Monday, May 30, 2011
Our church is right across the street from the south side of Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge. My mother, along with several other relatives, is buried there. Just north of a large section of military graves marked with the distinctive white grave markers: memorial stones giving the name and rank of the military person buried there.
I'm not one to visit my mother's grave very often, because she's not there: she's with her beloved Savior. But every Mother's Day I do go and leave a bouquet of flowers, honoring the memory of a wonderful, godly mother. A milestone—a time to remember.
In our families, we celebrate milestones, as Paula pointed out. Births and each succeeding birthday. Salvations and baptisms. Graduations. Weddings. Promotions at work. New jobs. Or, in my case, rejections (or redirections) of my writing projects, whether they are devotionals or articles or books. And most recently, an acceptance of my first fiction. We celebrated with cheesecake (from my son), a bouquet of flowers from Paula and ACFW Colorado at our annual retreat, and dinner out with my family.
With this first fiction sale, the most special milestone for me was when my daughter posted on Facebook how proud she was of her mother for getting her first fiction contract . . . and the revelation that she'd secretly read and liked my very first attempt at writing a novel—a historical fiction for middle grade students—which she must have discovered buried in a file drawer! I don't know if it will ever see the light of day again. More than likely it will stay in the drawer as a stone of remembrance. :)
One of my uncles passed away this month. We had a "memorial" service, remembering the things about Jim that made him the man of God he was. Particularly he loved to sing. Last evening at church, my pastor and another man sang a duet, an old song titled, "I've Discovered the Way of Gladness." About halfway through, I leaned over to my son and said, "Uncle Jim loved to sing this song." He nodded and said he'd been thinking it was an Uncle Jim type of song. A small, simple stone of remembrance.
And today . . . we're going to spend some time at our family cabin near Eldora (Nederland). My great-grandfather built that cabin about 80 years ago. Over the years, we've spent many days and nights at our Hessie Hideway. Here's a picture of my siblings and me on the porch of our cabin . . . (ahem) many, many moons ago. I'm the one in the middle. It's there I meet the Lord either alone or with family and friends. It's there I learned to love the mountains. There are many stones, literally, of remembrance at our cabin and the surrounding Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. And today we'll add another.
Marjorie Vawter has lived in Colorado only fifteen years, but she has a lifetime of Colorado memories stored up. She currently lives and writes in Westminster with her husband, Roger, and her 18-month-old Siamese mix, Sinatra.
Monday, May 23, 2011
It’s hard to note milestones when you don’t feel like you’re moving at all.
A friend of mine recently complained that even a rejection letter would be preferable to the great, soul-eating silence from the agents she’s queried. I understood exactly what she meant.
In the writing world we view rejections as milestones. It’s been said many times that receiving those rejection letters is part of the process. It means you’re getting your work out there. Blah, blah, blah.
But when you’re stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of publishing, the panicked questions take over.
Did the agent/editor receive my query? Should I send a follow up? Will that tick them off? What if my manuscript was so bad they figured it was a joke? Did I actually even send the query, or was that a dream? Am I dreaming now? Do I even exist?
When you’re this thoroughly lost and confused, it’s time for an anchor, something to tether you to reality. My critique partners regularly joke about tying a rope around my waist so that when I jump off a cliff, they can pull me back up. Critique groups are a writer’s sanity check. I wouldn’t hesitate to call any of the women in my writing group and ask, “Are you reasonably sure that I do, in fact, exist?”
I think only one of them would take that opportunity to really mess with my head.
Another way to drop anchor might be to go over notes you’ve taken in workshops or read an agent’s blog. I heard some good advice from an agent at a recent conference. She suggested that when you send that query off, you should look ahead in your calendar and make a note of the date four weeks out. Then forget about the query. Don’t sweat it. When that day comes and goes, it’s safe to do a follow up. Tips like this can help writers navigate the doldrums of the submission process.
You can also break free of the holding pattern by simply telling yourself, “It’s time to move on.” I know it feels like abandonment to leave that project you love and start on a new one, but this is one of the few things in the writing journey that is solely in the writer’s control. You can move forward just by writing. You can turn your stint in No Man’s Land into a milestone. In a few months time, you’ll look back and say, “I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I (yes, I) decided to move on, and look what I’ve accomplished because of that.”
Evangeline Denmark has to take Dramamine in order to even look at a boat. She has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (Waterbrook Press, 2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press, 2011) and also writes adult fiction. You can find Evangeline online at www.evangelinedenmark.com and www.dragonandturtle.com
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The Writers Life is chock-a-block full of examples of this lament.
Take me, for example.
I don't blog.
I know, you're reading this on a blog, and you're thinking, "She doesn't know what it means to blog, obviously."
Allow me to repeat myself -- I don't blog. I don't sign up to blog. I don't read other people's blogs. I don't follow blogs. I don't friend blogs.
And yet here I am, doing as I have done since January 2009 (Yes, I went back and checked), something I don't want to do.
You might ask how that came about. Well, I missed a meeting. And got volun-told to blog.
Rule #1: Don't miss a meeting. Missing meetings might get you doing something you don't want to do, or you might miss out on doing something you really want to do.
And that leads me into Rule #2: Do what you don't want to do because it's not all about you. Sometimes your decision to participate is about others. See, this blog thing wasn't about fulfilling some desire in my heart to have millions of people read what I write. This blog was about being part of something bigger than myself, and being able to contribute to that.
And, like I said earlier, writing is about doing what you don't want to do.
I know people who say they are writers who never write; they just talk about writing. Maybe they get caught up in the research, or the outlining, or the plotting, or reading books on writing, or going to writers conferences. But they never actually start a story. Some of that is fear, some of it is a reluctance to put aside other activities and distractions, some is a lack of support or a lack of community.
Which brings me to Rule #3: If you are a writer, set a goal to write more than a list of books to get at the library or a schedule of conferences to attend this year. Write something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A story of some kind.
Rule #4: Find a community. Yes, that means join a writers group, find a critique group, join a book club -- anything that will bring you into a bunch of like-minded people who get you when you say you hear voices in your head.
Many people who write seem reluctant to join into a community of writers. Maybe the reasons are the same as above: fear, busyness, feeling like they're on the outside looking in. The only way to overcome fear is to jump in. The only way to overcome busyness is to make a date with yourself. The only way to not feel like you're on the outside is to join.
One of my characters says about herself: You don't join because you feel you don't belong, and you don't belong because you don't join.
This month, as you read these blogs about Milestones, consider what leaps of faith you need to make in your own writing --
Do you need to join?
Do you need to meet?
Do you need to write?
And if the answer to any of these questions is Yes, then make your mark on your writing path and join, meet, and write. You'll be glad you did, and so will all the others in your group.
Monday, May 16, 2011
This is a huge milestone and shouldn’t be so feared. Like Kathy wrote, don’t let it be a millstone weighing you down.
Many writers think of a “rejection” letter, as a negative thing. Rejection even sounds negative. So I like to think of them as “no thank you” letters. Well, there is a flip side to every coin, a silver lining in dark clouds.
A rejection is two-fold—besides your manuscript not being published at this time.
First, like the lion in Wizard of Oz, you should get a metal. Do you know what a rejection or no thank you letter means?! You had the courage to send off your baby for someone else to judge its worth. That is huge!
Until you have received your first no thank you letter, you aren’t really a writer. You may write, even write a lot, but until you’ve laid your baby on the alter of worthiness, you just write. I believe a writer writes for others. So send out that manuscript and boldly proclaim yourself as a writer, author, novelist. Proclaim them all.
Second, I whole-heartedly believe that a no thank you letter from an agent or editor is direction from the Lord. He knows where you need to be and when you need to be there. He knows the perfect timing for a particular work to get published to get it into the hands He has planned for it to touch lives. He knows when you are truly ready as well as your manuscript for publication.
You aren’t really being rejected but redirected by the Lord.
So next time you get a no thank you letter, give thanks to the Lord.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Lots of milestones in the life of my Stephen, shown here celebrating his birthday with the biggest ice cream cone made at the self-serve station at the restaurant where we celebrated. We know it's the biggest because the waitress said so and took his picture.
As a mom it is easy for me to track and celebrate my children's milestones.
As a writer pursuing publication, paying attention to milestones is crucial. In a career where your deepest places, poured onto the page, get rejected based on cold, hard numbers, it's difficult to be vulnerable over and over--to keep hoping and believing and working. Even after that first published article or book, you're going to face disappointment and rejection. Which is why I believe it's important to celebrate those milestones.
Where ever you are in the writing journey, you've crossed a milestone. For most of us the first big milestone is writing something. The second is finding the courage to share it with someone else, and the third is walking into that critique group, writer's conference, or writer's group for the first time.
A huge milestone for me was actually saying to someone, "I'm a writer." I couldn't say that sentence for a long time.
When I typed the last page of my first novel, I crossed one of those I-can-never-turn-back kind of milestones. My family and I celebrated with a video and pizza. We had another celebration when I rewrote the book. Celebrating the milestones not only helped me stop and recognize progress, it helped my family see that I was serious about writing and reaching goals. In return, they began to show me respect as a writer instead of winking at my "hobby."
I still remember the glory of my first published piece, and the delight of receiving my first check as a writer. I think it was only $20, but it meant something because I'd crossed a milestone.
Rejection letters are milestones, too. They initiate us into the real world of writing where we have to weather the hard knocks with the rest of the crazies who write for publication. Those are important crossing points--and that's why you'll get chocolate if you come to HIS Writers and let us know about your latest rejection letter. It's not that we celebrate disappointment. We embrace the process, and then we celebrate our ability to survive it.
Here's a challenge for you: Take a few minutes to assess your personal personal writing milestones. Consider making a time-line. Put a sticker or happy face on each date when you crossed a milestone. Next to your markers write little notes about the importance of that milestone. You may want to also put specific prayers, promptings, Scriptures, and promises the Lord gives you about your journey.
Hang your time-line above your computer. Next time you feel like you're not making progress, look up to that tangible reminder of your journey. Acknowledge the courageous forward movement you've made.
Then be brave and tackle another milestone.
Could you do one more thing? Take a minute to comment on this blog and share some of your most treasured (or recent) milestones. I'd like to celebrate with you!
Monday, May 2, 2011
It’s funny how the words “milestone” and “millstone” sound so similar, yet serve such different purposes. A milestone marks the mileage on a road, yet goes nowhere. A millstone grinds grain, yet never stops. On the other hand, the second definition for each are:
- Milestone – a significant point in development
- Millstone – a heavy burden
I find it ironic that the first word signifies movement, when the object itself clearly cannot move. Yet the second word weighs a body down to the point of making one immobile, even though the round object itself suggests movement.
How can we apply this observation to our writing?
A milestone represents a goal, an immovable spot up the road that we long to reach. It remains solid and steadfast, symbolically cheering you on to reach its side. There may be other milestones on the road, but we must keep our eyes on the first one in order to reach the others.
So often, we put too many milestones in our path, scattering our thoughts as we race about trying to reach them all before we’ve taken the proper steps. This confuses us which ultimately results in the opposite effect – a millstone around our necks, pulling us down into deep, dark confusion. We want to meet our one-thousand-word-a-day goal, but we can’t stop daydreaming about becoming multi-published and traveling the world. Or we work on our romance, then set it aside for a sci-fi. Then decide maybe a political thriller would suit us more. The result is a lot of unfinished, unpolished manuscripts taking up kilobytes in a folder on our computer.
Pick a goal and stick with it. When that goal is reached, look to that next milestone up the road. With each post you past, you will get closer to your final destination. And about that millstone? Let’s leave it out of our writing and only roll it out when we want bread.
Kathy Kovach is the ACFW Rocky Mountain Zone Director, and author with Heartsong Presents and Barbour Publishing. She writes Spiritual Truth…With A Giggle, thus proving herself as one of God’s peculiar people. With a passion for story, she dissects movies on her Craft Cinema blog. Read the first chapters of her books at Fiction Finder and visit her at www.KathleenEKovach.com.