Category: Musings

Under the Influence

As a writer I’m always in tune to what is going on around me.  That can be a good thing and a bad thing.  Right now, it’s a bad thing.  The racial climate of this country is the worst it’s ever been, and its forcing its way into my writing uninvited.

I don’t like that.

I just wrote three short stories and two of them had race as the issue.  I had to let the stories go where they needed because as writers we have to remain true to ourselves.

But….

When I envision my success as a writer, I don’t see myself as a writer who is popular only in Black circles.  I see myself as a writer who is as widely read as Stephen King or Jane Austen.  I see my books filed alphabetically on the shelves, and not limited to the “African American Authors” section in libraries and bookstores.

Does that mean I’m not proud to be black?

Absolutely not. 

But it does mean that I want my talent to stand on its own.  I don’t write well “for a black girl,” I write well. Period.

Yet the thought still crosses my mind of where my book will land when it is finally published: alphabetized on the shelves along side all other writers or placed into the African American Authors section in libraries and bookstores.

You may be wondering what’s wrong with being in the African American Authors section?  Well, nothing, in theory.  I mean it certainly cuts down on the search when I am looking for a book written by someone who’s black.  But I guess I’m just bothered by the hint of segregation it provides.  Or maybe I feel like a person who isn’t black may make judgments about the book before they even open it.

I want someone to pick up my book and read the story and be so moved by it that they don’t want it to end.  I want my skin color not to matter.  So I guess that’s why I’m angry that race keeps rearing its ugly head in my stories.  I just want to write good stories.  And if they happen to have race in them, I want it to be because I CHOOSE it, not because my heart is so overwhelmed by the utter lack of disrespect for black people that I can’t help but use my writing as a platform to bring attention to it.

And there is another huge issue.  Am I to be yet another black writer to use my gift to champion the plight of black people?  Is it a betrayal to my race if I don’t? Hell, I feel like a hypocrite even writing this post because I use #blackauthorsrock and #readsoullit as hashtags when I am posting my current read on Instagram (if the book happens to be by a black author).   Am I sticking black authors in the “African American Authors” sections in the proverbial sense when I do that? 

I really wish I could sit down with other black authors and have this discussion.

So…this is where my head is today.

Write On!

That scene is from my all-time favorite movie You’ve Got Mail.

And this is just what I feel like right now.

I’ve been writing a short story every week and sending it out to be considered for publication.  Between that, the creative writing class I’m taking, and the novel I am also working on, my brain just hit maximum stuck mode.

The words just. won’t. come.

I need a break but my Google calendar is the devil on my shoulder reminding me of the weekly goal I set for myself.

“It’s Friday,” she says in her obnoxiously female voice.

“I know that,” I say, “but I’ve been working so hard. Can’t I have an extension just this once?”

This is her reply:

And so I sit here with Nadia, Ella, and Sarek (my characters) staring at me like

waiting for me to write out what happens next in their lives.  But they’ll just have to stare. And I’m looking back at them like:

And I’ve decided I won’t be intimidated by my calendar or my characters who all seem to have bad attitudes today.  And I have no room for that kind of negativity in my life.

I’m going to go read.

Or maybe watch You’ve Got Mail for the millionth time.

So there.

Until I write again….

 

The Learning Never Ends

 

I have two undergraduate degrees in journalism.  I tell you that to say I never thought I would see myself enrolling in another writing class.  But last week I began a five-course creative writing series to learn the mechanics of writing stories and novels and hone my skills in those areas.

Coursera is a great place to go to take online courses in just about any topic you can imagine.  If you go to Coursera.org, you can search their website by keywords.  It’s pretty amazing.  I was especially happy to find an email stating that my request to have the course fee waived was approved.

The first week of class was about plot and ended with me having to write a 250-350 word scene about a character with one want and one weakness. Every other sentence had to be a rising action (an event) and there were 12 words that had to be used in the story.

Whoa.

I consider myself a pretty strong writer, but that was packing quite a punch into a small space. I’m now on week two, and my assignment is to write a 200-word short story about a trip to the doctor using an ABDCE structure (yes, the D comes before the C) from a book called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  I read it some years ago, I may have to dust it off.

These courses will definitely keep me busy from now through February of next year.  In the midst of all this, I am still writing one short story every week and submitting it to online literary journals and magazines that I have found, and I’m also still writing my novel.

Am I busy? Sure. Do I love what I’m doing? Without a doubt. When you finally step into your purpose, the hard work you are doing doesn’t feel like work at all.

Until I write again….

An Item On My Bucket List

One of my favorite authors is Nora Roberts.  She’s from Maryland .  Sixteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I wrote to her. A few weeks later I got a reply complete with a bookmark, a few other little keepsakes, and a short, hand-written note congratulating me on my pregnancy.  I never forgot that.

Well, Nora has a bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland.  My parents, until recently, lived in North Carolina.  I would always pass the exit for Boonsboro as we would travel to their home.  For 13 years, every time I would travel past that exit I said, “I’m going to go see her bookstore one day.”

Here’s the plot twist. Three months ago, my parents moved to a little town in West Virginia.  As I was coming home from their house the other day, I decided to finally visit her store, since it’s only 25 minutes from my parents’ house.

When I got there I was just giddy. My daughter thought I was crazy because I just kept squealing but I didn’t care.  I was just steps away from a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

The bookstore is in this quaint little downtown section that just makes you want to walk arm-in-arm with a good friend while taking in the scenery.  Here it is. Turn The Page.

It sounds so geeky, but I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so excited. Don’t judge. I’m an extreme booklover and a pre-published author, so this was two worlds colliding for me. Here I am in front of Turn The Page on a bench that invited me to sit there and read one of her books.

When you walk in, there’s the main section of the bookstore that has a wonderful selection of books to choose from. When I told the very friendly employee there that I was so excited to be in Nora’s store, she pointed me to the room that is just Nora’s books and merchandise.  I swooned.  Here are some shots.

I absolutely love this sign. I need it in my life. Now.

This is me with Cardboard Nora. I am hoping to replace this photo with one of me standing next to the real Nora. She has a few signings coming up, but I’m not sure if they will allow photos.  When I meet her, I think I might be able to keep myself from fainting, but I can’t promise that I won’t be having a huge inner fangirl moment.

Of course, a trip to her bookstore would not be complete without buying one of her books.  I ended up getting The Collector. 

So, that’s one item crossed off my bucket list.  She also owns the Inn BoonsBoro On the Square. All the rooms are named after couples from famous books. Hubby and I love The Princess Bride so it’s no question that we’d have to stay in the Westley and Buttercup room.

Well, that’s it for now.

Until I write again….

 

 

 

The long and short of it….

Today I took another step toward my goal of becoming a published author: I submitted a short story to The Saturday Evening Post  to be considered for their print edition.

I never pictured myself writing short stories. My goal is to write novels. In fact I am busy working on one while I write these short stories. But I’ve been reading a lot about authors and how they got started and they all have one thing in common: they started out writing short stories.

I read an article about how to establish yourself as a writer and the advice was, you guessed it, writing short stories. Another article said to write three or four of them a month and just start sending them out, so I’ve been doing just that.  I have a long list of bookmarks for online literary journals, e-zines, and shorty story contests that I am submitting to.

My goal is to win four writing competitions and have 15 short stories published by the end of the year.  Sounds like a lot, but if I aim high I’m bound to reach at least a portion of this goal.

Now, I’m not just writing haphazardly.  I’ve been reading articles on how to write short stories and I’ve also been reading lots of shorts by authors who are considered to be the best at this craft.  People like Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Raymond Carver, J. California Cooper, and Annie Proulx.  If you’ve never read short stories before, give these authors a try. I was a little nervous to read anything by Mr. King, but I’ve managed to get through his stories…so far…without any bad dreams. Although I may or may not look like this while I read his stories:

This style of writing has really been stretching my skills. Most short stories are 3,000 words or less.  That may sound like a lot but it isn’t.  Think of how long a novel is.  That’s like a movie. Well, a short story is like a commercial. Yeah. That.

But it really forces me to be deliberate when I write and use strong verbs that elicit (I hope) a strong emotional response while also painting vivid imagery.

Hey, have you read any good short stories lately? I’d love to hear about it!  I’m always looking for another good book to read.

Until I write again…..

 

 

The Busyness of Birds

I think birds are fascinating little creatures. There are a lot of them in my backyard because my neighbor has lots of birdhouses and bird feeders. When I sit out there to let my chickens forage, I listen to those birds and watch them. They are mostly busy finding little scraps of dead grass, plastic, or whatever else they deem suitable to build their nests. They are very resourceful. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a few bird nests up close and it really is amazing how they are so well-built and sturdy, despite these birds having no hands to build with.

I often wonder how those nests, made only with their beaks, always end up  being the perfect circular home for their eggs.  I really wonder how they begin the foundation of the their nests. It is amazing when you sit and think about it. They have no instruction books, no YouTube videos, no libraries to research how to build a home or where to build the best home. Yet they innately know how to build shelter for themselves and their babies.

I hear them outside my window early in the morning while it is still dark. Lots of them. What’s funny to me is that once the sun rises, I don’t hear them as much. I think that in those wee hours of the morning, before the sun rises, they are speaking to each other and planning out their day: who will go where to find various things for their nests; what humans have the best feeders and birdhouses for them to use; how much time is left before momma bird has to lay her eggs…you know, the usual day-to-day of bird life.

Though it might seem like birds depend on humans for their homes and their food, I really don’t think that they do. They do take advantage of the kindness shown to them, but they don’t depend on it. They continue to move about in their world as if the kindness of humans didn’t exist and they are the better for it. What a great lesson for us humans. We should go about the business of achieving our dreams without depending on anyone or anything to help us. Yes, we’ll gladly take any help that may come our way, but we should work fervently all the same, and not put anything on hold for any reason. We should just keep taking steps each day to build our nests so we can fill them with our hopes and dreams.

Another thing the birds in my backyard seem to do is work together. They don’t fight….most of the time. When one bird finds some worms, the rest of the birds in its little group descend upon the prime location and begin going about the business of feeding their little bellies. They are also in tune with the earth. I read that they can feel worms moving in the ground with their little claws. Once they feel a vibration, they peck at that spot until they find the worm.

Ah, another great lesson. I should be so in tune with who I am and what I want that I can feel when I am moving toward or away from my goal. In every situation I should be able to feel the vibrations of the opportunities that are being presented to me and take advantage of them immediately, wasting no time with excuses and allowing nothing to hinder me from each and every opportunity meant for me.

Birds also fly. Obvious, I know, but think about that. They don’t sit and wonder if their wings will carry them from place to place. They don’t ask other birds “do you think I have what it takes to fly?” or “do you think I have what it takes to build a nest?” No, they just hop up on the edge of their nest and trust their wings will take them where they need to go. They find the things they need to build their nests. They look for validation from no one and compare themselves to no one. They have no time for it. They must be always about the business of building their homes and feeding themselves.

I will take my lessons from these birds. I will no longer ask anyone if they think I have what it takes to be a writer, or will I be able to find an editor, or worry about how I will get published or if anyone will like my books. I will trust that my writing will take me where I want to go.  It is inevitable because I believe it and, because I can see it in my mind’s eye, it will not be long before being a successfully published author is a reality.

Who knew that a few observations about birds would have such profound life lessons?

 

Hello, World!

Well, hello there. Welcome to my blog.  I am a
pre-published author who writes short stories and novels.  I have gotten out of the habit of saying “aspiring” because I am 100% confident that the stories I am creating for you will be published both online and in print.  I believe deeply in that little quote you see there.

In the meantime, I want you to get to know me and the worlds I create, so I will be writing short stories and posting them here for you. I’ll also be keeping you up-to-date on where I am on this crazy publishing journey and maybe even posting some reviews on all the books I read.

This is a space I have created for you to get to know me.  Feel free to chit chat or ask questions, okay?

Yours in writing,

Audra