Friday, February 28, 2014

In the News!

I was interviewed about my latest short story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen. Here's the link if you want to take a look. Love and thanks to my beautiful, courageous, middle daughter Elena for inspiring me to tell her story.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chicken Soup, anyone?

Thrilled and humbled to be featured in the Joliet Herald-News today.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Old Friends, New Friends, and the Joys of Sitting Butt in Chair

In the spirit of the New Year, I joined up with a group of fellow writers who all had writing goals like I did. One of the most notable goals we all made was to write a minimum of 100 words a day for the entire month. Compared to the high word counts I achieved when pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults for Vermont College, it seemed a small goal, one I almost felt guilty about. Almost. But based on the current demands on my life as a full-time (and then some) family caregiver for my middle daughter, Elena, I owed it to myself to be realistic.

Long story short, I didn't make my quota. An unexpected hospitalization got in the way. So did my oldest daughter's wedding. Granted, I knew about the wedding ahead of time. But unfortunately, I'd underestimated how much time it would take, especially as the amazing day drew near. As for the ER visit and hospital stay, it comes with the territory when there's a loved one at home with chronic health issues. You just can't plan for those.

The unexpected "excitement" didn't keep me from signing on with the writer's group for another month. So what if I didn't get as far in my writing? I accomplished something much more important. I reclaimed a writing routine, roused old characters, and met new ones. And at the risk of jinxing it by talking about it, I managed to sit butt in chair more times than I had in a very long time. And the trend has continued!

So far this month, I've written daily (or very nearly so). My focus has been a middle grade novel, one that's been in the discovery phase for years. It's a curious little project. The idea arrived in the form of a little girl's voice when I pursuing my MFA in Writing at Vermont College. I didn't know her name or story, but what she had to say was insistent and powerful. I knew as soon as I heard it that I didn't have the skill sets or emotional distance to to tell her story. Not yet.

Unlike other projects this one hasn't come all at once. Nor has it come on my terms. The main character is shy and elusive. She appears at the most inconvenient times. She starts talking. I fumble for a notebook and attempt to take notes. Sometimes she stays for an hour, sometimes a few minutes. Then she disappears and no manner of bribery will coax her out.

This month, she appeared again, and this time she took form on the story stage. For the first time since I began recording her thoughts, hopes and dreams, the shape of her story is coming to the fore. I'm not sure how long she's going to stay this time, but I plan to keep working at it as long as she allows me to do so. Will she remain long enough for me to discover the whole story? Only time will tell. Until then I'm striving to keep the faith and trust the process.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Dusting off the Keys, Sitting Butt in Chair and Trusting the Process

It's embarrassing how long it's been since I last blogged anything here. The bottom line is that my butt in chair time has been quite limited, and my time updating this blog has been--well--non-existent.

This is not what I intended. By now I should have published all three books in my Tide's Turning series. By now, I should have published my contemporary middle grade novel. But life had other plans.

You see, I'm not just a writer. I'm a mom and caregiver, too. I was reminded of this fact a year ago last November when I was called to wear the caregiver hat full-time.

If you follow this blog, you're probably aware of my middle daughter Elena's story. She's a brain aneurysm survivor. At age nine she stood at death's door, but by God's good grace she returned to us and learned how to walk, talk and be Elena again. The road to recovery was a rocky one, but we managed to find a new sense of normal. And I managed to keep my writing a priority.

But things changed a year ago last November. We learned that Elena's kidney's had failed and that she was in urgent need of dialysis. Since Elena needs assistance with the simplest of things, I stepped up to be her healthcare manager and caregiver. I was unprepared for the toll this role would take on me personally.

Twice a week, we awake before dawn, pack our food, blanket, activities, and Elena's service dog Sonny, and drive to Chicago where Elena undergoes a three-hour dialysis treatment. In the beginning, Elena took well to the process; but, unfortunately, this didn't last. She needs more time to recover after dialysis, activities take a lot out of her, and I've lost track of how many times she's gone to the hospital after treatment.

On non-dialysis days, Elena spends a lot of her time on doctor's visits, medical testing and therapies. I am her healthcare manager, chauffeur, personal assistant, activity coordinator, advocate and cheerleader. Free time, when I have it, is for errands and planning for and cooking the kidney friendly meals Elena must have in order to keep as healthy as possible as she awaits a transplant.

On paper it looks like I should have plenty of time left for writing after everyone goes to bed. But in reality sleep is what happens, and there never seems to be enough of it.

Keeping the faith that my fantasy stories will be read one day is one of the hardest things I've been called to do. Time marches on. I wonder if my characters will recognize me when I sit butt in chair and ask them to play. I worry that I won't find the flow when I finally carve out time to work on my story.

But every once in a while life lifts up a reminder to trust the process. Like today for example. Last year life handed me enough precious time to write "Elena's Angels," a short story for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen. They bought the story! And beginning today, the book is available in bookstores everywhere. Today as my daughter marks her one-year anniversary of being on dialysis, the timing couldn't be more perfect. Patience. Perseverance. Trust the process.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Traditional Publishing Vs. Indie? Read This link Before You Decide

Contemplating whether to publish your book with a traditional publisher or do it your self? Before you decide, consider this food for thought from best-selling author Joe Konrath.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Looking for Inspiration? Check Out This Video

Hope, humor, grace, strength. I've witnessed my daughter and others summon these attributes and more in the face of adversity. Kudos, Chris Rumble! Your video says it so well.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Writerly Report from the Trenches

Each month nearly a dozen teens join me around a library table to talk about books, hone their craft, and share their work. Each month, I'm blown away by their honesty, creativity, willingness to share, and eagerness to play. This month was made even more awesome when group regular, J, arrived with her guitar over her shoulder and announced she wanted to play for us. We moved the meeting outside, and sat beneath the oaks along the canal path, where J treated us to a public concert. And held us spellbound. Writers often begin their stories with a character, snippet of dialogue, or setting, and then must discover the rest of the story. When writing a song, J said she often begins with a whisper of music. Then she seeks the story that belongs to it. Fascinating how the creative process works. Thanks for sharing, J! You're an amazing singer and songwriter!