Waiting = Writing

Every writer knows that waiting is a part of the job. Waiting for beta readers to give feedback, waiting for responses on query letters. Waiting for your agent to say it’s time to submit and then waiting to see if any publishers want to offer you a deal.

It’s excruciating, but there is something to ease the pain and to make the minutes, days, weeks, even months go by faster. Work!

Writers write, so write already!

In an earlier post, I compared the publishing process to having a baby. It is a lot like that, the waiting and the wondering what life will be like once it (the book or the baby) arrives.

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Because we tend to think of our books like offspring, it’s hard to imagine getting pregnant with another baby, before the one you’ve been carrying is born. But writers never carry just one story inside of them at a time.

Right now, I bet there are characters, just waiting to be written, passing the time playing cards in the deep regions of your cerebral cortex. We think waiting is hard for writers, just imagine what it’s like for the characters who get hopeful every time we pick up a pen or sit down at our keyboards. Think how their hearts race when we order that double shot of espresso at Starbucks and take a table in the back corner.

Old vintage typewriter

The thing is, stories want to be told and as writers, it’s our job to tell them. So forget the clock and the calender. Stop checking your email every hour. Eventually, you will hear something, but in the mean time, work. Give life and freedom to your characters. Spring them from your brain and let them live on the page.

For me, there’s nothing better than the moment a story takes hold of you and pushes you, blindfolded, down a steep hill. The exhileration of not knowing what’s going to happen and the certainty that you’ll figure it out is the best!

So yes, waiting is a part of being a writer. But remember that waiting should always equal writing.

 

 

 

Third Love Letter from God, for Teens

 

While these letters are for anyone who wants to read them, these words are inspired by the teenagers of the world.

Why?

Because I have a special regard for you, for your struggles.

You’re caught between childhood and what will become the long arduous, yet rewarding, years of adulthood. Let me put it this way.

Suppose life is a swimming pool. An infant would be able to do little more than lie at the base of the ladder leading to the high dive. A toddler might be able to begin the climb but certainly not much else. A child may make it to the top, but would stand frozen on the edge of the board, too paralyzed to venture far from the ladder. The adults, both young, middle-aged and old, would already be in the pool, swimming with various strokes, various strengths, various amounts of interest.

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A teenager on the other hand, stands on the edge of the high dive, ready, able, and often willing to leap into life, into the unknown. A teenager is the embodiment of all possibilities.

The amazing thing, the inspiring thing about you, is that you all leap. Some bound from the board with graceful ease, curving in the air and piercing the water with barely a ripple to disrupt the lives of those below. Some run first, jumping as far from the board as they can, deliberately forming awkward angles with their arms and legs and not caring who sees them or what’s thought of them.

These are my favorite. Perhaps it’s wrong to have favorites, but I do so love to see the carefree passion I’d intended for all to have. It is no wonder that these not only risk the pain of the belly flop, but seem better suited to deal with the inevitable pains of life. Passion and enthusiasm are great painkillers, great shields against the negativity you will no doubt have to face in life.

There are those whose goal is to enter the pool of life with a splash and those who are too scared to enter at all. These inch their way forward, holding their breath against the slight swaying of the board beneath their weight. Life, the uncertainties of it, terrifies them. While the carefree jumpers are my favorite, these frightened divers are the ones who draw me from myself, who pull that which is known as love, out of my center, as I catch them in their fear and lower them gently into the water. You see, they still jump.

They can’t help themselves, life, adulthood is waiting and to retreat back into childhood is not an option. They have to jump, either on their own, or after steady, unrelenting time pushes them. They have to jump.

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The ones that hurt me the most, who bear on me with crushing heaviness, are the ones who jump, not into the pool, but out over the hard cement. I feel every broken bone, every collapsed lung, every struggling heart.

I mourn every lost chance. I mourn every smile that was meant to be, every tear, every laugh, every kiss or embrace or moment of wonder. I cannot tell you, I cannot create the words to explain the utter devastation that comes when one of my creations leaves their life un-lived.

This may seem hard, maybe impossible to believe, but it makes me feel…inadequate. How can I, creator of all, feel incomplete, not enough, hollow? I created emptiness because without emptiness, there can be no room to hold, and there is no greater purpose in life than to hold.

With each life, there are steps that are mapped out, plans that if left to proceed undisturbed, are quite miraculous, even in what you might think of as the most ordinary of lives.

Live. Please, live.

Imagine for simplicity’s sake, that you have been reading the most wonderful novel, a book that you are certain is destined to become one of your favorites. Halfway through, you turn the page to find that the words have stopped, the pages are blank. You are certain the protagonist was headed towards greatness, towards noble adventuring consisting of no less than love and passion, excitement, forgiveness, joy and fear. But it ends. Unfinished.

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Imagine now that you are the protagonist and that you have chosen to step away, eternally away, from the page. You will experience none of the joys waiting for you, because the current page of your life is just too heavy to turn. But what if you could turn it? What might be waiting for you if you allow yourself to feel hope? To believe in it? To believe in me, to give me a chance to hold you in your pain, in your loneliness? To give you the strength to turn the page and go on with your life?

I know I may seem far away, but know that I’m not. I am in these words. I am in the melody of music that swells in your chest and brings tears to your eyes. I am in the smile of a stranger and the hugs and kisses of those who love you. I am in the blue above you and the ground beneath you and all things in-between.pexels-photo-54379

I love you.

You matter. Never forget that. Never.

Love Always,

God

 

Second Love Letter from God.

Second love letter from God.

There are so many things I want to tell you. So many things to discuss, because I know your hearts and your minds are full, are heavy.

But today, let us start with something simple.

Yes, I created the universe and all things in it, and that being said, I must seem so complex, so powerful. But I don’t want you to think of me that way. If you go outside and stare at a flower or a snowflake, they are very intricate objects. But your eyes aren’t meant to focus on each individual element. They’re meant to see the ‘whole’. Only by seeing the ‘whole’ can you see the worth, the beauty of something.

I don’t want you to think of my complexities. At least, not yet.

Today, at this moment, I want you to think of me as a shield, a blanket. I want you to think of me as the song you listen to when the words of the world are too ugly, to cruel to hear.

Today, with so much weighing down upon you, see me as your comfort. Yes, I created the universe. I created the stars, the galaxies, the elements of all things. And I created you. But today, I want you to know that I created a world that was meant to be better than this.

My spirit is heavy too and there is no song that I listen to to drown out the pain of your world. There are no earbuds big enough to keep out the cries and pleas and screams and I would not wear them if I could for what sort of parent blocks out the cries of their children?

I hear you.

And while there is so much to discuss, today, let me offer you the softness, the warmth of my love.

I’m here.

For today, let that be enough.

I love you always,

God

 

 

 

 

 

Love Letter from God

First Love letter from God

It’s difficult to know how to start this. You’d think it would be easy, after all, I know you. I know more about you than you do. I even know your blood type, your genetic sequences, the exact minute your first tooth came in.

And I know that at night you wake up sometimes feeling alone, even though I’m there with you.

I’m always with you.

I could send you a text. I could put myself in your phone as a contact so that ‘God’ would flash across the screen every time I reach out to you. I could message you, tweet you, swirl words into the clouds or commandeer the lyrics of your favorite song. But I guess I’m old fashioned, so I’ll just write you a letter. A love letter.

I’m going to keep this one short, sort of an introduction. You might not think I need one, after all, the world is filled with ideas about me. But this is about you, for you. So let me just say that in this letter and those to come, I don’t want you to think of me as the creator of the universe, but more as the creator of you.

I don’t want you to think of me as the force that makes the wind blow or the sky rain. I want you to think of me as the air you breathe and as the one who always sees your tears, even the ones that stay hidden in your heart.

I look forward to talking with you. It’s hard to connect through all the sounds in the universe – all the voices and noises and concerns that occupy your mind. Maybe when you read my letters, you’ll be able to escape from those for just a little while.

Anyway, I look forward to my time with you.

Until the next letter, know that I love you.

 

God

 

“This Generation”

Hi Everyone,

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been busy working on rewrites of a novel that will be going out to publishers soon and it’s this novel and some other things that have inspired this post today.

To start off, last week I saw a post on Facebook about ‘this generation’.

 

teens in classroom

Needless to say, when the term ‘this generation’ is used, it’s probably not going to be a post about how studious, respectful and wonderful today’s youth is. I’m not a teenager anymore, but as someone who once was, and as someone who writes for teens and tweens, this really annoys me!

First off, generations are made out of people and people are individuals. Everyone has their own story, their own triumphs and tragedies. Not everyone born in the sixties or the seventies or the eighties or nineties are the same. Yes, we are all parts of the eras we grew up in, but we didn’t grow up in the same houses or neighborhoods, with the same incomes or religions or talents or handicaps. We’re all different and grouping a whole generation of teens together is just plain wrong.

Secondly, I happen to like this generation of teens. As a teacher, they make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry. I see them struggling in a world that isn’t like the one I grew up in. When I was a kid, bullies weren’t that common and if you had one to deal with, you knew once school was over for the day, you were free of him or her. Today kids are never free — not with cyber bullying.

When I was a kid we had fire and tornado drills. We would never have imagined someone coming into school with the intent of killing as many of us as possible just because they have a desire to kill.

The point I’m trying to make is that teens don’t have it easy and most of them, if they feel entitled, it’s only because they want what’s fair, like a decent education and healthy food to eat. Most are grateful for the good things in their lives and most are much more attuned to what’s happening in our world than we ever give them credit for.

So to all the teens out there, when I first wrote this novel, it contained letters to you. Now, these letters are written by me, but I wrote them trying to imagine what God would want to say to the youth of the world if He or She decided to drop a line every once in a while. (I prefer to believe that God doesn’t have a gender one way or the other because…well…God created the universe and somehow genitals just shouldn’t matter to a being capable of such a feat.)

In the various rewrites of the book, the letters were taken out, but I’d like to give them to you all the same. So starting this week I’ll be posting the letters — the love letters from God.

Now, it may seem presumptuous of me to think that I can speak for God, and I’m not trying to. I’m simply imagining what the Almighty might want to say, or is already saying, but in our crazy, hectic, and sometimes angry, societies, we’re not hearing.

God gets a pretty bad wrap today and to be honest, I’ve struggled with sorting through the bigotry and downright evil that is paraded around our country in the name of religion. These letters aren’t about religion. They’re about spirituality. They’re about you and the fact that you mean something. You are something.

Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m hoping the letters bring you. Peace maybe. Guidance…well, we’ll see. Mostly, I want them to help each one of you know that while you are part of a generation, you are a part of something much bigger than that. You are a part of a gallery of art that is beautiful, rare and utterly magnificent. You matter.

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Spring YASH with Kate Elliott

Hi Everyone and welcome to YASH.

I’m so excited to be hosting Kate Elliott for this year’s Spring YASH. (Go team purple!)

Kate Elliott Author Photo Crop

 

Kate Elliott is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels including BLACK WOLVES, COLD MAGIC, and the YA fantasy COURT OF FIVES. She lives in Hawaii and paddles outrigger canoes in her spare time, as well as walking her now very old schnauzer. Rumor has it that she can juggle islands, but only 5 at a time. Read about her inspiration for Court of Fives.

A YA fantasy novel inspired by Little Women, American Ninja Warrior, and the Greco-Roman Egypt of Cleopatra. Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best contenders. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors–one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy–causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

Find Kate’s book:

http://www.amazon.com/Court-Fives-Kate-Elliott/dp/0316364193

PKBC_Court of Fives

 

Follow Kate at:

http://www.kateelliott.com/

https://www.facebook.com/kate.elliott.904

INSPIRATIONS for COURT OF FIVES

My Court of Fives pitch is “Little Women meet American Ninja Warrior in a setting inspired by Greco-Roman Egypt.”

What inspired the book? What do I see in my head when I write?

My spouse is an archaeologist. For the last six years he’s been co-director of the Tell Timai dig in the Egyptian Delta region. Timai was a regional capitol during the Greco-Roman period, about 2000 years ago, when first the Ptolemaic Dynasty (from Macedonia) and afterward the Roman Empire ruled Egypt. It’s such a fascinating period of history (the last Ptolemaic ruler was the famous Cleopatra) that I decided to use elements of the real history in a fantasy story and set it in a city called Saryenia whose architecture and daily life are partially modeled after this intriguing historical period.

This is what the site of Tell Timai looks like today (not very exciting):

Timai ruins

Now imagine it 2200 years ago in the heyday of the Ptolemaic Empire, whose capital was Alexandria. Here’s an artist’s rendition of the wide boulevards and monumental architecture of that city, which is pretty much how I imagine the streets of Saryenia:

alexandria street

Little Women is the famous 19th century novel by Louisa May Alcott about four girls growing up to become women, in a household held together by their mother while their father is away serving as a chaplain in the Union Army during the Civil War. Most of the fantasy fiction I read growing up revolved around men, so the idea of writing a fantasy novel focused around the lives of four sisters and their mother, a household of women, really appealed to me. I kept the plot element of the father being gone for long periods of time, away at the wars, but turned him into an actual soldier. Here’s my inspiration for Esladas and Kiya, the girls’ parents:

KIYA

Esladas

The main character, Jes, is an athlete. I played sports in high school (I still compete, although now in outrigger canoe paddling), and I wanted to write a love letter to girls who are competitive athletes. My inspiration for creating a complex obstacle course style game was, of course, American Ninja Warrior (and its Japanese original Sasuke). Here’s Meaghan Martin competing at the 2015 ANW Finals:

Finally, as I have posted elsewhere, there is one song I consider Jes’s “theme song” – the 2011 hit single “I Am The Best” by Korean pop group 2NE1. You don’t have to understand Korean to get the gist of the lyrics, given the song’s title. And look: four singers [Park Bom, Dara, CL, & Minzy]. In this video I can’t help but ID one to each sister*

*[poodle: Maraya/Meg; sports car: Jessamy/Jo; straitjacket: Bettany/Beth; sexy drama queen: Amaya/Amy]

 

Thanks so much for stopping by and taking part of YASH. Please comment and let us know what you think about Kate’s books, YA books or YASH!

Next stop on the hunt is Lori Goldstein, http://www.lorigoldsteinbooks.com/blog/

Be sure to check out these great books!

YASH PURPLE TEAM SPRING 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Spring YASH! YA Scavenger Hunt

Hi Everyone,

Just getting the word out that I’ll be hosting Kate Elliot for this spring’s YASH! Kate Elliott is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels including BLACK WOLVES, COLD MAGIC, and the YA fantasy COURT OF FIVES. She lives in Hawaii and paddles outrigger canoes in her spare time, as well as walking her now very old schnauzer.  The hunt starts on March 29th. It’s a great chance to see what’s out there in the world of Young Adult fiction and to win books! Who doesn’t want to win books?

Come back here on March 29th to learn more about Kate’s books and take part in the YA Scavenger Hunt for a chance to win books from these authors!

Go team purple!YASH PURPLE TEAM SPRING 2016

The Power of Words

Last week I went to a creative writing open mic night. It was held at a local community college, in a small auditorium with brick walls, a wooden stage, and a bright spotlight to shine down upon all those brave enough to walk up the stairs and stand behind the microphone.

The tension in the intimate setting was literally palpable. I even heard one girl say to another, “Don’t fall off the stage this time.”

Most of the readings were poems, and most dealt with things like homesickness, the daily grind of college life, and about falling in and out of love, and while the poetry may have covered various topics, in reality, each performance was about the same thing – about the power of words to make us stronger.

As I listened to writer after writer speaking in rhythm about love and loss and hopes and dreams, I realized that they were all really saying the same thing, displaying the same thing — the ability to be brave enough to expose themselves to others.

I can’t imagine how difficult it was for the petite girl with short blond hair to get up on the stage after having fallen off it during the last open mic night. I can’t image how difficult it was for the girl who had proclaimed her undying love for a young man with brown eyes, and another girl for an older man, both then telling of how these men (one young and one old) had chosen to love someone else. Corazn Roto

Sure, it’s tough to get up in front of people and say anything — anyone who’s taken public speaking knows that. But for any human being to get up and undress their emotions in front of others, to stand naked in the spotlight, takes incredible courage, and words are what gave them the courage. Their words.

Whether we’re writing prose or poetry, we can never underestimate the power that words have, not only for the reader, but for the writer as well. No armor or bullet proof vest, no weapons of any kind, can give a person the courage or the character that words can.

Who needs X-ray vision or the ability to leap over buildings? Finding the right words to say what we need to say, is the only power we need.

Young blonde woman looking at camera and show biceps.

 

 

 

Why is Literature Important?

A few weeks ago, I gave my literature students the review sheet for their final exam. It had the usual terms over poetry and drama and the list of poems, plays and stories we’d read that they should be familiar with. Then last week, I told them to take out their study guides and tear them up.

I told them that their final would be to answer one question: Why is literature important? At first, they were relieved, but then when I explained that the required essay would involve in depth soul-searching, they started to panic.

So, what happened?

With Star Wars being released, several students touched on the fact that good books mean good movies. Others commented on how they hated literature in high school but found a new appreciation for it in their current college course, (sucking up, I know, but still, I’ll take what I can get).

What I loved the most was when their writing about writing became passionate. When they were able to discuss how amazing it was to read the poetry of Iraq veterans and how seeing war through poetic imagery had not only given them a glimpse into the horrors of war, but had allowed them to peek into the souls of men and women who had experienced things that no person should ever have to experience.

ranger stands with arms and looks forward

They talked about vicariously experiencing freezing to death in the Yukon, about walking in the woods with the devil, stoning a neighbor to death and cutting an old man with a “vulture” eye up and hiding him under the floorboards.

They talked about how disturbing a story about a young man turning into a giant, repulsive bug is, and yet how the story of Gregor Samsa helped them to understand what it must feel like to have people shun you just because you’re different or you’re sick or you’re poor.

They talked about the amazing poetry of Shane Koyczan, and how they’d hated poetry but how he brought it to life for them. They talked out how   it made them feel things from their childhoods that they thought had been swept away but, as it turns out, had only been waiting in some corner of their minds for some light to be shed on the still painful names they were called and the shame of being picked last, or not at all.

Two big bully kids

 

All semester, I’d tried to teach with passion. To share my love of words and the fact that words CAN change hearts, and if words can change hearts, they can change the world.

At the beginning of the semester, many students said they hated reading, especially academic reading, and I can’t say that I blame them. (To this day I have to read “The Metamorphosis” in bits or I’ll literally need anti-nausea medicine).

Bedbug Concept

For a teacher, spreading passion is what it’s all about. The words that form in our minds, the words we speak and the ones we wish we could take back, are what make us who we are, and when we read someone else’s words, it’s almost like cannibalism. We’re not tasting a person’s body, we’re tasting their mind, their soul, their experiences. We’re growing exponentially by reading the words of those who have lived before us and of those who lived before them.

Some would say that these are dark and difficult times in which we’re living. But the truth is that every era has its own shades of hope and despair. The key to dispelling the dark is to find the passion that was born out of each generation. To learn from it. To feel it.

Why is literature important?

Because we are meant to feel the emotions of many lifetimes, but we are only given one.

 

 

 

Deadly Design: An excerpt for your pleasure :)

This excerpt from Deadly Design is one of my favorite scenes, but it requires just a little backstory. Kyle and Connor are identical twins, who were born two years apart. They were conceived in a fertility lab because their parents carry a gene for a deadly disorder. Their perfect egg was created and then split into identical twins. In the hopes of ensuring safe pregnancies, Connor was born first, while Kyle spent two years frozen in the lab.

The family doesn’t realize that the boys have been genetically altered to be superior beings. Connor succeeds at everything he does, and Kyle, being two years younger, doesn’t think he can compete with his brother’s greatness, so he doesn’t try. Over the years, he starts to resent his brother’s almost superstar status in their small town, so much so that he flips off anyone who accidently calls him by his twin brother’s name.

The following scene occurs after Connor dies on his eighteenth birthday and Kyle is asked to read Connor’s valedictorian speech during, what should have been, Connor’s high school graduation.

Hope you enjoy!

chromosomes 3d illustration

There is silence, real silence. There are hundreds of people surrounding me.

Hundreds of people breathing and fidgeting and thinking. And staring. The principal has said something. She introduced me, and the gymnasium has filled with the silence of waiting.

I stand, then walk, taking a second to look at my parents. They’re sitting in the first row behind the graduating students, and while I know they want to give me encouraging smiles, smiles to settle my nerves, they can’t. I reach the podium, look down, and start reading. It’s typical stuff, at least what filters through the haze in my brain. Motivational, fortune-cookie shit. “Work hard and you can accomplish anything. Don’t let the difficulties of life dissuade you from your dreams, blah, blah, blah.” And then there’s a space between paragraphs and a handwritten note. It reads Find Kyle in the audience. Look at him. Don’t say another word until he sees you.

I glance back at the principal. She nods her head knowingly at me and smiles with trembling lips. I look up at the crowd of faces staring down at me. I’m searching through them, but for a second, I’m not sure if I’m looking for Connor or looking for me. I go back to the words.

“Kyle,” I read, “I don’t believe in regrets, at least most of the time I don’t. I don’t regret that we were born separately, because the truth is, if Mom had tried to carry us both at the same time, we might both be dead now.”

Everyone is quiet, breath-held kind of quiet. No one fidgets against the hard chairs; no one fans themselves with their programs or turns through the pages to see how much longer this will take. Even the quivering cries of a discontented infant stop. All anyone can hear are the electric fans moving back and forth to aid the school’s ancient air conditioning system.

“I guess I do regret a few things. I regret that I didn’t wait for you. I arrived on the path first, and I ran ahead, so far ahead that you couldn’t catch up. I shouldn’t have done that. To make it worse, being twins, I should have figured that people would always be comparing us. It was up to me to set the bar, and I set it too high – for both of us. There’s always been this thing inside me, pushing me to be perfect. And once it started, it was like running down a hill, and you can’t stop, because if you try, you’ll fall, and the hill is so steep you know you won’t survive.

“I’ll never forget when you were in first grade. We were walking home, an you wouldn’t talk to me because the teacher made you miss recess when you didn’t get a perfect score on your spelling test. She thought that because we have the same DNA, we’d have the same brain, the same likes and dislikes. But the truth is I had to learn those words. Maybe it’s that oldest child syndrome or something. I had to get them right, but you didn’t. You could have if you’d wanted to, but you didn’t, and that’s okay. Hell, that’s great, as long as you know you could have.

“I regret now that I studied for those stupid tests. I mean, really, who cares if a seven-year-old can spell umbrella or a ten-year-old can recite the fifty state capitals? It doesn’t say anything about who we are. Not really. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have taken Calc 2 or Spanish 4. I don’t think I would have even gone out for track or football. Not because I don’t think education is important or because I don’t love sports, but because there’s no achievement in my life that means as much as being able to walk the path with you. You are my brother…and I love you.” I say these words slowly because they are for me. They are mine. “Nothing means more than that. And to all of you out there who have ever called Kyle ‘Connor,’ and especially to all of you who ever judged my brother for not learning his spelling words or his state capitals or his quadratic equations, this is for you.”

It doesn’t say anything else, but I know exactly what Connor intended to do. I look out at the young and old and middle-aged faces. I take a deep breath and, with tears burning in my eyes, extend my middle finger to the crowd.