The Pitch

Last year I took some time off writing this blog to concentrate on finishing my novel. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-written the first few chapters, but I know I’ve done at least five revisions of the entire book. I’m preparing for what I hope will be the last. Do authors ever finish revision?

If I ever get this book published, I’m sure I’ll find places where I would change words or phrases even when it’s in print. Maybe that’s the nature of writing or any other art form. But at some point you have to let it go. That’s what I’m preparing to do with my book baby.

Elsa Let it Go

Most of my writing life is spent in solitude, sitting at my desk surrounded by the world and people of my imagination. Although it seems real to me, I often think the fact that I’m a writer doesn’t seem real to other people because I don’t have a tangible product–a painting or a sculpture or a photograph–to share with them, showing what I do. I hope that’s about to change.

Last week my writing life was exciting. I took part (virtually) in a pitch event with the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, a fantastic group of writers who support me and my writing on a daily basis. If you write women’s fiction, you should join right now. As soon as you finish reading this post! Joining this group is the best thing I’ve done for my writing since I took a class to write my first novel at UW Madison Continuing Studies with Christine DeSmet, novelist and writing teacher extraordinaire. At last year’s WFWA pitch event, I found my  critique partner Natalia. She and the other two women in our group have helped me shape my book into something I can be very proud of. I hope I’ve given them half as good advise as they’ve given me.

Crit Group

During this year’s pitch event, which took place last week, I wrote a new 50 word pitch for my book. Eighty other writers and I posted our pitches along with the first 250 words of our manuscripts for agents to read. Then, wonder of wonders, an agent who likes Civil War era stories requested to see more of my story! I sent it out two days later aftergoing through the pages one more time using Natural Reader to check for errors and rhythm. My writer friend Kristin Oakley gave me that tip!

Civil war

I’ve learned so much in the course of writing this book, mostly about writing, but also about myself.  About seven years ago, I started writing  Faith Can Move Mountains without a clue how to write fiction. I muddled through and took classes to learn the craft. In the process I discovered that few things are as satisfying as when the writing comes, when the muse visits and gifts me with words I don’t recognize as mine when I reread. I’ve found what I love to do.

My novel is a work of historical women’s fiction  called Faith Can Move Mountains and is complete at 104,000 words. It represents seven years of work, mostly summers and weekends, while I was teaching and one one year when I was out of work and finished the first draft.

Here’s the pitch:  In 1869 Charleston South Carolina, unkempt, free-spirited Faith Gentry reluctantly marries former Confederate soldier Josiah Hamilton to save her beloved plantation from a vindictive banker with ties to her past. Her decision triggers events which uncover secrets that threaten her identity, her marriage, and those she loves.

What do you think of my pitch and my title. Would you read my book?

 

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This Writing Life

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On May second I realized a dream. I finished the revision of  my novel The Portrait. I didn’t really take the time until this past weekend to recognize what I had done. The dream I’ve nurtured and fed has finally came true. It was a five year journey, longer if I count when the idea actually came to me, and it took lots of hard work and many hours of research and writing and rewriting.

Why did I decide to write? I think I’m creative. I always have been. When I was younger it was visual arts that captured my interest. I used to pass hours and hours alone with my drawing pad and pencil shading with my finger to create depth and dimension, but I never had any formal art training. In fact when I went to college, I wanted to be an artist, but I thought I didn’t have the skill or talent to do that. I still think that’s the case because I’ve seen true artistic talent. What I have is not that.

I was pretty good at writing in high school, but I wrote for academic classes, not for pleasure. It wasn’t until I went to University of Georgia and took a class from my English professor, Dr. Kilgo, that I even attempted to write fiction. He challenged my class to write a short story. I think his idea was we were reading them, so we should have an idea how to write them. That attempt may have been the worst thing I ever wrote, but it opened my eyes to a new way to express myself. And in that first attempt I felt like a little kid who didn’t even know how to hold the pencil. That’s how clumsy I felt, but somewhere along the way fiction took hold of my imagination, first through reading and then through writing. Writing became how I made sense of my world.

Hemingway once told George Plimpton in an interview in The Paris Review, “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of.” Isn’t that lovely?

I write because I love putting words together to make something never seen before, never felt before I formed the image. I can create people who never existed, places and weather, sunsets and music, steaming buttermilk biscuits, anything I want! When I’m writing, I feel like I take part in something sacred, like I am part of a mystical experience and am a conduit for what I write rather than the creator. That may not make sense to some people, but it’s the best way to describe the creative act when the muse takes hold of me, when time passes unnoticed when I’m in the midst of the writing. I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know it doesn’t all come from me.

I found out after my grandmother died many years ago that she had harbored a desire to write and be published, but her dreams never came true. She wrote many poems, mostly about her children, and I treasure them. My son Erik is also an aspiring writer. He is so far ahead of where I was at his age that I am amazed. He has already written stories and served as an editor for his college’s literary magazine, and he has in the planning stage a science fiction novel I hope he brings into the world one day. I am so impressed by his drive and talent and know he will succeed beyond his wildest dreams if he chooses to pursue writing. I hope he doesn’t wait as I have to follow his dream but makes time for the muse in spite of life happening around him at lightning speed. Because that is what we all must do if we want this writing life.

These two people, my grandmother and my son, remind me that the great passions of our lives should drive our choices and guide us in what we do. It is never too late to choose to follow our passions where they lead. It’s never too late to fulfill a dream. My dream of completing a novel is realized, but I have many more books in my imagination waiting to be born. Do you have a dream nagging you, one that is waiting to be realized? Do you have the courage to follow your passion where it leads?

On May second I realized a dream. I finished the revision of  my novel The Portrait. I didn’t really take the time until this past weekend to recognize what I had done. The dream I’ve nurtured and fed has finally came true. It was a five year journey, longer if I count when the idea actually came to me, and it took lots of hard work and many hours of research and writing and rewriting.

Why did I decide to write? I think I’m creative. I always have been. When I was younger it was visual arts that captured my interest. I used to pass hours and hours alone with my drawing pad and pencil shading with my finger to create depth and dimension, but I never had any formal art training. In fact when I went to college, I wanted to be an artist, but I thought I didn’t have the skill or talent to do that. I still think that’s the case because I’ve seen true artistic talent. What I have is not that.

I was pretty good at writing in high school, but I wrote for academic classes, not for pleasure. It wasn’t until I went to University of Georgia and took a class from my English professor, Dr. Kilgo, that I even attempted to write fiction. He challenged my class to write a short story. I think his idea was we were reading them, so we should have an idea how to write them. That attempt may have been the worst thing I ever wrote, but it opened my eyes to a new way to express myself. And in that first attempt I felt like a little kid who didn’t even know how to hold the pencil. That’s how clumsy I felt, but somewhere along the way fiction took hold of my imagination, first through reading and then through writing. Writing became how I made sense of my world.

Hemingway once told George Plimpton in an interview in The Paris Review, “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of.” Isn’t that lovely?

I write because I love putting words together to make something never seen before, never felt before I formed the image. I can create people who never existed, places and weather, sunsets and music, steaming buttermilk biscuits, anything I want! When I’m writing, I feel like I take part in something sacred, like I am part of a mystical experience and am a conduit for what I write rather than the creator. That may not make sense to some people, but it’s the best way to describe the creative act when the muse takes hold of me, when time passes unnoticed when I’m in the midst of the writing. I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know it doesn’t all come from me.

I found out after my grandmother died many years ago that she had harbored a desire to write and be published, but her dreams never came true. She wrote many poems, mostly about her children, and I treasure them. My son Erik is also an aspiring writer. He is so far ahead of where I was at his age that I am amazed. He has already written stories and served as an editor for his college’s literary magazine, and he has in the planning stage a science fiction novel I hope he brings into the world one day. I am so impressed by his drive and talent and know he will succeed beyond his wildest dreams if he chooses to pursue writing. I hope he doesn’t wait as I have to follow his dream but makes time for the muse in spite of life happening around him at lightning speed. Because that is what we all must do if we want this writing life.

These two people, my grandmother and my son, remind me that the great passions of our lives should drive our choices and guide us in what we do. It is never too late to choose to follow our passions where they lead. It’s never too late to fulfill a dream. My dream of completing a novel is realized, but I have many more books in my imagination waiting to be born. Do you have a dream nagging you, one that is waiting to be realized? Do you have the courage to follow your passion where it leads?