Monthly Archives: May 2017

I love a fresh start.

Summertime on the Puget Sound

We’ve had a cold, soggy spring in Tacoma. Most days, the sky and the Puget Sound have been a uniform shade of gray. At long last, the springtime sun flirts with us from behind the clouds, bringing promise of a new beginning.

The other day, I was reading a social media conversation among writers about fear of the blank page. Many find it hard to begin a new project, intimidated by all that white space. Me, I love a clean slate, a fresh start, a wide-open vista of endless possibilities. I love to sit down at my computer, or outdoors with my notebook, and just blather forth. Blah, blah, blah! Natter natter natter! Etc., and so forth, and so on!

I love that part.

Imagining scenes and characters and writing them down is easy and fun—for me, anyway. The hard part is cleaning it up and making sense of it all.

Right now, I’m working my way through the craft book that has my writer friends all a-twitter: Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. My half-finished mystery story needs a good clean-up, afflicted as it is with my usual slow-paced start, over-abundance of characters and side-plots, and protagonistic pontifications. So far, I’m finding Cron’s approach very helpful, like a stern but sympathetic teacher who raps her ruler on my desk every time she sees my attention start to wander.

Another fresh start that’s beckoning is summer break. My giddy anticipation of the end of the school year is more than a bit ridiculous, considering that I teach only five hours per week. But still—the promise of summer glimmers on the horizon: warm, lazy, self-directed days, unimpeded by commuting or lesson plans.

And I’ve decided not to accept any teaching jobs next year, having remembered the hard way how much prep time goes into each lesson taught. I only have so much focus and energy per day, and far too much of it has been spent on finding or creating materials for French instruction. Hats off to elementary and preschool teachers. Having stood briefly in your shoes, I have more respect than ever for the sheer amount of work you do to keep those little ones excited about learning. Y’all must be mainlining caffeine to do that all day long.

This detour back into teaching has sharpened my awareness of how much I enjoy writing. If I ever hope to publish my work, and I do, I need to devote my high-energy time to that pursuit. Lesson learned.

So, here’s to a new season and a fresh start.

Researching for Fiction Writers

Happy May to all. Are the growing light and warmth lifting your spirits? I hope you’re finding new energy and inspiration for your creative endeavors.

I’m back at my desk after a month-long road trip. One benefit of a break from the same-old-same-old is an appreciation of the passage of time. Unlike my usual routine, days spent exploring new places don’t blend together in a blur. And for once, I don’t feel like I’ve just finished writing last month’s IWSG blog post.

In case you’re new to this discussion, the Insecure Writers’ Support Group hosts a first-Wednesday blog hop for writers. IWSG is a great resource for writers of all types. I’ve really enjoyed meeting and learning from other scribblers via this blog exchange. Give them a look here and join the conversation: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

This month’s question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

Well, I’ve spent lots of time learning about poisons and historical erotic art. No, I didn’t use them both in the same story, but perhaps I should. Hmm…

So far, my stories all have contemporary settings, so I really don’t spend much time researching places and times. My settings are fictional, though based loosely on favorite towns. This gives me the freedom to plop down the people and places I need in a charming setting that becomes a character which both comforts and challenges my protagonist.

Poulsbo, Washington, another source of inspiration for my fictional settings.

Two of my as-yet-unpublished novels take place in a fictional Northern California town that blends  details from Half Moon Bay and Pleasanton in California, as well as Port Townsend, Enumclaw and Edmonds in Washington, and a dozen other charming, small-town Main Streets I’ve visited. You know the type: a few restaurants, some art galleries, a funky clothing boutique or two and, a tavern, a wine bar and, of course, a marvelous bookshop. The town is populated by local artists, artisans, entrepreneurs, and other colorful, sometimes prickly characters. It’s just the kind of place I’d like to live—but it works out much better in fiction.

In real life, small towns like that can be closed-up and closed-minded, not very welcoming to newcomers, and full of petty jealousies and interpersonal drama. People in a larger town, like the one I inhabit in real life, are less interested in poking their noses into others’ business. I like that freedom, as well as the access I have to lots of cultural events and beautiful places to walk.

But wouldn’t it be nice to live in a close-knit, funky, artists’ colony on the coast? Wouldn’t it be great to be part of a close-knit community that feels like family?

This month’s question has tickled my curiosity. I think I’ll make a point of visiting more charming little towns this summer—as research, mind you.

Is that tax-deductible?