Navigating still waters…

 

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My writer’s journey began nearly six years ago when a story emerged, took hold and wouldn’t let go until every word found substance on a page. I reveled in the sheer madness of the joy of creation.  It was as if inspiration were white water rapids, and I was flying downstream, barely in control. I screamed for joy as each scene burst forth. It was electric. It was one hell of a ride.

And then.

And then I helped bury two beloved family members.  A few months later, my sweet mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Too soon. Too quickly. Before I was ready to let her go.  2013 was the year from hell.

Thinking I could resume my life as before, I started again on that story, but the words emerged tortured, twisted, angry or wounded. My heart was broken and so was my creative spirit. I put my writing aside for clearer days.

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Quiet set in. The rapids disappeared, leaving me drifting on a tepid pond. No wind, nothing but glassy surface rose before me. No need to glance back. I wasn’t writing. There’d be no wake reflecting movement or forward progression.

And I was okay with that. I let inertia win.

Time passed. I used it to ease those painful memories. I learned to sit quietly, to read and draw inspiration from others, and when a word or two demanded acknowledgement, I’d give it life on a page.  Not much. No pressure. A simple scene sketched here. A dabbled paragraph there.

But as time expanded into years, I became impatient waiting for the cycle to pass, for energy to flow and inspiration to return. I began pushing myself, shoving those words out, demanding they coalesce and become something, damn it. Enough of this writer’s block!

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Last month, a thought seeped in and wouldn’t let go…

How does one navigate still waters?

I pictured those rapids, that free-for-all, those days when words were my partner, not my enemy, and remembered the feeling of cutting a path down the rapids, letting inspiration direct me onward.

 

And that’s when the next thought struck…

Navigation needs forward motion.

But how? How do I claw my way through that drifting water? What does it take to reignite that dreamworld of flowing sentences, breathless excitement, characters and stories that sweep me into their realm, blotting out reality? Questions without answers batted through my head – each demanding an answer I couldn’t quite seem to find.

And then.

Then I sat, taking deep breaths, calming these churning emotions that anchored, not freed me to start writing again. And as I breathed, the solution came in the form of acknowledgement.

I’m not the same person from five years ago. Gone are the late, burnt dinners, the kids whining I’m hungry, and me, head bent to the page whipping words along before they vanished in the storm of family life.

I’m someone different now, both as a writer, and as a person.

I held those precious few papers, re-reading what I had managed to scribble out during those tortured years, and found them richer, deeper, perhaps more mature even. Imagine that? I’d developed a stronger voice, and just when had that happened?

Perhaps if I could re-wind time, I could’ve acknowledged this was just my journey and saved myself all the heartache. I would know the rapids of life and inspiration might come again,  and I’ll get caught up in the excitement of creation.

But if it doesn’t, if inspiration is quiet, like a clear pond, I can navigate to places unknown if I honor my creativity, allowing it to grow, to flourish without judgement or condemnation.

I wish for you all, clear vision.

Sue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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giving a shout out and a little love…

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My dear friend and fellow blogger AshiAkira is publishing a book of his wonderful haiku poems. I met him seven years ago when I was a baby blogger. All those years and he’s never stopped writing and sharing his amazing gift. And now I’m happy to give a shout-out and highlight his upcoming launch. Please look for purchasing details at the end of this post.

And now, let me introduce AshiAkira, using his own words. Because, well, he says it best!

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I became interested in writing haiku poems originally in English after I turned seventy.

Born in Tokyo in 1938, I went to the United States for study after graduating from a Tokyo metropolitan senior high school in 1957.

After returning to Japan from the United States in 1963, I worked for a news agency as an English reporter, thus continuing the use of the English language I had learned in the previous years in America. After reaching the mandatory retirement age of sixty with the news agency in 1998, I continued to work for its subsidiaries taking charge of correspondence and translation, thus further continuing to make use of my English skills.

When I reached the age of seventy, I fully retired from all the chores of work to make a living and decided to live on a pension alone. My income then drastically went down, but in return, I gained enough leisure to do whatever I wanted, and I chose to spend the remaining years of my life in writing novels, short stories, poems, or anything I found myself interested in.

I then noticed on the internet that haiku writing was gaining considerable popularity in many countries outside Japan. I didn’t have much knowledge of haiku writing above the common sense level of a person born and raised in Japan, where saying things in the haiku rhythm penetrates through people’s lives. But I felt something amiss about many of the haikus written by non-Japanese writers, and I thought it would be interesting to write haikus directly in English.

When I told a friend of mine that I’d try to write haikus in English, he introduced me to a member of the haiku-writing club of a famous university in Tokyo. The haiku writer apparently discussed my plan with other members of the club, and he told me it was utterly impossible to write haikus in English or in any other language than Japanese. He said that I should first train myself to write in Japanese until I became familiar with traditional haiku writing. He said he resented so many non-Japanese poems that are claimed to be haikus simply because they are short and broken into three lines. He said many Japanese haiku writers feel the word haiku should not be used for the non-Japanese three-line poems.

I know it’s said that “poetry is what gets lost in translation,” but I also believe that the prosody is not all there is to poetry. Having been born into and grown up in the haiku-writing culture, I feel there is something in the core of haiku that can be retained in whatever language it is written.

I decided to call what I would write haiku poems, meaning haiku-style poems, instead of haiku to avoid hurting the feeling of the haiku experts as much as possible. I also decided to throw away all rules and tradition about the haiku writing except two basic ones, namely the five-seven-five syllables—rhythm—and its connection with nature, without which a haiku cannot be a haiku.

The Japanese language, when it’s spoken in five and seven syllables, gives to the Japanese ear a pleasant rhythm. I believe this stems from the fact that Japanese is always pronounced in combination of a consonant and a vowel or in a vowel independent of consonant clusters. It is also because Japanese is pronounced with the tone accent rather than the stress accent, like that of English.

For hundreds of years, saying things in the five-seven-five syllables was popular among the Japanese people, and it was called haikai. Several people might get together for a party where they would compose the haikai, mainly jokes to throw at each other or allusive sarcasm against corrupt or oppressive officials of the feudal rule that lasted until nineteenth century.

It was Matsuo Basho who made the revolutionary achievement of writing poems of artistic value in the haikai form in the seventeenth century. There was no such a word as haiku in Basho’s days. It was not until about two hundred years after his death that the writers of artistic haikai began to call their works haiku to distinguish them as an art from jokes or allusively ironic pieces which then began to be called senryu or kyoka, respectively.

The counting of syllables in an English word varies from speaker to speaker. The word poem pronounced by some English speakers, for instance, sounds like a one-syllable word or by others as a two syllable word. The word poet, however, is pronounced almost always as a two-syllable word. Thus, the haiku poems I write in English often follow the five-seven-five syllable rule loosely.

Connection with nature is another basic core tradition in the haiku writing. The reason for this would no doubt call for heated discussion by experts. But as a full-blooded Japanese who received more education outside Japan than at home, I must ask for others’ permission to say that the haiku artists feel that nature is the ultimate ruler of all living things deserving our due respect. We all came into this world by the natural power in disregard of our own will. And in most of the cases, we leave this world when the time for each individual to do so comes. Before nature we are powerless. We don’t know what nature is as we don’t know what life is. But we can have a glimpse of what happens in nature as its work. For example, the blooming of flowers and birds flying and chirping are works of nature. By catching a glimpse of nature’s work, only a momentary spark, and jotting it down in words as a reflection of our mind, we may get closer to knowing it. The five-seven-five-syllable poem, or close to it in any language, is a handy form of poetry to capture the works of nature when noticed. Doing so could be a way to bring the unseen power of nature into the human consciousness.

I have written around two thousand haiku poems in nearly a decade, and I have randomly selected and edited 496 of them for this publication. I plan to publish all the rest of them, in addition to other forms of poems I have also written, in the future.

Finally, since so much must be squeezed into the seventeen syllables, I take full advantage of poetic license to disregard grammar or any rule of the language. Since I intend my haiku poems to appeal directly to the imagination of the readers through words only, the use of pictures or illustrations is avoided. And like any other form of poetry, each haiku poem, although it’s so short, is meant to be independent. I would be honored if the readers read them as such.

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AshiAkira’s book will go into full global distribution networks, including Amazon.com and BN.com in the next 6-8 weeks. For the time being the book can be purchased directly from Lulu, and the link to the page for the purchase is:  http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/haiku-poems/20836642

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m back…

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So, I haven’t been around for a while. Sorry. But it seemed a good idea to launch an author page and claim ownership of this crazy thing called a social platform.

Some of you know, I moved over to Weebly. Which worked out pretty well for the first year or so. And then Weebly was hacked and off went my private contact information into that vast expanse of internet, all for sale to any blackheart with a few bucks in their wallet.

I know this because a) Weebly sent me an email notifying me of the hack and would I please change my password? and b) I received a call from a complete stranger about a month ago who wanted to know if I’d like to go into business with him. The call went something like this:

“Hi, Sue. This is Chris. I’m reaching out to see if you’re interested in looking into a business venture.”

Me, sucking in a breath so I don’t explode. I need to keep this creep on the phone long enough to glean some info. “Wow. A cold call,” I say through gritted teeth. “You’re pretty brave. But, um, how do you know me?”

“I don’t, actually…” The guy chuckles. “You must’ve had a website, right? I kind of used a service that scrapes the internet.”

I won’t bore you with the details. The conversation lingered long enough for me to learn he not only had my name, my cell number and where I lived, but he mentioned he saw me on Facebook.

We rang off, but not before I got his full name, which I then used to scope him out on Facebook. Unbelievable. There he was, all smiles, with pics of his wife and kids hanging out like it was no big deal.

No big deal to buy hacked information, then have the nerve to call those people and ask if they’re interested in going into business? Really. People can be that stupid?

The short of it is this: I let my website idle. Tumbleweeds roll across the screen as the date of my last post grows more and more distant. And what of this website? What did it do for me over the past year except expose me to the world, and not in a good way? I got views, often hundreds in one day, but not one comment, except… and this is important… from friends I’d made on WordPress. 

WordPress was my original home and here I’ll stay. I’ve missed you guys. I can’t wait to read and follow and like and comment… ah well.

It’s nice to be back.

hugs,

Sue

A snippet from Drift…

This is an excerpt from last year’s failed NaNo novel. But failure is relative, as I’ve continued to plot and love this ya story. And just to give you bearings, the “I” is True Spencer, a 17-year-old girl living on the run with her mother. Yup, the baddy is the dad.

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Monday morning, I drag myself from bed and dress in the dark for my first day at a new school. Mom’s still sleeping, exhausted from working a double shift at the hospital. She’s happy with her new job and furious when townsfolk continue to pop in unannounced, bringing home-baked goodies that smell heavenly and taste even better. She refuses to answer the door, so I smile and greet each one like it’s the most natural thing in the world to accept their hospitality.

Mom grows more distant with each visit and the only thing holding us here is her job. I have to change that. I have to keep the townsfolk a safe distance from us so she’ll settle down and we can stay.

Because, that’s what I want to do.

I want a chance with Jeffersonville’s elite gymnastics team. I want a shot at a college scholarship. I want a chance at normalcy.

I grab my backpack and head down the mountain, slipping in the fresh snow that continues to fall. The road’s too narrow for a school bus to navigate and there’s no turn around at the top, so I was told to wait at the Blue Line Diner.

I wave to Polly who’s setting up for the breakfast crowd and shuffle from foot to foot. My toes are frozen. My breath hovers in front of my face like a little gray cloud. I’m expecting a large yellow bus, so I don’t know what to do when a white van pulls up.

The door slides opens. “You True Spencer?” The woman calls from inside.

I nod. My teeth are too clenched to talk.

“Well, come on before you freeze to death.”

I climb inside the weirdest school bus I’ve ever used. It’s a mini-van—the kind parents use to drive their children to the mall, or to the park. It’s the kind of car that represents everyone else’s normal.

I don’t know the kids sitting in the two bucket seats and they don’t acknowledge me. Each stare out the window like it’s uncomfortable acknowledging a stranger. I climb into the back and plunk down on the bench seat, knowing they’re right to keep to themselves because I’ll never be more than a stranger.

Jeffersonville High School is set in a valley, sandwiched between jagged snow-capped mountains. Like every cookie-cutter school, it’s made of ugly brown brick. I find the main office, hoping my fake paperwork will be good enough. Mom’s been too busy to work her usual magic and that left me scrambling, trying to figure out a story and how to doctor up some documents that look official.

I tap my fingers on the formica countertop as I wait for the secretary to finish on the phone. Maybe I am too quiet, or my presence doesn’t register with her, so, when she hangs up and begins typing on her computer, I clear my throat.

“Be right with you,” she says. Each word is snapped out like I’m a bug buzzing her ear.

Another harassed school secretary, hating their job. Why are they always so nasty? Do they start out that way or does the job change them, draining away any ability to care?

Any hope I have that she’ll be lenient disappears with her impatient shuffle to the counter. It’s going to be a hard sell—my documents aren’t as official looking as the ones Mom should have created.

“Yes?” She says. Her glasses are too large and worn too far down on her nose. Makes her sound like she has a cold.

“I’m True Spencer. I’m transferring here from Texas.”

“Paperwork.”

Why do they always use one word? It’s like a game—see who can use the fewest words. The one who speaks in a full sentence loses.

“Sure thing. Here you go,” I say and slide an envelope toward her on the counter.  She leaves me staring and looking around while she goes back to her computer, my bogus paperwork in hand.

I hate waiting in a school office. I always feel like I’ve done something wrong. I breathe in and breathe out and count the seconds until I can get out of this office.

The secretary huffs as she looks through her glasses at the computer. My hands go cold and clammy. Huffing is never a good sign.

“I have no record of a transfer from this school.” She remains behind the desk, leaving me to lean in to hear her better.

“We moved just before the holiday break,” I say. “Maybe it’s delayed?”

She shakes her head. “This paperwork makes no sense. I can’t use it to record a transfer without something directly from your sending school.”

My breathing stops. This, I have dreaded since the moment I woke up. No transfer, no gymnastics.

“Can you give it a few days?” I say. “It should come through soon.” I need to buy time for Mom to get the bogus paperwork in order.

She disappears from the office without acknowledging my question. Kids don’t rate polite conversation, at least not to this woman.

I’m digging my fingertips into my palm and jigging my foot as the first period bell rings, summoning kids to their homeroom. I’m entering the school mid-year. I’m trying not to think about the catchup work I have ahead of me when the secretary reappears, carrying my fake paperwork.

She stamps it, writes something on it and finally approaches the counter carrying a clipboard.

“You can enroll. Fill this in. Until I receive confirmation from your sending school though, no teams, no sports.”

My heart drops to the floor and breaks into a million pieces. I rush my words. “But, when you get the papers, I can join up, right?”

“That’ll be up to the Board to decide.”

The Board, as in School Board? “Is it that bad?”

She looks at me over the top of her glasses. “Too many discrepancies. Too much missing information. No sports until your enrollment is all sorted out.”

The secretary returns to her desk, ignoring the kid that’s just arrived and waits behind me, leaving me to stare at paperwork I have no idea how to fill out and an empty place where my heart once existed.

 

Five awesome how-to books that changed things for Sue…

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image credit: pixabay.com

I am a writer who put the cart before the horse. Yes, I know that’s cliche, but when one fits, one should use them.

I digress…

My first story came from a dream. I woke, jotted down the gist and proceeded to spend the next three years trying to make sense of the mess I’d created.

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Imagine a little kitten, playing with a ball of yarn. Yup, tangled plot points, confusing character arcs… this story had it all!

I approached my next story a little better armed. I’d read up on plotting, but my panster-brain refuse to digest the information. That story holds together, but just barely.

Fed up, I dug into how-to books. I was time to teach an old dog new tricks. Each (all found dirt cheap on Kindle) approach plotting from unique perspectives. One works better for plotsters (Martha Alderson). The rest will appeal to pansters. Regardless of your leaning I think you’ll find them helpful.

I know you’re all chomping at the bit, so without further ado, I give you the five awesome how-to books that changed things for Sue…

How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson

Blockbuster Plots by Martha Alderson

Writing the Heart of Your story, by C.S. Lakin

Write Your Story from the Middle, by James Scott Bell

The Story is a Promise, by Bill Johnson

 

a dozen tiny questions for you…

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image credits: pixabay.com

What do you need today? Someone to affirm what you’ve written has value? Someone to acknowledge there’s room for you in this vast, crowded published world?

Someone to affirm what you’ve written has value? Someone to acknowledge there’s room for you in this vast, crowded published world?

A single person to smile and say, keep going–I believe in you?

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What do you need today? Time to write? Emotional space to clear the clutter and receive those words from your inner muse?

Time to write? Emotional space to clear the clutter and receive those words from your inner muse?

A loved one to take on daily tasks, freeing you to sit and create?

 

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What do you need today?

Are you wrestling with words, trying to shape them into something coherent? Can you calm the inner editor and allow the words to flow?

Is there someone who’s familiar with your story who can help?

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I want you to know,  I feel your frustrations and celebrate your successes. I’m on this journey with you. 

I wish you all inspiration-

Sue

call me crazy…


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Got your cup of tea ready? Good.

So. Editing. As in every author’s favorite word. I’ve been editing not one, not two, but three full length novels AND I’ve started a fourth. Yes, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Too much, in fact, but that’s a given, right?

A few posts back, I shared some tips on editing. As in how NOT to do it. Thought I’d share some more and hopefully save you a whole wad of time.

When I first began my Mighty Irish Epic (now called “Summoned” but that title took many, many years to finally stumble upon). Where was I? Oh, right, my MIE.

I spent three years coaxing that bad boy along before I dared to share it with the crowded, noisy world. I was a new writer. I was in love with my story and didn’t want anyone to criticize my baby. I know this sounds familiar. I may not have shared, but I did study. As in everything I could get my hands on regarding the craft of writing. And on that journey, I discovered how NOT to do it. For the sake of your sanity and my self-worth, I’ll concentrate on the macro and leave plot structure stuff to the pros.

Here is a fine example of what I’ve learned along the way:

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her.   No, no, silly, you don’t need “as”…. Sheesh.

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her. Nope, don’t need the adverb. Catch one and kill it, right?

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her.  I learned words like “watched, looked, heard, felt” are blocking words. They jump the reader out of the story because the reader IS the protagonist. Suddenly, you’re reminding the reader that they aren’t. so…

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her. And last? I learned to squish words together. Tighten to strengthen. That sort of stuff.

Kathlin watched as Arden walked slowly toward her. approached.

I know, I know, maybe it needs some description, like “Arden’s boots clicked on the stone floor as he approached.” but that’s another post.

My tea is getting cold.