Tag Archives: research

Sometimes Epiphanies Come in Neon-Green Flashes of Light

26 Jul

Didn't catch this lightning bug flashing, but here he is...in all his non-glowing glory.

So…it just O’Ccurred to me that I often begin my blog entries with “So…” Oops! On the other hand, I like the feeling that we’re continuing a conversation – that I’ve just stepped out for a minute and now am back, ready to pick up where we left off. Somehow “so…” sets that tone for me.

So…I bought the 2011 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition about 3 weeks ago. I opened it today for the first time. “Why,” you might be wondering, “did you wait so long when this is the thing you’re aiming at? SELLING your book? Finding an agent, finding a publisher. Why didn’t you dive right in?” Because it makes me nervous. It makes me afraid. It makes me a wee bit queasy.

I keep telling myself, “Hey, it’s being edited now. Then, inevitably, you’ll need to change things, clean it up, fix stuff. You’ve got plenty of time to research publishers, agents, etc.” Yes. And no. Plenty of time…but the time all goes so quickly. Especially when singing and dancing get in the way. (See last week’s post!)

The singing and dancing is a little less stressful now that I’m getting it somewhat figured out, but it’s even more exhausting with the late nights of practice. We were driving home from rehearsal after dark last night, and, despite my weary state of mind, I was able to admire the lightning bugs. They’re incredible this year.

One got caught in Lucy's hair!

I love the Morse code of the fireflies. I love sitting on the deck as it gets dark and watching them come out randomly across the yard, singly or in groups, like neon-green chips of light sewn in the air by some giant farmer scattering his seeds.

We didn’t have fireflies in Washington…a sad lack in the Pacific Northwest skies. The first time I saw them was in Thailand, the summer of 1989. I remember standing at the edge of the jungle, in the yard of the church where we were staying, and wondering what on God’s green earth I was seeing flashing all over the place like insane disco balls of light. I asked someone what they were and they, being from the southern United States, stared at me through the darkness like I was a crazy woman. “You don’t know what lightning bugs are?”
“Well, sure I do. I’ve just never seen them before. Is that seriously what they are?” I could hardly believe it. “They’re amazing.”

They are unbelievably hard to capture on film. This is the best of about 50 tries!

And they are, truly. They hover over the long wet, boggy grass that is our yard and they speak to each other of their day, their troubles, their love. And we foolish humans gasp and clap our hands at their beauty. This is a gift from God, a reward for the humidity, the soaring temperatures, the long nights of play practice. Lightning bugs: the great stress reliever.

And they’re way more fun than researching publishers.

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Writing is Not a Group Effort

5 Jul

I spy...5 Baltimore Orioles! This is my view from my computer. Makes for some inspired writing!

I got a book in the mail today. The Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner. Its subtitle is “an editor’s advice to writers” (Riverhead books, New York, revised 2010). I’ve been waiting with slightly worried breath for the mail-lady (the best and nicest mail person I’ve ever met) to drive dustily down our dirt road and deliver this nugget of wisdom to me. Today she came through…even sooner than Amazon.com said she would.

 
I opened the box. I took out the book, feeling slightly nauseous. I sat down with the book on the couch, legs curled up, coffee at hand. Now allow me to explain something here. I don’t enjoy reading non-fiction books. I don’t curl up and devour them the way I do fiction. Typically, I avoid non-fiction like the plague…which happens to be a huge topic of the most recent non-fiction tome I checked out of the library (677 pages, including index). I’ve skimmed 37 pages…not sure I can take any more. (Yes, I was trying to broaden my horizons. Trouble is, my horizons have a way of tunneling my vision until all I can see is the new Alexander McCall Smith novel on the end-table, tantalizing me with its Scottish dry wit.) I find the middle ages – and its plagues, excesses, and sins – to be a fascinating topic. I often do enjoy history…but I just can’t sit down and read it. It’s not cozy reading. And, to me, that’s what reading is all about.

 
Reading non-fiction makes me feel like I’m back in school. Yes, I liked school. I even voluntarily went back for more of it after the mandatory 12 years. 4 years of college PLUS 3 years of grad school. I’VE HAD ENOUGH TEXT BOOKS TO LAST ME THE REST OF MY LIFE, and that’s what non-fiction feels like to me: an assigned book which I have to write a report on, and nothing else is as good at stealing your book-reading joy than having to write a report on it. Yes, I enjoyed the topics of my degrees. No, I’ll never get my PhD. Enough already.

 
SO…imagine my amazement at finding that this book I bought as a type of research towards selling my book (hence my nausea at opening the box) is actually proving to be FUN to read! I’ve been researching how to write a query letter/book proposal, should I get an agent or not, which publisher should I begin with, etc….this is not exactly titillating reading. Not for me, anyway. Colin, my husband – he’s a researcher. He enjoys this stuff. I ask him, “What’s the population of such and such?” and, rather than giving me an off-hand guess, he finds out…right then. (Ah, the power of the internet.) Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy research from time to time. HOWEVER…the definition of hell in my book (figuratively speaking!!! Ha!)…or, at least one of the definitions in the book of Gretchen, would be to be stuck in front of a pile of dry research material at 3:00 in the afternoon with no coffee.

 
So, anyway, this new book…I’m only on page 37 and I have already had all sorts of, well, epiphanies! Here’s one of the most profound, to date (I may write on more in the future!): writing is lonely work…but it is done with the ultimate intent of sharing. (Note, I am not quoting her directly as I’m not entirely clear on the legality of doing so. I hope my summary is clear!) My first thought upon reading this concept: YES! I write in isolation, things that I hope to share with the masses. Writing is NOT a group effort (I HATED group projects in college!) – I mean, people can collaborate…but the actual writing of a thing comes from ONE head at a time. It’s a lonely event. It’s a solo.

 
AND YET…the whole point of writing anything down is for it to then be read by someone else…for it to COMMUNICATE ideas with people other than the writer. For it to be read and enjoyed/debated/appreciated. I do concede that there are types of writing that are private. These are written to clarify something to yourself/to exorcise ideas/to journal one’s private thoughts – though doesn’t any journal-keeper find themselves wondering at some point, “What will someone think if they ever read this?” But, these private diaries aside, we write for others. At least, people in my “profession” do. (I’m trying to think of myself as a professional…it’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but it all begins with attitude, yes?!)
We sit and write in secret…but with the purpose of later sharing those ideas together. In other words, leave me alone while I’m writing!!!! BUT PLEASE, pay a lot of attention to me once my book comes out.

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