Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No Time to Write

by Patty Kyrlach

I don't have time to write.


And I'm not just making excuses either. Really.


I have two part time jobs. A family. A house to maintain at minimal Board of Health standards. And I'm dealing with some annoying health issues that affect my breathing and my vision. Surely you can see how important breathing and seeing could be to a writer? Am I right?


Besides all that, stuff keeps happening. We have wet laundry hanging all over the house because the dryer just gave out. My left front tire keeps going flat. I suddenly wound up hosting the writers group meeting tomorrow. Writers group! How ironic is that, since I don't even have time to write.


And then, there's my blog. That's sort of writing, isn't it? Apart from the fact that the blog takes up more time than I ever dreamed. Plus the stuff I do to try to get people to read it. Send emails. Post on Facebook. Plus One on Google. Accost total strangers in the grocery store to see if they wanna read my blog. Which they usually don't. Hey, that reminds me. You wouldn't happen to know anybody interested in a blog about stories and myth?


Sorry. Had to ask.


Plus hey, I've got a church.  A cat. And relatives. Paperwork to do and appointments to keep. It's incredible how much time it takes to do the grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. And a long list of back projects. We haven't even unpacked all the boxes from when we moved here five years ago.


Let's face it. I don't have time to write.


The only thing that kind of bothers me--just a little--is that I have some friends with harder jobs, bigger families, more issues, and more stuff happening than I have, and somehow they still manage to find time for writing. So this is what I'd like to know: is this some kind of trick? Do you think they are just trying to make me look bad?  And how the heck do they do it?


I know what you're thinking. These other writers must have more determination than I have. More grit. Better character, a tougher moral fiber, and a stronger work ethic. They just make up their minds to make the time. They make sacrifices. They say no to some fun things in order to say yes to writing.


Nah, that can't be it. I just don't have to write.


When she's not making excuses about not writing, Patty Kyrlach writes for Cookies & Milk, a children's page in SW Ohio newspapers. You can visit her blog on myth and story--Stark Raving Mythopath--at www.mythopath.blogspot.com.



Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tom Mullen -- In Memory of a Mentor

by Kathleen Deyer Bolduc

Nursing a cold drink in a shaded courtyard, tired from tromping up and down the cobble-stoned hills of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Old Town, I heard a distinctive laugh.

Sure enough. There was my friend Tom Mullen, entertaining a table full of companions, no doubt expounding on the vagaries of old age and diabetes.

I stood up. “Tom!” I yelped. “Tom Mullen!”

His wife Nancy heard me first. She jumped to her feet, shrieking. Tom looked around to see what all the commotion was about. It may be a cliché, but his mouth dropped open, literally, when he saw me waving. I ran across the courtyard for a bear hug.

Small world.

I can’t believe I won’t hear that laugh again – a laugh recognizable thousands of miles across the sea, in a courtyard ringing with the melodious murmur of Spanish-speaking people. That distinctively mid-western, by-gosh-by-golly-laugh; a laugh that cloaked an intelligence a mile wide; a spirituality two miles deep.

I met Tom nearly twenty years ago at one of the very first Ministry of Writing affairs at Earlham. I was new to this business of writing, but I was serious about it. My entire life was serious, for that matter. My youngest son, Joel, had just been diagnosed with moderate mental retardation. Life was a merry-go-round of doctor and therapy visits, sibling rivalry, marriage counseling, and Joel’s daily temper tantrums.

With just one published article to my credit, I heard Tom’s announcement about the Patrick Henry Writing Fellowship, and an idea surfaced, fully formed. I’d write a book of devotions about the grief I was experiencing as Joel’s mom.

If I’d known that day of Tom’s distinguished career – Dean of Students at Earlham College, Dean of ESR, Distinguished Alumni of Yale University, author of 14 books – I never would have had to courage to do what I did.

I cornered Tom at the end of the workshop.

His response was vintage Tom. “What do you mean, is it possible? This is a great idea! Write a proposal!”

Tom’s enthusiastic reception of my just-hatched idea lifted me out of the doldrums where I’d been stuck for months. A week later the proposal was written and in the mail. Several weeks after that the mailman delivered the letter of acceptance.

And so began a twenty year friendship with a man who would become my teacher, my mentor, my coach, and my encourager.

Thanks to Tom I wrote my way through denial, depression, and anger, until I found God in the midst of life with disability. Along the way I published three books – His Name is Joel: Searching for God in a Son’s Disability; A Place Called Acceptance: Ministry with Families of Children with Disabilities; and Autism & Alleluias.

Thanks to Tom, I learned to lighten up and laugh along the way. He even got me laughing at one of the darkest moments of early life with Joel. I told him about the impact grief had on my marriage – how one night my husband threw a glass of milk at me and I responded by throwing a glass of wine across the room, shattering it against the far wall.

“Write about it,” Tom said, which I did in His Name is Joel. Tom then proceeded to tell the story several times in his speeches. In Tom’s re-telling, it became downright funny. This was one of Tom’s greatest gifts – the ability to make us laugh at the hard stuff.

Tom was there when the storm of grief and the desire to write collided in my life. That storm could have drowned me in my own pity-party. But Tom threw me a life-preserver called “writing as ministry.” He helped me polish the rough edges of my emotional outpourings. He laughed with me. He cried with me. And always, always, always, he encouraged me.

That chance encounter in Old Town San Juan is a memory that makes me laugh out loud. What a wonderful reminder that the kingdom of God is a place where our lives are woven together in a gossamer web as beautiful, intricate, and resilient as a dew-encrusted spider web shining in the first light of morning.

I hope you know, as you go on to the first light of your new life, Tom, that you are one of the jewels in the web of my life. I will miss you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What a Six Year Old Taught Me about Writing

by Donna Patton

What do I know about writing? When asked to share some gems of writing wisdom, I’ll admit to being stumped. What the heck do I know about writing that’s worth sharing? The answer to my question came in two surprising words that startled even me.

So what are these shining snippets of wisdom? The words that will galvanize your writing life, put a smile on your face and makes those hours at the keyboard all seem worthwhile?

Have fun.

Um, right. If you’re anything like me, you’ve lost some of the spark, the joy writing inspired. Maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve sold anything. Your happiness at selling a five dollar filler to the Coupon Queen is wearing thin. Or maybe you’ve never sold anything. You’ve put years into writing, learning, reading, and struggling to write the next great novel. You do your homework, send out those queries and fill boxes with rejection letters. Every brown envelope that comes back faster than a boomerang saps a little more of the delight you once felt. Writing gets old, tired. It’s drudgery, a chore. Trust me, I know those feelings well. So how do you change all that?

Have fun.

One day a week, I’m a volunteer teacher’s assistant. The class is called Creative Expression. The six to eight year olds make crafts and learn to express themselves. Not long ago, I was passing out glue sticks, lamenting the fact that after all these years; I still didn’t have a book contract, when WHAM! I realized what was missing in my writing life – joy.

No one has to tell the children to have fun. None of them stop to whine or worry about what to make. The idea that someone might not absolutely love their finished product never enters their minds. Pink aliens wrapped in duck tape uniforms? Go for it! Sometimes the projects don’t resemble the pattern the teacher held up – so what? The fun is in the creating. Their joy was not so much in the end result but in the journey to get there.

So revive your joy and believe your writing dreams will happen. Someday. Someone, somewhere is going to love your book or article or play. So enjoy the journey along the way.

Have fun.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Reader's Report

by Patty Kyrlach

Not long ago, a friend of mine had a bad writing day.

No, not bad. Horrible.

Angie submitted a novel to a literary agency, only to be turned down. Well, that happens, you say. True enough, but we didn’t get to the yucky part yet.

Since the agency returned her novel with no explanation, Angie bravely wrote and asked for a reason. She was expecting something along the lines of “Well, you’re really not a bad writer, but the plot needs a stronger conclusion, and your heroine should lose the handlebar moustache.” Or whatever.

Apparently the person who received Angie’s question didn’t feel like writing a letter in response. So she simply made a copy of the reader’s report and put that in the mail. Reader’s reports, just so you know, are not intended for the eyes of doe-eyed, hopeful authors.

The report put Angie’s story through the sausage grinder. It wasn’t worthy of lining the bottom of a bird cage. The reader didn’t like the characters, the plot, the writing style—or, apparently, the typeface.

My friend asked me, “How can I know if what I write is any good?”

The answer that came to me was simple and elegant. And terrifying.

We can’t.

Until God opens a literary agency and sends us a heavenly reader’s report, we can’t know. We can get opinions and critiques from people we respect, and that may give us some guidance. But we can’t REALLY know for sure.

We have to take a leap of faith and believe in ourselves. And then get up the next morning and do it again. And again.

That’s the bad news—and the good news. We can’t know with crystal certitude. But we don’t have to know in order to do. And the more we do, the better writers we’ll be.
Not long ago, a friend of mine had a bad writing day.

No not bad. Horrible.

Angie submitted a novel to a literary agency, only to be turned down. Well, that happens, you say. True enough, but we didn’t get to the yucky part yet.

Since the agency returned her novel with no explanation, Angie bravely wrote and asked for a reason. She was expecting something along the lines of “Well, you’re really not a bad writer, but the plot needs a stronger conclusion, and your heroine should lose the handlebar moustache.” Or whatever.

Apparently the person who received Angie’s question didn’t feel like writing a letter in response. So she simply made a copy of the reader’s report and put that in the mail. Reader’s reports, just so you know, are not intended for the eyes of doe-eyed, hopeful authors.

The report put Angie’s story through the sausage grinder. It wasn’t worthy of lining the bottom of a bird cage. The reader didn’t like the characters, the plot, the writing style—or, apparently, the typeface.

My friend asked me, “How can I know if what I write is any good?”

The answer that came to me was simple and elegant. And terrifying.

We can’t.

Until God opens a literary agency and sends us a heavenly reader’s report, we can’t know. We can get opinions and critiques from people we respect, and that may give us some guidance. But we can’t REALLY know for sure.

We have to take a leap of faith and believe in ourselves. And then get up the next morning and do it again. And again.

That’s the bad news—and the good news. We can’t know with crystal certitude. But we don’t have to know in order to do. And the more we do, the better writers we’ll be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Someday

by Robyn Whitlock

I’m going to write a book someday.

I’ve been saying that for at least ten years now, and each time I say it, I really mean it. Really.

The only problem? Someday never seems to come.

I’ll get started after I clean my office, I think, or when my kids are in school all day. When I can afford to buy a cabin in the woods, I’ll have a special place to write and the book will just flow out of me. When my kids grow up and leave home, surely I’ll have more time than I do now. I’ll write my book then.

Someday.

A friend recently challenged me to join her in doing NaNoWriMo, where participants write an entire 50,000-word novel in one month. That’s right, just one month.

And I said yes.

Even though I have three young children, a messy office, had out of town company coming for Thanksgiving—which I was hosting and cooking—oh, and did I mention I had never actually written fiction before?

Gulp.

For thirty days, I set my alarm an hour-and-a-half earlier, and sat down in front of my computer to write. When I started on this project, I worried that my family might starve and my children would have no clean clothes to wear to school, but amazingly, I found the opposite was true. I got more done in the month of November than I did in October. The pressure of knowing I had to make every minute count forced me be more productive, not less.

And that inspirational magic that I was sure descended on other writers and motivated them to keep slogging forward? It never came. But I kept getting up and putting myself in front of the computer to work, whether I felt like it or not.

At the end of the month, I was amazed to have a rough, but complete, young adult manuscript finished.

Someday has finally arrived.

So what are you waiting for? Have you been waiting for someday to come?

Maybe it’s already here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Real Writers Don't Eat Quiche

Remember that crazy book from the 80's. . . .Real Men Don't Eat Quiche?

Our Academy writers don't eat quiche either. . .because they're way too busy writing!

  • Kathy has spent a few days away this week, working on a second book of spiritual reflections on disability themes.
  • NancyE is happily writing a memoir.
  • Arlene writes stories for Sunday School take home papers.
  • Margaret S. has started a new book about her years of teaching in county jails, and Sally is editing not one, but two newsletters.
  • Rich is developing a family game.
  • One Jerry reports for a ministry to the poor in his home town, and the "other Jerry" reports on hospital news.
  • Robyn is a faithful blogger.
  • Olga is writing a collection of essays about her father.
  • Ruth is working on production details for a new curriculum, and Margaret G. is seeking representation for a novel.
  • Marilyn is planning a devotion book for her church for Advent.

And on and on through the list.

Not one of these people is rich and famous (just yet), but they are all writers, doing what writers do. They are researching, writing, editing, outlining, and marketing -- with a dash of daydreaming. They are working. They are communicating. They are putting one word after another. (And okay, maybe once in a while they eat quiche.)

Forget about the hot-shots on Oprah, basking in their allotted fifteen minutes of fame. If you want to see real writers, you can look right here. And we're proud of them!

So, dear and honored writers, what is YOUR definition of a "real writer"? Do you laugh or cry about all the popular misconceptions? Leave your comments and let us know what you think.