Personal Becomes Universal Through Research

Guest Post by Novelist Donna D. Vitucci

Book cover

Donna Vitucci’s new novel, Salt of Patriots, published on Earth Day 2017.

The answer to my question, How long does it take to write a book? is fifteen for the novelist Donna Vitucci, who has just published Salt of Patriots after fifteen years of research, writing and revision. In this guest post, Vitucci describes what motivated her – and kept her going.

Origin of Salt

At my mother’s wake in the summer of 1999, the reminiscences we’d heard through the years got dragged out and enlivened by re-telling. The time all Uncle Bobby’s hair fell out when he was working at Fernald. The spills and inherent danger of any other kind of factory, but Fernald was processing uranium. A different kind of plant, in the early atomic days, in the 1950s.

Fernald closed after dust collectors failed in the 1980s and leaks into the Miami Aquifer hit the press. A class action lawsuit helped shutter the plant and place it on the Superfund Cleanup List. A Public Information Center was established as an aspect of remediation activities—eureka! I’d write my family Fernald stories infused with true and accessible information.

Research

To write it, I needed to understand it, and I’m no scientist. I dashed daily to the Information Center, reading and trying to understand what Fernald workers did. What were their jobs? What might Uncle Bob have done once he clocked in for 2nd shift? What made his hair fall out?

I read The Atomizers, the Fernald company newsletter. I studied processes the Fernald scientists developed, and the chemistry and metallurgy that had men in various buildings turn out uranium ingots or rods. I sought the secrets and security, the rumors in the community, how everybody had a relative or friend who worked there, or lost their acreage, or got sick or died. Newspaper articles on microfiche announced the building of the “new plant” and how it was going to bring hundreds of jobs—which it did. The nuclear industry was in its infancy. They were playing with dice and hoping for the best in beating the Russians.

Interviews

Uncle Bobby was my eyewitness, my conduit to the past, to the plant, to the human aspect. At the time, I’d envisioned the book completed and published to celebrate Fernald’s 50th anniversary—2001. I really had no idea.

I questioned Uncle Bob: “What about losing your hair?”

“That was nothing.” Same closed-mouth attitude from interviewees and others beholden to their government, their employer, and their own promises.

“Loose lips sink ships”—caution right there in The Atomizer. I don’t believe the workers were afraid. I believe they were patriotic. I believe they believed the government wouldn’t ask them to enter a dangerous work situation. And as long as a man was working he was doing the right best thing–echoing Uncle Bob and dozens of Fernald employees in their interview transcripts.

Striving for Authenticity

What did Uncle Bob do at Fernald, what it was like, what were his buddies like, did they understand the danger, and did they care? I took notes; I had a binder of industry and government papers I’d copied. I studied these like I’d be tested. Above all, I wanted to write with authenticity, and I knew it would be so hard. Till then, I’d only written stories that emerged from inside me. This story would have to be, on many counts, outside of me. I would immerse myself in research until I was busting with the Fernaldia I ingested.

Writing, Revisitng, Revising

A year and half later, nowhere near finished mourning my mother, and now her brother, Uncle Bob, was dying. Feed Materials, as I called the book, was where I poured this loss, revisiting my loved ones, revising them, and being among them, seeing them so clearly in memory and then freshly relevant in the stories where I cast them. No wonder it took me 15 years to complete. Writing this book kept them alive, and I didn’t want to lose them twice.

Donna VitucciDonna D. Vitucci is a life-long writer, and was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize in 2010. Her second novel, SALT OF PATRIOTS, shines light on the nuclear industry’s early days at the Feed Materials Production Center (FMPC) by focusing on ground level workers in this rural Ohio uranium processing plant. Characters and events are inspired by her uncles, who worked at the FMPC, and imagined from hundreds of true interviews conducted as part of lawsuit remediation activities in the 1990’s. Donna lives, works, and shares the best of urban living with her partner in the Historic Licking Riverside District of Covington, Kentucky.

Deborah Lee Luskin has been a regular contributor to Live to Write – Write to Live since 2011. She blogs weekly about Living in Place, Lessons from the Long Trail, Middle Age, and Vermonters By Choice at www.deborahleeluskin.com. Hope to see you there!

You Need a Deadline – New Reedsy Contest Directory

The first quarter of 2017 is behind us. How’s your writing going? In January, we checked in with you about your writing goals, but that seems like it’s SO long ago now. (How did we get to April so quickly?!?)

Have you, like me, you’ve been moving the goal line on your writing projects? You know – pushing things out a little bit at a time because, life? I completely understand. Things come up. Each of us has obligations and unplanned crises, and many of us are also suffering from resistance fatigue. Hitting your writing targets can start to feel like an impossible dream.

Well … sometimes, what you need is a deadline.

I write a LOT, but most of what I get done is writing that is tied to a client or other deadline. “My” writing projects (stories, novel ideas, flash fiction, etc.) tend to slip down the slippery slope of falling priorities. I want to work on them, but other things are always butting in ahead of them – cutting the line, so to speak.

Solution: Give myself a deadline for one of My Writing Projects

There are always a variety of writing contests going on. Why not pick one and go for it? Even if you don’t win, you will have completed something, and that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.

Ricardo Fayet, founder at Reedsy, reached out to me to share his company’s new resource: Writing Contests 2017, Curated with love by Reedsy. In a follow-up email conversation, he shared the inspiration for this new, searchable database:

We speak to a lot of upcoming authors, and one thing we discovered is that writing contests are a pretty contentious topic of discussion. While most writers love the idea of being published, read, and rewarded for their work, some authors had been burned in the past. The truth is that, while there are hundreds of contests each years, very few of them are worth the time; some of them are even outright scams, designed to squeeze money out of their entrants.

With that in mind, we wanted to give authors a way find their ideal contests. Updated weekly, this page lets you search for competitions by genre, entry fee, deadline and prize amount. And because we’ve vetted each and every one, there’s no need to worry about being ripped off.

So, how about it? Think you might try to find a deadline that will help you prioritize your writing? If you decide to go for it, let us know in the comments so we can cheer you on. Also, if you know of any reputable contests not in the Reedsy list, please feel free to share those as well!

Good luck!

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writers’ Freedoms and Freedom.to for Writers

Today, I’d like to share a couple of things that are, in a way, at opposite ends of the “engagement” spectrum:

On the #writersresist front, PEN America’s Daily Alert on Rights and Expression (aka: DARE):

pen-americaPen America is the largest of more than 100 centers of PEN International, a group that has been supporting the freedom of writers for more than 90 years. On their website, they state their mission as, “PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.”

While most of their freedom-fighting work has been needed abroad, recent shifts in the U.S. government – perhaps, in particular, the new administration’s contentious relationship with the media – have shone the spotlight on instances of concern here in America. In response to this, PEN America has refocused its newsletter and begun publishing a daily (yes, daily) update on rights and expression at home and globally.  You can find all the editions of this on the PEN America blog. You can also subscribe to the PEN America newsletters and then manage your preferences to focus on just the DARE one if you like.

On the #savemysanity front, the Freedom app that allows you to cut off your access to specific websites:

app-freedomI missed the window to share my two cents in last week’s Friday Fun post. We were asked to provide tips for writing during times of turmoil.  As I mentioned in my recent weekend edition post, I’m definitely feeling some tension between my writing and my life.  As someone who hasn’t been previously engaged in politics or legislative activism, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by everything I have to learn and all the news I feel I need to consume. I’m working on finding a saner, healthier balance, but – in the meantime – I’ve also armed myself with a handy little tool for shutting myself out of, say, Facebook for an hour or so at a time.

The Freedom app offers a multi-session trial so you can try it out. A couple of tips:

  • If you’re running a social media app on your smartphone, Freedom will not be able to block access to the app. (It works only on web browser protocols and cannot override app permissions.) If you find yourself reaching for your phone too often, may I suggest putting it in another room, or maybe locking it in your car.
  • I also found that on my MacBook Pro, if I have an instance of Facebook open in a browser tab, I can still interact with it a little once my Freedom session starts. Solution: I click to refresh the Facebook tab, and then I get a little message telling me that the website is unavailable. (At which point, I breathe a deep sigh of relief.)

I hope you find both of these resources helpful. While it’s important to keep our eyes open and stay aware of what’s happening in the broader writing community (including novelists, journalists, poets, nonfiction writers, etc.), it’s also important to carve out time for our own work free from distractions and all the “noise” that’s jamming the Internet.

Good luck in your battles on both fronts, and – no matter what happens – keep writing!

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Calm in the Chaos

I'm dreaming of a quiet day-after-Christmas ...

I’m dreaming of a quiet day-after-Christmas …

At this time of the year, I always feel as if the days are passing in a kaleidoscope-like frenzy that leaves me wondering which way is  up. No matter how prepared I intend to be, I am always running late. On everything. Shopping, writing deadlines, cleaning, visiting, card writing … you name it, and I’m behind on it.

I do my best to manufacture small havens of quiet amidst the chaos, but lately those moments of respite have been few and far between. It’s  okay. Over the years, I have grown used to this routine and I know that the wildness of these days will eventually spend itself and I will be left to happily curl up on the sofa with a soft blanket, a mug of tea, a satisfyingly thick book, and my journal.

That day can’t come fast enough. 😉

How goes your journey through the last few weeks of the year? Are your celebrations shaping up to your liking? Are you feeling ready for the holidays? What kind of goodbye will you wish 2016? What are your favorite guilty pleasures at this time of year?

_jamie sig


As promised, I will continue to highlight one or two “deep” posts in these Sunday missives – posts by writers who are exploring and addressing the role of art and specifically writing in the world today.

In the New York Times article, Now Is the Time to Talk About What We’re Really Talking Aboutnovelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes, among other things, about the importance of accuracy in the words we choose and the stories we tell:

Yet, a day after the election, I heard a journalist on the radio speak of the vitriolbetween Obama and Trump. No, the vitriol was Trump’s. Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not “balanced” journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one.

Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory. Each mention of “gridlock” under Obama must be wrought in truth: that “gridlock” was a deliberate and systematic refusal of the Republican Congress to work with him. Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it. Now is the time to forge new words. “Alt-right” is benign. “White-supremacist right” is more accurate.


And from Lisa Cron, author of many excellent books on the writing craft, comes the post, The Power of Story, Now More Than Ever via Writer Unboxed. In this piece, Cron

Stories aren’t merely for entertainment – no matter what the writer intends. Stories are entertaining so we’ll pay attention to them – it’s biological. Stories press the pause button, allowing us to slip out of our own lives the better to experience the protagonist’s inner struggle. Stories thus tacitly change our perception of what’s right and wrong. What is sacred and what is profane. What is fair and what is not.

Stories are simulations that put facts (real and imagined) into a human context that gives them meaning and makes them actionable.

And so your novel will change how your readers see the world. It will also – in ways large and small — change what they do in the world.


Last but not least, in his post Putting Your Purpose on the Page (also for Writer Unboxed), Don Maass writes about the power of fiction to change the world and offers inspiration and tactical tips for writers who want to do just that:

If your intention in writing is to “illuminate” or “explore”, or simply to entertain, why are you aiming so low?  Make a statement.  Declare yourself.  Teach us what we don’t know.  Show us how to accomplish that which we are afraid to do.  Don’t just challenge our thinking, change it.  Don’t just create conflict, shine a light on injustice, stir our timid hearts, make us want to leap up and act, show us the better world in which we could live.  Don’t just warn us, inspire us to change.

The novels that will change the remainder of the 21st Century have yet to be written.  You have a keyboard.  You have the craft.  You have the eyes, mind and heart of a great storyteller.  What are you waiting for?  As I commented the other day, we are all writers.  The worst thing we could do, especially now, is to keep quiet.

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

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Sundry Links and Articles:

The Oatmeal is mostly known for it’s snarky style, but “Plane” is both poignant and inspiring. It’s a story I didn’t know about one of the most prolific and successful storytellers of our time, and a story that reminds us that even though we may feel helpless, we should still try to help people.

oatmeal-roddenberry

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-share-experiences

Here’s to pockets of calm in whatever storm you’re navigating, holiday cheer that lights up your days and nights, and the courage and passion to tell your stories.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Working Together Plus Links and Tips

pin-one-personOne of the things I like best about being a writer is sharing the company of other writers. Whether it’s hanging out here or elsewhere online with fellow writers like you, sharing real-world coffee with a local scribe, or enjoying the camaraderie of storytellers at conferences or via an event like NaNoWriMo, I love being part of the worldwide community of writers. As I’ve written before, it’s almost like we’re members of a secret society, which is kind of a cool thing.

And I’ve always found writers to be a very inclusive crowd. I mean, I know there are certain individuals who lose their way when they let their egos get the better of them, but for the most part my experience with writers has always been pleasant, instructional, and inspiring. Though I cannot count them among my personal friends, I still consider even the most renowned of writers to be part of my writer’s circle.

After all, are we not all chasing after the same thing? Does it really matter if we are working side-by-side or in worlds that are centuries apart? Does it really make a difference if some of us are still struggling to complete our first manuscripts while others have a reserved seat at the top of the New York Times Book Review? As diverse a group as we are, we share the universal writer’s compulsion to ask questions, to get people thinking, to entertain and delight, to create something out of nothing, to find meaning.

As this incredibly crazy year draws to a close, I am more grateful than ever for all the writers – renowned and obscure – who are raising their voices in a refrain of awakening, courage, hope, and optimism. I thank each and every writer who has shared  story of pain in order to teach and to increase empathy. And I am especially thankful for those most talented of writers, in my humble opinion, who are able to illuminate truth through humor and find ways to engage people’s hearts and minds while making them laugh. Though I will likely never meet most of these fellow writers, I thank them from the bottom of my heart for every word that they write, every story they share, and every moment that they are part of the writing community that supports all of our efforts.

_jamie sig

 

 


Big Idea Posts of the Week:

In the aftermath of the election, many writers are reevaluating or reconfirming the role of their craft in the world.

Porter Anderson opens his piece on Writer Unboxed, Escapism is for Readers; Writers Stay, as follows:

Nobody blames you if recently you’ve felt like getting the hell out of Dodge.

To be really clear about this, I’m not going to tell you whether you should love or hate the results of the US general election. That’s for you to decide.

But everyone is feeling the pressure.

What follows is gentle but firm guidance for writers who may be, in this moment, inclined to “escape into their writing” (aka sticking their heads in the sand). Porter isn’t at all recommending that writers take up a propagandist style, but he is strongly suggesting that writers have an opportunity (one might even say a responsibility) to keep our eyes open, learn, and stay engaged.

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In her recent post, Our Job as WritersKate Johnston, a writer and writing coach, admits that she’s pretty cynical when it comes to politics, but that she was deeply affected by the outcome of the recent election. Though she began her writing journey with the fairly simple goal of writing the kind of stories she liked to read, that has begun to shift for her.

Over the past few years, that goal has reshaped, partly organically, partly through my own vision and awareness and growth. I came to see a writer’s job as something more than creating nether worlds. That calling that used to be all about words that entertain, had morphed into something a bit deeper, a bit daunting. Something that asked more of me.

And then, last week happened. The calling is no longer a calling. A mission, perhaps. A deal with the devil, even, or maybe just a really bad-ass angel. A chance to speak up. A dare to put myself to the test.

Johnston’s post is kind of a call to arms for writers. She closes her post with these words, “As writers, holding back, staying down—not an option. As writers, writing nothing—not an option. As writers, it is our job to help keep this world flourishing. As writers, we must write. And write like we mean it.”

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And then there is the revered and inimitable Ursula K. Le Guin. In her post, 119. The Election, Lao Tzu, a Cup of Water,  she shares her thoughts on the dangers of using the metaphor of war and how a different approach –the way of water – is needed in these changing times.

I know what I want. I want to live with courage, with compassion, in patience, in peace.

The way of the warrior fully admits only the first of these, and wholly denies the last.

The way of the water admits them all.

The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.

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“Ever since the election, people have been telling me to shut up and go back to Fairyland. Be silent. Be good. Accept. Submit. Stop talking about politics. Stick to fairy tales. (As if fairy tales have ever not been about politics.) Go back to Fairyland,” says author Catherynne M. Valente in her post, Go Back to Fairyland. Like many other artists – writers, actors, musicians – she has been criticized for speaking her mind on politics. But, the disapproval of certain people only served as inspiration for her as she turned her pen to the creation of a short story featuring characters from her popular Fairyland series. In The Beasts Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End and Further Still, she tells a not-so-subtle tale about battles and happy endings and defiance.

“Perhaps this is not the end of the story, then,” the Green Wind said kindly, though he wasn’t sure he believed it. It was important to say it to the brokenhearted, to the young, to everyone, even if he didn’t believe his own words. Especially if he didn’t believe it. If no one said it, it couldn’t even start being true.

“It feels like the end,” said A-Through-L with a strangled cry.

“It always does, when you lose.” The Green Wind took off his green helmet and laid it on the grass between two arrows. “But haven’t we had tyrants and fools and hobgoblins on the throne before? Haven’t we had rather a lot of hobgoblins? Aren’t hobgoblins rather more the rule than the exception?”

“Yes…”

“And haven’t we always patched up their mischief and gotten back to more or less living how we want to live and loving who we want love and making what we want to make and being who we want to be?”

“Yes…”

“Perhaps Fairyland is stronger than her goblins, my ravishing reptile. Perhaps, if you take a long enough view, we are all stronger than our goblins.”

 


Books I’m Reading:

In addition to reading blog posts and news articles, I’ve also just finished listening to two audio books:

book-born-a-crimeThe first was Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime. For those of you who don’t know him, Noah is a comedian who recently took over at Comedy Central’s The Daily Show after long-time host Jon Stewart retired from the position. I didn’t know much about Noah and, though I was a loyal Stewart fan, hadn’t even paid him much attention on The Daily Show. Reading this book gave me a whole new perspective.

The book’s subtitle is “Stories from a South African Childhood.” Noah grew up in South Africa as apartheid was coming to an end. The collection of stories he shares from his childhood are intimate, and yet manage to capture a great deal of the larger and more complex picture of a very tumultuous time. From the Audible book description:

In his first book, Noah tells his coming-of-age story with his larger-than-life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal – the son of a white Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father’s servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life – a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times, and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom.

I very much recommend this book.

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book-bob-honeyI honestly don’t even know where to begin with this second book. Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff is purportedly written by someone named Pappy Pariah and narrated by actor and activist, Sean Penn.

I suppose I’ll offer up the official description as featured on the Audible site:

By turns tender and terrifying, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff captures America on the verge of political upheaval in 2016 and introduces us to a man who just might be able to save us from the oncoming horror. Yes, Bob Honey – carnival carny, sewage specialist, and government operative, among other occupations – has spent years in preparation, crisscrossing the world in the employ of a mysterious government program that pays in small bills. He stopped in New Orleans to help Katrina victims; traveled to Baghdad, Beirut, South Sudan, and elsewhere on sewage emergencies; and submerged himself in the Pacific Ocean in search of sea life – all while living out of a quiet house on a residential street in Woodview, California, where he sometimes disturbs the neighbors with the sound of his lawn mower.

Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff marks the debut of a dazzling literary talent. With comic bravado and an urgent agenda, Pappy Pariah has created a haunting, hilarious vision of an American middle-aged man with a mission – a loner struggling to find truth amid the chaos of a political campaign that threatens to destroy the values of the country he loves.

This book is free on Audible and has been, I believe, since it was released last year. It’s a short book (only two-and-a-half hours). It’s kind of trippy. It’s poetic. It’s certainly political. There are moments of beauty, and plenty of horror. I also found it interesting that the reviews were completely polarized – people either loved it or hated it. Say what you will about any artwork, it’s generally true that when something manages to stir up such strong emotions on either or both ends of a spectrum, it’s something worth checking out.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE


Sundry Links and Articles:

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-afraid-to-write

Quote by poet Nayyirah Waheed

Here’s to being a member of the global writer’s circle, filling your creative bank account, and writing even when you’re afraid … especially when you’re afraid. xo
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – What You Need Right Now

Writing Missives in the Moment

Writing Missives in the Moment

Though the Type-A part of my brain would very much like to be the kind of blogger who always has several posts “in the can,” so to speak, I’ve never managed to pull it off. Despite my good intentions, I’m always writing more or less in real time – putting my thoughts down and hitting “Publish” in a single sitting.

It’s not something I’m exactly proud of. In my perfect world, I’d be able to take more time and even (gasp!) do a second or third draft. As it is, my best case scenario is a week in which I was able to spend twenty minutes (usually while sitting ringside at my daughter’s riding lesson) to jot down rough notes or even a loose outline for my weekend edition in advance of sitting down to write.

For the past few weeks, that best case scenario hasn’t been an option. In addition, I’ve even fallen off the wagon when it comes to keeping up with my favorite writing-related blogs. For years, my typical evening routine has included a half hour or so of reading blog posts on my iPhone while I wait for my daughter to fall asleep. But, lately I’ve been distracted from my standard reading fare by the news. For this reason, I haven’t been able to share my list of favorite writing posts in these Sunday missives. I apologize for that. I feel like I’m shirking a responsibility or breaking an unspoken promise.

This morning, I thought about scrambling through as many of the 656 unread posts in my reader as I could in order to serve up a selection of picks per my usual post format. But then I thought, “Why?” Why try to force something that isn’t coming naturally? I’ll get back to my regular format in time, but for now I need something different. And, you might need something different, too.

These posts were never meant to be a slick and polished presentation of formulaic content. I think part of the reason I’ve never managed to get myself to write them ahead of time is because, deep down, I believe that doing so might change the “feel” of them for you as you read them, and – just as importantly – for me as I write them. If I come to my keyboard and don’t know what to say, I’ll share that. And if I come to my keyboard unprepared to share my usual collection of posts filled with writing and publishing advice, that’s okay, too.

Back before blogging evolved into “content marketing,” it was just a bunch of people journaling for an audience. We weren’t trying to sell anything or build a platform or create a brand for ourselves. There was no strategy or editorial calendar. We were just writing. We were just sharing whatever was on our mind that day. It’s all much more sophisticated now, and there’s nothing wrong with that; but the freeform part of my brain revels in telling the Type-A part to relax a little and just enjoy the ride. I hope you will stick around and enjoy the ride, too, even when it takes an unexpected detour.

_jamie sig

 

 


A Few Blog Posts:

Continuing on the theme of blog posts about the importance of writing in challenging times, I have these posts to share. They provided me with comfort and inspiration, and I hope they do the same for you.

6 Writers on Why We Need Art Now by Constance Grade (@constancegrady) via Vox.

Grady puts my feelings into words more eloquently than I have:

It’s Saturday, and usually that means I round up all of the week’s best writing about books and related topics for you. But this is an odd week for thinking about books: As much of the country reels in the wake of an extremely contentious presidential election, it can feel pointless at best, and actively destructive at worst, like fiddling while Rome burns.

So I’m going to use this space to collect some thoughts from writers about why art is important, and why it’s especially important now, when so much feels so uncertain and so dangerous to so many. We need art more than ever, and here’s why.

And then she shares inspiring quotes from Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Dan Plepenbring, Chinua Achebe, John Irving, and Roger Ebert (whose quote is about the power of movies to create empathy).

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No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear – In times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent. If you’d like more badass advice and encouragement from Toni Morrison, this piece published by The Nation provides hard perspective and specific instruction on what to do now.

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In the post. Now What?, Eric Utne collects the thoughts of several writers including Naomi Klein, Charles Eisenstein, and Rebecca Solnit among others. My favorite quote is this one from Michael Meade:

Solstice means “sun stands still.” At mid-winter it means the sun stopping amidst a darkening world. We stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop in a crucial moment of fear or beauty; then begins again, but in an altered way… There may be no better time than the dark times we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love, care and community.

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But, my favorite post of the week is Barbara Kingsolver’s piece on The Guardian, Trump changed everything. Now everything counts. Like Morrison, Kingsolver doesn’t sugarcoat the situation:

But politeness is no substitute for morality, and won’t save us in the end. We only get to decide who we are. As a writer and a person my bedrock is perennial hope for a better world than this one, and for that I’ve borne the radical brand, not by choice. As outlaws go I’m as boring as toast, a polite, southern female who’s never broken any law but the speed limit. Despite this gentility I’ve endured FBI investigations and personal threats, and once had to travel on book tour with a bodyguard. This was during Republican administrations that sounded infinitely friendlier to dissent than the one that’s now on deck. So you’ll forgive my weak faith in broad-shouldered American tolerance and the guaranteed free pass for good behavior.

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Books I’m Reading:

Renowned author Natalie Babbit passed away on October 31st of this year. Best known for her novel, Tuck Everlasting, Babbit wrote numerous other children’s books that will no doubt endure for generations to come.

In honor of Babbit’s life and work, I recently read two of her books.

book-tuck-everlastingTuck Everlasting was made into both a movie, starring Sissy Spacek and William Hurt, and a short-lived Broadway musical. I’ve never seen the movie, but I very much enjoyed the book.

While the story is simple on the surface, it’s easy to see why it has captured readers’ hearts for so many decades. The question of eternal life is a big one, and Babbit explores it gently in the story of Winnie Foster’s unexpected meeting with a family who have accidentally become immortal.

If you haven’t read this classic, it’s worth the hour or so you will spend wrapped in its story.

book-search-deliciousThe Search for Delicious is less well known, but I’ve had a copy sitting on my bookshelf for years. I think I may have picked it up at a library book sale, but I hadn’t ever read it. Still, the concept intrigued me enough that I’d kept the old paperback despite the book purges that accompanied the five times my daughter and I moved over the last eight years. From the publisher’s site:

Gaylen, the King’s messenger, a skinny boy of twelve, is off to poll the kingdom, traveling from town to farmstead to town on his horse, Marrow. At first it is merely a question of disagreement at the royal castle over which food should stand for Delicious in the new dictionary. But soon it seems that the search for Delicious had better succeed if civil war is to be avoided.

Gaylen’s quest leads him to the woldweller, a wise, 900-year-old creature who lives alone at the precise center of the forest; to Canto, the minstrel who sings him an old song about a mermaid child and who gives him a peculiar good-luck charm; to the underground domain of the dwarfs; and finally to Ardis who might save the kingdom from havoc.

Interestingly, I found some of the thematic messages in the story to be very appropriate for our current times. Again, a quick story that is worth reading … even if you’re a grown up.

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Sundry Links and Articles:

There is a new, experimental video game that is designed to get people writing. Elegy for a Dead World invites “players” to explore three, long-dead worlds and record their observations. Each world is based on the work of a poet from the British Romantic Era: Shelley, Byron, and Keats. How about that?

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-3am

Here’s to writing in the moment, finding your courage, and knowing that – even at 3AM – you’re never alone. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: Itani stock photos Flickr via Compfight cc

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Why Art Matters More Than Ever

 

pin-tell-stories-ecoI haven’t got my usual list of favorite blog posts and recently read books for you today. It’s been a long week and, like many people, I’ve been distracted from my usual routines by current events. I’m behind on client deadlines and pretty much irreversibly behind on my NaNoWriMo novel (a reality I’ll address in a future post).

As a writer, it’s never a good feeling when we become – for whatever reason –temporarily disconnected from our work; but I also know that writers are “writing” even when they are unable to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Everything we experience is part of our process. Everything.

So, while I don’t have a long list of links to share today, I did want to share links to a few pieces that helped me center and ground myself in the midst of all the chaos, uncertainty, and fear:

From Creating Art Matters More Than Ever by @KendraLevin:

I’ve heard many people talking about how trivial everything seems in comparison with national events and their global reverberations. Many writers were a week into National Novel Writing Month at the time of the election. To resume as if nothing has changed seems impossible; to focus on our own work when such massive changes are going on all around us can feel solipsistic and naïve, or the work can seem trivial.

But it’s not.

From On Going High by @danijshapiro:

To be a writer, and to be a teacher of writing, is to constantly, steadfastly open oneself up to what is.  To not shy away.  To feel fear and embrace that fear — otherwise known as courage — and to find a voice for what feels impossible to say.

From 5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World by @KMWeiland:

[podcast w/transcript]

Stories are, fundamentally, truths. Even when the author didn’t intend it to be so, even when he is unaware of it—even when the readers or viewers are unaware–a story is always a statement. If it is to ring true, then what it says must reflect reality—it must reflect what is true.

And what is true is always good—whether it is beautiful, whether it is dark, whether it is healing, whether it is painful. Truth is always a beacon, a guiding light pointing us back to the best things in life.

In a follow-up post, Weiland shares the personal stories of her readers/listeners as they wrote about why writing is important to them: 15 (More) Reasons Writing is Important – In Your Own Words.

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I hope that these posts might provide some comfort and inspiration to anyone who is struggling to reconnect with his or her writing. And I hope that maybe they will get us all thinking about the importance of connecting through story – of sharing and listening and learning.

 

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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