Author of: The Notes They Played - a lyrical collection of short stories & The Impossible - a what-if story of the triumph over fear

Monday, August 28, 2017

It's not all about me!

Recently I had a conversation with my editor in which she remarked on the fact that I was so emotionally attached to my stories. She and the team had assumed my collection was mostly autobiographical. I denied it. I professed that only one story had me in it - The Marathon.

As The Notes They Played came together, I had to hurdle "the process." You know what it's like when you try something new. You take everything you thought about that new thing with you, and you start from there. In my mind writing is 95% writer and 5% editor. My editor had a different point of view. One of her many talents is ghost writing, so she's accustomed to writing words for people.

I wanted this collection to be all mine. She needed to be able to help me hone my craft. We are both very stubborn. She has the experience and the education to back up her assertions when things needed to be reworded to make my words more powerful, proper grammatically, or less tedious (she likes that particular word a lot)!

I'm a first born and an attorney, so I'm always right. Always. Until you prove me wrong. In fact, one of my dearest friends doesn't even bother to argue with me anymore, all the time, when we disagree. She states her opinion. I argue against it. Sometimes she doesn't even bat an eye at my dissension. Days, weeks, or months later, upon discovering the truth, I call her and tell her just how smart she is. She loves that.

Just in case my husband is reading; this is not to say that I am always wrong. I'm right a lot! Always, really...

I like things a certain way. That didn't change when I wrote this book. I doubt it will change when I write the ones that may follow. I maintained that if I'm putting my words out into the word and signing my name to them, then the end product must be conceived and arranged by (mostly) me.

I have no experience in publishing and I was not trained as a writer. But, I know what it is to pick up a book and to feel exactly what the author wants you to feel exactly when she wants you to feel it. I know what it's like to rush to get to the end of that book that you can't put down, and then immediately and truly lament the loss of those characters once you've finished. I know how it feels to be haunted by a story for weeks after reading that final sentence. I know that all of that really only adds up to a tiny particle of what magnificent writing is about.

I am not yet a magnificent writer. This is a journey I'm on and I understand that with hard work, prayer, and guidance (that maybe one day I'll listen to without any rebuff), I can perhaps write a book that I won't worry over. Boy, am I worrying over this one! I think it's possible that one day I'll tell a story that no one has ever told before; one that sucks the reader in, chews her up and spits her out forever changed in a wonderful way.

I hadn't thought my stories were about me at all. And then I read through all of them, the way my audience might, for the final edits. I'd worked on them one by one, or sometimes two at a time, but never read all of them through in the order they will appear in print.

It amazed me, really, the parallels between the lives of my characters and my life. The minuscule ways and blaring ways that I and my friends and my family shimmered in between the lines. I was taken aback. It was true, then, that I was so adamant about wording because the words held personal emotion for me. I fought tooth and nail over punctuation because that period was in my life. Nothing could be deleted or even adjusted without somehow erasing or altering something of me, or of someone I love.

And so I stand corrected. Again.

I'm all over these stories. Not always as a player. Sometimes I'm there as an observer; just telling you what I saw when I was in this certain place at this certain time and came across this unforgettable person that sparked my spirit and wouldn't let me rest until I told that story. Sometimes I had to finish the story in the best way I could with the information available to me at the time.

So, I am in this collection, on every single page. And, so may be you!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dragging my feet into Book Club

I finally got around to sending out an invitation to the other participants of the Girl Scout Mother/Daughter Book Club my eldest daughter and I are a part of. I promised, way back in May, that we'd host the second meeting. Summer break promised to be busy for everyone, so we agreed to resume when school started back up. School started here July 31. Today is August 23...

Let me be clear; I LOVE BOOK CLUBS! Love them! Because, I love books and book clubs are just another opportunity to read books; books that I might never have picked up and read had it not been for that person telling me I was expected to be able to discuss it on some date.

My first book club experience was with Oprah Winfrey. For years I read every book she recommended. It was the first time in my life that someone other than my dad or a teacher told me to read a book. Oprah's book picks were, to me, life changing. Because of her, I read Jane Hamilton, Sherri Reynolds, Kaye Gibbons, Edwidge Danticat, Billie Letts...

I'd read Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, most of the Greats in Black Literature, and all the Great African American Poets. Poetry...poetry will have to get its own blog post one day...

My dad is a lover of the written word and he made sure that I was not just well-read, but also knowledgeable about the Black experience; that I was exposed to Black writers especially since I was raised in a world where books by Black writers were not as visible as books by whites. In our home, there was a library with rows and rows of books by Black authors. It's still there, and when I go home, sometimes I swipe one or two, even though I've read most of them already. Sorry, Dad, if you're looking for it, it's probably here.

When I finally became an adult with kids, and had quit my job, and needed to carve out time to read and to talk about what I read with Girlfriends, I set out to form a book club in my neighborhood. Attendance was low. We could never get more than four of five ladies there for any one meeting. But, oh how those monthly meetings changed me!

It was where I learned that I could live beside one of the most lovely, spiritual, generous woman I'd ever met; who brought fresh cut hydrangeas from her bush just because, loved on my children and always thought of them on their birthdays, brought meals to me and always did the most neighborly of things, even when I were not nearly as thoughtful and generous and neighborly. That same neighbor could tell me to my face that my sons would never be President of the United States because we'd chosen to give them African names; and that she had trouble getting into a book that portrayed God as a heavyset African American woman. And, even though those words infuriated me and hurt me, I could not hold an ill-will against that neighbor. I love her!

Book clubs give us a safe haven. Book clubs connect us because they intertwine our individual lives with the lives of the characters in books, and then they meld us with those who've shared the experience of reading that book with those characters. Book clubs create pseudo families. You might not like everyone all the time, but you grow to love them. So you accept and forgive them unconditionally, and they do the same for you.

Book club was where I learned that thirty pounds overweight, I could turn "I wish I could run" into "I run." Because one woman cared enough to tell me to just download an app and follow it. And, I did. It's why when I moved from that neighborhood, I started a book club in my new neighborhood. Attendance is slightly higher here. And, I often regret having scheduled it during the days leading up to a meeting (meetings are at my house 90% of the time).

My life is very busy with two boys practicing soccer four nights a week, and then playing multiple games on weekends, and a daughter who trains for gymnastics twice a week. My life is busy because I have four children and a busy husband. I have a household to run and have decided to take up writing.

But, book club is one of those things that I just keep scheduling. I miss my Girlfriends when I don't get to see them. And in this busy world, we all seem to have to schedule Girlfriend time, or it doesn't happen. I never say goodbye to the last friend to leave my house after a book club meeting without wishing they'd all stayed a longer; without remembering some aspect of the book we hadn't discussed and wishing we had; without thinking about some profound thing someone said that made me love and respect her even more than I already did. I look forward to the next book and force myself to finish it, even though I don't seem to have enough time to.

I'm hoping that participating in a book cub with my daughter will allow me to share with her some of my absolute favorite books. I cannot wait to read Anne of Green Gables with both of my girls and then perhaps one day visit Prince Edward Island with them. An acquaintance of mine recently took her children there after reading the series with them, and it instantly became a future dream of mine. I'm hoping that we will be introduced to new books and that she and I will read them together and individually. I'm sure that it will tighten our bond, foster conversations we might not have had, and smooth over conflict. I'm prayerful that years from now, she and her children will read books together the way Dad and I did. And, talk about them excitedly, joyously for hours.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pleasant Surprises

My parents have no idea about this book. We are very close and they know me well. So, they know that I'm always writing something; have been writing for my entire life. But, from the moment my editor became interested in my stories, I've gone mum about the whole writing thing. 

This is especially hard because my middle sister and I have been mom-sharing for over a month now. Dad, mom, and my youngest sister live in Upstate New York. But, mom and baby sis have been here since early July, going back and forth between my place and the middle sister's place.

I've been busy with last-minute details pertaining to the book - author biography, cover photo, acknowledgements and dedication, and final edits. All this under the nose of a very involved (nosey) mother. 

The first two pictures I submitted didn't work, so I needed my little sister to take several pictures of me, in different outfits. Not whole outfits; I kept the same old, comfy shorts on in almost all of the photos.  

Anyway, my mom was here for all of it. And, mom has never been one to sit back out of the loop. She could not figure out why on earth I had my little sister following me around the house taking my picture. And, then she laughed out loud when she saw I was actually doing wardrobe changes. What could I say? So, I just let her laugh.

I cannot wait to get the first copies of my book. My heart will soar when I can put my parents' copies in the mail (mom and baby sis will have gone back home by then).  And the anticipation will build inside me for days, like bubbles in the soda cans my kids try to secretly shake, while those copies make their way to my parents' doorstep. Oh, how I wish I could see their faces. How I hope they will love the fact that I'm writing under a hyphenated surname to honor them. How I pray they will feel pride and joy at seeing my dream come true. Will Mom laugh out loud in realization when she turns the book over in her hands and sees my photo? Will they read my words and love them? Will they forever be changed by some little phrase somewhere within those pages? 

And, will everyone else too?

The Notes I Play..

My earliest memories of writing are bittersweet. I grew up in a large family surrounded by a loving sister, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. At the house of my favorite aunt and uncle, in the basement, sat a computer - one of the first computers in our family. And, I was allowed to sit at the desk in a hard silver and black metal chair and type the stories that popped into my head, for hours. Then, I'd print those stories and carry the pages home with me. Those were glorious times! That beautiful aunt and that charismatic uncle have since passed away. But, the freedom they gave me to express myself and to memorialize that expression, will remain with me forever.

It's not without some sadness that I thinking about the fact that they will never get the chance to hold and to open and to read my first publication...

Fast forward  more than thirty years and here I am releasing a little book full of short stories - my specialty - exactly where I left off all those years ago. Before the high school diploma, the B.A., the J.D.. Before deciding to quit my job and devote myself completely to my family. After countless rejection letters. My editor has taken a chance on me. And, I've finally found my way back to my dream.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you. But, even more, I look forward to releasing my book out into the world, and to all the feedback that may come.