A life dedicated to the art of writing is not for the feint-hearted or thin-skinned.
Granted, I know relatively little about this because “all” I’m writing right now is a blog (although if you knew how much time and energy I put into this you might be shocked.)
But I have read the work of many really good and well known writers, several I have met in person, heard speak, a couple I have befriended through social media, etc.
I can recommend two books if you want to write for a living. The first is WRITING DOWN THE BONES, Natalie Goldberg, which was recommended to me by a college friend back in the 1980’s. It is referenced in my second recommended book, BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott, recommended by a dear friend just last year.
I see Lamott quoted all the time now. In O Magazine, as a reviewer on other people’s books, etc. After years of sticking to her writing, Lamott is finally making a good living at it. I say it’s about time. She’s one of my favorite writers and has never wavered in her dedication to the craft of the written word. (I have a tremendous amount of respect for the woman, in case you haven’t noticed.)
Now for all about me. Before I was “just” writing this blog, I completed one book to be published print-on-demand through iUniverse. I received their “Editor’s Choice” award, which I was told at the time about 10 percent of their published manuscripts receive. So, that doesn’t suck too bad. I had a book signing at Border’s in Salem. The book was published in 2005 and I got a royalty check from iUniverse last year for $2.19. I asked my CPA if that would put me into a higher tax bracket. J
Writing first the proposal, and then the book, took a year and a half of my life.
SIX DEGREES TO YOUR DREAMS is 61 pages, paperback.
To any rational person, this must sound like madness, right? But writers need to be irrational. If you have it in your heart to express yourself through the written word, your soul will never be satisfied if you don’t. In fourth grade I was writing plays based on I DREAM OF JEANNIE to be acted on the playground at recess. In fifth grade Grandma Handke gave me my first diary. I have been writing ever since.
When I was working on the second draft of SIX DEGREES, I relied on the editing expertise of two writer friends I particularly trusted. One was Rocky Bellew. I knew that she was a very good writer based on what I had seen online and in her letters.
But when I first read an actual chapter she sent me (in the snail mail – a real paper copy) called On Saw Tooth Road, I felt that I had been transported into a different plane. I said to myself, “This woman is the next JK Rowling.” Yes, I am a Harry Potter fan. Rocky’s work might be less Potter and more Lord of the Rings, but it’s neither. THE SHADOW MASTERS is something quite different. An entirely new realm has been created, and I can’t wait to see the next chapter.
I asked Rocky a whole bunch of questions about how the series had been created, how it came to her, and in the long run I understand it’s simply part of the mystery that creates anything truly worthwhile…you feel it in your heart and soul, and it won’t let you go until you have expressed it.
With my multiple questions about Rocky’s writing process, I’ve narrowed the answers down to this:
I rarely had quiet time or time to myself, so I ended up relishing my nights alone. One night I sat down at the computer to write, but I didn't want to work on the story I'd been stopping or starting for a couple of years, so I started something else. It simply began with a father and his son feeding the sheep in a temporary makeshift pen. The boy didn't want to do the work, but his father made him with the promise he could spend time with his friend when the work was done. But, before the work was done the calm of the camp was upset by the entrance of fifty riders from the Inner Realms.
Along the way I've created several sketches of characters and completed a ton of research into cultures and eras throughout history. I want everything to ring true and reasonable. I want it to be believable. I have had to create several different societies and cultures with histories and belief systems. I've had to decide what they'd look like, what their political systems were and so on and so forth. I've had to learn about doing things in a primitive fashion and learn about all kinds of things I would have never learned otherwise. Of course, my experience with the Native American culture has played a huge role in a lot of the story.
I must say, the process has been one of discovery, one discovery right after another. If you would have told me twenty years ago I had this story within me I would have denied it. In truth, the story is so huge and so complex I sometimes become fearful that I may not have the intelligence to write it. I'm afraid that someone will read it some day and discover I'm a fraud.
The process is fun, exhilarating, exhausting, daunting, frustrating... The purpose of the original story is I wanted people to realize they are stronger than they could ever imagine, and they have the wherewithal to face any challenge, no matter how dire, no matter how heart wrenching, no matter how hopeless the future may seem. This remains the primary purpose of the story plus so much more.
The only other thing I would add is that I think every story written is in some small way the author's story. Though there may be real shockers in there, those shockers, prose and ideas that give people pause and make them say, "That person must be crazy," are only tools to create a strong reaction in the reader. A good writer will know when to use them and will use them sparingly. The use of those tools does not make the person crazy.
My readers, I’m thrilled to introduce you to one of my favorite writers you may not have heard of until now.
Rocky’s book is now a serial on JukePop. Should you feel drawn to do so, go read it and vote like I did. J