Taking life out of the box

I opened a box and peeled back the pages of my life. Nestled between official documents and immunization records was a little poem. It was scrawled in my handwriting and twice as long but edited to be succinct. It read . . .

Have you always been standing next to me,
Or was it just yesterday we became a family?
Wherever we go, whatever we do,
I’ll always be mommy and I’ll love you.

This time of year there is a birthday and a moment when we share what it means to be a family. It’s the moment we pause under the rays of a warm sun, take a moment to hug and say, ‘I love you,’ and realize how very lucky we are.

Happy birthday, baby.

Love you lots,



GUEST: Author Carolyn J. Rose

Today’s post is by a unique guest, author and teacher Carolyn J. Rose. 

Rose shares her thoughts on growing up in the Catskill Mountains and how those memories can create a strong setting. Rose earned an honored position on the list of Celebrities Who’ve met ME! when I took both her Novel Writing Boot Camp classes. From that experience blossomed a loyal critique group that has produced two Pacific Northwest Writers Association winners–attesting to her  skill as a writing coach.

Carolyn’ J. Rose is the author of several books, most recently Hemlock Lake available in hardback or Kindle.  Here’s Carolyn . . .

In Washington, where I live now, the term I hear is “forest.” But when I grew up in the Catskill Mountains, the leafy realm that began at a dozen yards from our house was always called “the woods.

Trees dug in their toes at the edge of a scabby lawn sprouting through
rocky soil scraped into a semblance of level by a tractor blade. This was no spongy, springy, emerald green lawn. This was a pale lawn of ruggedly individualistic blades of grass, roots corkscrewed in among pebbles and stones, clinging to scant, glacier-scoured soil.

Each spring we reclaimed the edges of it from an advancing army of sumac, oak, and birch, from hemlock, pine, and cedar. We hacked away at brush and vines, lugging what we dropped to piles that would be set alight in the dark of winter.

The summer woods seemed impenetrable, the winter woods empty, bleak, and barren.

As a child, one of the biggest treats was a Sunday afternoon walk with my father. It was a pursuit of adventure, of wildness—it was piquant sauce for the predictability of the Sunday dinner of ham or roast, that Sunday sense of waiting for things to begin again with Monday’s dawn.

My father would identify tracks and droppings—deer, bear, raccoon, skunk. He’d name trees and point out nests aloft.

I’d try to walk silently, but winter winds had scattered twigs and branches that snapped beneath my shoes and slabs of shale slid underfoot when we climbed the ridges.

I became fearful when we left the landmarks I knew and could identify, worried we wouldn’t find our way back to the dinner simmering in that cast-iron kettle. But I was always confident that if I stayed by his side, we would return safely. After all, these were the woods he had roamed in childhood and if he’d found his way home as a child, he could surely do the same as an adult.

And this was no dense green-black forest of Douglas fir—no wall of forest, shadows, and night. This was a woods where sun spangled through the leaves of the hardwoods. This was a woods of saplings and bright autumn tints, of long, stark shadows cast by a weak winter sun. This was a woods where stone walls intersected like lines of longitude and latitude. Even humped under winter’s snow they provided a means of navigation.

Looking back, I realize how “tame” and “civilized” those woods were. And yet, they were mysterious, filled with unanswered questions: Who had left that sickle blade hanging in the crotch of a sapling and when had the tree grown around it? Who had left an ax leaning against a spur of stone wall and when had the handle rotted away? Whose initials were those scraped into lichen-scarred stone, carved into the puckered bark of a tree? Where had these people gone and when and why?

As I wrote Hemlock Lake, I often imagined myself back in the Catskill Mountains, back in those woods and I created mysteries of my own—a man who roamed the ridges seeking his lost self, ghosts, a man bent on vengeance, a killer. Hemlock Lake deals with universal themes—betrayal, revenge, love, loss, and redemption—but my memories of those woods make the story unique.

Editor: Thank you Carolyn for continuing to share yourself with your writing students and the reading community.

Listen to an interview of Carolyn J. Rose as she speaks about writing Hemlock Lake on The Author Show.

Purchase Hemlock Lake on Kindle here.

Read an interview of Carolyn J. Rose. It can be read in three parts:

Carolyn J. Rose also founded the Vancouver Writers Mixer with Mel Sanders of Cover to Cover Books.


Family vacation, borders and flying suitcases

Family trips evoke horror ridden memories or gut wrenching cackles. During the trip to the homestead in Idaho a suitcase got left on the top of the car. The wind blew it off. We stopped to pick it up. Inside was a clock which, packed by my overly cautious uncle, suffered nary a scratch. He’d bought it during the trip and was flying home and had packed it to withstand airport handling.

The clock survived the flight off the car and the flight home.

My daughter’s memories include seeing all the license plates, falling asleep listening to a book on tape and not minding missing any of it as the nap made the travel time pass quickly. My dad’s vacation memories center around history and being in the middle of something exciting, for example, where fur traders traversed from Taos, Mexico to Yellowstone, or having sensory overload at places like Cabella’s.

My vacation memories usually center on leaving work with a clean desk—should someone need to find something in my absence the possibilities increase with each item I file or discard. Then there’s the thrill of finally being on the road and maybe driving fast with a radar detector.

Other family members might complain our hunger clocks are not in the same time zone, of restrooms too low or too tiny, of missing the correct turn-off, and keeping expenses straight so everyone pays their part.

I gaze out the car window and admire green velvet fields. I watch the breath of the wind blow across them and change their hue. I take in green and tan corn stalks stretching behind wood post fences, farmhouses, silos, irrigation wing spans, the rare red-roof barn, a gentle border of trees signaling a creek, a white steeple church, wind turbines, mile long trains that parallel us, blue sky sparsely peppered with dark clouds or glowing with white billows.

We drive.

We cross state boundaries and face personal ones. These borders of our soul help define who we are, what we are for or against, and what we want and do not want. And sometimes we find ourselves not strapped on, wheeling precariously across the roof of the car, the next bump and we disappear. We may pray someone notices, or we may pray they drive on without us.

If family neglect left you on top of the car, did you fly off and survive, or crack with a hurt too big to repair?


Creative Process Part III by Little_Karol

By Guest Contributor Little_Karol. On the first of her series she shared her research on the novel writing process. The second piece encompassed her interview with author Carolyn Rose. Today she shares her interview with author Elizabeth Lyon.

Lyon is the author of six writing books on fiction and nonfiction, revision, and marketing: Manuscript Makeover, A Writer’s Guide to Fiction, The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, The Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction, and National Directory of Editors & Writers. Elizabeth Lyon lives in Springfield, Oregon. The December issue of “The Writer” magazine selected Manuscript Makeover as one of “10 Great Writing Books in 2008.”

I sat down at my computer after a long day of cleaning the house. I connected to the internet and logged into Gmail, nothing out of the ordinary. I had e-mailed her earlier that week and was surprised when I saw, she had e-mailed back. I learned from Carolyn Rose that Lyon was supposed to be going on vacation soon. I thought she had already left, considering it took her a while to respond. I later found out she had responded to half of my questions, just to have accidentally deleted her answers.

“What is your creative process (What do you do when you are writing)? I know that seems kind of vague, but answer it to the best of your ability.”

“When I am writing something creative, like the memoir I have begun, I am back in the mental movie of the story. Most writers, I think, write from the movie in their minds and then revise more intellectually. When I write, I do a little of editing along the way, changing this word or that phrase, perhaps because I am an editor. I know, at least as a professional editor, that the best way to write a first draft is to just let the words blat out on the screen or page. Getting something written is most important of all. So my writing of my first draft is like a condensed version of what the final book will be. Like, just add water. Or, just add character depth through thought and feeling and reactions; add sensory detail; add description of Nature, man made objects, and of other characters; add similes and metaphors; harvest my own emotions as I relive the story as my character and add emotions.”

“How does you feel when your with an editor? What kind of thoughts go through your mind?”

“I have two forms of ‘editors’ for my work: my critique group friends and my New York editor who works for my publisher. Before my New York editor sees my work, I run it past my writing friends who give me their honest, constructive criticism. I always feel a bit anxious and insecure about what they will tell me. I have the same fears, hopes, and trepidations as most writers do when facing criticism. Afterwards, I’m relieved and excited, because they catch mistakes, not only in grammar and punctuation but also in facts, logic, and style. I feel grateful and relieved as well as eager to revise.

“By the time my in-house editor is reviewing my manuscripts, they have already been ‘vetted,’ so to speak by my critique group friends. I have had 6-7 different editors who worked for publishing houses, and they have all been astute, kind, and accurate. They have helped me save face by pointing out whatever is left that my writing friends did not address. As I wait for my editor’s mark-ups and evaluation, I hope that she (I’ve had one male editor) will praise my work and be enthusiastic about it. Sometimes I have needed to directly ask the question, “Did you like it?” because they are focused on corrections. While waiting, I have days when I worry whether the book will not meet the editor’s approval, but most of the time, I am confident that whatever is found is fixable.”

“What is it like when you’re presenting your work to an audience? Do you feel relaxed or do you still get butterflies?”

“Because my nonfiction books, six of them for writers, are typically presented in the form of workshops, here is how I feel: Before a workshop, I build up tension. Some of it is working tension that leads me to prepare, make photocopies, and think about my audience and how to present the work. The other portion of the tension I could do without: anxiety based on imagined scenarios, such as being dull-witted and “off,” or being asked questions I cannot answer and looking like a fool, or having a non-responsive audience. I get more anxious when my audience is all pros. Then I worry that they will stump me or what I have to offer will be old hat. So far that has not been the case, but the anxiety says, “There is always a first time so watch out, missy.”
Once I am in the room and am passing out handouts, I feel relaxed, cheerful, ready to have a good time as well as offer help to writers. I am a bit of a ham, so I crack jokes and fully enjoy meeting all of the people.

“If I am giving a speech, such as a keynote, that is a different story. Whereas I find teaching to now be natural, I find speeches to be unnatural. I know that I have to entertain, inform, and inspire. That is tough! I find speeches to be more formalized, best not done off the cuff, and giving them more like walking through a mine field. I try to structure in a laugh line in the first few sentences. If the audience laughs, I relax and feel as if I have purchased a little bit of extra rope, though I know I can still hang myself if I don’t deliver. If they don’t laugh, I sweat like an animal facing slaughter. When my speech succeeds and they clap–they actually clap–I’m soaring high on adrenalin. I summated Mt. Everest.”

“What is it like for you to find a publisher? What stages do you have to go through?”

“So far, I have been a self-publisher, then had my first two books published by a small Oregon publishing company that went out of business (so I was “orphaned”), then was picked up by a giant New York publisher for reprint of my first two books and for publication of two new books, and have had a small New York publisher who got bought out by a bigger fish and thus I was orphaned of all editorial support.

“In the beginning of my search for a publisher (outside of doing it myself), I wrote a proposal and a query. I already knew agents and one represented me, but was unsuccessful in selling the book (Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write). I queried publishers directly and an editor at St. Martin’s was very enthusiastic, only to have the sales/marketing people shoot it down in the editorial review process. The editor so believed in my book that he did independent market research and went back to the review committee and it still didn’t sail. At the time, I had no prior publications (except a few magazine articles and a few contest wins) and my only “platform” (ability to sell books myself) was that I taught adult education writing classes and had an editing business (my current dba is Editing International). I put the project aside and worked on another proposal for a travel memoir, again represented by the agent I knew, and again rejected. In hindsight, I was not yet a strong enough memoir writer.

“A year or so later, I was having lunch at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference with a NY agent friend of mine, and she suggested I pitch my proposal book to a small press. She knew that Blue Heron Publishing (Hillsboro, OR) was starting a line of writing books. I had seen a note about that as well, but her encouragement led to me attending a group pitch meeting with one of the co-owners, Dennis Stovall. I tend to be intuitive and I felt fully in sync with Dennis–a meeting of the minds–and he requested my proposal. I spruced it up and sent it in, and I got that call: “We want to publish your book.” Although I haven’t won a lottery, the emotions I felt were what I imagined winning Lotto would feel like.

“Dennis and Linny Stovall, founders and editors of Blue Heron Publishing, published my proposal book in 1995 and followed with publishing “The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit” in 1997. To gain consideration of their publishing this second book was entirely different because now I was one of their authors. I wrote a short proposal and after answering their questions, we signed the contract.

“When they decided to end Blue Heron to pursue other life goals, I was then “orphaned” with rights reverted to me of my first two books. By year 2000, I had a New York literary agent I had met by going to conferences. As a freelance book editor, I sought to meet as many agents as possible for my clients and in the process, that meant I had an inside connection–and now I was a published author. On September 4, 2001, I flew with my daughter Elaine, then 17, to New York. We patched together the trip using frequent flier miles and staying with a client and friend of mine in the city. The budget trip to New York City. I took a stack of my two books to give to my agent, with the hopes that she could find a new “home” for them. It seemed like a long shot as publishers like to discover and acquire new books more than “retreads.” I had also written another proposal, for a series of writing craft books, and I left 10 copies of the proposal with her as well.

“On September 11th, 2001, my daughter and boarded out United Airlines flight at 8:30, leaving LeGuardia and, we thought, to arrive home in Eugene, Oregon by afternoon. The pilot gave us the shocking news soon after we took off, and landed us at O’Hare. Amidst confusion and disbelief at what had happened, we lucked out and were among the displaced passengers who found a room at a nearby hotel. Three days later, when a rental car was returned to the airport, Avis gave us a one-way “distress” discount, and my daughter and I drove 2200 miles home. I could not have been more amazed than when my agent called six weeks later, only six weeks after 9-11, with a four-book deal. Perigee Books, an imprint of US Penguin, purchased reprint rights to my first two books, and agreed to publish two of my proposed books in the new writing series.”

“What will you do after you are done writing books?”

“I’m done writing *writing* books now. Which means that I am unleashing myself on projects I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Foremost among them is a memoir based on my being the only white student, at age 17 in 1967, at a summer program for high school kids held at Bennett College in Greensboro, NC. I think of this memoir as a 3-5-year project, art and craft, a “legacy” work that may or may not be publishable, but most of all, must meet my inner artistic satisfaction.

“Second, I’ve always wanted to write a book involving my hobby, which is astrology. That one might be commercial as I am writing it for the masses and not for astrologers per se. I’ve begun outlining and doing some first writing on it. Because I don’t want to write under deadline pressure, and the advances have so far been inadequate to let me stop working and just write, I want to have at least half of this astrology book done before I hand the proposal over to my agent for representation. I’m thinking of this book as being on a one-year track, perhaps longer.

“Of course, I have many other books in the queue, including a young adult novel. It is germinating in the back of my mind, so I’m “working” on it in the fertile womb of imagination.”

“Reflecting back on your work, how do you feel you did?”

“I hope the question doesn’t mean that I’m all done! I feel great about the contributions I have made to the how-to instruction for writers. I have always held myself to the standard of contributing something new to the topic and writing in the clearest way I possibly can. All of my books have been well-received and some have reviews that feel like winning the lottery.

“My one disappointment is that I thought there would be more sales, more royalties, from writing writing books. When I started out with publishing, I thought that after my third writing book, I would surely receive enough royalties to cover my expenses and buy time to write more creative works. I now have six books in print with two earning royalties (meaning, they have sold well enough to pay back the advance). If the books continue to be in print, I am now joking that they will be my IRA, my retirement income, in addition to the pathetic amount I’ll get from social security–if it still exists. The reality is that my choice of writing nonfiction was for a niche market, a specialty readership and not for a mass audience.

“One way out is to now write a bestseller! How many writers dream of that? Don’t answer that. I assume we all do. But, I have now paid considerable dues: I am a professional nonfiction writer, I have a great agent, and I know how to write proposals and develop an already-existing strong platform, which refers to my promotional ability to sell my book. So the only thing in my way is thinking of that bestselling idea and carving out time. I’m hoping my astrology book for the millions will be that book. . . .

“I know I will never ever run out of creative ideas. They swarm around all the time. I dream them, I stumble across them, they come beckoning on knees. Do me!”

“How many books have you had published?”

“Seven. The six writing books and a first self-published book (in 1981) called “Mabel–The Story of One Midwife.” I published 200 hardback and 2000 paperback, and learned every aspect of this business. Mable Dzata was the midwife for my two children, who were born at home. The book is her biography plus a collection of home birth stories by the families she helped. I was told a few years ago that it is a “midwifery classic.” It took 10 years to sell out all copies! I say I was a tad bit naive when I thought they would all sell in 3 months. That’s when I learned that it is one thing to write a good book, and it is another thing to let a reader know it exists and then to get ’em to fork over money.”

“How do you know when your book is done?”

“Most writers of all levels of skill and experience don’t know. We’re so subjectively tied to your creation. When you’ve written the best you can and revised up the wazoo, and you can’t see anything else to do, other than change a few words here and there, you’re done. The work may not be close to the quality for publication, but you’ve done the best you can. You can market and will have confirmation of its readiness by acceptance or rejection. But no matter what, you should start a next project.

“The more experienced a writer becomes in all areas of craft, with more books under the belt–or in the drawer–the greater will be the writer’s instinct for how much to revise. There is a point where too much revision makes the book slick, like newly waxed tile. It loses its edge and the sheen will push the reader away instead of making the reader stop, engage, and feel the character’s emotions. Of course I am talking fiction and memoir here, not how-to or information writing.

“I think all writers need someone outside of them to give feedback, and criticism. Astute readers are one choice. Other choices include a fellow writing buddy, a critique group (in person or online), a writing teacher, or a professional freelance editor.

“Writers also need to cultivate an ability to tune into their own heart, soul, and gut. They need this to be able to discriminate between suggestions and criticism they agree with and those they do not agree with. As I’ve often said, The Writer Rules. Everyone else has opinions. In the end, deciding when your work is done is a solo job, just as writing the work in the first place. You simply get better at the decision.

“Even after books are published, probably every author you talk to will tell you that he or she can pick one of the published books off the bookstore shelf, read a bit and find something they would now change. It is the nature of creativity and the inability to be perfect.”

“Where do your ideas come from? Pete Fromm has an idea folder and I was wondering if you had something similar.”

“I formerly put ideas onto sticky notes and plastered them onto my file cabinet. Bad idea. The sun makes them fade. And I never looked at them again. I have three places where I put ideas: I carry a little spiral notepad in my purse. I make computer files with working titles for the projects I think will get developed. And I have an artist’s sketchpad where I doodle, think on the page, use colored markers, and build a “playground” for ideas to come in without censorship.

“My view on where ideas come from is this: “Build a field and they will come.” (Field of Dreams) The field for a writer is your imagination. Just stating the intention to receive ideas gets implanted, like an egg in the womb. It will be nurtured and return at odd times with an idea and some growth to it. The process for a writer is, I think, to facilitate the flow from imagination into thought, which is different than searching for a “where” to find the ideas. It is not like going out into a field and digging for a buried treasure. It is more like building up the soil for a great garden.

“For me, these activities or conditions help build that field, or add nutrients to the garden soil: water–taking showers and getting lost in your thoughts, washing dishes, swimming, soaking in a hot tub, eyes closed to see the inner movie screen; walking–moving the body, getting a rhythm where you don’t have to think about walking but your mind is walking–into the imagination and coming back in thought with ideas; driving–same thing though not quite as safe! I do have my notepad open with a pen as I drive longer distances, to jot down “great ideas”–they always seem great when they arrive. I also nab dreams I remember and as soon as possible write down the basics of them. I have “received” several ideas for novels directly out of dreams. Brainstorming with writing friends is another source of ideas and problem-solving for existing writing. “What if” is the best phrase for writers to complete.

“Last of all, and you didn’t ask this is to note the “right stuff” to succeed as a writer: A love of expressing yourself in writing; the courage to ignore the inner voices of criticism and overcome the silent forces of censorship; patience and perseverance to practice writing skills for years, not expecting instant success; openness to constructive criticism; commitment to the process of multiple if not seemingly endless revisions to produce a finished work; immersion in the business side of writing as a career, learning marketing and networking skills; and last: remembering always that your reason to write is for the joy it brings you.”

Added as a side note was “Good luck and I hope this proves valuable. PS: You may find something else useful from the YouTube shorties that were taken at the talk I gave at Cover to Cover where we met each other.


Creative Process of Writing a Novel

By Guest Contributor Little_Karol. This piece written for a creative writing class and originally published at Writing My Heart.

Part I of III


“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~Toni Morrison

The start, the beginning of a long journey. It’s initiated with a page. A blank one at that. Staring me down until I’m sitting in a corner glaring at the page.. It’s intimidating. I have a need, I fill the need suppressed by fear with the ability to cover the page with words. Stuff pages with ideas spinning around my head. Of vivid characters, living life and colorful scenes. I know imagination lets the mind expand.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” ~Albert Einstein

Developing a manuscript equals hours of editing thousands of papers with red pen marks. It rounds out to somewhere close to hours of sleep deprivation, shoulder tension, head aches from staring at the computer screen for days on end with aching fingers and hands. Take action! Get published.

If you’re turned down, keep trying. Doctor Theodore Seuss got turned down twenty-seven times until he got published by the twenty-eighth publisher. His visual art and creative writing teachers said he didn’t have it. Editors will evaluate you and catch every flaw. Every word misused, every coma misplaced. But share with agents and they will help you share with the world.

Your critique group will support you and help you refine your book. The critique group will help you to become published. How do you get there? Here is a teenager’s view of the creative process of writing a novel. From the first words to seeing your book in the local stores.

I came to the School of Arts and Academics to expand my inner artist. I took literary arts explore sixth grade year with Michael Carr. Through poetry I found more of myself than I had bothered to go searching for. I was never much of a writer before this. I loved writing assignments, but I always did the basics and never thought I went above and beyond to deserve the four out of four I received. I am now putting all my efforts into writing assignments teachers give.

My mom started writing a novel in 2007. She used me to bounce ideas. I gave her feedback that helped her start her writing. Now, 2009, two years later, she has her manuscript. She has her own world that comes with it. Where no one else is allowed to be. A world where something is always happening and no one can interrupt. This is a phase where she no longer talks to her child. Where she gets holed up in her room and only leaves to go to work and meet with her critique group.

I always wanted to know what went through her head while she was writing. This gave me the perfect opportunity. Now I had the just the right reason to ask her all the questions I wanted without her bugging me because I was interrupting her thoughts. This gave me a new insight to how my mother thinks when creating art. Wonders of her creative process aren’t wonders but rather questions answered.

All questions How do you know when your book is done? What are your judgment thoughts? What is it like to find an agent? What is it like to be published? What is your creative process? Are answered. I find questions popping into my head from books. I find myself asking about voice and style and about metaphors and ruts that you get stuck in and can’t seem to find a way out of.

“The third step is getting out of the rut. This is the hard part. Knowing and admitting a problem are not the same as solving it. But executing a solution saves you and gets you moving again.” (Tharp 189)


It started with reading Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit,” and then reading some of Elizabeth Lyon’s guide, “Manuscript Makeover.” I also read Lyon’s other book “A Writer’s Guide to Fiction.” I expanded my searching to the internet. Usually I find something on my topic, but this was a little hard. I don’t think you can really find the creative process of doing a certain task. You may be able to find the creative process of one person. But it seems a little vague. I found little to nothing about the creative process using these resources. Little details came in handy along the way though.

What is the creative process of writing a novel? Is it each stage you go through to get to the final piece? Do the Fundamental Questions help you to answer the question, what’s next? You can ask all these questions, ask so many that their head will explode before you are finished asking; and you still might not have the answer you maybe wanted. Stopping at a stand point to find you have to go and discover those answers on your own. But where to start? I have hit a rut.

I figure this question is too… vague. It’s hard to find the answer I am looking for. No internet article seems to help; every interview seems to add to my curiosity and confusion. So, I’ll look at it this way. What is the creative process of one writer? Of just one novelist? Although I don’t think of her as a novelist, but well, let’s say a mom, she still has a lot of growth and tolerance for my never ending list of questions… sometimes.

No one can define your creative process; no one can cheat off of your work. We have techniques that many of us share when writing. It’s what we have in common, the rest is up to you. We all started with one page, we all end thinking something can be improved. We all have a reference point, when we turn to a critique group to help us get through the editing stages.

In her book, “A Writers Guide to Fiction,” Lyon says “If you are new to writing fiction, you may wonder if there is a right way to ‘find’ a good story, to know how best to plan a story. The answer may not be a comfort to everyone: There is no right way; there is only your way. Anything can and has inspired writers and given them the kernel from which they’ve developed a story. No matter where you begin, you will have to fill in all the blanks.” (Lyon 11)

Don’t we all start out knowing what we want to write? Is it really that easy? Carol Doane pulled her inspiration from books and observing everyday life around her. In books you don’t hear about interracial couples very often, so she put one in her book. Hear about racism, sex, alcohol? Put it in her book as well. Her book pulls you into a fantasy world where everything is supremely real and any of these things can happen to you. Live in a life with metaphors that take time to grasp and understand? You find everyday life stories that sometimes go hidden shown to us through fiction.

We all begin somewhere. When Doane starts to draw inspiration, she pulls out her three by five cards. Scribbles of words and pictures of days long, long ago. Phrases from conversations that went through her mind everyday. As she flips each note card over and over again carefully, she begins rapid fire. Typing faster than most students… or her co-workers have ever heard. She’s on a roll and no one is getting in her way. Kind of like some demolition derby driver…

She has all her writing down and begins to transform her manuscript. Making metaphor after metaphor seamlessly flow throughout her paper. Taking sentence structures and tearing them down, just to come back to something fairly similar. Replacing words with words. Deleting sentence after sentence, just so another one could take its place.

She goes to her critique group to discover more and more revising is left to be done. Going back home, thoughts are still going through her mind. She won’t let me talk to her, scared they might escape. Every time she goes, less editing seems to need to be done. But she never stops. She adds and adds and adds, and then complains her manuscript is too long. So she goes back and decides to cut some areas, just find out later, they are replaced by new ideas.

What are some techniques for writing? Everyone has their own… but some are very similar. In Elizabeth Lyon’s book, “Manuscript Makeover,” she talks about many techniques different writers use when editing their manuscript. Some examples will include: cultivating deep listening, silence critics; banish censors, practice riff-writing, revise from your truth, harvest your emotions and catch fireflies.

Each of these included a description of what they are and how to apply it to your editing stage in your manuscript. She also encourages you to: model favorite authors, revise for sentence variety and revise for impact These help with the simple revisions for style. Sections in the book help you to create similes, metaphors and a correct sentence structure.

Confined in her room another week, Doane prepares for another meeting with her critics. Revising again and again… to find yet another mistake. A vicious cycle of editing and sharing. Editing and sharing. Time after time again. After a year, less editing needs to be done. All metaphors and similes are woven throughout the book. All sentences run smoothly and all scenes make perfect sense. If you pay attention.

With each week the characters begin to develop. They gain their own colors. “To make characters live and breathe, writers must write ‘from the inside out’ to the ‘outside in’” (Lyon 19). Characters overcome problems throughout her book, adding more depth to their description. Making them seem more real with every twist and turn of an event.

Lyon says to not read to a group, but read in monotone to yourself as to not “perform” your writing (Lyon 8). Doane finds that reading to a critique group helps her catch more mistakes than she does alone. So, every method you try may not work for you, but it will work for someone. Trial and error. Find the one that works for you, the one that will help you more than frustrate you during the editing process.

How can you ask a writer about her experience with publishing a book if she is unpublished? Although Doane has queried to about half a dozen agents and a small publisher asked to see the first four chapters; she still remains unpublished, work not fully completed.

So I turned to two published writers to learn what the development stage of the creative process is when it comes to writers. Carolyn J. Rose is a fiction writer.

Here is what Rose had to say….

More tomorrow in Part II of III


Social Media? I’m sure its a short term addiction *cough*

When I embarked on my book writing adventure I buried myself in manic bouts of typing. I radiated atomic concentration waves. An illusive feel or thought pulse fluttered within grasp and I stretched to reach it. During these hiatuses from real life, my pre-teen started her Facebook page. By their terms she was too young to have one. I took it down. Then, once newly birthday-ed, she re-upped and was back surfing through social media heaven with her friends.

Her offense was not discussing her foray with me.

I decided not to wage a Facebook battle, Instead, I got my own Facebook page to keep an eye on her, and within 48 hours I was hooked, sifted down through the rabbit of hole of profiles, activities, interests, favorite music, movies, books, quotes, political and religious views. Oh, and how many pictures of my kid can I upload? We traded the laptop back and forth each evening in congenial family fashion so we could each check our growing list of friends.

During one of our exchanges, I lamented that my bud Rij had neglected to give me a quote on the cost to develop an ’author’ Web-site. After investing a year into my novel I knew it was more than a hobby and I needed to begin an online presence, a platform, to launch myself. Rij builds web pages for a living and we had discussed at length what I envisioned. He and I had parted with a promise of a ‘family and friends’ rate.

Two weeks after my grumbling my daughter turned the laptop my direction and showed me my new Web-site, a Facebook fan page. I was stunned, first, that she listened to my cranky complaint, second that she took creative action to support an addiction that mostly siphoned time away from her. To insure I duly appreciated her efforts, she detailed, in encyclopedic specificity, how difficult the fan page set up was to decipher and that she had mirrored it after Eeyore’s page. (No dumb-ass jokes, please).

I rifled through the site, noted she had a couple of misspellings, didn’t have time at the moment to attack them, closed the page, and frankly, I forgot about it.

Two weeks after that a co-worker passed me in the hall and said, “I’m a fan!” Startled, I stopped mid-stride and tried to understand what in the world she was referring to. It dawned on me. The Facebook Fan Page. The misspellings. Oh, horror. How can you proclaim to be a writer and leave a blatant trail of misspelled words in your wake?

I scrambled home that night and broke into a cold sweat when I logged on and realized I had 6 WHOLE FANS. People who knew me. People who now thought I couldn’t spell. My fingers rattled over the keyboard and I attacked the editing task. Then I played with the page. What would make it interesting, how could I draw in more fans?

Okay, I could stop right here and tell you I was not really enamored with having a fan base, half of which I have coerced to follow me, but I can’t lie like that! I love my fan page.

I also love my daughter who embraces my quirks and feeds my addiction, then writes all about it in her term paper. I’ll tell you about THAT next time.


What evil lurks in social media? A mom knows…now.

Little_Karol, my daughter, sat in a cube after hours at the office. The computer screen in front of her glowed as she checked her email. At least that’s what she told me she was doing. I strode into my office, crashed behind the desk and plunged into an evening of catch up.

It had never happened before, that our wires had crossed, even though she always used my log-in to get to the internet, but an absent-minded mouse flick on my part altered the screen I stared at. Suddenly, I shadowed her computer movements. It shocked me how quickly I rocketed into the bad-mom-universe. I was the bad mom. What flickered before me alarmed me.


I had shuddered at every horrid child abuse story in regards to social media, and had nodded sagely, arrogantly even, knowing my capable parenting skills would never find me the subject of a sad news story. I was too intelligent to raise a child who would fall prey. My child was too bright to fall to a predator. But there it was. Facebook. The ultimate child predator.

drifted in semi-consciousness as: ‘places not to visit.’ LinkedIN sounded like the online bar of hook-ups. Bloggers were anal politicos who needed a forum to rant, or self absorbed punks who didn’t get enough ‘me-time’ and needed to hear their own voices, so they posted what remained of their dribble online: me-me-me. Twitter had barely hit my radar and sounded inane, a test to drill your most profound thought to 140 characters. What kind of a character is that? Did a space count as a character? Ignorance foamed and huffed at me and I choked on its fumes.

My fingers trembled as I stared at my child’s Facebook wall. What the heck is a wall? Why would I be encouraged to write on it? I clicked through the other places of her Facebook page. Oh my effing gee, she has posted pictures! If that isn’t a predator call I don’t know what is.

That was it.

She was done.

I am a woman of action.

I took control and did the most sensible thing.

I read the Facebook terms and conditions.

I had her.

She was toast.

I called her into my office and I sounded mean. I confronted her Facebook abuse. I gave her a piece of paper and a pen and ordered her to write down every email, gmail, yahoo-mail, hotmail and every Web-site she was on that required a log-in and I demanded her passwords. Her dark eyes flooded with panic and tears pushed at her lashes. She took in a shaky breath, her little knees collapsed, and she sunk into the guest chair. One-by-one, she proceeded to disclose her secrets. That’s when I learned she had a blog. I had never read a blog. I was ignorant.

I shut down Facebook and doled out strong words. She was underage. Facebook had a minimum age requirement. She did not qualify. My strong lecture lasted up through her birthday. Midnight clicked over and back up went her Facebook.

Second discovery went as well as expected.

I yelled.

I gave up.

I got a Facebook page.