Favorite Friday: Mirror by Sylvia Plath

 

Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
What ever you see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful—
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Writing: Daily Word Count (Poll)

Stephen King in his famous writing book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, has this to say about his daily word count:

“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book — something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh.”

Wow…that’s a lot of writing!

What about you?

Writing: Should I Find a Niche?

Click on the image to access this group’s official page

 

For this month’s IWSG Blog Hop, my question is this: As a writer, should I settle with a “niche”?

I discovered writing by “accident” at the age of eleven, and been writing on and off ever since.  In 2007, my first (short) story was published.  Now that I’m a full-time homemaker, I write almost every day.

Yet, I haven’t decided which form or genre or niche to settle on.

I’ve dabbled in poetry,  screenwriting, essays, journaling/memoir, serial fiction, flash and short stories and have written in almost every genre (except for historical fiction).

What’s my problem?

I enjoy writing all of them.

I’ve been told that I should write whatever my heart and soul desire.

So, why am I so conflicted?

Although I have published many forms of writing but they’ve all been “short” (meaning under 10,000 words), I still have hope to publish a novel one day and that’s my dilemma.

If I write and publish a book in a particular genre, does that mean I’m stuck with that genre in the foreseeable future?  Or, can I jump around from one genre to another? My main concern is confusing my readers especially if they enjoy reading only that particular genre and not the others.

Or, perhaps I’m making a huge mountain out of a molehill?

 

 

Author Interview With Jeanne Blasberg

Today we have a very special guest, Jeanne Blasberg, as she tells us a bit about herself and her DEBUT novel! 

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve kept a journal all my life and have always loved to read. My favorite book as a child was Harriet the Spy. Being an only child who spent a lot of time alone, I got scarily close to emulating Harriet’s spying ways.

My passion is fiction, but my early professional life had me writing business case studies and articles on the retailing industry. My first serious pursuit of creative writing involved memoir and essays based on personal experience, but I always knew I had a book in me.

Once my three children moved out of the house, things got quiet and my mind could slow down. I used that time to write and study the craft. My husband and I also love to travel, and I blog about it on my website. In the last nine months I have been to South Africa, Uganda, Patagonia, the Canadian Rockies, and Iceland.

 

What aspects of your life led you to writing the kind of stories you write?

I have always been fascinated by family dynamics. What is spoken and often unspoken between siblings (which I can only imagine, having always wanted to be a sister) and how bonds strengthen or deteriorate between generations are things I think about.

I have also witnessed (as well as read and thought about) the way behaviours get passed down from generation to generation, especially painful ones such as addictions and secret keeping.

 

 

You have a new book coming out soon. Tell us about it.

EDEN is the story of a family matriarch in her late seventies who, after the death of her husband, decides to introduce her family to the daughter she gave up for adoption fifty years earlier. The setting is their grand summer home, built by her industrial tycoon father, in a fancy summer community on the coast of southern Rhode Island. The chapters describing the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as relatives arrive, and our matriarch prepares to make her announcement, are alternated with chapters revealing the 80-year history of the family. Four generations of women are introduced, each with secrets of their own.

 

What inspired you to write it?

The idea was born after my husband discovered he had a brother who had been given up for adoption. In getting to know this newly discovered brother and having conversations with him and his wife, I understood something about how the mystery around his birth had been bound to his self-identity. I related to this immediately. The product of a hasty marriage, I was ten years old when I did the math on my fingers to figure out I was a mistake, something a could never quite shake. I never stopped thinking about the different choices our mothers had (or didn’t have) and also the residual effect on the children.

 

How do you get into the minds of your characters?

I spend time meditating or quieting my mind and then I think about the scene I am writing until I just know how a character would react. Sometimes, I get it wrong and in the editing process I think “no, no, no, that’s not quite right.” My characters are evolving and so getting it right sometimes requires writing an entire first draft and then going back to refine them. I understand my characters so much better when I know the ending.

I often think about my characters when I’m out in the world. I might notice a woman’s clothes and think that is something Becca would wear. Or overhear a conversation and think that is something Camilla would say.

 

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing female writers today?

Maybe the same obstacles face men as well as women, I’m not sure. I am a debut author and don’t feel I have a very knowledgeable opinion on this topic. But the one thing I have noticed in the process of launching EDEN is that there are a lot of books being released each season and there are a lot in the genre I am writing…. By Women For Women.  Is the obstacle one of continually feeling relevant and original?  I have found the communities of women authors that I have become a part of to be extremely helpful and supportive. So whatever issues we have as a gender, there is a big movement around taking them on!

 

Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?

Here are 5 good writing tips for a satisfying writing life:

1) Consistent routine, for 8 out of 10 people morning energy is best – take advantage of that time and don’t give it away

2) Meditate – unclutter the mind

3) Find a community of writers and hold each other accountable

4) Be generous – with yourself and others

5) good writing has a lot to do with intuition – trust it

 

Click on the image to order the book

Synopsis of the book: “Becca Meister Fitzpatrick―wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community―is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition . . . until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. As she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor, Becca is inspired by her granddaughter’s boldness in the face of impending single-motherhood, and summons the courage to reveal a secret she was forced to bury long ago: the existence of a daughter she gave up fifty years ago. The question now is how her other daughter, Rachel―with whom Becca has always had a strained relationship―will react.” 

 

Jeanne can be found at the following sites:

Author’s Website

Twitter

Facebook

 

Writing: Characters (Poll results & Archetypes)

 

 

A few weeks ago (technically, more than 4 weeks), I put up a Poll to see what kind of characters you preferred to write (female, male, or other).  Here are the results:

Female: 64%

Other: 27%

Male: 9%

 

The down-size of this poll is that it didn’t capture whether the writers were male or female so I can’t make any further correlations.   It seems that overwhelmingly we prefer females as our characters.

I wonder– why?

Do you find it easier to write from a female’s point of view?  Or, perhaps you feel there need to be more female main characters in books?

Another interesting result I found was how high the stat for “other” was.  Again, this poll didn’t capture (or further elaborate) what “other” entails.

Imagination runs rampant.

Today, we’ll continue the “character” series with another poll.  This time about Character Archetypes.

 

Writing: Moments

 

“Within seconds…”

“For a moment…”

“In any given moment…”

“Seconds later…”

“After several minutes passed…”

There are times, certain thoughts pass through my mind about writerly stuff and this morning was no exception.  I’ve been writing for this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and I love using the above phrases and word selection.  However, this morning, I thought–

“What exactly is a moment?”

Is it the same as minute or even second?

Or, is it something deeper?

Your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post by Simone Lisa: Heart Open Please Enter

*As we continue our Mental Health discussion, here’s a post by a very special guest, Simone Lisa.  Thank you, Simone, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us! 

 

There’s a little glimmer of warmth, burrowing into my chest. And a chink of light, peeking into my spirit. If I listen carefully I can almost hear a heart-warming song. It has taken me awhile to recognise it – the song of hope. Unfamiliar. Really scary. Really positive. Hope.

Hope has a few different acronyms:

  • Hold On Pain Ends
  • Have Only Positive Expectations
  • tHink pOsitive oPportunity comEs
  • Help Open People’s Eyes
  • Hanging Onto Positive Expectations

But I think my favourite is…

  • Heart Open Please Enter

I have had years of being knocked over and having to pick myself up again.

  • Grief after eight different family members died.
  • Worry as my teenage boys dabbled in the risky behaviours so many indulge in as they grow into adulthood.
  • Sorrow as my marriage started to crumble.
  • Stress as my elderly grandmother became more and more dependent on me.
  • Fear as my body aged and my youth disappeared.
  • Pain as my back deteriorated.

Coupled with a lifetime of burying emotions and not dealing with personal issues as they arose, it became too much for me to cope with and I crumbled. Every time I thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, I was wrong. Every time I tried to stand up and move on, another phone call came in. Someone needed me again. Someone wanted my help. Someone else had died. Another problem arose. Too much. Endlessly and relentlessly battering me to the ground, and in 51 years I had never learned positive mechanisms to deal with stress. The past two years have been eye opening and debilitating, and while I went a long way backwards, perhaps that is the direction I first needed to travel before I could embark upon a different path.

The past few days I have felt hopeful. Every time I become aware of that sense of positivity, that I may have a future and  things will improve, I worry I’m going to be battered to the ground any minute. The phone will ring and I’ll be given bad news. Again. I’ll be needed. Again. The phone will ring and I’ll be forced to choose between doing the right thing by family or the right thing by work. I’ll be put in lose-lose situations. Again.

But you know what 2017 has shown me so far? Nothing but positivity. Sure there are major stresses I’m still dealing with – but they are last years’ stresses and we’re working toward positive outcomes.

  • My teenage boys have grown into beautiful young men.
  • My marriage is receiving some tender care with tentative hope for the future.
  • Nobody else died.
  • My grandmother is being cared for in the nursing home.
  • I love my job. I love my friends and family.
  • My physical health is good and my mental health has improved.

You know what else? I found myself singing in the car. Singing!! I love singing and I’d stopped years ago. It is so good for the soul. Like alcohol however, I can’t indulge when I’m sad and stressed. I don’t drink to cheer myself up – I drink because I’m cheery. I don’t sing to cheer myself up – I sing because I’m cheery. When I realised I was singing, I realised I must be cheery.

So it turns out I have hope.

  • I am hopeful my beautiful boys will be okay – they will grow into the wonderful young men they are destined to be. They will experience love and happiness and success. They will contribute. They make me proud.
  • I am hopeful our marriage will continue. Hovering on the brink of separation has taught us both we’re not ready to throw in the towel. We value what we have enough to put in the hard yards.
  • I am hopeful my mental health will improve. My depression and anxiety are alleviating. I recognise them for what they are and have strategies in place to deal with signs and symptoms as they arise.
  • I am hopeful my life will go on. My story isn’t over yet. I have the opportunity and means to contribute financially to our family and meaningfully to society. I have abandoned plans to end my life and instead accept I have a lot of time ahead of me.
  • I am hopeful my elderly grandmother and ageing father are in safe hands. Their health is good and they are well cared for. I also accept that yes, I will have to farewell them both in the future, but they have had wonderful, happy, long, productive lives and I have support to deal with the grief when it inevitably strikes.
  • I am hopeful my back pain will go. I am thrilled about this in fact. I finally have a diagnosis and treatment plans and it is not major or degenerative and I will once again be able to exercise pain free.

More significant than all of these put together however, I am starting to feel a small sense of hope my eating disorder will improve. I won’t say disappear. Or aim for full recovery. I would be glad of those things – but so early in the phase of recovery (I may have been doing this a long time, but I went backwards before I moved forward. It’s a long and winding road…) I don’t want to jinx myself with unrealistic expectations.

You know what else? Without hope, I can’t recover. Without hope it is an intellectual exercise. Without hope I won’t make the right choice when faced with a difficult situation – I will make the most familiar and immediately comforting choice. Even if that decision leads to a poorer outcome. Because without hope, recovery is pointless. It feels temporary. Why would I make a good choice today if tomorrow it’s all going to fall apart anyway? I may as well eat a box of chocolate and be happy for five minutes.

Recovery is reliant on hope. Recovery needs my heart to be receptive – not just my head to be willing. So for today I want to say, my Heart’s Open Please Enter.

 

(Post originally appeared on Simone Lisa’s Blog )

What Does Writer’s Block Mean For Me?

Click on the image to access this group’s official page

 

It’s that time of month again 🙂  The question for April is: what does writer’s block mean for me? 

First of all, let’s define this term.  Dictionary.com defines writer’s block as “a usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work.”

Writer’s block means different things to writers.   Some writers know exactly what’s causing their condition; others have no clue.  Either way, it’s a distressing feeling NOT being able to create.  In many cases the more frustrated one feels, the worse this condition becomes.  And If you have no idea what is causing this creative blockage, it can last for months or even years.

Yeah, distressing.

It took me a long while to put names to what cause the writer’s block in me.  There are three that come to pester me from time to time:

  1. Procrastination: This is by far the most common one for me.  They should probably create a professional procrastinator field because I would easily excel at it.  I just love putting things off.  You can call me laid-back, or just plain lazy—it means the same to me.  Things eventually get done, but it’s usually at the last possible moment.  Nothing like a little stress to keep the blood pumping hard, eh?
  2. Distractions: Most of my distractions come via the internet like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest as well as YouTube, Pandora, Hulu and Netflix.  The others are the mundane house chores, paying bills and balancing the check book…you know, life in general.  I call these my distractions because they are just that since they keep me from writing.
  3. Mental Disturbances: aka depression and anxiety.  There are so many layers to these so I don’t even know where to begin.  Depression is like having darkness filling your inner most being and thoughts ’till you don’t care or have any energy to muster up anything creative.  Anxiety for me fills my mind with negative thoughts that I am inferior and can NOT produce anything of value so I don’t even try.

Well, that’s writer’s block for me in a nutshell.

What about you?

 

Creativity and Mental Illness

I read an article recently that got me thinking about creativity and its role in mental illness (or vice versa): Creativity and mental illness share genetic markers on Genetic Literacy Project.

“Scientists in Iceland report that genetic factors that raise the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are found more often in people in creative professions.”

Hmm, this statement wasn’t anything I did NOT know; however…

“Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, a genetics company based in Reykjavik, said the findings, described in the journal Nature Neuroscience, point to a common biology for some mental disorders and creativity. ‘To be creative, you have to think differently,’ he told the Guardian. ‘And when we are different, we have a tendency to be labelled strange, crazy and even insane.’”

Wait, there’s more…

“Stefansson believes that scores of genes increase the risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These may alter the ways in which many people think, but in most people do nothing very harmful. But for 1% of the population, genetic factors, life experiences and other influences can culminate in problems, and a diagnosis of mental illness.”

Not only do we, as creatives, think differently I believe we also feel differently.  And we just don’t look (or feel) at the surface, we dig deep.

Very deep.

We dare to.

We must.

It’s okay if we’re viewed as being different.

Odd.

We’re used to being alone, standing in a room full of strangers (even family members tend to be viewed as strangers at times).

But do all of these make us mentally ill?

We tend to delve so deeply into our minds that we start to see things (and people) that may or may not be there.

We talk to our characters that no one else can hear.

Our minds…our imagination are our greatest weapons.

And our downfall.

All because “normal” people do not understand us.

But does that make us mentally ill?

Author Interview: Judy Walters

We have a very special guest today!  Please welcome Women’s Fiction author, Judy Walters! 

Tell us what first drew you to writing.

I’ve always written, since I was a little girl. I always knew I wanted to be a writer.  It’s just something I’ve always done, and I don’t know why, but I don’t feel complete without my writing.

What do you write?

 Women’s Fiction, stories about common people struggling with uncommon situations, many of my novels have some kind of medical twist.  

You were an editor in your previous life. How much has the publishing industry changed since you left?

I was an editor a long time ago — I stopped working in publishing about 19 years ago, right before my younger daughter was born. At that time, and people will laugh now, my office was just setting up email and I was afraid I would never learn how to use it!  

What seems to be the recurring theme(s) in your stories?

I like to write about families struggling with unusual but not unheard of problems. In A Million Ordinary Days, a woman is struggling with Multiple Sclerosis, and that struggle extends to her family. Other books I’ve written focus on families struggling with Autism, adoption, and infertility.

You have a new book coming out soon. Tell us about it.

My latest book is called A Million Ordinary Days, and it’s due out March 14. It’s the story of one woman’s fight against Multiple Sclerosis to try to live a normal life both with her career — working with pregnant teenagers — and raising her teenage daughter.

Which do you prefer: traditional, self publishing, or both?

I’m not one of those people who strongly prefers one way or another. Both are valid ways to publish. All of my books have been self published so far, but if I ever had the chance to have the traditional publishing experience, I think that would be great, too.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing writers today?

One of the biggest obstacles is the ability to get published. People with wonderful novels can’t find publishers and feel uncomfortable or unsure of self publishing.  People who had great publishers lose their contracts for a variety of reasons and then don’t know how to publish their next books.

Allison Wheeler is fighting a war inside her body, a war with Multiple Sclerosis that she doesn’t want to acknowledge and certainly doesn’t want other people to see.

As Allison’s health deteriorates, she tries desperately to hold on to all that is important to her – her family, her career as a social worker for pregnant teens, and most of all, her independence. As her ex-husband and two daughters rally around her, they’re fighting their own demons – Glenn, in a new relationship, is afraid of shifting the comfortable companionship that he and Allison have built since their divorce fifteen years back. Melanie, whose sad past haunts her, is an adult realizing that adult life is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Hailey, a junior in high school, is debating how she can go off  to college knowing that even though she desperately wants to spread her wings and fly, her mother may be too ill for her to go. Just when they all think they’ve made peace with their lives, they must readjust to a “new” normal – or risk losing everything they’ve struggled to hold onto.

Release Date: March 14th, 2017

Want more info on this book?  Go to Judy’s website

Writing: Who’s Your Character? (Poll)

Be sure to vote, and follow this particular discussion as there will be more in the near future about the topic!

 

Published!

Click on image for the digital issue

 

I’m pleased to find out that two of my poems (Longing for Home, and Seekers) have been published in The Hungry Chimera Literary Magazine 🙂

To read this issue, just click on the image above.  The digital issue is free.  If you’d prefer a print copy, it’s $15.00.

They are accepting submissions for the next issue.