Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Taking a Swing at Fear

Of all the pieces that I read in Smith's Monthly #3, I learned the most from the one I expected the least from.

Though I played golf with my dad while I was in high school, I haven't had a good deal of interest in the sport for some time. Even when I was playing, I wasn't that focused on it. My fondest memory on the course was hitting the golf cart of my dad's buddy when he teased me about not being able to hit the ball very far. Satisfying, yes, sportsmanlike... not so much.

So I wasn't very much interested in the section of the magazine giving golf advice, "The First Tee Panic: And Other Very Real Golf Stories." However, I'm a compulsive reader. It takes a lot to make me stop reading a book or skip an article in a magazine. So I read it. The golf advice wasn't particularly interesting to me, but it was presented in an engaging manner.

And if I hadn't read it, then I never would have read the lines that are still turning around in my mind. "Fear is a part of the game of golf, as well as in life. Learn how to play with fear, and how to use it."

Fear is a tool.

The idea that there is nothing to fear but fear itself only diminishes and shames the feeling of fear. Rather than rejecting fear as a valid emotion, here Smith suggests accepting the fear and using it. After meeting him, I had thought to start trying to up my fiction game by actually writing again. But I found myself still in fear.

I was afraid to continue the story that I'd started back in February. For no reason I could explain, I just froze up when I thought of continuing to write it.

But after I read that line, that piece of advice about golf... I went ahead and finished it on Tuesday. I had fun with it. I let myself play with the idea and write the story without getting in my own way.

When a fire is raging in the woods, it is a danger. But when fire is a torch in your hand, it is a tool. A light. I took the fear in my hands and found a way to use it to illuminate my story.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Author Encounter: Dean Wesley Smith

I’ll admit I was a bit upset when I realized that my weekend plans were already set before I found out that an author whose blog I have been reading for nearly two years was coming to Boise. Boise, of all places! And there’s no way I would want to cancel the first excursion into the woods of the year. It had been too long since I basked in the greatness of the outdoors. But I had a hope that, just maybe, I’d get back into town in time on Saturday.

And, not because of any planning, but because of a fallen log blocking the road, my husband and I ended up staying at a different campsite than we had planned. And, in the end, we got home in plenty of time for me to shower, get changed and ride my bike downtown to Rediscovered Books.

I wasn’t sure where they would be holding the signing, because I’d never been to that particular bookstore before. And since it was part of the Saturday Market, for all I knew there was a booth where they’d stuck him, outside in the not-so-fine spring weather. So I took a peek inside the store, and there sat Dean Wesley Smith, easily recognizable thanks to the pictures on his blog.

I popped partway in, then out, and then, decisively in.

For The Last Unicorn Tour, there was a rather large crowd, and although I got the impression that Peter S. Beagle would have been happy to chat with each and every one of us for hours on end, his handlers kept the line moving briskly. The Distinguished Lecture with Salman Rushdie offered no chance to meet the author, and the one with Margaret Atwood I chose not to wait in the line for a chance.

But here, in this local bookstore, sat an author whose blog I much admired - nary a line nor handler to be seen. So I made brave to walk right up and speak.

“I feel like I’ve won a scavenger hunt! Since you didn’t mention this trip on your blog,” was my opening gambit. He seemed a bit surprised by it, but was open to conversing as he explained that he and his wife preferred not to advertise in advance online when they would both be absent from their house. Perfectly sensible, I agreed.

From there I managed to introduce myself as a reader of his blog, one who had not yet read his fiction but was looking to purchase something that day. He made a suggestion based off my expressed preference for science fiction and fantasy of Smith’s Monthly #3. I explained that I was too shy to comment on his blog, though I intended to do so after our conversation. He, in turn, made it clear that I was welcome to email him if I had a question and didn’t want to make a public comment.

We spoke of writing. I told him about my published backpacking books and he was very encouraging. I even got some advice as to the genre of my not yet published novel. I didn’t feel like it was romance because it isn’t like romance that I’ve read. Dean pointed out that if the center of the story is a relationship and the story ends on a happy/hopeful note, then it is a romance. So now I have a better idea of how to brand it on the cover and back copy.

I felt, for the most part, quite comfortable, and would have been happy to chat for hours, but I could see another person hovering and didn’t feel it was right to monopolize him. Even though I wanted to. Especially because the other person was wearing a name tag indicating he was participating in the Idaho Writer Rendezvous conference and would get a chance to attend sessions with Dean… grumble grumble.

I left happy though. I got my magazine signed and some writing encouragement that I really needed in the moment. Not to mention the magazine - itself a lesson in layout as well as story. If I ever get the chance to see Dean Wesley Smith again, I will definitely go for it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Not Really a Pep Talk

I haven't written much fiction so far this year.

Okay, more like any fiction...

No, that's not fair. I started at least one short story back in January. Or was it February? I gave myself the excuse that I was working on that blog project for my class. I was reading a lot for that class as well. And yet I always found (and find) the time to read articles online and keep track of facebook and twitter. I make the time to watch hockey and other television shows.

And I want to finish that story. But I guess I don't want to badly enough or I'd do it, right? My class is over and, as a reward, I got myself some fiction to read, books that I'd been wanting to check out for a while now. But it seems like just another excuse. If I have to work (and I do have to work), then I have to carve out other spaces in which to write fiction.

If I want to write fiction.

I mean, no one needs me to write stories. No one needs me to spill the things from my brain onto paper or screen. No one but me.

This is the question, the crux. How much do I need to do this? And is my need to write greater than my fear?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Finding Our Giants Project

Back in January I wrote about the digital project option that was offered for my Women Writers class. At the time I wasn't sure whether my idea of writing responses to all of the writers that we read, and a few additional ones that I felt were relevant, would be acceptable to the instructor. But in March we handed in prospectuses for our projects and mine was accepted.

So I kept on with what I had started, writing up my class notes and then reflecting on the writer's words. Or the speakers words since I wrote about the Distinguished Lecture from Margaret Atwood or the television show since we watched parts of Battlestar Galactica in class and I wrote about that too. The in class discussions were usually interesting, but I always enjoyed going deeper with my own reflections, taking what was said in class and challenging it while it challenged me. 

I ended up with a nice, round 80 entries in my blog project, categorized by labels. Plus two pages, one of which is a directory and the other a works cited page. So they don't really count. 

Several of my classmates wrote also wrote blogs for their projects, but mine, for better or worse, has more entries than all of them combined. Or it did at the time that the blogs were presented to class. More entries may have been added in the interim between presentation and the end of the class. But I still felt that I may have gone a bit overboard... 

I suppose I will know when I find out my grade for the class. While I'm quite pleased with my project, I did not include references to scholarly sources. I stuck with primary sources and analysis, a habit from St. John's that I've broken for traditional papers, but that seemed to fit perfectly with my project. This was not about analyzing analyses - it was about one woman writing about other women who wrote (and one token man). I might get dinged for that on the grade, and I am okay with that. 

Well, not entirely okay. But I'e accepted the possibility and chosen not to artificially add in scholarly citations. 

My husband Ambrose was my first reader, as usual, and I found his comments on this blog project very interesting. He found that the entries I wrote for that project all fit together with each other, even at the word level. Usually he has some comments on my word choice or usage, but not on this project. I believe that happened in large part to my writing the first entry of the blog as a framing statement for the whole thing. It set the tone and the purpose of the whole piece, and I managed to maintain a unity throughout by keeping that purpose in mind. 

The name of my project blog is Finding Our Giants. The class, on the whole, was a good one. An experience that I enjoyed as well as one that I learned from.