Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Impact of Weather

It's beautiful out today. Mild and sunny and the sort of day that drew me to Texas in the first place. I love that it's so beautiful out and I find myself noticing how much happier I feel than when the weather is overcast or cold and gloomy for extended periods of time. Which, of course, makes me think

It makes me think about how, in bad weather, if we can step back and cut other people—and ourselves—some slack, our lives are likely to be smoother and happier.

If we're writers, it reminds me that climate and geography help to shape cultures and individuals. It's one more tool we can use in our writing if we are consciously aware of the impact that weather has—on our characters and on our readers. Just by choosing the right weather, we can evoke the emotions we want to add impact to the ones we put on the page.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Son and An Inauguration

I'm just back from New Jersey where I helped my son move his things into his room at the group home where he now lives. (He has Down syndrome.)

And now we have a new president.

I find myself thinking that for my son, who doesn't really understand about new presidents, his emotions must still be similar to so many of us in this country. He is worried about the changes in his life and what they will ultimately mean. He is not happy about having to give up what is familiar and to have to follow rules at the group home. In the end, I know his life will be better for this change but for now it's a difficult time for him.

For me and for others in the United States there is also a sense of uncertainty—about changes and what we may have to give up or do that will perhaps be difficult. At the same time, we are able to see possibilities. We can understand what Barack Obama meant when he said—and I'm paraphrasing here—that we must not and need not give up our souls or our honor in order to create the lives we want to live. We are fortunate. We have the ability to imagine how things might be in a way that my son cannot.

One thing my son does do well is see into people's hearts regardless of their outward appearance. He does not care the color of someone's skin or what their religious or political beliefs might be. He looks at the person and judges them by how they behave. Would that we all had that gift.

I was born at a time when Barack Obama's election would have been unthinkable. I am proud that we now live in a time when it can. I am proud of the dignity with which George W. Bush left office and Barack Obama stepped into office. I am proud that our country seems to be united—at least today—in a way that it has not been for far too long.

I wish my son could comprehend the significance of the inauguration. I hope he can begin to focus more on what is good about his new home and the possibilities for growth and happiness that exist in this new setting. I hope that we all are able to focus on the possibilities ahead for ourselves and for our country. And if we are writers, I hope that we are finding ways to put that hope into words because history will want to know how it was, how people felt and what they believed and hoped when these changes took place.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Are You Reading?

This is the time of year I suspect many of us really like to curl up with a good book. It's usually cold outside and the days just seem to be meant for reading. At my Austin RWA chapter meeting last night some of us were talking about whether we read what we like to write or like to read stuff we don't write. Two generally read what they also like to write and two of us read broadly—including lots of stuff we either know we couldn't or wouldn't want to write.

My personal bias is to read widely—including books we think we probably wouldn't like if it's out of our usual reading range particularly if the books are of a different genre and/or are written by people with very different backgrounds from our own.

If we're writers, we may learn new tools to use in our own work and be startled by ideas or ways of doing things that hadn't occurred to us before. If we're not writers, we may still find new ideas, new ways of looking at the world that wouldn't have occurred to us otherwise. Either way, we win. Even if we end up hating the book, we have new information about what works for us and what doesn't.

So....what are you reading? What has surprised you in good ways?

Some of the kinds of things that surprised me recently and that worked: an assassin as a hero (I would have sworn I couldn't/wouldn't like such a book!), a lawyer with strong faith in God, a book about the Dalai Lama and his philosophy toward happiness, a story about an astral traveling nanny (by an unpublished writer and whose central character stayed with me for a long time after I read the story), and quite a few other books including several on how to train a dog. My life is richer because I've read these books and stories. And that's what books and stories do—they enrich our lives.

Happy reading everyone!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Next Class and New Year

My Book in a Week class has been rescheduled to start January 26 and end February 27. The deadline to sign up is January 23. Cost? $60 for new students and $35 for students who have taken the Book in a Week class before. Contact me at if you're interested. Everything is handled by email so you can read the lessons at 3 in the morning in your pajamas if you want! As always, the first three weeks will focus on brainstorming in a way that lets us take advantage of our non-linear creativity. The fourth week will be intensive writing week where you get to discover how and when and where and what you write best. The fifth week will be a wrap up with some information on evaluating the experience, revising the manuscript and sending it out to publishers. I often have complete newcomers as well as published authors in the class. Come join us and get a good head start for the year!

Meanwhile...I find myself savoring the new year. It helps that we tend to have sunny days and moderate temperatures here in Texas. (I still find it extraordinary that three of my four grandparents came from Finland and that I might have Laplander ancestry on my father's side. I am NOT a snow and cold kind of person!)

I'm enjoying taking the time to think about what I want in my life in this coming year. What do I want to write? Who do I want in my life on a more regular basis perhaps? Where would I like to travel? What workshops might I want to present and online classes teach?

There's a sense of joy in realizing I can choose how I want my life to play out—no matter what the external situation might be. There's power in knowing I can choose how I will respond to challenges. And there's a sense of peace in knowing I can make a difference with the classes I teach.

Sophy is settling in nicely—though she wasn't very happy with all the firecrackers going off here on New Year's Eve.

I hope that for all of you, the new year is starting well and that you are looking forward to the possibilities ahead. We writers have great imaginations! Of course, we seem to more often envision what could go wrong than what could go right but....once we do begin to imagine what could go right, wow! Here's hoping you're seeing at least a few wonderful possibilities for your life, too.