Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

I Wonder

In a peek inside my head, writing on June 10, 2016 at 6:33 pm

I wonder if there’d be fewer Brock Turners if fewer important books were condemned and censored*; if there’d be fewer people with a sense of entitlement and privilege if fewer adults tried to “protect” children from the ugliness and misconstructions and consequences of this broken world, early on in life.

Fewer excuses.

Fewer fears.

I wonder if there’d be more Kind People if more important books were encouraged and accessible; if there’d be more people with a sense of respect and responsibility if more adults intentionally educated children on the ugliness and misconstructions and consequences of this broken world, early on in life.

More accountability.

More dialogue

to discuss these things openly

while teaching a better way.

The way of love

empathy

kindness

self-control

Instead of ignoring. Instead of pretending the broken world doesn’t exist. Instead of believing what happens to a stranger is somehow disconnected from reality.

Instead of reasoning that children are “too young” for such topics,

thus becoming a silent contributor to the spread of the current epidemic.

When will they be old enough?

What is the age of accountability?

I wonder if less censorship would create greater wholeness; if it would help children not be fearful of the ugliness and misconstructions and consequences of this broken world, but equip them to face it. To learn from it. To change it.

And become Kind People.

 

*inspired by recent events of authors being disinvited to school visits based on the content of their books being deemed “inappropriate” juxtaposed by a friend who is being very intentional in raising her young boys to “embody integrity, kindness, respect, and responsibility; to tear down the walls of rape culture,” and who is partly doing this via seeking out books that challenge “boy stereotypes.” Janice, you are my hero. And authors, keep writing about what’s important.

Advertisements

Were it Not for the Darkness

In ruminating, writing on December 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

I’m not pretending to know what refugees go through, not even a little bit. But as I’ve been reading personal stories of those who have been displaced I can’t help but imagine myself in their shoes. And I wonder if it is possible for them to find shards of hope within the wide chasm of their hopelessness… 

 

Once celebrated for its fragrant, luscious olives, our province is now well known as an exporter of shattered, devastated people.

 

Run-aways.

 

Overnight outlaws.

 

Refugees.

 

We who fled on foot. And then drifted on water.

 

Oh, the immense darkness of the sea:

All encompassing. Suffocating. Black as pitch.

 

But were it not for the darkness, we would not know the existence of stars.

 

A distant spark.

A light.

A promise.

 

A glimmer of hope

For that which is not yet visible

But a reality all the same

Just as breath must pass through the cold to be seen,

And the day which rises from the east must first endure the night

So, too, hope comes to life only in the midst of despair.

 

A glimmer of hope;

Can you see it?

Among the millions that have been displaced and forgotten for so long, individual names are being remembered and spoken and are becoming known.

 

A glimmer of hope;

Can you hear it?

Above the rattle of tanks and gunfire and the hammer of running feet, erupts the sharp, impulsive cry of a newborn babe.

 

A glimmer of hope;

Can you smell it?

Through the stench of tear gas and gun smoke and death, cuts a fresh glorious rainfall that stirs and revives the sun-parched earth.

 

A glimmer of hope;

Can you taste it?

From within the smack of dust and stale air and the metallic tang of blood, emerge memories of warm falafel, savoury olives, and sweet honey in the comb.

 

Will there be falafel and olives and honey in the new land?

Will the rain and the earth smell the same?

Will all lives matter?

Will someone know and speak my name?

 

Of these things I cannot be certain. But when glimmers such as these appear, I must grasp them.

Hold on tightly to that which presents to me a future.

Any future.

For surely that which comes after is better than that which has come before.

 

I must hold on tightly.

 

Were it not for the cold, I may not be reminded I still have breath.

Were it not for the night, I may not be reminded of the dawn that is to come.

 

Were it not for the darkness, I would not know the existence of stars.

 

 

 

Plot-Blindness and Walter White

In ruminating, writing on January 18, 2014 at 7:29 pm

I have a confession. It involves a condition I have.

Plot-Blindness.

A rare condition that can potentially be deadly. If you’re a writer.

Maybe I’m not the only one … Do you have Plot-Blindness?*

Plot-Blindess isn’t something that can be self-diagnosed. Unfortunately, you won’t realize you have it until it’s pointed out to you. But don’t fret, rarely – if ever – is it in a sudden and startled, “OMG! You’re plot-blind!” kind of way. No, Plot-Blindness reveals itself quietly over a long period of time – say about the time it takes to write several books, read several books, or watch several movies or t.v. series. It is only actualized when – while writing, reading, and watching – you are regularly exposed to comments such as “I was waiting for the story to begin,” and “Not a lot happened,” and “What was that story supposed to be about?” and you don’t get it. You don’t understand how these people have come to speak those comments, let alone how to go about responding. You never were good at writing summaries for the teacher at school; is nailing down plot the same kind of thing? Your mind just never has worked in a straight line like that. Heck, you can’t even draw a straight line with a pencil. Besides that, you have difficulty identifying main points; pin-pointing inciting incidents; recognizing if something is missing, if there’s a gap. Plot? Plot holes? *shrug* So you keep quiet. And smile a lot. If you are plot-blind you will find ways to hide your condition, all while wondering if you are indeed existing in the same realm as those around you. Perhaps you are not. You do not see as they do.

Being plot-blind you may begin to wonder how you are even capable of reading anything from beginning to end. How you even have the capacity to enjoy an entire film. How you ever make sense of anything. How you ever got anything published. (Like, seriously. How did that even happen?) Plot-Blindness can be quite distressing and once diagnosed, you will experience many emotions, among them being denial, confusion, frustration, anger, and fear. And like any good cycle, these reactions will eventually lead you to stage 6: Seeking a Cure. Once at stage 6, you will madly research ways of replenishing the depleted plot reserves in your system. It will overtake you. It will be your new obsession. But even though you do this, even though you spend hours and hours that equal days that equal weeks that equal years researching, discussing, and reflecting, even when you do find the cure (and you will, many times over) it will all have been in vain. Because you simply cannot grasp and absorb the remedy. It disappears before your plot-blind eyes like boiling water thrown into the frigid air of a polar vortex, turning immediately to a cloudy vapor and disappearing. Your plot-blindness, evidently, is terminal. You will never write again.

Really?

Truly.

Is it really too much work to find another way? Are you that spent, that tired of fighting that you’re prepared to give up? Have you lost your will to write? Will you simply roll over and let your words die? Or will you, like Walter White, get to business and start cooking up some superior new crystal meth writing mindset and get on with it? No matter the trouble you may face. No matter the extra hard work it will take. No matter what gets in your way, intimidates you, or tries to make you feel weak and incompetent. Face it head on. Focus on what you are skilled at. And use it. It’s a well-known fact that when one sense is lacking, another will compensate. What compensates for Plot-Blindness? Maybe superior word-crafting. Maybe killer dialogue. Maybe kicka** characterization. Maybe fantastic world-building. Maybe a combination of a few. Whatever it is, acknowledge it. Dig in. Focus. And start cookin’.

Get to the final stage.

Stage 7: Acceptance.

Acceptance of Plot-Blindness.*

Acceptance of compensatory strength(s).

Acceptance of a long, hard road ahead.

Acceptance that though something is lacking all is not lost – it can be worked out later. With help. From a professional.

You may always suffer from Plot-Blindness, but Stage 7 brings freedom and confidence, removes barriers, and sets you facing forward.

Now move.

*Plot-Blindess is my challenge. (Ummm … Kinda huge, right?) You may have a writing challenge of your own that gets you down, makes you want to give up. Don’t let it. Fight it. Work through the stages. Work hard. Start cookin’!

“Just Write”

In ruminating, writing on June 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm

My attitude towards advice on writing process is like that of some people towards faith: Keep it to yourself.*

If I want to know what you think, I’ll ask. Pinkie swear.

But if I don’t ask, know that I’m wrestling with it all the same. I’m thinking it through. I’m learning. I’m reflecting and evaluating and growing. I’m figuring it out.

I am.

I’ve got to, because it’s my process.

You’ve got to figure out your process, because it’s yours.

Writing is such a personal, individual act of creation, how can anyone tell me how to do mine? How I should do mine? How can I tell anyone how to do theirs?

No one should be telling us we’re doing it wrong.

Or make us feel that way.

Even if it’s taking longer than their process.

Even if it looks horribly painful.

Even if they don’t understand it.

Even if they’ve never heard of anyone ever doing it like that before.

Even if …

Do they really think there is a “right” way? Really?

Saying “don’t do this; just do this,” is rarely, if ever, helpful.

Saying “this is how I do it,” might be helpful.

Saying “discover it for yourself,” will be helpful.

And once you’ve discovered it, accept it. Like it. Love it.

And write by it.

 

*This blog post brought to you by the existence of one too many “Don’t edit as you write – JUST WRITE” remarks in the world.

People Are People

In ruminating, writing on June 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm

You know that moment in your writing day when you have the intense urge to go clean your bathtub because it’s easier than writing the scene you’re waist-deep in the middle of? Yeah. That was me about ten minutes ago. Make that thirty – including the time it took to clean the tub and write this post.

The funny thing about cleaning the tub mid-scene isn’t that you get all sweaty and come away smelling like Comet – because that isn’t funny. The funny thing is that when you abruptly take your head out of writing mode and flick the extreme-switch on to thinking about nothing while doing a mundane task, that’s when you get fresh ideas.

The only problem is these fresh ideas, for me anyhow, rarely have anything to do with what I was writing before kneeling tubside. The fresh idea for today was this blog post. Not sure why. I haven’t posted in ages. And wasn’t planning on doing so for ages to come.

But since we’re both here, let me share with you what came to mind today as I was elbow-deep in turquoise tub cleanser. I’ve packaged it up neatly in a cellophane and ribbon earworm for you. You’re welcome, in advance.

 

People are people so why should it be

You and I should get along so awfully

People are people so why should it be

You and I should get along so awfully

I can’t understand

What makes a man

Hate another man

Help me understand

 

This song by Depeche Mode goes through my head often, and not only when I’m cleaning the tub. There are a couple of reasons why it does, I’ve figured out, and one of the reasons is because I see so much virtual fist-swinging online. The minute – the second – someone doesn’t agree with someone else, the fingerless typing gloves come out. WHAM! Instant comment. In our instant culture of instant social media you can instantly say what you’re instantly thinking. That’s a scary thing.

People are people so why should it be

You and I should get along so awfully

I’m all for sharing and posting and instagramming and videoing. I’m rather fascinated by the immediacy of it all, actually. I’m also all for freedom of speech and expressing what you think. I’m all for being an individual and using your own colors and words and being free from pressure to conform. I’m all for ALL of that. But I’m also all for respect and courtesy and consideration. And modesty. And self-control. Kindness and patience and grace. All of these things take thought. And reflection. They aren’t instant. They take time to travel from our head. And heart.

How to reconcile the latter with the former … In real life as well as online.

People are people so why should it be

You and I should get along so awfully

I am one of the people who are people. And I write about people who are people. Because of this, my current manuscript features a gay character. His scene is the one I sought a diversion from. His scene is the one my tub saved me from. And he is the other reason Depeche Mode often resides in my mind.

I can’t understand

What makes a man

Hate another man

Hate is a strong word. Not everybody hates. Not even everybody who has different opinions or beliefs than someone else hates the person they differ with (though that is often a common assumption, for some reason.) But it’s evident the person in this song really was hated on. And my main character’s gay uncle can probably relate.

Help me understand

People are people. Online and off. And in print.

I’ve been asked:

“Why does he have to be gay?”

Because he is. Because people are people.

I’ve been asked:

“Don’t you think that’s too much for a middle grade book?”

No. Because people are people.

I’ve been asked:

“Are you trying to prove something?”

Yes. That people are people.

I write about people who are people. I write about how people treat and are treated. I write about how people cope and respond and live their lives. I try to write with respect and courtesy and consideration, words that are filled with humility and grace and thoughtful reflection. And I write so that I, and others, may understand.

Imagine my surprise …

In writing on February 19, 2013 at 8:00 am

… when I was about to walk out the front door on February 18, 2013 and the mailman was just leaving the front step. February 18 was Family Day, a long weekend holiday. I wasn’t expecting mail.

Imagine my surprise …

… when I spotted and then plucked an envelope, addressed to me from the Ontario Arts Council, out of my mailbox. “Well, here we are. My ‘we regret to inform you’ notice,” I said to my husband as I brought the letter inside. “At least I can stop checking the mailbox every day now.”

Imagine my surprise …

… when I tore open the envelope and found it to be fuller than I remember it being in previous years. There was more than just the usual one-pager in there.

Imagine my surprise …

… when I slowly opened the top flap of paper, upside down, and, peeking into the fold, quickly searched the inverted and creased first line for the word “regret”

Imagine my surprise …

… when I couldn’t find it. When I read and reread those upside down words a couple of times before it dawned on me that “regret” had been replaced

by the word

pleased

“… I am pleased to inform you …”

Pleased? Pleased?

I flipped the paper rightside up and unfolded the entire thing as my eyes skipped wildly across the rest of the opening paragraph:

“Dear Claudia …”

“… the Ontario Arts Council …”

“… you have been awarded …”

“… ‘The Other Wyre’ …”

” … cheque is enclosed.”

My misty hazel-browns slid down to examine the handwritten signature at the bottom.

And then I rechecked the name at the top.

It was still mine. Claudia Osmond.

Imagine my family’s surprise …

… when I jumped up and down on the living room floor in my snow boots, coat, scarf and mitts, shouting and crying and crying and shouting:

“I got it! I got it! I got it! I can’t believe I got it!”

I still can’t believe it. The process is fierce. What makes a successful applicant is unpindownable.

But it’s true. Thank my good God, it is true.

I am beyond grateful to the Ontario Arts Council and its jurors for their support and affirmation.

And for believing an eleven-year-old girl named Theodora has a story worth telling.

It. Is. Aliiiiiiiive

In website, writing on February 19, 2013 at 7:30 am

Okay. It’s not alive. But it is live.

That’s right! My all-new, fully renovated, totally rad website! And to help celebrate its auspicious launch, I’m going to hold an interview. With me.

Now, I know it’s not a usual thing to do, having an interview with yourself, but so what? Live while you’re young.

Below you’ll find the content of the Q&A page of my website. And after you’re finished reading it, please use the screenshot at the bottom of this post as your portal to check out the rest of the site.

Happy reading! And please do send me some feedback and/or comments, if you’re so inclined.

Claudia Osmond – Writer of Words

 

How did you become a writer?
By writing. Seriously.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Not in the professional sense of the word. It’s just part of who I am. I need to write. I must write. If I don’t, I get all restless and feel like something’s missing, like I’m not doing what I should be doing. So I don’t think it’s that I always wanted to be a writer – it’s more like I just had to figure out how to cultivate and release what has always been inside me.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Good question! I don’t even know. Ideas have this habit of popping up from nowhere and everywhere all at once. They’re very sneaky, unpredictable little things. And if you aren’t quick enough, they’ll disappear just as fast as they appeared – kind of like those little amusement park gophers you have to try to bop on the head with a rubber mallet before they disappear back into their holes. So as a writer it’s my job to be prepared to grab the little guys whenever and wherever they show up. And, of course, once I’ve got a hold of one I’ve also got to be prepared to keep it entertained or else it’ll get bored and go looking for someone else to play with.

What are some of your favorite books?
I love Sally Gardner’s books, namely I CORIANDER, THE RED NECKLACE, and most recently MAGGOT MOON. I also adore Markus Zusak’s, THE BOOK THIEF, Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, and Kenneth Oppel’s new THE APPRENTICESHIP OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN series. And I’m absolutely mad for Dr. Seuss!

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a writer?
First of all: READ. And when you read don’t just read; enter the stories. Experience them. That way, you can add those experiences to your own personal experiences and the pool of creativity that you need to pull from when you write will widen and deepen. Not to mention, the pop-up idea gophers will multiply as a result as well. Also, become interested in anything and everything in the world around you. Use your senses and commit to memory smells, sounds, tastes, sights, and textures. Practice composing descriptions of those things as if you had to describe them to someone who’d never experienced them before. How would you describe the sound of snoring, the taste of a pomegranate, the smell of a sewer? Furthermore, you must also be a very keen observer of people: Study how they interact, walk, talk, eat, sit, sleep, cry, laugh … You get the picture. And finally, never go anywhere without something to write with, preferably a notebook and a pen. But a gum wrapper will do in a pinch.

Are you going to write more books?
Yes. Many more.

Do you follow a routine when you write?
No. I wish I could offer you a fail-proof writing plan, but I can’t survive with routine for very long – it suffocates me. I need to live within a certain degree of chaos. That’s how I operate. The only thing I can tell you that would be anywhere near routine would be that I have a big mug of coffee every morning. (Although, some people may consider that an addiction, not a routine ) A friend of mine has a great motto: Make a plan, change the plan. But most times, I don’t even get to the “make a plan” part!

Which of your characters is most like you?
All of them have a bit of me in them. I can’t say that any one of them is more like me than any other. (Although, I do constantly have internal monologues like Smudge does!)

Now please allow me to present claudiaosmond.com in its entirety:

Note: What you are about to experience is fully due to the creative genius of Grand WebMaster Flash, Paul Agius. Please do pay him a visit, too. And if you’re in need of a website overhaul of your own, I can’t recommend him highly enough. He’s a brilliantly intuitive designer.

Click to visit website

Click to visit website

Not a Long Story Made Short: The Story Behind the Story

In ruminating, writing on February 2, 2013 at 11:43 am

In honor of the upcoming launch of my new website, I’d like to share my “Story Behind the Story” web segment with you. It’s my publication story … and beyond.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Just so you know, this is not a long story made short. It’s a long story that still has no ending.

Somewhere around 1999, I got inspired. I wish I could tell you I had a vision or an amazing dream that brought about that inspiration. But if I’m going to be honest with you I must tell you that my inspiration simply came from this deeply profound thought: “Heck! I want to write a book!”

So I sat down at the old desktop in the basement and pounded away at the keyboard until I had a chapter finished. It was called “Indoor Recess” (the chapter is now called “Blind Eyes”) and it was bad! Really bad! Of course, at the time I thought it was pretty brilliant.

Publication never even crossed my mind so I just took my time with the story which, besides that first chapter, was written in my closet. (I kid you not. It was a pretty dazzling set-up, actually.) Thinking back, it was a good thing I wasn’t considering publication at the time – I’d have gotten nothing but rejection notices if I’d tried submitting that early stuff! And trust me, I got enough rejections after I’d polished the manuscript to what I had thought was a high-gloss shine!

It wasn’t until a friend of mine started badgering me about finishing up the book and trying to submit it to publishers that I even considered taking it out of the closet to introduce it to the light of day. But, being the serious procrastinator I am, I just smiled and said, “Yeah, yeah. I’ll get it done. No worries.”

Six years later…

The badgering persisted. So, I finally caved, got the manuscript done, and then spent about six months researching my face off about how to get a publisher to even glance at a manuscript written by an unrepresented no-namer. I vowed, right from the beginning, that I would not self-publish, no matter what. It just wasn’t a road I was prepared to take. So I memorized individual publisher’s submission guidelines, the “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” of submitting manuscripts, and I read zillions of books on the subject, articles on the web, and anything I could get my hands on to make me feel like I wasn’t completely loopy for even trying to attempt such a long-shot! Once my brain was full of all the information I could absorb and I knew I was as ready as I would ever be (which still wasn’t ready enough!), I made the leap and sent out packages tailored to specific publisher requirements – even to ones who said they weren’t accepting manuscripts from no-namers.

Then, according to my infinity hours of research, I had at least six months to wait before I even heard anything (which would most likely be a rejection notice, they all assured me) from a publisher. Well, a few weeks later, I got a favourable email from a small publisher in the U.S. stating they wanted to read the whole manuscript! Yikes! Freak out time!

And then a few days later I got another email from a publisher in Canada wanting the completed manuscript. And then about a week after that, I got an email from Simply Read Books in Vancouver, also wanting the full meal-deal. Now, before you think all I got was positive feedback, let me assure you there were plenty of rejections tossed in with those heart-stopping emails – on a daily basis! Actually, the rejections kept coming in for months after. And I’ve kept each one. I remember actually cherishing my first rejection letter that came from a big NYC publisher. “I’ve made contact!” I exclaimed, hugging the impersonal form letter. My husband and kids thought I’d lost it. (FYI – I’m not crazy. I didn’t do that with every rejection letter. The novelty of ‘making contact’ wore off after that first one!)

So, considering I needed to send my completed, polished manuscript off to three different publishers, I quickly did another once-over and shipped them off. Pressing the “send” button on my email was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. My finger quivered over the key for a good long while. I was sending my baby into the hands of complete strangers! Strangers that had the power to make a final judgement and totally and out rightly reject my six years of blood, sweat, and tears. Okay, maybe not the blood part, but the sweat and tears, definitely.

One of the three publishers did the deed and swiftly hung my sweat and tears out to dry. But not too long after, Simply Read Books called one night. I thought my husband was playing a cruel joke on me when he said, “There’s a publisher on the phone for you.” “That’s not even funny,” I said as I took the receiver. But within a few minutes I was laughing! I couldn’t believe what the guy on the other end of the line had just said to me. All I heard was, “I want to publish your book,” and then my mind shut off and I didn’t hear anything else – except something about a contract. What? A contract? A real, live contract? And this from a publisher who’d said they weren’t accepting submissions from no-namers!

Once I hung up the phone and the happy-dances with my family died down and the days turned into weeks with not another peep from the publisher, I had convinced myself that the man on the phone had either called the wrong person or had changed his mind. I wasn’t going to get published after all. Time to embrace the rejections that were still coming in and drag my heart back to the place of rejoicing for at least “making contact.”

But a real live contract showed up in the mail a few weeks later. I read it about fifty times (the first twenty-five times because I was still in shock and the last twenty-five times because I was trying to make sense of it) and then I had a lawyer read it over before I signed it and sent it back. And then I cried. My baby wasn’t mine anymore. For the first time I could see why some people would rather self-publish and keep their baby in their own arms forever.

Now, before you shrug me off as just being “one of the lucky ones”… Well, maybe there’s a speck of truth in that somewhere. But let me assure you, the amount of “luck” I might have had can’t even come close to equalling the number of hours and amount of hard work I put into the whole process. Hard, hard work – right from the moment I started researching publishers to preparing submission packages to the never-ending editorial process to seeing my book through to print. And now, beyond. You may have heard it said that writing the book is the easy part. Well, let me tell you that is the absolute truth! So many people think publication is the magic pill and if only they could swallow it all their authorial dreams, goals, and ambitions would be instantly fulfilled and then all of their hard work will have finally paid off. Well, that may be partly true, but I’ve swallowed the pill and have learned that although it may provide a shot of instant relief, it’s actually designed to work as a slow release. And it’s only effective when working in conjunction with the mettle in your system.

There have been so many times over the years when I’ve totally felt like giving up and trashing this whole crazy idea of being a published author, just because it’s been such hard work. And continues to be. True, there are many moments of exhilaration and satisfaction and fulfillment and affirmation and love of the business. There are. Many. But it’s not always that way, like with anything in life. I’ve been bumped and jostled; I’ve stumbled and been tripped up; I’ve got scraped knees, elbows, palms, and chin. I feel I’ve now earned the right to include “blood” for a complete “blood, sweat, and tears” parallel to hard work. Publishing is a tough business. Period.

But you know what? I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for anything. (Well, maybe for some things, but not just for anything.) It’s undeniable: The thrill of publication is grand – the Grandest of the grand! And the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced along the way have been life-enriching. Absolutely. And what’s more? I’ve learned great lessons; lessons about the importance of researching and doing my homework; about being patient and assertive; about practicing my craft; about networking; about perseverance, determination, and hard work. About how a no-namer like me can earn the chance to be published – and even published successfully – when all of the above are taken seriously. I’ve also learned that lessons like these have the potential to become great fuel to propel me forward and, conversely, they also have the potential to become dust if left to sit too long.

So as this brand new website emerges from the dust all sparkly and fresh, you’ll find me here among the rubble, donning my safety-goggles and doing what I can to convert my accumulated knowledge to rocket fuel.

Like I said, this isn’t a long story made short. But considering where I find myself today, looking to the future, I wouldn’t want to shorten it anyway.

To be continued …

Stephen King and the Swirling Thing

In ruminating, writing on October 9, 2012 at 8:47 pm

You know how sometimes you feel something swirling just below the surface, and that something isn’t able to form itself into a real, perceptible thought until someone asks you just the right question? That happened to me the other night. Via a facebook conversation.

N.B. I don’t care what anyone says about facebook. I’ve had some pretty significant interactions on that thing.

I updated my status while under the influence of a writerly frustration haze, stating something along the lines of how books on writing tend to cloud my vision more than sharpen it. I then declared Stephen King’s ON WRITING to be the only book I’ve read thus far that has truly empowered, rather than destroyed me. Said conversation ensued. It began like many do, with people linking arms in artistic solidarity, feeling my pain, and offering encouraging alternatives. And, as expected, coffee came up as a solution at least once. For which I am grateful.

The inciting incident that turned the conversation around for me was a question. And it ran along the lines of this: I’m curious: How was King’s book so empowering? What makes it so different from the rest?

I can’t count how many times I’ve praised ON WRITING not only to fellow writers, but to anyone who will listen. “It’s such a great book!” “I read it at least once a year, it’s that good!” “Stephen King freaks me out, but his book on writing is hilarious and so inspiring!” “I love Stephen King!”

N.B. I don’t really love love Stephen King. But I do love Stephen King.

But do you know what? No one has ever asked me why. No one. Ever. And do you know what else? I didn’t really know why. Well, I did, but all this time it was just something that was swirling below the surface. Something that I’d never taken the time to identify. Something that has made everything else I’ve read since not measure up. And it isn’t because I’m a devoted, die-hard Stephen King horror fan who is infatuated with anything the man writes. Far from it. But that question now demanded that I reach in, capture, and name the swirling thing.

So this is what I named it:

I think it’s a combination of things – his humour, his insights, how he draws parallels between his experiences and his writing – but mainly his attitude. He is still just as realistic and hard-hitting about the publishing industry as the rest, but he doesn’t come across as jaded or as superior in his delivery. He’s someone who has worked his way from below ground level to the top, yet keeps firmly in his sights where he came from and credits his whole human experience as being what has made him the writer he is today. He seems to not take anything for granted and also does not speak down to the reader. Here’s a guy who has made millions and is one of the best known writers out there, yet he comes across as the guy next door: reading the book feels like you’re sitting on lawn chairs in your backyard with him, roasting marshmallows while he tells you his story instead of in a classroom where you’re sitting under fluorescent lighting and he’s standing at the front lecturing. He doesn’t try to reduce writing to a formula he’s thought up – he quite openly says he has no clue why his writing sometimes works and why sometimes it doesn’t. And because of all of this he manages to make you feel you are an author along with him, not one who’s following him and trying to catch up. And that is very empowering.*

It’s a rather long name, I agree. But it’s the last line that sums it up for me: … he manages to make you feel you are an author along with him, not one who’s following him and trying to catch up.

Isn’t that the mark of a great leader? Of someone you want to listen to? Of someone you want to learn from and spend time with? Someone who will walk with you, not in front of you. Someone who recognizes your uniqueness and works with your strengths. Someone who doesn’t lord their position over you, but lays their position firmly beneath you to support you and set you up for success.

That’s the kind of individual I want to choose as my go-to person. And that person’s voice will cut through the noise of all the others because it is the one that’s close to my ear.

Stephen King has given me a gift. A writer’s gift. And I hope I can pass a similar swirling-beneath-the-surface-type gift to someone else someday. In whichever way they need it.

 *N.B. This is why I never want to meet Stephen King in person. I’d hate to discover he’s really not the type to sit and roast marshmallows with me.

Waiting to Be Known

In ruminating, writing on May 29, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Old photographs simply burst with story; to me, the backstory being the most intriguing, by far.

Who hasn’t looked at an old photograph and wondered:

who are these people?

what lead them to this place?

what are their dreams?

their fears?

their joys?

their sorrows?

their secrets?

what are they thinking?

what happened next?

what happened just before?

where did they come from?

where have they been?

where are they now?

An image offers only a single snapshot; one moment in time. Forever frozen. Forever fading. Forever far away.

The who, what, where of story. In a photograph. Secreted within a single frame. Waiting to be known.