Am I What I Write? (Posted for the IWSG Monthly Blog Hop)

IWSG logo

It’s IWSG Day Again!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. This month’s question is:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

My Answer … ABSOLUTELY, and it’s always purposeful.

Why? Because I am inseparable from my writing. I believe that’s what “finding your writing voice” truly means, at least what it means for me. Writing is an almost magical combination of intent and imagination, a mental and spiritual place where your life experiences and creativity combine to create something that is uniquely yours.

If you’ve ever entered a contest where you’re given a storyline (or even just a keyword), you know it’s true: one hundred different writers will deliver one hundred distinctly creative entries, each one influenced by his or her own experiences, preferences, and personal characteristics. That’s what makes writing such a beautiful, life-affirming experience. And why I will keep writing until I can no longer hold a pen or use a keyboard.

Writing Inspirational Quote by Jeff Goins
Source: Jeff Goins on Pinterest

****

The awesome co-hosts for the October 4 posting of the IWSG are Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!

Blog Hop Link:

Insecure Writers Group Logo (IWSG)

About IWSG: The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

PURPOSE:
To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
MISSION STATEMENT:

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a home for writers in all stages; from unpublished to bestsellers. Our goal is to offer assistance and guidance. We want to help writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement we are creating a community of support.

HOW IT BEGAN:

Alex J. Cavanaugh, the founder, noticed a lot of blog posts from writers mentioning their doubts, concerns, and lack of confidence. He also saw the positive replies they received and realized that the writing community offered an abundance of support. Writers want to see other writers succeed, which is how he came up with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This group would act as a form of therapy, letting writers post about situations where they need encouragement, or to offer words of encouragement to others if they have experience.

On September 7, 2011, Alex launched the monthly blog posting of the IWSG and it has been going strong ever since.

On the first Wednesday of every month we share of thoughts about writing on our blogs. We also have an optional monthly question to assist with member’s posts, which can be found on the Sign-Up page.

 

WHERE WE ARE NOW:

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group has grown since conception. Over 250 people are a part of the blogging community that posts on the first Wednesday of every month, known as IWSG Day.

The group has expanded beyond blogging into other forms. We have a Facebook Group with 3,000+ members. Our free monthly newsletter, which has featured industry experts like Jane Friedman and Sandra Beckwith, has 600+ subscribers.

We offer a free guide for writers: The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Guide to Publishing and Beyond. We have an annual anthology contest, and the first book is available now – Parallels: Felix Was Here. The second, Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life, will be released in May, 2017. We even have our own merchandise which include pens, magnets, and T-shirts!

Alex and the nine other administrators are actively pushing the group to greater heights. Nothing is impossible when insecure writers band together.

Thought for the Month: Elements of Surprise in the Life of a Writer

Insecure Writers Group Logo

SURPRISE!

I’m one of those people who doesn’t like surprises — even good ones. However, as with other facts of life, surprises are inescapable; and the majority of them, at least in my experience, are welcome. It’s the fear of the unexpected that repels those of us who ascribe to the myth that we have control over what happens in our lives. We enjoy inflicting the element of surprise on our loved ones (who may not necessarily appreciate them), and we enjoy seeing those surprise wedding proposals on the KissCam at sporting events, but surprises are for other people, primarily those outside our private bubble.

When I saw this month’s optional question, “Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?” the answer was easy. Every. Single. Day. As a debut author, whose only previous works have been unpublished attempts at fan fiction, the inspiration for my first “serious” work might have been the biggest surprise of all.

After dabbling in a disastrous attempt to co-write an erotic suspense novel with another indie author, I thought I might close up my laptop for good. I’d been burned–badly–by someone I trusted like a sister. My contributions were torn apart and ultimately deemed unworthy by my co-author, and I believed her. I felt like a failure, a fraud, and a fool. The betrayal was the worst kind of surprise–the kind that makes you question your self-worth, or worse, abandon your dreams.

I loved that story–and its principal character–so much, letting it go was like burying a loved one. Later, seeing it retitled and published by my former friend added salt to the wound that burned from the inside out. Then came the second surprise.

As I drifted off to sleep one night, a long-buried incident from my past turned into the story that only I can tell, and Where Angels Sleep began to unfold, like buds on a grapevine after the cruelest of winters. At that moment, as I frantically captured thoughts on paper, the characters came alive and guided my pen. The bitterness of previous experience faded and the surprise of self-discovery took hold.

Every time I’m tempted to give up–when I get blocked, the middle gets muddy, or yesterday’s prose reads like utter crap–I remind myself that this story is mine alone to tell. That the tragedy that inspired it infuses every paragraph, but its happy ending is mine to imagine. I remember the young man–my beloved cousin Paul–to whom the book is dedicated, and I resolve to finish it as a personal tribute to his memory. To devote the time, effort and money it takes to make it the best it can be. To publish it and to love it, even if it never hits a list.

As it turns out, the book’s theme has everything to do with what happens when life spins out of control, and how the right surprise, at the right time, can change our destiny. For a woman who’s not fond of surprises, this amuses me to no end.

Today I took a long walk to consider what to write for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) post. (BTW, It should come as NO surprise to those who know me that I’m an insecure writer!) As I walked, enjoying the first cool, sunny day in weeks, a song from the Where Angels Sleep playlist came to mind. It deals with the memories–and associated feelings–that we bury “down deep in our souls.” To me, this speaks to the essence of authentic writing–the surprise of what emerges when we take ourselves to new depths and explore that which we most fear.

Please listen and enjoy. Think about what unique life experiences have led you to tell your stories. Leave a comment about them, if you please. Then go forth and write your next story.

About the IWSG

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting:  The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Check out the details and sign up on the IWSG website!

The awesome co-hosts for today’s posts are Tyrean MartinsonTara TylerRaimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure.

#ISWG Thoughts for August: Pet Peeves While Reading, Writing & Editing

#ISWG logo

Q: Do you know an insecure writer?

A: Well, now you do…

I confess that I’m a devoted follower of the ISWG (aka the Insecure Writers Group),  a community of writers whose purpose is “to share and encourageeach other. It’s a place where “writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!” If you haven’t discovered #ISWG, click the link above and check us out!

The first Wednesday of every month is #ISWG Day. Members post a response to a pre-determined question, reaching out to readers and fellow group members, sharing their thoughts, support, encouragement, doubts, and fears about a writing-related topic. This month’s question is,

What are your pet peeves while reading/writing/editing?

Our #ISWG Day co-hosts for August are Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner.

Be sure to visit their blogs and see what they have to say!

And, after I’ve shared a few of my personal pet peeves, feel free to comment with your own, as a reader, writer, or both.

Pet Peeves While Reading…

Pet Peeves while Reading-Interruption

I know I’m not alone in this one, but being interrupted while I’m reading is the worst. Sometimes I resort to putting my noise-cancelling headphones on, if for no other reason than to broadcast that I’m not available for conversation. Or texts, phone calls, cooking meals, or basically anything other than running from a fire. I will signal my willingness to be interrupted by closing my book. Until I do that, approach at your own risk.

Pet Peeves About Writing

Again, interruption is the worst, and in our house, with an extrovert husband, a greyhound, and two neurotic lap cats, it’s nearly impossible to avoid. I unplug the landline, turn off notifications, activate my Freedom App, and even post a sign outside the door, but some days I’m lucky to get a paragraph done without interruption. I’ve found that I write best on a long airline flight, because, again, noise-cancelling headphones, and a look that says, “back away slowly. There’s nothing to see here.”

I have one other writing peeve, and this one concerns being a writer. Simply put, I’ve found that many folks just don’t think writing is a serious job that requires work and time. Lots of work, lots of time, all the time. When someone asks what I do for a living, and I say, “I’m a writer,” I can feel the blank stare before I see it. And those who show enough interest to ask what I’m writing seem to have no idea what to say when I tell them it’s a contemporary romance. Even when talking about writing with other authors–presumably those who don’t write or read romance–I’m usually on the receiving end of a sigh, followed by an awkward pause. And then there’s the inevitable, immediate assumption that I write smut, which I don’t . . . but if I did — and I might someday — deserve the same respect that every other writer does. Whether it’s Hemingway-level prose, a travel blog, a children’s book, poetry, or Writing for Dummies, it’s hard work. Even more, to serious writers, it’s an investment of the mind, heart, and soul.

**steps off soap box**

And Finally…Pet Peeves About Editing

1) Editing Causes Wrinkles

and

2) Editing inevitably includes an extended period of time during which my insecurity comes out to play. But I’m not alone in that, either …

Having said all this, the truth is I live for the experience of reading and writing. (Editing my own work, not so much, so I work with an amazing editor who “gets me.”) But, despite the drawbacks, the awkward moments, and the crippling self-doubt, when my debut novel is finally published, it will be totally worth it.

P. S.

If you’re so inclined, you can read the first few, unedited chapters of my work-in-progress, Where Angels Sleepon Wattpad and Goodreads.
Thanks for reading this month’s #ISWG post!

 

Social Media: Platform or Playground?

A photo depiction of the advantages of social media
Source: usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com

One blogger’s opinion on the ups and downs of social networking, Part 1

I’ve been intrigued by – and passionate about – the cultural impact of social media for nearly two years now, since I was stuck at home recovering from major surgery, feeling isolated and bored. I ‘caught the social media bug’ the day I discovered that many of the authors I love – those whom I thought I had no hope of meeting in person – have a well-established social presence on Twitter and Facebook. Most are very open, approachable, polite, and some of them regularly engage with current and future readers, sharing news, asking questions, and exchanging ideas. All are using social media as a platform to inform, to introduce themselves to current and future readers, and to interactively connect with their audience. This is what makes social media such a powerful tool for spreading the word – and a dose of good will – about you as a “brand,” whatever your profession may be.

I also discovered the personal side – and the power – of social networking.  I found people from across the country and all over the globe who connected with me, becoming new friends literally overnight. Brought together by common interests, kept together by the power of a personal connection – going on to share each other’s joys, triumphs, losses and life lessons – these friendships are vastly different than those we experience in real life, but are still amazingly powerful and deeply meaningful.  Some are now over – sadly living in the “lessons learned” file – while others are as close, nurturing and loyal as family. I’m grateful for all of them.

In a matter of weeks I went from a woman alone in her home surrounded by books to a welcome member of a community of like-minded, passionate people (in my case, other readers, writers and would-be writers) with whom I could connect, share my thoughts, discover new ideas, develop new skills, consider other viewpoints, have a good laugh, post crazy photos, share favorite music, and talk about wonderful books (and book boyfriends) 24/7/365. Despite some harsh and painful experiences, and in spite of some epic fumbles of my own, it’s truly opened the world to me. I no longer merely live in a rural valley off Hwy 101 in Northern California, I am fully engaged in a global community that keeps me informed, entertained and engaged, bringing spice to my life and meaning to my relationships.

But (you were expecting a ‘but’ weren’t you?), looking back, this was what I believed then…

socialmedia

…and this is what I know now.

photo of a boy and girl sticking their tongues out at each other

Wherever human beings gather, physically or virtually, they make a conscious choice to bring their best – or their very worst – behavior.  Their biases, assumptions and judgments, once displayed only in the presence of friends, family, schoolmates or co-workers, are now unleashed on the rest of us, very publicly and most often anonymously, with a healthy dose of self-righteous impunity.

Bullying on social media is not only common, it’s rampant. People hurt one another, regularly and intentionally, preying on each other’s vulnerabilities, insecurities, and personal demons.  Whether driven by a need for attention, recognition or control, their tactics are shocking, reminiscent of the kind of emotional terrorism that harkens back to middle school, with the same devastating results.

I have come to believe that not unlike families, schools and workplaces, there are those who engage in social media to indulge a darker passion: cultivating drama, paranoia, and ill-will, pitting one “clique” against another, ‘taking people down’ whom they perceive to be a threat, and worse. Colleagues have received death threats for expressing a opinion –albeit not in the most constructive way, but certainly not one that should provoke such viral hatred. Campaigns have been launched to destroy reputations, plant false and demeaning book reviews, and worse. In only two years I’ve witnessed that – and more – among people who claim to be professionals in the literary community.

Unlike what you might say in the heat of an argument – the words that fly out of your mouth before your brain can engage – typing a post, creating a tweet, sending a message, or writing a blog article takes at least some deliberation, and is immediately followed by another choice: a willful decision to click (or not to click) the “post” button and publish your words.  There is plenty of time for a filter to kick in – a sense of reason, an opportunity for cooler heads to prevail, a sense of common courtesy to emerge. Or time to step back, take a deep breath and choose the high road – ignore, unfollow, block, reach out and try find common ground – or respectfully agree to disagree. Unfortunately, all too often it doesn’t.

This week, the “front-page news” on Facebook and other platforms is the “Blogger Blackout of 2014.”  The blackout is intended as a show of solidarity by a group of book bloggers who took offense to an article published in The Guardian by an author who became obsessed with tracking down the source of a bad review. The source was a blogger, and the saga that follows reads like a crazy crime novel. Is it true? I have no idea. Is the blogger’s version true? There is no way to be certain. Was the review objectively honest, or abusive? I haven’t read it – only the author’s description of it. But it certainly created a firestorm (for lack of another socially-acceptable word).  The incident itself happened long ago, and in any other time might be all but forgotten, displaced by real news about real tragedies and issues of much greater substance. But it has been brought back to life through the lightening-fast network of social media, leading to a virtual stand-off between two groups that need each other – all over an isolated, extraordinarily unusual dispute between ONE author and ONE blogger.  Now, some bloggers are refusing – either for a specific period of time, or forever – to review for any author, using that article as a platform to justify their decision. Likewise, some authors have decided they will no longer engage with any blogger who joins the blackout. Emotions are running amuck…and so is the damage.

What’s my point in bringing all of this to light today? It’s simple. This isn’t professional behavior – it’s playground behavior. And social media isn’t a playground – it’s a powerful, universal platform where your words and deeds live forever, defining you and what you stand for. It’s your reputation, your brand, your character, your integrity that’s on public display, 24/7/365.  Whether an author or a blogger, if you espouse yourself to be a professional, act like one. Take the gloves off, move your disputes off-line, and hash them out like the adults you claim to be, not the bullies you appear to be. And, please – leave the rest of us out of your drama.

Each one of us has an inherent right and the freedom to do what we feel we must to express our view on an issue or respond to a professional or personal affront. But to penalize all authors for the actions of one, to drive a wedge between authors and bloggers — who are by nature interdependent — is knee-jerk at best, and cyber-bullying at worst.  In any event, it’s unprofessional, and I cannot support it. There is too much to lose. And as for the rest of this playground behavior — back-biting, demeaning, demoralizing, bullying, conspiring and competing — nobody wins in that kind of game.

It’s time to change the rules.

In my next post…new rules.

Note: The referenced article can be viewed here ~ please read responsibly and remember that I am the messenger ~ I choose not to engage in this debate, but will reply to all comments from my own – hopefully objective and professional – perspective.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/18/am-i-being-catfished-an-author-confronts-her-number-one-online-critic