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NancyFreund

Writer, Reader, Reviewer

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Blanket Stitches

Posted by nancyfreund11 on June 29, 2014 at 2:35 AM Comments comments (281)

An apology in advance, because my poetry is obtuse sometimes – so it stands to reason that occasionally, my prose might be obtuse as well. Herein, case in point. You’re going to see an early turn of phrase that might be an unintended inversion. But it’s purposeful. I didn’t realize I’d flipped a common phrase till I had written and sat with it for some time.  We should all write as it comes out, sit with it, and when we can, let it stay.  So I won’t revert and invert now, because it said exactly what I meant  – "needle the thread." Gently nudge the fine cord with the sharp tip of the needle, lift the stitch and push the needle and its trailing thread through the gap. Needle the thread. Not thread the needle.  So now I ask you to read on (should you care to read on) with not just a willing suspension of disbelief, but also an open-mindedness and tolerance for grammatical gymnastics, syntactic shenanigans that might look more like tumbling than than a running-round-off-back-flip.  


Tananarive Due was my cherub-journalist roommate at Northwestern when we were sixteen. It only took me thirty years to needle the thread and lift the stitch, close it nicely. You make progress in your life, move things forward, projects, bullet points on your resume... but you must double back, you must. Lift the loops to catch them tight. Your blanket stitches matter, my love. (I’m talking to myself here, gently, and to you). Keep track. Keep the yellow yarn on track. Slow yourself down and double back to keep your seals shut snug. The folded satin blanket edge. Listen again, thirty years later, to Ten Years Gone, listen to the riffs and Led Zeppelin guitar chords, and you might know the swollen heartstrings that fill you blue and purple and pearly pale. That filled you then. You might know those colors once again as you knew them then.  Lift them, loop them through and keep them tight. Red, metallic red, the sheens that vibrate bold and blood and brave when once again, he sings:


"Do you ever really need somebody, really need ‘em bad? Do you ever really want somebody, yeah something you never had? Do you ever remember me baby? Did it feel so good? Cause it was just the first time, and you knew you would.

To the eyes now sparkle...since you ... ? Taste the love along the way, see your feathers break. Kinda makes me feel so fine, ... go.... we are eagles... "


There you have the scurry- scramble to write the lyrics down that we’ve never really known, the meaning is there, the intention of the lyricist, whether we’re right or not, but we really never knew the words. Eagles? Where’d the eagles come into it? Today we have google and you can read the right lyrics with a click. Don’t, though.


I like what my brain does playing with the words I’ve heard. I like to roll my own dice and make up the game as I go. Eagles!

 

Back to my first roommate Tananarive. She knew me when I wanted something bad. Someone bad. She knew my nightime heart and aching yearns and when I snuck out and in, a head full of conversation, teasing and music and politics on the boys’ floor. She knew it then, knows it still. I trust her silence and her willingness to forget and her blanket stitches, that yellow thread she weaves through her words. She seals her silences, blanket stitches running time. A soft sheen, that satin edge. The whole world remembers everything, the people I’ve met along the way, remember all. In collaboration, we could stitch everything together and the stitches would hold. It would be an endless quilt of experience, real and imagined, remembered and wished-for, wanted, unwanted, it would be things we have purposefully forgotten and wished others would forget and wished we could remember, and things we wished had happened sooner, or later, or somewhere else with someone else, and things we no longer know whether we dreamed or invented... And things we talked about with others, and things that no one ever mentioned. Between us, I imagine, if we could double back and stitch up all the pieces with our gentle blanket stitches, the truth would lay itself down in cotton flannel patterns, beyond memory, beyond words, and knowing it is there would give us comfort.


That's what I wanted to say.  But now  --  eagles!  I know there’s the tiniest chance that you can’t stand not knowing, so here’s what the interwebs deliver...

Through the eyes an' I sparkle, Senses growing keen

Taste your love along the way, See your feathers preen

Kind of makes makes me feel sometimes, Didn't have to grow

We are eagles of one nest, The nest is in our soul

 

Vixen in my dreams, with great surprise to me

Never thought I'd see your face the way it used to be

Oh darlin', oh darlin'

 

I'm never gonna leave you. I never gonna leave

Holdin' on, ten years gone

Ten years gone, holdin' on, ten years gone

 

On Choosing Your Major and Planning Your Future

Posted by nancyfreund11 on June 1, 2014 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (142)

It's that time of year when the college freshman come home for the summer, the high school grads get excited about leaving for college, and there are a lot of summer conversations about in-between-ness and limbo, and how best to step towards the future.  (Do the limbo toward the future!  Or not).  Anyway, here's my own personal anecdote, for your edification.


I always wanted to be a novelist and started UCLA planning to major in Psycholinguistics.  I wanted psychology to learn what made people tick and I wanted to study language to learn how people communicate with one another.  I bravely made an appointment with the head of Psycholinguistics before the first day of freshman year.  He held up a hand and said, "Let me guess -- you have two questions." (Indeed I did have two questions).  He said, "one, what is psycholiguistics, exactly, and two, what can one do with it?"  I was stunned.  Those were my two questions.  Clearly a psycholinguist could read minds. Great!  But then came the answers... I'd be studying the way the tongue works in the mouth to form sounds more than the way the mind works in the brain to form meaning.  And what to do with it?Answer: Nothing.  Or teach Psycholinguistics.  


Wow.  Burst my newly inflated psycholinguistics bubble, big time.  I still enrolled in an entry level class, just to be sure, but after my 4,000th tongue drawing and learning what bilabial and guttural stops were, I'd had enough. I still wanted to be a novelist, so I kept looking for a way to meet my goal.  I didn't yet know that UCLA's English department offered a nearly secret opportunity for a BA in Creative Writing.


My freshman roommate, a brilliant and creative girl from Orange County, said, it almost doesn't matter what you choose now, it almost doesn't matter what you major in, you will find throughout your life, you'll keep coming back to the thing you truly want to do.  She was applying to the super competitive Design Major -- and she knew even then, that as much as that major would open valuable doors for her, not getting accepted by it would not necessarily prevent her from pursuing a career in design.  Soon enough, I discovered the Creative Writing major and applied, applied again, and I eventually found my way in.  No doubt, it has served me well.  But what has served me REALLY well is that newsflash from my roommate.  You'll keep coming back to that thing you really want. 


How to choose a major?  What do you keep coming back to?  Despite other plans, other programs, other successes, where do you find your curiosity leading you?  What do you hear yourself talking about with people you don't know well?  How do you WISH you could introduce yourself?  If it's as a writer, forget the major, the course of study, all the trappings of being a writer, and just BE A WRITER.  I'm not saying be "out and proud," because there's a time for that, and it may not be now.  But if you might like to be a writer, then for godsakes, WRITE.  Get stuff written.  Squirrel it away... write it backwards or in Spanish or in code.  Write a blog that no one knows is really you.  Email it to a password-protected secret email address and delete it from your hard-drive.  Print it and mail it all to your uncle in Topanga with strict instructions to keep everything in a fire-proof box.  Don't tell anyone, don't show anyone... unless of course you're ready to, in which case, by all means, DO.  But begin doing the thing you love doing, and get some inventory stacking up, so that when the time comes -- and trust me, it WILL come, you'll be ready.  


That's one thing that's true.  The time does come.  Just when you're in the middle of saying, it'll never happen, it happens.  It's never going to happen until it happens.  That's another wise thing my roommate said at the time.


And if you can major in the thing you want most to study, for goodness sake, do it.  Even if they reject you the first time (or two) you apply.  That major is there to serve and to honor and to be served and honored by YOU.   Do not thwart yourself.  You'll be dealt hard knocks throughout life, but this isn't the time for that.  God knows, do not do this to yourself.  Get up and get in there.  If they HAVE finally accepted you, it's because your time has come.  Don't question it, don't sabotage yourself, just get in there and do the work they think you're capable of, and they hope you'll do.  And in the meantime, regardless of major, or school, or job, or time you wish you had to commit to it, JUST WRITE.

On Knowing Yourself and Revealing It

Posted by nancyfreund11 on May 26, 2014 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (993)

Partly, I write this post because I want to be sure I can easly find and click Dani Shapiro's excellent speech from Arianna Huffington's Thrive event.  I have been reading her writer's guide 'Still Writing: the Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life' and let me tell you, when I finish this thing -- which will NOT be soon, because I'm only allowing myself tiny paragraphs at a time, to make it last -- but when I DO finish it, I'll have to post a review to Youtube that will be so glowing, it's going to light up the night sky.  

People gush about Dani Shapiro and her generosity and intelligence and willingness to be vulnerable on the page and in life and in conversation.  

These are real people I've met and had dinner with -- numerous real people -- quite different in personality and background, in fact.  And I agree with all of them 100 per cent.

I didn't know Dani Shapiro, and I confess I didn't know her writing before I applied to the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano.  I'd applied before -- unsuccessfully --  and I'd been aware of and then reading One Story for some time, but until I was actually accepted (!) to attend this writers' conference, I had not yet discovered her writing.  (Nor Meg Wolitzer's, who I'll just add was another instructor at Sirenland 2014.  Her novel The Interestings is stunning, and her character Ethan Figman is someone I want in my life forever.  If you haven't read it, run, don't walk!  I DID know 'The House of Sand and Fog' by Andre Dubus III, the third Sirenland 2014 instructor -- my instructor, as it happens, my incredible instructor in the most astonishing, creative, vibrant, supportive, intelligent workshop I've experienced -- and now I know more of his work, including his memoir 'Townie' and his latest novella-short story collection 'Dirty Love.'  Continuing the tangent here though, I just want the blog record to state I am blown away by all three of these writers -- by their writing and by their truly invaluable instruction).  An excellent workshop is worth gold.

But for now, back to Dani.  Knowing the conference was coming up in April, I spent my Christmas holiday listening to her memoir 'Devotion' on Audible.... my first experience with an audio book memoir on the iPhone, in fact.  I was in Florida, walking two miles back from the gym after it closed and it was getting dark, and it was still hot and humid and I was deathly afraid of alligators as usual, and I was wearing fluorescent yellow nylon, super sweaty, (ready to run zig-zag if I had to, and reminding myself that in the end it was a frightened stingray that took Steve Erwin's life, not an alligator), and I was walking on the golf cart path and pissing off golfers because I had on headphones and didn't hear their little electric vehicles approaching -- but I simply could NOT get enough of this woman's story, the difficulties of her upbringing, her parents' incredible long-term spiritual conflict, her own childhood voicelessness -- told through my iPhone in her own beautiful voice.  It was magic.  

The thing is, she's been through some really difficult things, and rather than hide them away, she has found a way to put them out there, and make everyone's difficult things ok. Not ok to talk about, not "fair game for writing," but part of life.  Important to understand. MAYBE I should go so far as to lean toward the word: NORMAL.  It's so much more meaningful, so much more valuable than "guidance for writers," which, in and of itself, can be pretty awesome as well.  But reading 'Devotion' or 'Still Writing' or watching this video featuring Dani Shapiro isn't about writing -- it's about life.  I know mine's better for having found her work.  Hope maybe yours is too.



On Thick and Thin Skin -- inevitable injuries and the beautiful business of books

Posted by nancyfreund11 on May 10, 2014 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (673)

Having just found a feature in Twitter that allows me to embed a tweet into a website, check this out:

 

 

If I've lost you to the tweet, so be it.  A worthwhile departure.  It's Robin Black's excellent list of 21 things she wishes she knew about writing before diving into the career of it.  I want to pull a quote from nearly every item. But let's cut straight to  #21: 

"Make your skin as thick as you are able to, for your career. Keep it as thin as you can tolerate, for your art." -- Robin Black

Let me add, it's both.  It's your career AND it's your art.  It's your story, and it's your PR.  It's your characters and it's your readers.  It's your plot and structure and metaphor and dialogue, and it's your cover blurbs and writer friends and publicists and the overwhelming decisions of whether or not to go offset in Michigan or print-on-demand, matte laminate or UV-coated or spot-UV or drop caps to start chapters, and whether to sell non-returnable in Europe and why you can't seem to get the databases changed when you want that bookstore in Bern to be able to buy with standard trade discounts and returnability.  And it's days when Amazon has upped your Kindle price with no notice, no reason and no response to requests for information... which might just happen to be the same day you'll get the most astonishing review by a bookblogger who seems to know your writer's soul and who gets exactly what you were trying to do with the novel throughout the ten years you were holed away writing it... remembering all the while that NO ONE asked you to do this.  No one wants you to do this.  No one is paying you to do this wriitng, and God knows there is laundry needing doing, children needing feeding, and so many other things we writers push to the side to honor our need to write.


It's the business of books, and it's the books themselves.  It's both.  Whether you're traditionally published, or legacy published, or big-house published or New York published (all the same thing, really), or university or small press published (similar but by no means the same), or "indie" (a publisher who can sneak into any book business category it chooses, really), or you are no-longer-stigmatized "self-published," you're going to need that skin -- both thick and thin. You're going to need to write what needs to be written, and rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it, till it sits with your readers the way you intended it to sit.  And when you're ready to release it to the world, do so lovingly and with trust.  You're going to be wounded, and your skin never will be thick enough when you need it to be, but you knew that going in.  You read Robin Black's list of 21 things.  You're going to be jealous!  You're going to be genuine! You're going to forget someone in your acknowledgements and be beyond horrified, and you're going to need to cut yourself some slack.


Bottom line: if you need to write, write.  And if you are game for readership, get in the game. There will be injuries -- let me rephrase that -- YOU will be injured.  Damaged. Wounded.  Hurt by good friends and anonymous readers and the person at the Saroyan Prize who doesn't realize that they really shouldn't start an email with "We are very pleased to tell you..." and then make you click something else and change computers in the middle of the night to finally follow the path down the writer's rabbit hole to the fact that their excellent shortlist does NOT include you.  Injuries are inevitable, playing dangerous games.  And yeah, you mostly sit at a desk,  you're Mr. Cautious, the Original Over-thinker, Madame Observant...but you've also always been a little bit fearless.  Am I right?  Not everyone knows it, but FEARLESS.  Fact.  So get your thick-and-thin skin on, and go for it. SOMEONE'S going to win the Saroyan Prize after all. It might just be you.  

fierce and bewildered

Posted by nancyfreund11 on April 26, 2014 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (308)

"Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art; do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength. Giacometti's drawings and paintings show his bewilderment and persistence. If he had not acknowledged his bewilderment, he would not have persisted. A master of drawing, Rico Lebrun, discovered that ''the draftsman must aggress; only by persistent assault will the live image capitulate and give up its secret to an unrelenting line.'' Who but an artist fierce to know - not fierce to seem to know - would suppose that a live image possessed a secret? The artist is willing to give all his or her strength and life to probing with blunt instruments those same secrets no one can describe any way but with the instruments' faint tracks."  

That's Annie Dillard speaking, through Andre Dubus III who quoted this thing pretty much verbatim while I took crazy shorthand, so I could google it later, fill in my many blanks, and try to understand. It's also Annie Dillard speaking (ok, writing) in the New York Times of May 1989.  Her name will take you there.

I googled, I found, I copied it down, and I've now read it repeatedly, and yet, I confess I'm not sure I fully understand.  Concerning MUCH of what Mr. Dubus said at Sirenland -- his own words, or other writers brilliantly quoted -- I fear that I remain unqualified to "get it."  The SAT results long ago would tell you I'm a verifiable genius, and yet I am often standing in the dark corner of a glowing purple room.  Indulge me a sec -- this is a real room I want to tell you about, not just a metaphor. (Not JUST a metaphor!) White cushioned flooring pumped with air, and airpockets line the cushioned walls.  Black lights illuminate neon greens and yellows in a hazy, happy mirage of movement, and there's sweet, crazy music pulsing, and beautiful, energetic American parents in this Swiss place, and bouncing children, knees and arms akimbo, and there are scattered coins to find in there, if I could only enter.  I want so to step into it, to find the instant rhythm and unlock the mystery of it, and leap and bounce around and join the laughter, and -- you know -- dance, dance, baby. Yet I'm immobilized by my own inadequacies, and I remain assigned to, adhered to the dim-lit edge.  

Maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe that means I'm bewildered, like famous Swiss man Giacometti, and maybe my relentless yearning to "get it." means I'm persistent.  Maybe someday I'll be described by some kind-hearted person as fierce.  Fierce to know, not just fierce to seem to know.  On the other hand, maybe it means I'm a dumbshit. Maybe it just means I stood at the doorway to the bouncy-castle room at Planete Jeux when my children were tiny, and I wondered if the little boy who'd lost his two franc coin would ever bounce over to it and pick it up.  Maybe I was only watching from a selfish point of view, collecting metaphors for later.

But here's why I put that Annie Dillard thing down here now... There's an awful of lot brilliant stuff I heard directly or overheard at Sirenland -- the most incredible writers' workshop I've had the pleasure of experiencing.  I want to keep it all, and I want to share it all.  We pick up and take the gems from where we find them -- in my case, even before I fully grasp the concepts or the value of what I've found.  But I remain convinced that by putting the words down and sharing them in covnersation with other writers, other artists, and here, I throw pebbles on the water. Those pebbels are my live images, I guess.  My scattered coins in the psychedelic bouncy-castle room. And when I toss my pebbles, the ripples then expand and spread, and ultimately, ripple back, perhaps delivering new understanding within the tiny waves. 

A River Runs Through It

Posted by nancyfreund11 on April 17, 2014 at 2:30 AM Comments comments (140)

I'm a reckless blogger, picking up threads where no one was prepared to follow, and today's post will probably prove that.  It's not a blog post so much as it's a huge tweet that won't fit on Twitter, or a Facebook link that doesn't really make any sense over there, but I want access to this piece from The Daily Beast Stacks, pulled from an 1981 Esquire profile myself, long-term, so I'm putting it here.  A beautiful article about Norman Maclean, his writing, his fishing, his logs and trees and bourbon and bears, his Montana. And a word or two on the film industry -- that was interesting too, especially having just heard Michael Maren talk about getting his film A Short History of Decay made last year.  It reminds me to watch the River Runs Through It film again.  And definitely to return once again to the book.

It's also the actual Esquire piece, The Old Man and the River, I want to read a few times first, but even before that, let me throw you a Daily Beast pull-quote on the columnist, Pete Dexter.  

"Dexter came at things from the side, never hitting a story square on the head. His columns were hilarious and odd and often disturbing."

I like to think that's how I write, when it's working.  I like to think occasionally readers might be willing to untangle my own sideways stuff and find meaning.  So the threads are braiding themselves together nicely today... and I like to think one tiny cotton fiber in there is me and my work.

But on to the real thing... If it would fit in Twitter, plus the link to the full Pete Dexter piece, here's the pull-quote I'd want to use, from when Pete Dexter was given Maclean's book by his brother, and despite normally never reading Christmas gift books, this time, he did.


That night I called Tom. “Holy shit,” I said. “Who is this guy?”

“I had him for Shakespeare,” he said.

I said, “The fucker is Shakespeare.”

Don’t tell me literary criticism is a dead art. It turned out Maclean wasn’t Shakespeare, but then Shakespeare wasn’t a forest ranger. Or a fisherman or a logger. He may not even have been a literature teacher at the University of Chicago, but they don’t talk about that there.

Maclean was all of those things, and when he retired from the university at seventy, his two children talked him into writing down some of his stories. A River Runs Through It was published in 1976, when he was seventy-three, and the first 104 pages of that book—the title story—filled holes inside me that had been so long in the making that I’d stopped noticing they were there.

It is a story about Maclean and his brother, Paul, who was beaten to death with a gun butt in 1938. It is about not understanding what you love, about not being able to help. It is the truest story I ever read; it might be the best written. And to this day it won’t leave me alone.

Anyway, if I didn't already lose you to the link up above, that's the point of this thing today.  Go.  Read.  Enjoy.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST, Get in the Game

Posted by nancyfreund11 on April 2, 2014 at 5:30 AM Comments comments (149)

I asked my brilliant romance writer friend Lauren Christopher whose novel The Red Bikini comes out soon, what can you tell me about the skeletal structure of a good romance? I assumed there was one, even though writers in all genres like to say they write from their guts and even if they outline, there's a certain seat-of-the-pants je ne sais quoi that brings the magic to the story. Well, I have plenty of je ne sais quoi, so I was asking Laurie for the true scoop. The meat-and-potatoes. The bones. And she delivered. It's all about FIRSTS.

 

And I start there, today, because it's relevant to so many, many things in life... even when you're going on 50! OK, I'm 48. Some people call that late-40's. But let's face it, a good few firsts are behind me now, and YET! YET! I've got first-time fun stuff happening all the time these days, and today was one of them. I'll tell you about that in a sec. But gratification is all the sweeter when delayed, so FIRST, let me tell you what Laurie said about romance.

 

There's evidently a seritonin release or dopamine or some such brain chemical pretty much the same as what happens when you fall in love. You know that giddy, flowers-in-springtime, even on a rainy day joy you feel when newly in love? It's the shimmering golden question mark inflated overhead... is this... could this be... does he maybe... feel the same about me? Followed by an immediate blue-and-silver balloon saying hell-yeah-MAYBE, and somehow, a little higher, a little brighter, you can just about make it out in that upper-echelon breeze, is a sparkling mylar balloon saying yes. Pearly pink stuff and fairy dust glitters down upon you. It makes your hair look awesome. Those balloons are all swollen up with those brain chemicals that are so addictive and feel so amazing. And guess what? They come back again and again and again, when triggered the right way. A good romance novel triggers them. First the question, then the first eye contact, the first kiss, the first date, the first "I love you," the first, first, first. There's no template, necessarily, and the sequences in these things are all jumbled up in fiction these days just like they are in real life, but the fact is, there is joy in doing something for the first time.

 

And now, to my own "first" from this morning. A month ago, I launched a giveaway at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17882184-rapeseed" target="_blank">Goodreads for my novel Rapeseed. I'd never really had any interest in doing one because I didn't see why I would. Then I met Patrick Brown from Goodreads at the London Author Fair, and he made it seem, well... FUN. So I did it. And as usual, when I saw my stats begin to change on my Rapeseed page, I got a little addicted. It's not just firsts that are addictive, it's CHANGE, period. It's progress. So one day, I had 80-some people who'd clicked to win the book, and the next day I was closer to 90, so then I was hoping against hope maybe I'd hit a hundred! The numbers don't even matter, point is, it became a game. Click again, check for change. Click, click, click. Facebook, Twitter, website, blog. (My next novel seriously needs my attention now, and just as SOON as I sign and send these two winner copies, I swear I'm getting back to it).

 

But today the giveaway closed and I got the names of two winners. Crystal and Mimi. Florida and Chicago. REAL PEOPLE! I'm so thrilled to ship these books to them. The first two people I'm sending books who I didn't know before... other than Oprah, but let's face it, Oprah's kinda my best friend, and yours and everyone's, so we won't count her. I had no idea how excited I would be to read these two ladies' names and addresses. And to top things off, I discovered that those stats I'd been clicking weren't what I thought. Those were new to-read stats. People who found the novel intriguing enough to click their interest in READING it. The number of people who clicked to win it was double what I'd thought. DOUBLE! If I wasn't giddy before, let me tell you... giddy-plus. Giddy-overload. Ultimate giddy-rama. Festival of giddaciousness.

 

And yes, Patrick Brown. This stuff is fun. Writing a novel is awesome, I THRIVE on being squirreled away in my writer's garret for long, long stretches of time, but this https://www.upworthy.com/a-4-year-old-girl-asked-a-lesbian-if-shes-a-boy-she-responded-the-awesomest-way-possible?c=ufb2" target="_blank">coming-out stuff of publication is a whole nother kind of fun, and I'm so pleased I decided to get in the game.  (Yeah, that link is an excllent speech about yet another kind of coming-out -- too good not to share where I can).  So to repeat -- Get in the game!  You truly don't know until you try it. Whatever your "it" is, I heartily recommend, as they say in England, giving it a go.

Process in progress

Posted by nancyfreund11 on March 23, 2014 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (292)

This morning I woke up to a "creative process" Facebook post by a friend I've known since high school. So simple, so familiar, so true!  Also, I could say: overly simple, devastatingly familiar, and probably, undeniably, yes, universally true.

The Creative Process

1. This is awesome

2. This is tricky

3. This is shit

4. I am shit

5. This might be ok

6. This is awesome


My trouble with point number one, oversimplification, is the leap one assumes can be made from point 5 to point 6, with just the snap of one's fingers and a puff of magic glitter-dust.  In my world, the move from "this might be ok" to "this is awesome" takes centuries.  It is not a glittery ballet leap in tights and tutu, it is a long and treacherous uphill slog in ill-fitting hiking boots one accidentally borrowed from one's son.  A heavy backpack, no more water in the Camelback bottle, three layers of fleece when you wish you'd worn one.  The fact that it happens at all is what's magic, and the fact that is does indeed happen, eventually, every single time one attempts the high writers' Hill of Sysiphus is not just magic, it's divine.


But the process is there, every time, whatever creative endeavours we bravely tackle.  And the phase of it's-ticky-it's-shit-I-am-shit may be long and arduous and longer still every time we try again.  That's when we just have to suck up a deep breath and remember it is a PROCESS.  Not a journey, not a result, not an eyes-on-the-prize goal we must keep in our sights.  It's just doing what we do, come what may.  And eventually, what comes, what MAY come, might be awesome, yet again.



:roll: This emoticon is where I throw my hands in the air after trying to load a photo fourteen million times, to no avail.  I'm not done.  I'm not giving up.  But I'm at the point where I'm thinking it's a glitch in the system.  If you ever see a photo, an actual photo, here, showing my international cookbook plans, dance wildly and sing.  I certainly will.  

THE PHOTO!  DANCE! DANCE! BABY!  I'm leaving that nonsense and the emoticon there, just so you can really see THE PROCESS even in this. Celebrate small victories.  They are NOT small.  And thank the Lord for your teenage techs, when they show up to help.

Here's a process pic (*you wish.  No, you don't wish, You DANCE!)  of my latest work-in-progress.  One thing that keeps me firmly in point 2, "this is tricky," and hovering near the precipice but not diving over the edge of "this-is-shit," is color.  Bright green post-its and a blue Sharpie marker.  Here are 40 countries all lined up for the International Cookbook I'm editing.  Fantastic foods and countries and cultures generously revealed in here by the diverse international families in Lausanne -- and an important scholarship fundraiser too.   But it's a load of work, of course, and whenever it feels overwhelming, I remind myself of the cycle of process.  What goes around, ultimately comes around, and I'm pretty sure it's going to wind up on AWESOME. 

Something to celebrate!

Posted by nancyfreund11 on March 17, 2014 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (143)

Yes, I have designed my very own t-shirt with Vistaprint, so I can silently but boldy announce Rapeseed's having been named a finalist by Foreword Magazine for the 2013 Book of the Year Award in the category of General Adult Fiction.  I intend to write an actual blog post about that, and about the courage one must summon to celebrate a success... It does take courage.  There's a fine line between gracious celebrating and being obnoxious and arrogant, and only the brave feel confident (enough) that they're on the right side of the line.  But if we're not going to celebrate the good results of hard work, then what's the hard work for in the first place?  My great friend Sedef taught me that.  When I finally write this promised blog post I should tell you some other awesome stuff I've learned from Sedef.  But the reason I'm not writing the full post quite yet, is I'm still leaping around like a crazy person.  Bet you didn't know I could do a round-off back-handspring, triple cow-tow toe-loop, now did you?  I'd video it, but I'm pretty sure that would be a balance-tipper.   

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Posted by nancyfreund11 on February 10, 2014 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (100)

I love the way writing and books connect people, and Sylvia Petter’s invitation to do this blog tour made my day. In fact, it gave me just the nudge I needed to re-launch my own dormant blog. I’ve known Sylvia through the Geneva Writers Group for a decade now, and I can assure you, her work and her interests continue to evolve in exciting ways. She’s never at a loss for words, and she cares deeply about the projects she tackles, like her contribution to to the book NEW SUN RISING: STORIES FOR JAPAN published in 2012 to support the victims of Japan’s 2011 tsunami and earthquake. More recently, her flash fiction collection MERCURY BLOBS has been garnering fantastic reviews, including a wonderful comment by Robert Olen Butler, who rightly notes that Sylvia’s work is often very funny, often very moving, and often BOTH. Her blog and facebook and twitter presence are all joys to behold as well.

Do check out Sylvia Petter here: www.­mercsworld.­blogspot.­com


Sylvia posed these four “simple” questions and really got me thinking about how best to answer them… Number two is the doozy. Sometimes the best ways to “learn” ourselves is to try to explain ourselves to others. Thanks, Sylvia for this opportunity!

 

 

1.What am I working on?

I’m certainly a bit of a juggler at the moment. I just got my manuscript back from my development editor in France, and am wildly eager to dive in to the revision of my Montana-rancher/Swiss expat novel currently titled EFFORT OF WILL. With a male protagonist, this is a fun and different challenge to write. Also, this is a new editor I’m working with, and I think she’s amazing. But I can’t narrow my focus only to that novel because my debut novel RAPESEED is still very much in its launch phase, so I’m doing a lot of fun publishing things too… book clubs, promotional events, and so on. Next week is a Swedish book club… I have a Swedish teenage boy in RAPESEED, and I’m eager to know what these readers will make of him. If you want to see more on that novel, click over to Amazon


Also, as part of my literacy efforts, I’m doing language support with the International School of Lausanne’s Tanzanian scholarship students, and am heading an international cookbook project in conjunction with that program. We hope to have 100 recipes from 20 countries. As Sylvia mentioned, there’s also a lot of fun stuff going on with the Geneva Writers Group, which just hosted its 9th international writing conference. (230 writers from 40 countries!) Being a panelist on alternative publishing gave me a good chance to speak about publishing distribution in the US and Europe and was a wonderful chance to reconnect with fantastic writers, including my first roommate, Tananarive Due, who was a fiction instructor in the conference. (We were paired up as “cherubs” in Northwestern University’s National High School Institute for Journalism at age 16, and we had not seen each other since. WONDERFUL!) And just for fun, I’ve also launched a little book review channel on YouTube. In fact, Tananarive and I did a 3-minute interview there right before I took her back to the airport. If you’re tempted, hop over and watch.

 

2.How does my work differ from others of its genre?

 

Well, this is the wild-card question, because I’m a genre bender already. All my work features children or teens in an adult story. While male writers of literary fiction are apparently permitted (even encouraged) to do this, female writers tend to be corralled into one or the other. If you include the POV of a teen, a traditionalist will tell you to make your novel YA. My novels are not YA. I use language and scenes and dialogue – and plot lines – that just wouldn’t be appropriate for many young adults to read. But I also include a younger perspective, because I write family dynamics, and the younger members of a family matter in that. I think they deserve to have their POV shown directly. And I think as indie and alternative publishing gains ground, the requirements of tradition will continue to fall away, and readers may find they get to read more of what authors genuinely wanted to present – regardless of industry gatekeepers. As long as quality measures up – truly measures up – I believe this is a good thing.

 

 

3.Why do I write what I do?

Same answer I would have for why do I write? I can’t not. I’m a lucky, lucky person on this planet to know FOR SURE why I’m here and what I’m meant to do with my time. Writing is on the very short list of things I’m meant to do. It’s how I feel connected to people, to myself, to my self-worth and my place on this planet. I enjoy it, and I know that writing is at the root of much of what makes me feel fulfilled.

 

4.How does your writing process work?

 

Oh my. Am I going to try to answer this truthfully? I mentioned juggling above, and let’s just say I’m not yet a master juggler. I’m like one of those jugglers who can get two apples, three apples, suddenly six apples going, and I can even do that thing where I take a bite of an apple, mid-flight, now and then, but apples are often also flying out of range and then I go to grab a bite and it turns out that was no apple – it was a lime. This is the sort of circus act my writing life would be. But I can tell you if I’m home, I’m in front of the computer. Pretty much all day long.

 

 

And now I’d like to introduce to you three writers to whom I will happily pass the baton.

 

Daniela Norris has a marvelous book coming out next month with John Hunt Publishing in the UK. ON DRAGONFLY WINGS: A SKEPTICS JOURNEY TO MEDIUMSHIP is a compelling and moving personal journey from a family tragedy through grief to remarkable new understanding of life’s mysteries. I have unbound respect for this author.

http//www.danielanorris.com/

 

Mary Albanese (following a similar line of thinking) has been working with a psychic and medium in England for years, and has recently published LOVE AND LAUGHTER WITH SPIRIT detailing the work of “modern medium” Lorraine Rees. More recently, Mary has published BERGBUCHLEIN, THE LITTLE BOOK ON ORES: THE FIRST MINING BOOK EVER PRINTED - from 1518 - and her own excellent memoir about mapping uncharted Alaska, MIDNIGHT SUN, ARCTIC MOON.

http//maryalbanese.com/

 

Lauren Christopher, my third featured writer, is one of my oldest writer friends -- another journalist-turned-fiction writer I respect hugely. Lauren and I studied English together at UCLA, and today she is following through on our student-day promises to write romance. Her new novel, THE RED BIKINI promises to be a fantastic, racy read. I’ve been privy to sneak previews of Lauren’s work, and I’m telling you, there’s a bright new light in romance right now… based in Sandy Cove, where Lauren’s characters are having all kinds of fun and trouble. If a super hot alpha-male is supposed to be at the heart of romantic fiction, Laurie truly puts the alpha in the alphabet. Her stuff is fabulous. And sunny and sandy and surf-y… and indescribably fun.

http//laurenchristopherauthor.com/

 

 

 


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