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Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

First Monday Mentoring for December – the gifts your writing gives to readers

Welcome to the first Monday in December when I talk about the nitty-gritty of being a writer. A week ago I was reminded of perhaps the best part of the writing life, one we seldom think about – the effect our writing has on other people.

I was reminded of this a week ago while I was in Los Angeles attending a live event hosted by Reading Rainbow, an organisation dedicated to instilling the love of reading and learning in children everywhere. A few months ago, LeVar Burton, original Reading Rainbow TV presenter and Star Trek The Next Generation’s Geordie LaForge, relaunched Reading Rainbow for the 21st century at https://www.readingrainbow.com/

At the event, LeVar and two Star Trek legends, William Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart, read some childrens’ books to a delighted audience – we adults as enthralled as the children. Then LeVar talked about the power of “what if…” the cornerstone of many a writer’s new idea., and played the Reading Rainbow theme song reminding us that readers can “go anywhere” and “be anything” in their imagination.

After the readings, I got to sit down and chat with Bill Shatner, who readers of this blog know by now is one of my greatest inspirations, as well as LeVar and Sir Patrick. Exciting indeed and a story for another day.

L to R: William Shatner, Levar Burton and Sir Patrick Stewart read at the Reading Rainbow event I attended

L to R: William Shatner, Levar Burton and Sir Patrick Stewart read at the Reading Rainbow event I attended

Writers generally focus on the work of writing, the struggles, fears and disappointments when the story fails to live up to our hopes.

But what about when we succeed?

As Reading Rainbow reminded us, that’s when magic happens.

Whether you write in longhand, on a tablet, on a program such as Scrivener, or on cave walls, the process is the same. You start with a “what if…” and trust that your idea will capture your readers’ imagination the way it did yours.
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In the struggle to birth a story, it’s easy to forget that you’re taking readers on a journey with you, giving them the gift of your creativity and insight. Whether your readers number in the dozens or millions matters not a bit. When you make a story, wrap it in your words, and present it to readers, you’ve shared a piece of your soul.
In troubled times, stories can give hope – not by saying that all men are brothers, but by showing the brother and sisterhood between our characters. Others campaign for an end to domestic violence; we show how that goal might come about. When the future seems bleak, we show a positive future, as Star Trek itself has done since its first airing nearly 50 years ago.

These are gifts writers have been giving to the world since the cave days. Whether you celebrate Channukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any other festive season, you are giving the world your gift of possibilities through your stories.

How you publish is also less important than, what and why you write. It may be a beloved hobby or your life’s work, as writing has been mine for decades. What matters is the sharing of your ideas with your family and the wider world.

The ability to create stories is a rare blessing. I believe it’s the reason why we keep writing despite the pain of rejection and the frustration of chasing a near-impossible dream. As the song says, we are aiming for a star that seems unreachable much of the time. But when we do reach it, the sense of achievement is incomparable.
You’ve spoken your thoughts through your writing, and been heard and understood by at least one reader. There’s nothing quite like it.

This season, I wish that feeling for all writers. Write because you love it; because you must; and because it’s the most fun you can have and still call it work.

If it’s in you to write – write. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you. Your vocation is to be a bringer of light to the world. Do it with joy and pride, and the curiosity of a child. Write even when it hurts.
The more you write, the more you’ll discover you can write. Only by sharing your words are you truly honouring your gift.

Feel free to comment or share your experiences below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam. If you’d like your comments to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

To all writers everywhere, thank you for giving me the gift of your stories and letting me share the fruits of your imagination. They make you more special than you will ever know.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Have you unwrapped the gift you were given at birth?

I have some mean friends. They know I have zero resistance when it comes to leaving a gift unwrapped until Christmas. They add warning signs – “mitts off till Dec 25” – or leave packages with other friends to deliver on the day. The problem may be genetic; my mother was the same. All I know is, the sight of that pretty wrapping around an intriguing shape gets my adrenaline pumping. I have to know what’s inside. But it’s not all bad. Think of the extra days I get to enjoy knowing that someone cared enough to send me the gift.
Just as many others happily let the gift sit under the tree, perhaps feeling or shaking the package and trying to guess what’s inside. To each their own, I say.

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But what if you never opened the gift?

Most of us would never do that. But what about the gifts we’re born with? Like the talent to create, whether it’s via painting, sculpting, making movies or writing stories?

Make no mistake, this is a gift. Written words may be only scratchy marks on a page or screen. Yet they can carry us to strange lands, make us laugh or cry, keep us up all night to find out what happens next, and above all, make us care about people who’ve never existed.

If you have this gift, you may know it. At school you loved writing essays, possibly struggled through maths and science but felt at home with the written word. Your work may have been printed in school magazines or read out to the class.

But what have you done with that gift since then? Did you put it to one side, thinking an ordinary person couldn’t become a writer? That it was a foolish dream, and anyway, writing wouldn’t pay your bills? EVERY writer in history was told the same thing. If we’d all listened, there would be no Bible, no Beowulf, no Canterbury Tales, Hamlet, Narnia, Hogworts or Hunger Games. And the world would be poorer for that.

If you were given the gift of writing and have put it aside, unwrap it as your Christmas gift to yourself.
Nourish your gift by writing a few words every day. After the holidays, resolve to enter a writing competition or join a writing group where your gift will be welcomed and even applauded.

And take to heart the words of Thomas Wolfe, in his autobiographical book, The Web and the Rock:

If we have a talent and cannot use it, we have failed.
If we have a talent and use only half of it, we have partially failed.
If we have a talent and learn somehow to use all of it,
We have gloriously succeeded and won a satisfaction and
a triumph few individuals ever know.

Have a happy and blessed holiday and thanks for reading this blog.
Join me for First Monday Mentoring on January 6.
Meantime, share your thoughts on the gift of writing in the comment box below.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

AORW cover

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Christmas gifts smart writers NEVER give themselves

It’s not only First Monday time again, when I open this blog to your questions about writing and publishing, it’s also the holiday season for people of many beliefs around the world. Someone posted on Facebook that this is the only time Chanukah and American Thanksgiving fell at the same time for 80,000 years. My math isn’t that great, but it is unusual. Hope you all have a wonderful time.
This is also the season for gift giving. I love giving presents (don’t mind receiving them, either LOL) and I enjoy hunting for items I hope will delight my friends and family. As a writer, I love gifts, too. But there are five items I would NEVER give myself and I hope you won’t, too.

1. Long breaks from writing
Yes, it’s holidays and you’ve worked hard all year. Maybe you did NaNoWriMo and managed to write your target 50,000 words in a month. Don’t you deserve some down time? Of course, but be careful. The point of NaNo is to get you writing every day, inspired or not, with a deadline you usually report to other NaNo-ers, keeping yourself accountable. A funny thing about writing regularly is the momentum and confidence you build up. If I don’t write for a few days, I come back rusty, taking time to get up to speed. I also lose touch with my current project and have to get back into that groove as well. Keep in touch with the work. Aim to write 200 words a day, taking the important holidays off. That’s only one page of writing a day. You’ll thank yourself after the break.
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2. Ignore health and wellbeing

It’s easy to do this anyway, with all the parties and feasting. But as well as the damage to your healthy eating plans, food comas befuddle your brain, the organ generating those precious words. Remember to alternate holiday cheer with lots of water, pudding with fruit, and couch time with swimming and walks. The outdoor stimulation may give you new story ideas, win-win.

3. Lack of time
Yes, the season is demanding and rushed. Shops are busy, crowds everywhere, calendars clogged. Giving ourselves the gift of time can be way down the list, if it’s there at all. On your crammed to-do list, include set times to write, or at least to play with story outlines and characters – this can be done on a lounger in the garden. After the holidays when, we’re still at home, is a terrific time to make progress. When the season ends, you’re raring to go because the thinking and planning is done.

4. Second-best equipment
So you’re writing at a wobbly table, sitting on a dining chair, killing your back and creativity. Even if your writing isn’t paying its way yet, think of good equipment as an investment. Use the holiday sales to buy yourself an ergonomic chair. Mine adjusts every which way with a pump gadget to adjust the lumbar support exactly right. Look for a hand-friendly mouse, jelly rest for your wrist, whatever helps you create safely. Your body will thank you. And keep the receipts. When your writing does make money, ask the tax pundits about what you may be entitled to claim back.

5. Giving up on dreams
This is 100% not a gift you should give yourself, ever. In the early days, your self belief is the only thing keeping you going. It takes enough of a battering with rejections from editors or agents, or well-meaning but tough comments from critique partners and writing groups. ALL of the writers who are now legends were once told they couldn’t write, their books didn’t work, they should stick to (insert thankless day job). They persevered and gave us our greatest reading pleasures. They didn’t know they were writing classics, any more than you or I know that now. History is the judge. All we can do is write the best books in us to write, follow our passions even if they’re not trendy, and keep going no matter what the rest of the world says. Best of all, dreams are free. Hold on to them.

What gift would you NEVER give yourself as a writer? Have you come close with any of these? Please share your experiences with us in the comment box below. I regret they must be moderated before appearing, to keep out rudeness and Spam. To have your comment appear right away, click on “sign me up” at lower right. I don’t share your email details with anyone.

Happy holidays and may your words flow freely,
Valerie
http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright
at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

The Writer Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas,  and in every nook,

Not a creature was stirring except me and my book.

The deadline was looming,  I tried not to care though I knew that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The family were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of editors danced in my head.

My agent would freak out and I’d be a wreck if the copious copy edits didn’t get back.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I abandoned my work to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash.

The moon on the stretches of overgrown grass gave the lustre of midday to what I saw pass,

As what to my wondering eyes did appear, but Santa and sleigh pulled by lots of reindeer.

The man in the sleigh was so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.

More rapid than a rejection, his coursers they came,

And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now Harlequin, now Penguin, now Allen & Unwin,

On Macmillan, on Carina, on Samhain and Random.”

From the top of the porch, I heard his wry call, “Now write away, write away, write away all.”

As blank pages mock an author’s best try, when we meet with a plothole, and look to the sky,

So up to the rooftop, those publishers flew, with a sleigh full of books and St Nicholas, too.

I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed in red ink from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all grimy with ashes and soot.

A flash drive or two he had in his pack. I started to shake but he motioned me back.

A wink of his eye and a nod of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word as he bent to his task, took the drive to my tablet, not stopping to ask,

turned my chaos to order, the edits all done, I was freed from their yoke, there’d be time to have fun.

And laying a finger aside of his nose, Santa gave me a grin; up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to the publishers cried, and away they all flew while I turned back inside.

As I heard him exclaim, my heart beat like a drum,

“Merry Christmas all writers, New York Times here you come.”

                                With every good wish!

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

With acknowledgement to Clement Clarke Moore/ Henry Livingston

who gave us the original The Night Before Christmas.

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