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Archive for September, 2013

One of the pre-publishing tasks that every author has to confront is writing their bio in a variety of lengths—a few sentences for the back of the book, a few paragraphs for websites (their own and their publishers), and somewhere in between for speaking engagements or publicity appearances.

It sounds like an easy enough task, doesn’t it? Yet I didn’t find it that easy. How do I take my entire life, even that portion that has involved writing, and condense it down to a few sentences that make sense yet will entice people to want to know more?

For instance, I was born and raised in northern Minnesota. . .yes, but there is so much more. I was raised on a farm and went to a high school that had only 27 kids in its graduating class. I road my bicycle on country roads and helped bale hay in the summer and bundled up in many layers in the winter to withstand the 30-40 below temperatures that often visit that part of the country.

I’ve traveled extensively, both nationally and internationally. . .yes, but. . .one of my favorite travel memories is seeing a giraffe in the wilds of Africa for the first time. The giraffe is my favorite animal and I’ve seen them in zoos all around the world, but to see one in its natural habitat brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. And. . .the Tuscan region of Italy touches my soul. If I had to choose anywhere else to live other than the US, it would be Tuscany.

An English teacher in high school helped me recognize my love of words and talent for writing. . .yes, and. . .she was my absolute favorite teacher who saw beyond the exterior of the young farm girl to the dreams that filled my mind and imagination, and to the possibilities of what could be.

Yes, I have written two nonfiction books about grief. . .but what about the agonizing journey that I traveled before writing those books? What about the experience of losing my son and not being sure I could recover from the heart-wrenching blow?

There is so much to each life that just can’t be encapsulated within the lines of a bio, no matter what length or who the person writing it is. But for me as a writer, I always want to tell “the rest of the story,” and with a bio, we leave it up to the readers to hopefully “read between the lines” and want to know more.

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I will admit—I’m addicted to Chai Tea Latte, especially from Starbucks and made with soy milk. It’s delicious, soothing, and for me, holds the magic of relaxation and contemplation.

When my mind needs a break during a busy day or I’m yearning for a spot of comfort during a taxing time, I simply take the short trip from my home to Starbucks, order a grande Chai Tea Latte with soy milk, no water, no foam, and nutmeg on the top, and get ready to relax. As I sip the yummy liquid, my mind steps away from everything that has to be done that day and starts wandering from thought to thought as my body begins to relax from the warmth of the drink and the flavors of the Chai. We all have comfort food that by just biting into it nurtures and comforts us in a way we don’t understand but we definitely appreciate. For me, a good Chai Tea Latte is just that.

I had my first experience with this yummy drink when I was in Seattle on business 30 years ago and a friend of mine wanted to stop at a little coffee shop called Starbucks in Pike’s Market. When I protested that I wasn’t a coffee drinker, she assured me we’d find something I’d like. And so we did. Lucky for me, that little coffee shop expanded into a chain of coffee shops and over these 30 years, I’ve enjoyed Chai Tea Lattes all over the world.

Magic happens for me when I sip—problems get solved, creative writing ideas emerge, the busyness of life slips away, and quietness envelopes me. It’s not like drinking coffee that fills one with caffeine to start the day or keep one going, instead it slows me down a pace and helps me connect with the moment. I don’t understand the magic that I enjoy from a cup of Chai done my way, I just appreciate it.

So, before I start another busy, wonderful day, I think I’ll enjoy the magic of a cup of Chai.

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There was a time when I thought that all editors were the same, that they all did the same thing, which was finding misspelled words and bad punctuation. . .I thought like that before I became an author and a publisher. Now I know better. Some editors are good at proofreading and finding misspelled words and bad punctuation, other editors are good at line by line copy editing for everything from the mechanical stuff (misspelled words, etc.) to verb tense issues and POV (point of view) problems. Then there are the developmental editors that help with storyline development, character development, and all those “holes” in a manuscript that almost every writer has in their early drafts. And, some editors can and like to do it all.

At one time I also thought that finding an editor was a simple thing.  I don’t think that anymore. I realize that finding the right editor is as difficult and important of a task for a writer as it is to find any other specialist in other areas of our lives.

I now know that my perfect editor needs to be able to do it all. . .from spotting mechanical issues to helping me find the gaps in my story that I didn’t know were there. My editor also needs to be able to help me hone and polish my manuscript without stepping on my voice or grinding my story beneath heavy footsteps. My editor needs to be someone who “gets” my story and what I’m trying to convey, yet someone who can convince me and guide me to change the story when needed. My perfect editor is one that realizes to a writer, especially a fiction writer, our characters become real—they are friends, maybe even part of our family in an imaginary friend kind of way, so they need to be handled with love and respect.

Every writer needs an editor no matter how good we think we are at the developmental and mechanical parts of writing. The truth is that it is hard to find glitches in our own work and we all have weak spots. One of my weak spots is verb tense. I know the rules and what should be used when, but low and behold, I switch them around from time to time and can’t spot it myself.

I now understand that not all editors are created equal. . .some are good matches for me and my writing, some are not. But when a perfect match is found, a smart writer knows it and respects the talent, knowledge, and skill that goes into becoming a good editor.

 

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Fall coloursA Facebook friend shared this photo this morning and it triggered my mind into contemplating the beauty and purpose of fall. As the leaves begin to turn colors and present us with spectacular panoramas, most of us take a moment or two to enjoy the view then go back to our hectic, busy lives. But what’s the purpose of fall? It’s a gentle transition from the season of growth and production (summer) into the season of rest (winter), and the way nature does it, the whole transition process is in itself beautiful.

How many of us really learn from nature to understand that there is a time for growth, a time for rest, and the important transition time in between? This morning, as I looked at this beautiful picture, I finally got it. I’m one of those people who is always expecting production and growth from myself, and I rest only when my mind or body says “enough!” For me, it’s not a bad thing because I genuinely love my life and what I do. But this morning as I gazed at the picture I understood that I’m cheating myself out of the beauty of those moments of transition.

I finally understand the lesson here. . .allow ourselves not only to rest but the transition time in between when we get ready for resting, and those moments in themselves hold beauty. So, as of today, I intend to make time for transitioning. For me that will mean taking time to have a cup of chamomile tea and some deep breathing before I go from my full-out day into eight hours of sleep. Or maybe I’ll sit out on the deck and look at the fall panorama and whisper my gratitude before I gently snuggle in for the night.

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On September 2nd on my drive home from the Decatur Book Festival, I got the news—my mom had passed away. She was 84, had been sick for a while, and was recently in a lot of pain, so it was a blessing for her. But the pain came—little spurting sobs of pain that gushed out from deep inside of me.

It was her time; she was ready to go. . .she said so. But the grief came—great sadness at the realization that my mom was gone.

We had never had a typical mother/daughter relationship. I was the oldest of six in a blue collar family that often struggled to make ends meet. I think she was secretly glad when I left the nest. And for a time in my 30s and 40s, we were estranged, but over the years had grown to respect each other as women. So the sadness came.

I’ve handled tougher losses, my brain kept reminding me. My son was killed in an accident when he was 20—he was here one moment and gone the next. Mom’s passing was not unexpected; it was the natural progression through life. But still the pain came.

Grief has its own path, its own kaleidoscope of feelings and emotions, and for each person in each experience of loss, it is different. But the pain comes.

And then the pain will go—gradually—and sometimes quietly. But it will eventually leave—to be replaced by soft, gentle memories.

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