Saturday, February 21, 2009

The writer in all of us

Bear with me on this one, it's a biggie.
We've been talking about how to give you guys, our faithful readers, *more* from our shared blog, and there's been a lot of back and forth about what MNaBC actually is. And the question boiled down to, at one point, ‘are we all really looking for contracts? ‘
My answer to that was no...well...yes. No. I should be. I’m not, but I am. Errr...
And it occurred to me that this, of all the things I’ve been thinking about lately, might actually be something important to share.
What does a contract – or contracts mean to me? (and the ‘me that is a writer’ in all of us)

The writer in me
A contract, for me, would be validation that I’ve not wasted my *life to date* that didn’t involve raising the kids, being a good friend, supporting other writers, learning my way as a bipolar and all of the other personality quirks I have and the myriad of adventures I’ve undergone because of the subtle blend of that list, which isn’t exhaustive.
It would be a reason to actually continue to finish, because I don’t do well with finishing and letting go. I can handle crits, but that’s because I get to go back and polish some more. I can handle writing, because I can always circumlocute the end of the story, or bury it somewhere so that I’m into the next book without noticing.
I’d be able to stop faking my joy at being unpublished, and I might – finally –get over my fear of success. I’m actually scared of being a success. I’m scared of the attention that writing might bring down on my family. I’m scared that people will think I’m just like my characters, and wonder how in the world I come up with such dark stuff without any real world experience. I’m scared I’ll discover that I don’t fit where I thought and be cast adrift again.
A contract, for me, doesn’t equal money or freedom, though I don’t doubt that they would bring some of that. And it’s true – had I chosen to deal with my fears before now, we might not be quite in *this* situation right now. We’d have been in another one, probably just as hard to work through. And I’d never be free – none of my books are singles ;).

The writer in all of us

Contracts, from what I can tell, are validation and a ‘get out of jail’ pass for those of us with people that don’t understand what it is to be a writer. It makes our work as real to others as it is to us, but at the same time, it makes the next one just as hard to get. There’s no such thing as an ‘established’ author until you have a huge following. Sure, you can show your publisher and agent that you can ‘do deadlines’, but no publisher will gamble on you – again – unless your sales have been something to write home about.
Contracts aren’t a badge that we’ve made it – instead, they’re a responsibility to do it right, and not let others in our band – fraternity – down. Because heaven forbid any of us give credence to people like James Frey – contracts ARE NOT tickets to fame.
Contracts aren’t what we are – though we go from writer, to author after publishing. Contracts might afford us that, but they aren’t what bring us there.
Our writing is.
Our writing is what should sustain us – should be what brings us our heart’s desire, and should be the all consuming passion that we thrive on. And even in our darkest times, contracts shouldn’t be our guiding light – writing should be.
So this mama says – ‘contracts are nice, but give me my writing, any day!’

(xposted to Work, back

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wasn't I a Writer?

I've been working on my taxes this week, and I can't believe the changes this last year. The biggest change was on that line that identifies my job. For as long as I can remember, the answer has always been "journalist." Until 2008, and my new job description is "teacher." Out of all the money I made in 2008, only $500, earned during the first two weeks of the year, was from writing.

I can't complain. It turns out that my jump from journalism to teaching came at the perfect time. My friends still working at the local newspapers report that their hours have been cut back to 35 hours (or less) a week. When I worked as a full-time reporter, I routinely worked well over 40 hours a week. A cut to even 35 hours, would have meant a loss of a good chunk of my income.

Another thing doing my taxes made me realize -- I haven't had any of my writing professionally published for over a year. This is unheard of. I began writing professionally when I was still in high school. When I was still an undergraduate, I landed a job at a local newspaper. For most of the last 20 years, I have had a byline on an average of 7 articles a week plus I did freelancing and other writing work. In 2008, except for those first two weeks, I didn't write a single thing for publication other than blogging here (which was few and far between) and on my own site.

Could I still claim to be a writer if all I'd written were comments about other peoples' writing?

And then today, I went to my post office, and I found a check. It was from BlogHer, and it was my first advertising revenue from my blog. It wasn't a direct payment for my writing, but it suddenly renewed my pledge for 2009. I am going to write again.

This semester ends May 2, and I will have a bit of last minute things to finish up, but I also have plans. I have that research paper about plagiarism that I want to submit for consideration in an academic journal. And I have my memoir, with approximately 30,000 polished words, waiting for another 40,000 or so.

I am a writer, and I have been sidetracked the last few years with teaching, and I know I no longer want to be a journalist, but I am a writer, and I need to remember writers write, but I am a writer who writes for an audience, and I can't let my audience down.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Doing Your Research

How do you research an article or a book? Do you research before or after you write the proposal? Do you know your 'stuff' inside and out?

With my second book, the one on Green Horsekeeping, I admit, I did not know the topic inside and out. I knew quite a bit, but during my research, I learned A LOT.

The first part of the book talks about the history of horses on the planet. This can be a tough subject to navigate when you're a creationist, believe you me. But being a "creationist" does not necessarily mean I don't believe in natural selection and some forms of evolution. I don't believe that there's one camp or the other and that you have to plant your flag in your chosen belief camp forever.

So I did some research. I'm curious, for those who believe in evolution, have you ever ACTUALLY READ Darwin's Origin of the Species? I mean cover to cover. You can download it here. It's a fascinating read and even starts off quite good. He references God in the early quotations and says, paraphrasing, that man should be as knowledgable about God's book as he is about God's works. I like that.

He also goes on to say in the very introduction that Origin of the Species is not a finished work. It's his abstract - his initial insights - and that the fullness of his work will take many years. In the introduction he states clearly that there are errors, that it's imperfect and that he has basicially no references to back up some of his statements. He doesn't go anywhere near human evolution except to say that we'll know more later as we learn... He was not an athiest, but more of an agnostic. He questioned God, as I believe we all do at many times in our lives. He saw God as a bit more of a programmer of laws than a creator.

Now Darwin's research has been discussed at great length for many years, it has evolved (har har) and people use the term Darwinism without really knowing who Darwin was and what his beliefs were. That's sad, because I think he was really on to something beautiful and complex and I think that if HE could have finished his work fully without the illnesses and hear problems, Darwinism would have meant something different from what it does today.

At the very least, it's helped me win a few arguments with my athiest friends and family members. :)

Now where was I... oh yes, doing your research. I think that now that we have Wikipedia and Google, we forget about the vastness of what came before. We forget to actually READ Origin of Species before we start referencing it. We think we know what it's about because we read the Coles Notes version in high school. Or skimmed it. We know that the people with the fish on the back of their cars are Christians and the people with the walking fish on the back of their cars, are not.

But I challenge you to go beyond. To not research by way of the wikis and the search engines. Actually read the books. Wade through their thick pages with their complex sentances and read what the writers before you actually said.

You can start with Origin of Species if you like. It really is fascinating!

(Crossposted at the Writing Mother)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

WOW, Twitter and writing

Talk about title stuffing huh, but that's the kind of attention span I have at the moment.
World of Warcraft is eeeebil. With four capital E's. For a start, I'm finding it very difficult not to stand up and scream 'Pwned' at the top of my lungs in creative writing board meetings, and for seconds, I'm trying to find a way to incorporate writing and WOWing. And it' isn't happening.
The thing about World of Warcraft is it's repititon on an ever increasing difficulty slider, but it's more like this buzz tooth scale, cause for a little while, at your new level, you're a 'harder' target for most mobs (non player characters, controlled by the program, that you have to kill). It's a bit like writing really - in some ways at least. You write up the scale, 'level' and then things are easier for a bit, till you tackle the next 'boss'.
Screaming PWNED at your manuscript won't win you points though.

Twitter is one of those things I'm now discovering is an intregal part of my 'day'. Since I got myself a very shiny G1, it's easier to do social networking basics, like tweet, so my feed has become just as innane, but updated no matter where I am, so it's slightly more random. No Pwning (ok, I'll stop it now), but plenty of silliness abounds. The great thing about the updater I use is it does my facebook and myspace feed - the downside is 'is ' is three outta 140 characters, so I miss it off most of the time, so my Facebook looks kinda wierd.
I'm looking for more people to add to my feed though, so if you're there, feel free to @kaiberie me and I can add you (and you can add me, if you like ;))

Writing on the other hand, unless you include my tweets and WOWage has gone....interestingly. I'm still halfway through my degree, and it's kinda hard to keep focus, to be honest. I'm constantly tired, and headachey, and have been coping with the snow on top of that, but lately, I'm finding that my non creative writing stuff (psychology and crime) is making me write more fiction. Poetry is intermittently sucky, depending on whether I'm focussed enough or not (usually not) and blogging is a complete non starter at the moment.

And that's my round up. Now, I'm curious, as ever. If you had to choose three words to sum up your week, what would they be, why and what slant can you put on them?