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Friday, July 15, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: The DH

Today is my husband's birthday, and not coincidentally, it's the day I celebrate the birth of my partner, best friend, and writing buddy.

Anyone engaged in any of the creative arts needs an understanding partner and advocate. When one attempts to earn a living at something as ephemeral as entertaining with the written word, true understanding is essential.

My gratitude journal today recognizes the greatness of the gift that comes from having a hubby who's a writer, too; an understanding partner, advocate, editor and friend.

Thanks, Honey. There's a reason every book I write is for you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Maggie Describes the Farmers' Market

Here in Chico we have a great farmers' market on Thursday evenings. It's really more of a street fair. Downtown streets are closed to traffic and become a walking mall. Folks selling tie-dye set up next to farmers selling produce, people with homemade candles next to booths peddling kettle-corn or bread.

The Saturday morning market is different, smaller, with more of an emphasis on produce although other products are present.

Since MAGGIE RISING takes place in Chico, I've allowed Maggie to offer her visit to the Saturday morning market.

It was full to bursting with vendors’ pavilions, produce and products for sale, and wall-to-wall, shoulder-to-shoulder shoppers. This market was always much smaller than the Thursday night affair. Though there were usually musicians on one side or the other, or sometimes both, there were no belly dancers, no jugglers, no bounce houses or two-story inflatable slides.

Saturday’s market was always more business than pleasure. It was also quintessentially Chico – the neo-hippies with their dreadlocks and fabric shopping bags mingling with gray-haired couples holding hands and well-dressed younger families with two or three kids in tow; the Hmong farmers working their booths side-by-side with the lilywhite fifth-generation growers whose ancestors had been among the area’s first settlers; the potters and jewelry artists hawking their wares beside the folks with the petition favoring fewer restrictions on medical marijuana, while conservative politicians smiled and shook hands and kissed babies in the next booth over.

Comments? I'll welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Web Tips on Writing Rituals

On Monday I looked briefly at the idea of writing rituals. Today's web tip is a short article from a Writer's Community which includes a look at some common rituals and some truly odd ones.

Ask any professional writer and although they may begin with denial, they will likely come around to admitting that they each have some repeated behavior patterns that help them get going, even if they're unwilling to identify them as rituals.

A Google search for "writer's rituals" turned up a number of lengthy and interesting articles, including the fact (who wouldn't want to know this?) that Victor Hugo preferred to write naked and even instructed a servant to hide his clothes. He reasoned that if he didn't dress, he couldn't interrupt his concentration by leaving the house.

We may not all need to go to such lengths (or embarrassments) in order to be productive, but the fact remains that writing is both a discipline and an art. Some routines may help the discipline and some may inspire the muse.

As a NYT best seller I know once said, "Whatever cranks your engine." That's what rituals do: they crank our writing engines. Find yours and get cranking.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Fruits

Happy Birthday, Alex! Happy Anniversary to Aaron and Barb!

I love summer fruits. Cherries are among my favorites with peaches, plums and apricots coming in close behind. I love every kind of melon and all berries -- straw, blue, rasp, elder, marion, olalla, you name it!

When I get the chance, I relish some of the desert fruits I enjoyed as a child in Arizona: figs, fresh dates, pomegranates, even star fruit.

There's really no fruit harvested in summer or early fall that isn't among my favorites.

For years summer bore another kind of fruit in my home. I taught classes during the school year, so it was in summer that I saw the fruits of my labors as a writer. It was summer that produced the books.

During those same years, I stuck to short and fairly predictable kinds of plots since I couldn't plan on carrying a story into the new academic year when stacks of student papers would take precedence.

As the calendar rolls around to summer this year, I find I'm writing more than ever and enjoying it still more. My stories are longer and more complex. With no automatic end scheduled for my productivity, I can manage it better and accomplish more. My writing is bearing fruit, and I'm lovin' it!

Are there times and seasons when you write?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writer's Rituals

I know a travel writer who can't start a final draft until he has taken a shower. It's his ritual, his way of telling himself he is washing away all old ideas of how his final written piece should go and starting fresh. It works for him.

A novelist I know can't start a new project unless she first sharpens a half-dozen pencils. She composes on a keyboard and seldom uses a pencil, but she learned the pencil-sharpening way of getting started when she was a little child, just learning to write. It still works for her.

Writer's rituals may not be as crazy (or as interesting) as the superstitious rituals of some pro sports players, but they may serve just as real a purpose.

As a now-famous romance novelist once said, "It's whatever cranks your engine." If sharpening pencils tells your inner muse to get ready to write, then sharpen away! If taking a shower tells your inner editor it's time to go to work, keep the shower ready.

My rituals aren't as symbolic. Usually I start a new day of writing by reading through (and slightly editing) the scene or chapter I wrote during my last stretch at the keyboard. That gets me into the voice of my narrator and back into the action of the story. It can also help me break a writer's block if I've been stumped for a while.

Here's the trick: Learning what rituals work for you can help you cut through the wheel-spinning, getting you back to work faster and with less wasted effort.

If you have a ritual that works for you, please share!