We Are Women, See Us Write

Earlier this month, in answer to the topic, I wrote that I am a writer.  But that's only a part of me, as it is for every person on this blog and those who read it and those who comment on it.

While those of us who blog here are writers, that isn't all we are.  We are mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, daughters-in-law and wives.  We're single, divorced, widowed and married.  We work both outside the home and inside the home.  But the one thing we share is writing, and that's what's brought us together.

Take a picture of us all together, and you'll see the many differences.  Young, middle-aged, and older.  Blonde hair, brown hair, red hair and gray.  Tall, short, round and slim.  Yes, we're different, but we share one thing.  We are writers.

We're hard on ourselves.  Even after being published for 12 years, I still have difficulty telling strangers I'm a writer.  Forget about telling them I'm a published author.  Sure, in a group it's easy, even on the blog.  But on my own?  Live and in person?  Uh, no. ☺  Why?  Most people don't believe it.  Some people smirk in a "sure, you are" kind of way.  Others, like our own Penny Rader, encourage us to join WARA. (Thank you, Penny!)  And even others are excited and ask questions.  All of that has an affect on us, on our perceptions of ourselves.

We are who we are, each little part of us.

We look in a mirror and see what we believe is what others see, and even that is skewed by our own perceptions of ourselves.  Others see us in different ways.  There was a recent video posted to Facebook that was made in conjunction with Dove® soap/beauty products.  MSN carried it on their website.  Below is the introduction and a link to the video.  It's amazing!
Thanks, Dove, for this inspiring social experiment. In the video, various women show up separately to be drawn by a forensic artist who never sees them — the artist sketches them based on each woman's description of herself, then does another sketch based on how strangers describe each woman. Watching these ladies confront their less-attractive views of themselves before glimpsing the very different image of what a stranger sees is enough to bring on the tears. If you've never wished you had a different nose, brighter eyes or a better chin, you belong to an elite group of women who think they're beautiful — a measly 4 percent globally, according to Dove. So watch closely and stop giving yourself such a hard time.

We see what we want to see: the blemishes, the dark circles, the wrinkles, the extra pounds.  We see our weaknesses, not only physical but internal, our fears.  What we don't see, and what others seem to glimpse, is our strength, humor, passion and love.  As writers, those are the things we convey in our words and stories.  We give our characters what we see in ourselves and our experiences in life and also the weaknesses we deal with or have dealt with in the past.  And then we strive to give our readers the happily-ever-afters that we all hope will be ours.

We are writers, and we've all come to it in different ways at different times for different reasons.

We are women.  We are strong, smart, funny and wise.

Let Me Count The Ways . . .

April’s subject for our blog is why we write. Over the last couple of weeks I've thought of numerous reasons, jotted them down somewhere, and lost every note.  So, as of today, why I write is apparently to add a little more frustration into my life. J

I could also say it’s because I like having ten piles of papers littering my computer room. One for this manuscript, one for that WIP, one for ‘have to do now,’ one for work, and on, and on, and on. With each year of writing, I seem to add another pile. But, I do know where most of my stuff is. It’s in my nice blue room with pictures of the ocean adorning its walls. Somewhere, waiting for Nina to come and organize it.

Sometimes I write to get the voices in my head to shut up. If I get it out on to black and white, then I don’t have to rehash that particular scene over and over. I type it all out and have peace, until the next scene starts forming. Unless my brain decides it can do it better and demands a rewrite. Then it’s back to square one.

I began writing to see if I could do it. I've made stories up in my head my entire life, but I wasn't sure how to get them out of my brain and on to paper. One day I just sat down and began. I had an entire story written before I ever joined WARA. After joining, I learned how to turn that story into a book. 

Writing is also a source of pleasure for me. On the days when I’m not totally fried, I’ll write instead of sit in front of the TV for some down time. Sometimes I write anyway, but it’s more of a struggle. Writing when I enjoy it is easy.  I like discovering where my characters are going and how they will get there. It’s often a surprise and I find myself asking, “Where did that come from?”

Another reason I write is the joy that comes from knowing people like my books. Even though I’m not published* many people have read my stories. The favorable responses have far outweighed any negatives. Those that have received emotional healing through them make it all worthwhile. Writing is a lot of hard work, long hours and personal sacrifice.Knowing you've impacted someone’s life for the better is an awesome incentive.

When I first started on this journey I was hoping to earn some cold, hard cash for doing something I enjoyed. Hasn't happened* but that’s okay. My goal is to write the best stories I can that are a positive influence on those that read them. If money comes with that some day, then great. If not, I’ll live.

I’m sure there are many more reasons why I, and others, write. Please share some of yours with us.

* YET!

When you get too old to play with dolls (Melissa Robbins)

          As kids, my best friend and I acted out stories we read.  Naturally, we created our own adventures with our dolls too.  When I got too old to play with dolls, my active imagination had to do something and I turned to writing.  Perhaps those voices in my head started early. 

            I had to write, but it was in secret.  I kept my stories hidden from all eyes.  It was my version of diary writing.  To a teen girl, my life was boring and I lived vicariously through my characters who were far braver than me as Fox sailed on the high seas with pirates and Moira battled Scottish ghosts, curses, and murder.  My Fox story came about as a ‘what if’ (there’s that active imagination coming out).  My dad was a sailor and I pretended what would happen if we got caught in a thunderstorm, because my mom would NEVER let Dad and I sail if there was even a remote chance of a sprinkle.  Moira’s story started off as a dream.  Also in my teen years, I experienced love and heartbreak.  By writing about romance and adventure, my characters found those things that eluded me.      

           The writing slacked off until my son was born with heart defects.  Spending hours in the hospital, I wrote to keep my mind from going bonkers and to pass the time.  Those characters, the early incarnates of Wren and Company became my support group (my family) in a time of need. 
        Now I have a couple of hours to myself when my kids are at school.  I use that time to live vicariously through my characters again.  Not because I don’t like my life or that it’s boring (boring is good), it’s like hanging out with old friends and I want to see what they’re up to.   

Why Write? (Penny Rader)

Our topic this month is Why We Write.

Most of us on this blog write romance in one form or another, whether it’s novels or novellas or short stories.  But there are so many other kinds of writing, too: journaling, prayers, memoirs, how-to’s, poems, haiku, essays, blogging, tweeting, cartoons, comics, letters (though, sadly, so few write actual letters these days), greeting cards, etc .  Amazing how many ways there are to communicate with ourselves and one another, isn't it?

I came across this snippet of Mary Oliver’s poem the other day and it seemed perfect for today’s post:

Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Everyone has something within themselves they can express by writing it down, whether it’s to jot down something for later use or to discover their authentic self or to share themselves with those who will follow later.

I write for many reasons:
  • to figure out what I’m thinking
  • to reduce/calm the noise in my head
  • to be read
  • to see my book(s) on the bookshelf of stores
  • to amuse myself and others
  • to be remembered

If you’re looking for a bit of help with finding something to write about, maybe you’ll find one or more of these books as helpful and inspiring as I have.

Courage & Craft: Writing Your Life into Story by Barbara Abercrombie

Escaping into the Open: The of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg

The Writer’s Portable Therapist: 25 Sessions to a Creativity Cure by Rachel Ballon

Anybody Can Write: A Playful Approach: Ideas for the Aspiring, the Beginning, the Blocked Writer by Roberta Jean Bryant

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life by Bonni Goldberg

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Free our Creative Spirit by Mari Messer

A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves  

***Want to jump off onto a bunny trail and play for a minute or five?

My copy of A Writer's Book of Days is dated 1999.  The prompt for today is “This is not about…”  Yesterday’s prompt was “Something seemed different.

Ready? (Have you picked one?) Set?  (Have a pencil or keyboard handy)?   Go!  If you’re willing, please share in the Comments.

Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink: Everyday Creative Writing by Michael C Smith & Suzanne Greenberg

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Euland


So, why do you write?  Or, why don’t you write?

Guilt by POV

Are you ridden by guilt? Bleeding from the whip of shoulds? Constantly scolded by the internal editor of your life? Seared and scarred by the looks of others as they cast their peepers your direction? Are you using your artist's soul for excuses? ABE's (any body else's) excuses for the mess you're in?

Yup, you're probably a human being trying to find time for all the things you'd like to do and all the things you must do and finding that something is coming up short. After all there is only twenty-four hours a day and we all get the same allotment.

Who's point of view are we using to stew ourselves in guilt sauce?  Our own, knucklehead, the question was rhetorical.

What are we going to do about it? What was I going to do about it?

My sister--again...

I forced her (heavily bribed her and used a little guilt on her myself) to come out to my house. Her other directives were working so well that, yes, I finally found the kitchen floor and (whisper here; MOPPED it).

I took her through the process of my mess and how I try to work my life.
She said, "Go get me some coffee, this is going to take a few minutes." I ran for the coffee maker, found it, make the request, returned and she already had an answer. She'd peered through my piles, dislodged some catalogs, moved some books, and generally peered into my dusty soul.

Then, she said as she sipped the wicked brew I'd managed, "You've managed to say no to everyone but yourself. You have more things here to do than an army of people can do. You have the remains of over four organizing methods. You have more file cabinets, sorters, organizers, stray books, than that army could use. But, I have a solution."

Thank GOD, I thought. Maybe I can get relief from the quagmire of my guilt.

She said, "You need to be constrained by space and time."

Like that was news.

She went on,"You are only allowed to use this box for your projects--including your writing projects." Then she sternly stared directly into my weasily eyes. "And you will have all of this other stuff cleared out of here by sundown tomorrow."

The look in her eye stopped the whining before it started.

She said, "Just like with the rest of your life, you need to pare down to what is currently useful that will fit in your space. You only have so much space and all of the expectations you have for everything else that you can't get to is giving you a paralyzing form of can't-get-it-done-itis.  This includes the space in your head. If you don't get something done about it which means gone, you can't free your brain up to work at what you desire to. You have more going on here than a herd of monkeys. Stop it!"

A lot was done in two days. It took a week to clean up the mess from those two days. I'm still clearing out how-to books and finding stuff that doesn't apply. I can't do it all at once. I'm only able to make myself do it in fifteen minute intervals using a timer.  But. Already I can breathe.

Are you suffering from guilt because you're looking at your life from your point of view and whipping yourself for not being whatever you think you should be?

Then stop, get a timer, and start clearing out stuff you're feeling guilty about. Pare down. If it isn't there to see, you can't feel guilty about not doing something about it. By the way, relatives like husbands and children are a bit harder to work with, but with everything else pared down, I actually baked a cake that silenced the guilt in that quarter just a bit.

Oh, and did I ditch everything? No, I put in a file that labeled Someday/Maybe. I'll go through that file and toss stuff when it gets too full.

I'm a lot happier this week than last. I managed to get some more writing in. Love that.


I am a writer.

We've all written.  Some of us started making up stories early, others came to it a little later.  And for a few of us, it's been an obsession.

That's me.  The obsessed one.  As I've mentioned, books were always my friends.  Add an imagination that apparently began before I can remember, and that late night reading by nightlight, it's no wonder.  By the time I learned how to put all those things together, I wrote.

I wrote plays, and I wrote letters to my five penpals, never missing a beat.  I was the one who made up the pretend games we played and insisted we stick to the "script."  In sixth grade, reading a book and writing a paper on it was heaven for me.  I learned about Amelia Earhart, James A. Naismith, and Helen Keller.  In high school, my favorite class was English, especially Senior English, which consisted of more reading and writing.

It wasn't until I was eighteen and bought a secondhand portable typewriter from a friend that I sat down to write my first book.  And what a book!  Most of it was written on onion skin paper.  (Anybody remember that?)  Like Joan, I had no idea where the story was going, but I just kept typing and typing.  The stack of paper when I was finished was a good three inches tall--all single spaced.  Mistakes?  Who cared!  I'd written a book.  I'd met my goal of writing a book.  Not that it was a good book, but I'd done it.

Years of family and crafts passed, and my oldest daughters, in middle school, started reading The Babysitters Club books.  After reading one, I decided I could do better, (ha ha) so I started reading middle reader and YA books.  And I started writing them, even taking a correspondence course (by mail), to help me "hone my craft."  Before I finished the second course, family issues pulled me away, and I put writing aside, thinking someday I'd get back to it.

Fast forward a few more years, and I was reading romance and thought it might be fun to give writing one a try.  It was!  And so it began.  A year or so and several manuscripts later, I discovered RWA.  Another four years later, and I sold my first book to Silhouette/Harlequin.

I write because that's what I've always done. Twenty-one manuscripts, fourteen of them published, and I still keep on writing.  I've thought about quitting.  I sometimes miss the things I put aside so I could write, but characters continue to appear in my mind--and won't stop talking, so the only way to keep them quiet is to write their stories.  An obsession?  Probably.  Besides, I enjoy it.  I am a writer.

Why I Write by J Vincent

The topic for April is Why We Write. In the beginning wrote because I had to.  I was driven to by the characters in my mind who would not stop talking, by the stories that kept growing and blooming, prodding and pushing until they were on paper--in the good old days--and in the word processor now.  I can still recall how the first book I ever wrote took shape in my mind.  Once the concept occurred to me each day brought  a new scene to mind and more dialogue sprang to life.  Incidents caused chain reaction chapters. I had to start writing it down even though I thought I was an idiot to try and write a book.  After all how do you explain voices in your head to people who don’t have them in theirs?  The characters in my first book didn’t quiet down and go away until their story was done.  And so it was with the next story, my first regency.
That first regency which later was published as The Bond of Honour, got rejection after rejection.  Frustrated, I sat down and made a list of what the editors wanted in a regency.  This was the first time I wrote to SELL.  I finished the book. and sent it off.  The next day I looked at the first chapter and frantically wondered how I could get it back.  That it was drivel and poorly written were only some of the things I thought.  Two weeks later I got a call from Vivian Stephens at Dell Publishing in New York.  She loved it.  She bought it.  Thomasina
Three years later what was “in” changed.  My stories were out.Three growing children, orthodontia bills and all that sent me back to teaching.  When I retired from teaching I wanted to know if I could write an entire book again. So I wrote just to see if I could still do it.  I started with a plot that I had described to my daughters with such detail when they were small they still remembered the plot as adults.  I had only begun that book when my characters once again took charge.  They killed my villain way too early putting me in a dilemma as how to proceed.  From somewhere, I’m still not sure where, came what turned into the Honour Series. As I continued what became the first book, Honour’sDebt, six other stories  for the series came to me in full detail.  I wrote four of them.  The fourth was begun when I was having increasing trouble with health issues.  These issues became so serious I was unable to continue writing.  When I was well enough to return to that book, I read what I had written,  scrapped it, started over.  Shortly after I finished it I was again too ill to continue writing.
Somewhere along the line of unending medical bouts these past years the voices grew quieter. less insistent.  The stories are no longer prodding and pushing to be told.  These days I am the one who has to pull out the whip and get myself into writing.  BITHOK we say--Butt in chair, Hands on the keyboard.  It is very good advice.  Even when the characters were demanding, I found tenacity and perseverance to be a writer’s, at least this one’s, best friend. If the book doesn’t get written no one can read it.
Does it matter why I write?  Why anyone writes?  I don’t think so mainly because the “why” is a kaleidoscope of reasons determined by our environment, our mood, where we are at in our lives, and many other things.  Sometimes I write simply to prove I can.  At other times it is to experience the flow of words, the beauty of vocabulary.  Or I write simply because I made a commitment--as in this blog.  I write because others, my sister in particular, expect it.  Through all or despite all of the reasons I write, I learned that writing satisfies something in me.  Last week I started on the fifth book of the Honour series.  With a goal of only a page a day, it’s a pretty wimpy effort, but the voices are growing stronger, the story more demanding.  Sometimes BITHOK is the only way I write.  Whatever works as they say!
Success, praise, whatever you want to call it is another reason to write.  Who isn’t thrilled when someone tells them their book is terrific, or that it helped them through a rough time? I recently received a reminder of this from a compliment on Never to Part, my regency paranormal released last month. Also  Honour’s Choice Book 2 in the Honour Series which is now available was given 4 stars by Donna Brown in May’s RT Book Reviews.  There’s more suspense than romance in the second entry to Vincent’s Honour series, but both keep the reader on the edge as finely-wrought characters tell an exciting tale. Unresolved circumstances leave the reader eager for book three.  
These are some of the reasons I write.  Are some of them your reasons too?

Amish and such. Research heaven.

Pat Davids here, talking about books. Amish books that is. Straw hats, buggies, beards, bonnets. You know, those folks. They are currently popular fodder for fiction, but what do we really know about them? Even people who live close to the Amish sometimes find themselves at a loss to understand them.

To that end, I thought I would share some of my favorite research books on the subject. If you want to write a bonnet book, this is where you should start.

1. Amish Society by John A. Hostetler
     This is the first book you should own if you plan to write about the Amish. It gives an insider's understanding of the development of the Amish faith and details such things as their church services and dress. Very informative.

2. The Amish in Their Own Words compiled by Brad Igou
   This is a collection of Amish writing from 25 years of Family Life magazine. Family Life is the Amish owned and printed monthly magazine published for Amish and Plain readers. This book gives insight to how Amish people view their own lives and troubles. Anyone can subscribe to Family Life magazine. It has no glossy photos and no ads. It's written on a typewriter on plain white paper. The graphics are all pen and ink drawings. The poems, household hint and heartfelt letters are a window into the mindset of the Amish people.

3. Success Made Simple, An Inside Look At Why Amish Businesses Thrive by Erik Wesner.
   This book looks at how the Amish view business, not only among themselves, but with outsiders or the Englisch, as they call anyone who isn't Amish. It show how they deal with marketing in a computer world while they remain true to a horse and buggy lifestyle. Did you know that there are Amish millionaires? That they have no health insurance or retirement funds and yet they always take care of their own. They also pay property taxes, as well as income taxes. The only tax they are exempt from is social security tax. However, if they have a non-Amish employee, they do pay into social security for that person.

These three books will give anyone a basic understanding of the Amish and how they live. If you're writing Amish romances, never forget that the romance is the heart of your book. Your book should be able to just as engaging if they weren't Amish. Matters of the heart cross all religious and cultural boundaries. My books are about the romance. The fact that my hero or heroine is Amish, just makes it easier to dress them. Put a bonnet on her.

Have you read much Amish romance? What appeals to you about the genre? What doesn't appeal to you about the genre?