Tag: writing

The Cemetery of Lost Words

My favorite line in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan describes Captain Hook: “The man is not wholly evil—he has a thesaurus in his cabin.” I love that. Words are important. They convey meaning and create an intellectual and emotional response. Since we know words can hurt or heal, we should be certain ours are understood.

Some words are imprecise, flabby, and liable to misinterpretation. Other words nail the intended thought with such clarity and precision that the mind of the hearer or reader is enlightened and enlarged. I admire people—even Captain Hooks—who know interesting and beautiful words and use them with skill and artistry. That’s the job of the writer, after all.

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Your most harrowing trip?

In honor of the fact that fellow Miss Demeanor Alexia spent a full 36 hours last week on airplanes and in airports traveling from American Samoa to Albuquerque, NM (factoring in a couple of 8+ hour layovers), the rest of us decided to chime in with some of our most harrowing travel stories. Here follows some nail-biters:

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New York Pitch Conference

Today was the first day of the NY Pitch Conference. I’ve been a workshop leader there for ten years, and it has a very special place in my heart because that’s where I sold my first novel, The Fiction Class.

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Public Speaking Pro Tips

In less than a month, I will be speaking at a country club about the stories behind my stories. The engagement is a benefit to support services for seriously ill women at Englewood Hospital. I’m the entertainment. In exchange for speaking for an hour, the hospital is giving everyone a copy of The Widower’s Wife.

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How to Deal with Change

So, after spending a week thrashing around with the new Miss Demeanor site, I think I’ve conquered it, although I notice one of my posts has a red dot that means, “Needs Improvement.” Even the computer is a critic. So I survived, but as I embarked on this week-long journey, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors how they dealt with change. This is what they said:

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Lessons Learned.

 Tracee: What have you learned, or changed as you advance from first to second, or sixth novel? I feel like number one and two were seat of my pants (regardless of actual plotting) in relation to the larger world of writing and publishing. Now I think I am – for better or worse – more Aware of what I am doing or should be doing. Not that I’m necessarily doing it.  As I write, I feel there is more at stake. Honestly the biggest difference for me is a sense of wanting it to be better. Which can get in my head and wreak havoc.  What’s changed for the rest of you?  Susan: I love reading books on Kindle because I love seeing what people highlight. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that while people will highlight some beautiful sentences, and some funny lines, they are mainly marking up sentences that offer some form of wisdom. People are looking to authors to help them interpret the world. If you read a book like Beartown by Fredrik Backman, for example, just about every third line is highlighted. So I’ve become more conscious of that as I work on my new Maggie Dove. Not that I want her to pontificate, but that I want this novel to offer some form of comfort. Tracee: Susan, I love this take on the highlights. I confess that I’ve not paid much attention to the highlights on Kindle and now I will. Alexia: I’ve learned more about the part of being an “author” (as opposed to a writer) that no one ever tells you–it’s work. A job. I know nothing about business–marketing is as alien to me as taking out someone’s appendix is to a publicist. Heck, I’m not even sure what a publicist is. We don’t worry about SEOs and sales figures and foreign rights and ad campaigns in medicine. I’m having to educate myself on the fly about an area I never gave a thought to before book one. I hope I’m more aware of what I need to do to sell books, as opposed to just write them, now that I’ve finished book four and am working on book five. I at least realize I have so much more to learn. Robin: Wow, I’ve learned so much. One thing that stands out is the memory of being afraid that I’d run out of ideas – for characters, scenes, storylines, whatever. I was one of those newbies who said to myself, “I should save this bit for the next book.” I held back. Then I saw my words elicit the desired response in my audience. That gave me the confidence I needed to shed what little inhibition I had. Now I pull out all the stops, every time. If I cut a line, a scene, or a character, it’s not to hold back, it’s because something about it doesn’t work. Sometimes I save those bits in a “deleted scenes” file, more often I don’t. I’ve found ideas are like bunnies, they multiply. Tracee: As a former bunny owner I completely agree. Alison: I couldn’t agree more about wanting to do better. Going into writing #3, I’m aware of things that weren’t even on my radar with #1. I definitely want to meet a higher standard of writing. I’m also more willing to break grammatical and punctuation rules for the sake of a good story than I was when I wrote the first novel. In terms of concrete changes, I now have a story board in my office. I didn’t think I needed one for my first book, but it’s essential for me now. I’m also more disciplined in my approach to my writing, more willing to cut what doesn’t add, and more aware of letting the characters’ personalities speak. Write and learn! Michele: What I have learned is how much I don’t know. I wish I were kidding.  Tracee: That’s the note to end on. Truer words couldn’t have been spoken, Michele.     

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Every morning I go out for a walk in the woods with my dogs. A couple of months ago, I began taking pictures of some of the things I saw in the woods and posting them on Facebook. One a day. I must have posted 20 pictures of fungi. But mainly I post pictures of trees. I had no particular reason for doing this, beyond the fact that I truly love looking at trees. What has surprised me though is how many people have responded to this passion of mine.    People I barely know will come up to me and say, “Oh I saw that tree picture of yours.” Strangers (and friends) send me pictures of trees, or poems about trees, or books about trees.  What has surprised me is that this passion of mine has found a home with so many other people. Turns out a lot of people love trees, but it’s something I wouldn’t have discovered if not exploring my own passion This is something I think about with writing. I do believe that when you put something you care about on the page, people respond to it. That’s what I want, anyway. To write something that connects with other people. How about you? What’s your passion?  

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