself to keep reaching goals through the end of the year…
My life has changed dramatically in recent years, my boys are all adults now, and my identity as a ‘mom’, while every bit as important has become less central, my priorities have become more personal. Write my books. Take care of my health. Spend more time with Hunky Hubby. Not necessarily in that order.
“And they’re certainly not showing,
Any signs that they are slowing.”
This year my goals are big, well, they are to me. I’m finishing work on a book, writing a novella, and at least the first draft of a second novel. I’m working on my health, trying to get in shape, get my cholesterol down, that kind of thing. After all the rowers keep on rowing, and I want them to row for as long as possible.
So, halfway through the year, are you achieving your goals? Have they changed since the beginning of the year? Do you love Gene Wilder?
While I consider myself the Queen of Run-On Sentences, because I tend to write the way I talk…in run on sentences, I also tend to write very lean. I know, that may seem contradictory, but it’s true. While author friends are trying to bring their word counts down, cut description and wordiness, I find myself short of my word count goals by as much as 20,000 words. Not a small number. And, fiction editors and critique readers tell me that sometimes I need MORE description.
I’m sure this comes from my non-fiction background. When I wrote magazine articles, I generally had a word count goal around 2,000 words. While each word should count in everything you write, when you’re this limited, each counts double. Every editor I knew had the same mantra, ‘Cut the Fluff’.
This works for me. I want to get to the point. Don’t dilly dally and draw the story out with unnecessary details, or you’ll lose me. TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED.
So, I find myself reading for details that matter. Why did an author put that description there? Was it necessary? Does it give the reader a better picture? Does it move the story forward? Is it something I would normally just skim over as too much detail when I’m reading? Does it make the reader turn the page?
You would think that because of my preference for clean sparse words that I’d read (and write) primarily short stories and novellas, but it’s not true. I read long, I read short, I read flash. I love a good story told in how ever many words it needs.
So back to my problem. Writing too short. I’ve decided it’s not a serious problem. The solution is of course to read, read, read…one of my favorite things to do. And write the words that matter, that of course is the hard part. I’ll keep working on it.
And what about you? Do you find that you write short or long? Sparse or fluffy? War and Peace? Or Flash Fiction?
Small mobs of kids surrounded our garage every Halloween when my husband carved pumpkins, not because he was especially artistic, but because he used a sawzall to carve them, and pumpkin insides and seeds sprayed everywhere while he worked. Our sprinkler system had “more power”, and when my mixer broke while I was making a birthday cake, Hunky Hubby came to the rescue by inserting a mixer beater into his electric drill. For years our three boys, took turns hiding a large plastic rat…in the dryer, in the pantry, wherever they thought it was most likely to scare me. If I left my phone unattended they would change their brother’s names on my contact list to things like ‘Ugly’ and ‘Creep’ and their own names to things like ‘Mom’s Favorite’ or ‘The Very Best Son’.
If this sounds like a season of Home Improvement, I thought so too. Hunky Hubby and the boys would prefer to eat meat off the grill and watch Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, while I wanted to see manners at the table and watch The Sound of Music. I could have written several seasons without making anything up.
In fact, of all my writing regrets, I most regret not writing an episode of Home Improvement and submitting it before the show ended.
So what is your biggest writing regret? Do you have one? Have you ever felt like your life was a sitcom, or tv drama and wanted to write a script?
Bored, twenty-one, living in Sunnymead, California- when there was nothing there but the Riverside Raceway and Naugles… and I had a baby. I was a brilliant parent. After all, I’d been a mother for all of nine months, had a perfect baby, and had gotten married at nineteen instead of going to college. I was more than qualified to give parenting advice to other people.
So, I decided to write a parenting column.
I wrote several sample columns, and without even thinking that I should call and make an appointment, I dropped by the office of our local newspaper, The Butterfield Express and asked to see The Editor.
Yes, I did.
The Editor came out, quickly reviewed my samples and said “Sure we can use this.” Well of course she did! The newspaper paid $5 a column. Wow, they were actually willing to pay me!
A few years later I’d returned to school, divorced, and decided I wanted to be a lawyer. And, I’d started dating a lawyer. Obviously the smart thing to do was to write some sample law columns, take clips of my parenting column from the Butterfield Express, and march straight into the offices of the brand-new Moreno Valley News…without making an appointment. Yes…I did.
The Editor did see me, he looked over my samples and said he’d get back to me. When my lawyer boyfriend heard what I’d done, he thought it was hysterical, and made sure that I knew that I’d never get that law column. I wasn’t qualified, and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. He was right of course.
But one Monday morning bright and early the telephone rang. It was not The Editor of the Moreno Valley News. No, it was my lawyer boyfriend. “What have you done?” He shrieked into the phone. He ranted for several minutes before I figured out what had happened.
Apparently, The Editor at the Moreno Valley News had decided to publish my column, only he didn’t tell me. He’d published a sample column on Planning a Will. The problem was that I’d cleverly added a note to the bottom of the article that said “for a free will planning guide, send a self addressed stamped envelope to the Law Offices of H & B”, my boyfriend’s law office. Mr. H had come in to work that morning to find a pile of envelopes all requesting his non-existent free will planning guide.
Don’t tell me that I can’t write a law column.
So, I wrote a Will Planning Guide, and the Moreno Valley News paid me $20 a piece for my little law column.
A year later, while working full time at a car dealership as a cashier in their service department, I mailed a query for an article on ‘how to get people to listen to you’ to The Toastmaster. Keep in mind, writing was a hobby. I never considered it a career. I hated numbers, and back at the car dealership, my register never balanced. It was never off more than some change, sometimes over, sometimes short..whatever it was, the numbers didn’t add up. Of course there came a day when my manager who liked me and knew I was a single mother, reluctantly called me into the office and told me he had to let me go.
The phone rang insistently as I arrived home that night with my little boy. It was the editor of the The Toastmaster. Could I could get my article to her by Friday? It just so happened the theme of her current issue was ‘listening’ and all of the article submissions she’d received were on improving your listening skills, but Toastmaster’s is, of course, a public speaking organization, and she loved my idea to write an article on how to get people to listen to you. The assignment paid $75 for an article that took my about four hours to write, and I didn’t have to pay for child care.
I never looked back. I wrote articles and columns, press releases for products, for magazines, newspapers, catalogs and more. But it wasn’t a job. I never considered myself a writer.
In fact, when I met my Hunky Hubby- no, not the lawyer, that didn’t last long- and he asked what I did, I told him I was a student (I had returned to school) and that sometimes I wrote freelance articles. He said “Oh, you’re a writer.”
I said, “No, I just write to earn a little money.”
We fell in love, got married, bought a house in the Antelope Valley and had two more little boys. I continued writing my little articles, though not as frequently and then one day the phone rang. The editor of the food section for the Antelope Valley Press Enterprise was looking for a Lori Jewett. Now Jewett is an unusual name, and when she asked, I assumed it was me she was looking for because when I write Tari in handwriting it sometimes resembles Lori.
“Did you submit a recipe for Cook of the Week?” She asked.
Now this was weird. I had NOT submitted a recipe for cook of the week, in fact, I wasn’t much of a cook, but I had one good recipe, Flemish Beef Stew, and I’d filled out the form for Cook of the Week, including that recipe and stuck it to the refrigerator with a Thomas the Tank Engine magnet. I turned around to look. It was still there.
After a good laugh and a long conversation with the food editor, I ended up with my recipe and a half page article about our ‘wrong number’ phone call in the Antelope Valley Press…and a new cooking column. Later, I used those clips to get a cooking column in Quick ‘N Easy Country Cooking Magazine. Did I say I couldn’t cook?
Although I wasn’t ‘A Writer’, I wrote freelance for magazines and newspapers for over fifteen years.
My boys are all grown, and things have changed. I would never show up at an editor’s office without an invitation, I’ve raised three boys to adulthood and know that I’m not qualified to give parenting advice, and I have more than one decent recipe. But more importantly, now I’m writing because I want to be a writer. Yes, I write because it’s my passion, but I also take it seriously. It’s a career.
So, I guess I’m no longer an accidental author.
I’m an intentional author
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