When I think of my favorite authors at work, I think of them toiling away in a darkened room banging out pages on an antique typewriter in total isolation. There may or may not be a cigarette on a long and a bottle of scotch involved, or a fine bottle of wine… It depends on the author. And, the truth is that writing is often a solitary process. But that is changing.
The internet and projects like NaNoWriMo, organizations like Romance Writer’s of America, and changes in the publishing industry itself are bringing writers together in new ways. Writers are reaching out to each other having write ins, offering support, sharing their experiences with traditional and indie publishing, even sharing financial information, things that were unheard of less than ten years ago.
In October, I was part of a panel of women writers at the InD’Scribe Conference in Burbank California. First of all, it was incredible to get to sit on this panel with legal thriller author, Rebecca Forster, Navy Seal Romance author, Caitlyn O’Leary, and paranormal author, Jenna Barwin, after all, my debut novella will not be released until February. But the panel was about mentoring, and both Rebecca Forster and Caitlyn O’Leary have been mentors on my fiction writing journey. And this is what I’m talking about, writers no longer hide in their writing caves darkened and solitary penning pages. They reach out to other authors and offer support, and share their experience. They come together in coffee shops to have write ins and bounce ideas off of each other. Writing has become a social event as well as an individual creative process.
As the Pro Liaison for the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America I had the ability to reach out to successful published authors, editors and agents to ask them to talk to our group online, and almost every one of them said yes, volunteering to share their experience and let us pick their brains.
When I stepped down from that position I took the idea to another level and started a little online group called #Charmed Writers where we write together and have mini conferences with authors and industry experts as well as other experts who volunteer to join the group and share their knowledge.
So, the image of a writer has changed. We no longer hide in the dark like vampires, we come out to write in coffee shops and restaurants. We form groups, friendships and working relationships. Some of the mystery may have gone out of the life of a writer, but the magic is still there and maybe stronger than before. If you’re a writer, find your tribe, seek out support, share your journey with other writers and readers.
Where do I write? Usually in my brightly lit family room at my desk, with the curtains open and a view of my orange tree, but sometimes friends join me at my dining room table, or I meet them at a local coffee shop, usually no whiskey, but occasionally there is wine involved. Where do you write? And how do you imagine your favorite authors at work?
When the calendar changes to September, the days begin to quickly change. The neighborhood kids walk to school with brand new backpacks and shiny lunch-boxes, and I can hear the morning announcements from the elementary school one block from my house. The leaves will soon turn oranges, golds and browns and slowly drift from the trees, and the air will turn brisk and nippy… okay, well maybe not here in Los Angeles, but it’s happening somewhere besides my imagination. Autumn is a time of renewal, exciting and fresh with lots of possibilities.
Passing Labor Day for me still means putting away my white clothes…although here in Southern California we never really put away our summer clothes… working on holiday projects and planning new menus.
I re-evaluate and update my goals for the year, and I remind myself to count my blessings, as we head toward the end of the year.
So now that Labor Day has passed and the days are moving quickly toward autumn, have you paused to take stock of your goals and count your blessings and do you put away your white clothes for another year (or is that just me)?
Before I began writing fiction I was a food writer. I thought I’d share one of my favorite autumn recipes with you.
Autumn Delicious Cake
1 spice cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 T cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray.
Combine cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Put cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, pumpkin water and oil into a large mixing bowl and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for 2 minutes. Spread half of batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with ½ of the cinnamon sugar, then top with the remaining batter spreading it evenly over the sugared layer, reserve half of the cinnamon sugar.
Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a fork or skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes, then flip onto a serving platter, sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar and cool completely. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
On my bookshelves are a lifetime of beloved books, mine and those of our three sons, all now adults. I’ve always loved books. I grew up in a little Amish town in Ohio, with no library, or bookstore. We did however have the bookmobile. By the age of eight the librarians knew me, knew that I would read however many books I checked out, and would often put aside books they thought I would enjoy to bring on their next trip into town with the bookmobile.
And my father read to us when we were young. Tornado warnings were fun because my father would take us down into the basement with our favorite books and read until the coast was clear. I don’t remember ever being afraid.
My oldest son also loved books. He was reading by age four and loved our library time almost as much as I did. Taking away video games was never much of a punishment because he was happier reading a book anyway. Not just comic books or graphic novels, he read mythology, religion, science fiction and classic literature. I think his favorite authors in high school were Ambrose Bierce and Edgar Allen Poe.
Reading didn’t come as easily for our middle son. When he wasn’t progressing in school, we eventually decided to home school both him, and his younger brother. I wasn’t a teacher, but I knew that reading opened so many doors in life…and that not reading kept doors firmly shut. I scoured the library and bookstores for books that might motivate my eight-year-old son. Eventually, I stumbled on the Star Wars Junior Jedi Series, and caught middle son’s interest. Each day we sat on the sofa, he’d read the first sentence on the page…which he seemed to find torturous, and I’d read the rest of the page. As he progressed he read the first sentence of every paragraph, and eventually we took turns reading paragraphs. It made me happy when he finally began looking forward to our reading time.
One day, he came into the kitchen while I was cooking dinner, a book in his hand and asked. “Mom, what’s this word.”
Startled I looked at him and the book and asked “What are you doing?”
His expression told me what a ridiculous question I’d asked. “I’m reading, if I wait for you I’ll never find out what happens!” He answered, and I knew he was a reader. I hugged him, told him the word, and sat down to cry happy…relieved tears.
The other day I was sorting through years of schoolwork that I’d kept for proof of the work the boys and I had done during our homeschooling years. I came across a book report by my youngest son. The book was Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard, and we’d checked it out of the library. The last sentence youngest son wrote was “I didn’t want the book to be over.” It was the first novel that he’d ever read. I remember reading that report for the first time and knowing that all three of my sons would be lifelong readers. I tried to buy a copy of the book but it was no longer in print. It was nowhere to be found. I was ready to commit the most heinous of crimes, and tell the library that I’d lost the book and pay their fines.
This was in 1998. We didn’t have the internet yet (or so I thought) because I thought the internet was a betrayal of the library. Oldest son was in high school, he got onto his video game system, accessed Amazon and asked them to search for the book. Within a week they’d found the book, I’d made my first internet purchase, and my son had saved me from life in the ‘Big House’.
I can’t imagine a life without books. Library books, print books, ebooks, there are never enough, although my husband, and friends and family who have helped us move may disagree. And although my sons’ bookshelves are filled with Brandon Sanderson, Tolkien, Ambrose Bierce, and Terry Brooks, and mine are filled with Phillipa Greggory, Sarah Dunant, Rebecca Forster, Erika Robuk (and so very many more) I’m so glad that we share a passion for reading and books.
What’s on your bookshelves? And who shares your love of books and reading? What are you reading right now?
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?