Archive for Writers

Client Success: Vanderyt Publishes Memoir Sequel “Obsidian Rose”

“My inspiration for writing Obsidian Rose was feeling like I had unfinished business,” Karen Vanderyt said about her sequel to 2012’s Afterglow. “My writing process was smoother, probably because I had a bit more confidence after editing and publishing my first book, but also because I had worked through a lot of things emotionally.”

Vanderyt.Obsidian.Rose.coverAfterglow: Remembering A Life Well Lived, her memoir about commitment and family, heartbreak and loss, was heralded a love story. This exercise in remembrance came soon after losing her husband of 39 years, Bill, to incurable brain cancer. She wrote to attempt to make sense of those swift three months from diagnosis until his passing.

Obsidian Rose: Reclaiming A Life After Loss shows her reality still full of memories and mourning, but how bringing a Lab puppy into her home while navigating everyday hills and valleys reinforced her determination to create a new life for herself. The pup became a touchpoint, and in turn, the title of the book. To all who know her, she’s lovingly called Siddie.

“Writing the sequel enabled me to be more proactive about doing something about the disease that Bill died of. I have worked through a lot of anger, and I want to feel as if I have made a contribution by supporting Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure and sharing with others my own healing process.” Karen donates all proceeds from both titles to ABC2 for their mission “to invest in research aimed at finding the fastest possible route to a cure.”

Shortly after publishing her first book, Karen began anew. “It was nice to take a break from the writing routine, but I found I missed it and started carving out a few mornings a week to write, and the process flowed.”

Her biggest encouragement came from family and friends, even strangers who identified with her grieving process. “There is a special bond that only another person who has suffered a similar loss can truly understand.”

kv.Kirby.Siddie.porch.back.cover With our ongoing creative relationship of 14 years, she credits our bond of trust and our lively concept meetings as the most fruitful part of her writing process. “They encouraged me to explore deeper levels of meaning,” Karen said. “You push writers to better themselves and their product.”

“Getting the book to print was challenging because there were several things going on at once: editing, proofing, website design, navigating social media, and traveling to visit my three grown children and my eight grands! Life does go on…” She also set a deadline to publish in May to coincide with Brain Tumor Awareness Month, which we achieved.

Currently, she is building a home in Oregon on land she and Bill bought decades ago, land where they planned to fulfill a dream of retirement, a dream she is realizing. “I’m giving myself permission to take a break from writing, and then, I’m going to explore writing a love story about my parent’s early years together based on the love letters my dad, Norm Van Brocklin, wrote to my mom, Gloria Schieve, during the special time in our nation’s history after WWII. And, either concurrently or after that, I’ll work on closing the trilogy of memoirs, writing about restoring life after loss. But I realize that requires living life for a while! And there is great fulfillment in saying ‘yes’ to life.”

And no doubt, Siddie will be right by her side.

Visit Karen’s website and order books in paperback and e-book formats.

Client Success: Barbara Gray Armstrong Honors Family & Cultural History

Barbara.Armstrong.book.signing1“I got the idea to write my book when I thought about how little my children knew about my birth family, my early life, and American history, such as slavery and the civil rights era,” shared author Barbara Gray Armstrong. In Honoring My Journey, she has written a rich family memoir woven into a larger, societal context to tell a story both personal and universal.

“I am not a product of poverty or of wealth. I came from people who were working people, many educated, who wanted a piece of the American pie.” Among stories of African-Americans who lived during this time of widespread bigotry, discrimination and denied rights, Armstrong shares, “Mine is not a unique story, yet it is a story seldom depicted in literature or media. It seems as we have to be on either extreme end of the spectrum to be recognized.”

Coming of age in the Jim Crow South during the 1950s and 60s, Armstrong shares stories about her life with her parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives. She includes information on great-grandparents born during slavery and her own experience of working as a nanny for a white family, among others.

Some research came from her elders; the rest is her learned and observed truth. She adds, “Of course, truth is certainly subjective when writing about family and friends. I tried to be fair to the characters, even though most of them are dead.”

Barbara.Armstrong.Honoring.My.JourneyHer process from the first essay to publication took four years. “The experience was mostly positive. There were many days and even months I couldn’t write. Sometimes I felt confused about the family relationships I included. Other times, I agonized over whether to include an experience. Sometimes, I even felt that writing the book was a job, and that was when I would put it away for a while.”

“My family was not quite sure what I would write or how revealing I would be. I’m not sure they believed I was serious. However, they allowed me space and respected the idea that I was writing. Still, I needed someone to keep me on my toes.”

She experienced my work with writers in forums and a public library seminar. “I observed Wayne’s spirit, attitude, and demeanor. I decided he was who I needed so I could really commit to doing the writing.”

We developed an easy rapport, even when faced with challenges. “We could talk about living in the South, race matters, family, politics, religion, and whatever came with ease. The most challenging was when he wanted me to edit something I wanted to hold on to. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen.”

She experienced an even bigger lesson after gaining momentum with her first essays: she misplaced the thumb drive that held her writing. “After searching for weeks, I realized it must not have been how I was to proceed. I started listening to my inner voice and was able to start writing again.”

After final edits, and then cover and interior photo designs by her daughter Monique L. Armstrong, she published with Abbott Press in October 2014. Sales have sparked through sharing copies with friends and at book events, Wayne.South.Smith.and.Barbara.Armstrongincluding a combination book launch/birthday party at the Decatur Marriott. With over 50 family and friends in attendance, she shared stories of the writing experience alongside readings from the book. As more read the book, former relationships have reignited and feedback continues to pour in.

To anyone considering writing, Armstrong says, “As with anything that comes up in your mind and heart to do, go for it. Make the effort and open up to learning.”

And share it.

Honoring My Journey is available in hardback, soft cover and e-book. To purchase, along with more information about the book and the author, please visit www.honoringmyjourney.com

Dance With The Deadline

frank.frankenstein.1931As if Frankenstein himself is busting down the door, many writers are freaked slap out by the deadline.  The writer will cower and bargain with the monster, begging for more time to explore and re-work.  Any argument tempts nature like a rooftop experiment in an electrical storm ultimately making the writer feel crazy-mad, defeated and, well, Abby Normal.  The enraged, unsympathetic beast snatches the writing anyway, then escapes deep into the inky night.

The term ‘deadline’ strikes fear in many, not just writers.  Coined during the Civil War when prison camps were spur-of-the-moment and without fencing, guards simply drew a line in the dirt circling the encampment.  Prisoners knew they would be shot dead if they crossed the ‘dead line.’

frank.9The newspaper industry adopted this powerful language to have the latest news printed and distributed in a timely manner. Editors’ deadlines implied “If you don’t submit your writing on time, printing presses will roll, and your story is dead.”  Consequently, so was your career.

When I work with editorial deadlines, I prefer to avoid last minute pressure by setting a personal deadline about three days in advance of the real one.  In most cases, I am able to submit my copy ahead of deadline.  This gives the client extra time, plus it demonstrates a strong work ethic which brings more assignments to my desk.

So what if you don’t have an editorial deadline or a gun pointed at your head?  You can hire a monster (i.e. me, minus green makeup and bolts in my neck), or you can be creative and do it on your own.

Karen wrote consistently as a member of my Creative Writers Workshop, but struggled to finish a story.  In conjunction with private coaching, she decided to try using a contest deadline as motivation.  The word count added more limitation, yet provided her with a crash course in sharper revision and final editing.  She hit the word count with characters to spare and the deadline on target.

Kirby protects her scheduled writing times on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  To complete and publish her book, she set a firm November deadline so she could have books printed by early December. She factored in time for her completion, my editing and the printer’s process.  Even with snags, all ended well with her wrapping up books as gifts for the holidays.

Cammie quickly discovered the necessity to schedule coaching sessions every other Saturday with a deadline of Wednesday midnight to get her work to me for meeting prep.  Using this system, she completed her ambitious project, a major feat considering she had not written beyond undergrad projects, much less 128 polished pages in a new genre.

Basically, the deadline is a commitment to an amount of time, a certain number of words written, or a project completion date.  Your editor, printer, writing group and coach are counting on you, so count on yourself.  Meet your goal.

If you want to be a successful writer, make nice with the misunderstood monster.   If the term ‘deadline’ frightens you, change it.  Use ‘goal,’ ‘aim,’ ‘target,’ or ‘destination,’ whatever feels good to you. frank.3Embrace the deadline’s positive influence as a vital partner in the dance to complete your writing project.

Affirm:  My deadline is a positive motivator.  I do my best work, and I celebrate meeting my deadlines, the final one, as well as every small step along the way.

So, the dance is over.  What do you do After The Deadline?

Images: Frankenstein (1931) with Colin Clive and Boris Karloff; Young Frankenstein (1974) with Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle.

Second Nature

Rivaling the crisp new leaves flapping in the spring breeze, their noisy excuses were abundant.

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“Revisions take so long and winter was so short, and that’s my best time to write.”

“I can’t focus on writing with a stuffy head. The pollen was the worst!“

“All that rain made me blue. . .”

“And now it’s too pretty outside to stay in and write!”

Ah, springtime’s seasonal allergy of excuses that clogs ideas in your head or simply drains them away.  Too bad there isn’t a pill for that. . .

Does the season really affect your writing’s progress?  With any goal, aren’t some tasks more time consuming than others?  And can you prioritize and balance according to the changing weather of your schedule and keep a commitment to consistent writing?

Khaled Hosseini, author of the bestselling The Kite Runner and upcoming As The Mountains Echoed, said “There is a romantic notion to writing a novel, especially when you are starting it.  (When) you’re about fifty pages into it, that romance wears off, and then you’re left with a very stark reality of having to write the rest of this thing…what it takes at that point is discipline.  You have to punch in and punch out every day regardless of whether it’s going badly.”

AESOPUse what you are given in the moment to make your best plans.  One client accepted the temptation of a warm, sunny day to take a Frisbee and a notepad to the park for energetic fun and people-watching writing motivation.  Another writer used the weekend’s chilly downpour as inspiration to get into the mood of her short story’s Alaskan autumn setting.  Across town, I edited a client’s books and wrote on my projects to the shower’s centering patter.

Nature has been a major tease this springtime with wildly shifting weather and smatterings of blossoms instead of one glorious show.  Though somewhat unusual, we must remember that’s just nature.

A good writing practice goes with the flow as the successful writer perseveres beyond discouragement, difficulty, and distraction with dedicated focus, action and creativity.  Like breathing, the writer who persistently progresses has turned practice into second nature.