Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Insecure Writer’s Support Group asks: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?


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If God is with me, this confounded memoir will be published and successful.  To that end, I must trudge on with a redraft of my adventures in college showing why it matters to both me and the reader.  I’m signed up for the Extension Course of the Story Genius method of writing and creating story with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash, the two key editors and writers in the course.

Like with any other profession, writers need to keep current in their careers.  We need to keep publishing and keep ourselves abreast of publishing trends and active on social media.  We need to demonstrate our knowledge base and share it with the public both online and in person.  I’ve just started giving writing presentations and workshops locally for teens and adults.  If I’m lucky, in five years I will have increased my writing workshop reach.  

Writers also need to build their online platforms.  This is what I am attempting to achieve through my connections with fellow writers at Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  I try to help my friends in the blogosphere by joining or following their blogs and connecting with them on facebook and Goodreads.  

May I please request that if you have not “followed” my blog, please do so now.  And if you could, please connect with me on my facebook author page and Goodreads page. Thank you so much.  If I haven’t connected with you on social media, please feel free to give me the links in the comments section of my Adventures in Writing blog.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.   We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE. 

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Story Genius Course: Internal and External Plots

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I'm still hammering away at
the Story Genius course. It truly
is a difficult but impressive way
to analyze your writing.
Besides the constant thinking of “why does [anything and everything] matter to the protagonist” in the Story Genius method of writing and creating story, Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash, the two key editors and writers in the course, want us to develop an internal and external conflict for the protagonist to battle.

            I have no problem with this in my fiction. In my YA short stories, my protagonist is always battling some familial or friend issue on the inside while she is traipsing through a national park battling real life problems trying to save both herself and usually a younger sibling on the outside. These two conflicts, the internal and the external, converge and sometimes clash at the epiphany or “aha” moment where our hero discovers how to overcome both problems and save the day. 

            But in my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, it’s not that dramatic. In memoir, everything must be true. I can’t make it up.

            So I told my editor, in order to find resolution to my internal and external problems and struggles with inferiority in the memoir, I graduated from Penn.

            Guess what she said? …Right! “That’s just surface,” [wait for it] “go deeper.”

The internal problem must become a new way for me to look at a particular situation in life.  In other words, the editors of Story Genius want to know what college MEANS to Victoria.  What is pushing and driving the protagonist to go on – what’s making Victoria go to college? What keeps her continuing to complete a degree?

College was a method to better educate myself in order to help my children, especially my firstborn who is perceptually impaired.  She was the impetus for me to begin college at that time.  Ever since the school counselor implied that my daughter couldn’t handle college, that the special education department felt she would never be able to obtain a degree, I decided to be sure she can at least have that opportunity because I never had the opportunity to attend college.   

What does college mean to Victoria?  Although Victoria always wanted to attend college herself because in her mind college equaled intelligence, by the time she is a mother of five children, college equals the voice of reason in the educational journey of her children.  Teachers, counselors, and the learning consultants at school gave their educated opinion that my daughter, with her learning disabilities and ADHD should not go to college. But she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. How can a mother not allow her child the opportunity to at least try to see if she can do it with my assistance as I’ve helped her all through her school journey thus far?

Fellow faithful blog followers, did I go deep enough this time?  What does college mean to you?  Thanks so much for any insight you may offer. 


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

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For me, I like creating new adventures to explore in my YA short stories. I like finding ways to get my kids—in the stories, in the stories!—into trouble.  Of course, I always find a way out for them.  Sometimes I need to be ingenious about it. But that’s the fun of story writing. Creating a believable world and populating it with genuine characters the reader can connect to.

            It’s not only the sci-fi and fantasy writers who need to create a world for their stories. All writers need to create a logical world where characters and creatures alike live out a storyline.  I’m a concrete thinker, so my stories are based in reality, yet I control what happens. I love nature and mountains and forests and hiking, so some of my stories take place on mountaintops or in forests. But the beauty of fiction is that I can create the tension; I can create what needs to happen to make the story interesting. I can create the inner struggle of the protagonist. And I can create a satisfying ending, because it doesn’t need to be true.

            I also write memoir.  While the writer knows what happens in memoir because it’s a narrative from life, it still needs to be written like a story and offer insight. I believe this makes memoir a bit more difficult to write than fiction. 

What do you think? Is fiction easier to write than memoir where everything needs to be true?


Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a note. This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Story Genius Course: Starting with Backstory

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The Story Genius course started
as a book. Lisa Cron uses concrete
methods to guide story creation.
That’s right, fellow writers!  Before you begin to write forward in your story, you need to understand who your protagonist is and why she acts the way she does.  What happened in her life before the story opens that makes her think and act this way?  Just like real people, characters are molded by prior life experience. 

Understanding the backstory of the protagonist [as well as secondary characters] is vital for fiction writers to create believable characters for their stories.  And that helps readers to connect with the characters and care about them.

Lisa Cron of Story Genius believes that writers must understand their characters before they can even begin to write the story present.  Cron believes stories are character driven as opposed to plot driven.

Cron’s concept of a character-driven story helps me to see that a particular story can only happen to this character because of how the character was raised or because of specific events that have happened to this character in her life before the present story action occurs.     

It’s a concept of specifics:  this particular story can only happen to this particular character because of her past and how she interpreted it.  It’s the character’s beliefs that drive the story forward and help the reader to connect to her.   

A particular character with her own beliefs and specific backstory works in memoir as well, although I must admit that I feel like I’ve been on a therapist’s couch for weeks now.  Looking for the “why” of my insecurity in college is giving me a complex—now, in my life’s present story. 

I need to discover why I didn’t attend college right after high school and how and where my insecurities developed. 

Oooo!  I thought.  I can tell you why I didn’t go to college right out of high school.  We didn’t have any money for college.  And my family didn’t believe in loans for college.  We went to work after high school. 

My editor writes back:  “Think deeper.  Why?”

My response:  I was signing up for high school courses at the time I found out there was no money for college.  It was the early 1970’s.  I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood.  This was the norm—especially for females.  

The editor wrote again:  “A deeper why?”

Me:  Dad said you only go to college if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer.  [But we still didn’t have any money for it.]

Editor:  “Why did he think that?  How did this make you feel?”

…Do you see why I’m developing a complex over this? 

“Dig deeper into your feelings and memories,” the editor said.  “Pull out how you developed your insecurities.”

I wanted to write back:  Stop picking on me!  You and Story Genius are adding to my insecurities.  I might require a real therapist couch at this rate.

But I didn’t. 


Thanks so much for stopping by.  Feel free to visit Adventures in Writing again to learn how I make out with all these questions that are invading my dreams right now.  Please leave any insight you may have.  It is always greatly appreciated.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Insecure Writers Want to Know: When do you know your story is ready?

            
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That’s a question every writer deals with constantly. Okay, okay.  Maybe it’s just me.  I confess. I’m a fusser and worrywart. I write YA adventure short stories mostly, and after fussing with the plot and characters for a while, I will tweak placement of actions and feelings.  Then I turn to the biggest stall of all: words.  Man!  Can I waste days, if not weeks, on this.

             In reality, a writer should have a logical routine to work through story or essay.  Start with an idea or situation.  For me, many times I begin with a poor unfortunate soul saddled with troubles.  I’ve got to have that internal problem for my character to overcome.  Many times it’s familial or deals with friends because it’s YA.

But then because I need excitement in my story, I look for danger lurking on the horizon of my character’s immediate future [because it’s short story].  That translates into location and, sometimes, a wild animal or two.  A plot forms and I need to work through the logic of the story. 

This is short story, so word count is important. Therefore, I trim and tuck telling details into action. I monkey with explanation and sense of what’s happening.  Then I live in the fussing with crisp word choice: how to find one word to state the same action, thought, or feeling as several.

This is what hangs me up for weeks, sometimes, because in order to tuck in a clearer description or feeling or action in one place, I may need to trim words in another.  Words are precious in short story, especially YA where the count is usually 1800 words.  And the younger the story, the shorter the word count.  Flash fiction works the same way.


So when do you know your story is ready to send out?  You don’t.  But if you follow through your own logical method and include critique, I always do, you can feel a teeny bit better about letting go.  You need to send the story out to move on in life.  And then pray.  Or take a walk and try not to obsess over it.  At least this is what I do.  Do you have any suggestions or tips on when to send out your work to publishers?

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Intense New Writing Course: Story Genius with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash

It’s time for a new draft of my memoir about attending college as a mother of five.  I’ve been tweaking and revising the same version, but I think I need a fresh start.  So I signed up for Story Genius with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash. It’s the science behind story—brain science. 

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This is an intense 10-week Writing Workshop
…I’m overthinking the application process already.    

            I'm a scene painter.  I enjoy reliving and fleshing out the scenes [the stories of my college experiences] in the memoir.  I think that I am showing the reader my home life, my experiences, the characters who are myself and my family.  I am progressing through college and hope that I am taking the reader along for the ride.  I think I’m inviting the reader into my life at that time so that he or she can experience this journey.

This memoir is supposed to be the insightful, yet humorous, adventure of an inexperienced and obsessive mother with young children trying to navigate the world of academia.  I feel it would help other parents/mothers or older non-traditional people who always wanted to go to college but who might think they can't juggle the responsibilities or might feel it's too much trouble to begin or too late to even try. 

This is my journey of attending college as the primary caretaker of five young children, the oldest being special needs. I had never attended college, knew nothing about how to begin, and worried that my brain no longer worked after being home with those children. I began at a community college close to home when my youngest, twins, started second grade and my oldest started high school. I received several honors and won scholarship to the Ivy League to complete my B.A.

            We had to fill out an application to begin the course.  One of the questions was what’s your book about?  And I wrote this:

Victoria is your average mother of five who never went to college. She always wanted to, though. So when her youngest starts second grade, she jumps in with all her insecurities and a few skills she learned from her children: whining for help from her college-grad husband, falling asleep on textbooks while doing homework in hopes that osmosis works, and peppering professors with questions until her brain wraps itself around a new concept.

Through awards at the community college level, Victoria earns the opportunity to attend the University of Pennsylvania to complete her bachelor’s degree in English.  With this major success, all the insecurities just overcome to obtain her associate’s degrees rush back to haunt her. She wrestles with her belief to never let opportunity pass her by and tries to conceive how she can possibly handle the Ivy League.  It’s not a casual four-year institution a mother of five attends, right? 

Victoria realizes that the only regrets in life are the opportunities never taken.  How can she be content to stay as she is while opportunities flourish around her?  She goes down to the wire, signing up and choosing classes at another university that offered her scholarship before finally accepting the University of Pennsylvania’s invitation to study.  Victoria recognizes that she can’t retreat back into the home and be content with what she has.  Not when the world of academia graciously invites her in to stay a while with scholarships to further enlighten her mind.


            I’m in the second week of Story Genius and all my insecurities are firmly in place as I try to come up with the point of this memoir.  How about: The only regrets in life are the opportunities never taken like I said in my application?  What do you think?  Your insight is greatly appreciated.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Finding Time to Write: Look for Sanctuary at the Library


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            How do you find the time to write in your busy day? 

It’s called getting away from the house and children when I can. I hide in the library.  Yes.  I still have my cell phone.  But I’m away from all the other things that call to me at home; phone calls from friends and extended family who don’t realize I’m working. For that’s what writing is.  I need to keep remembering that.  I’m working; I’m working.  Even if I’m just staring at that blasted blip, I’m working.  But the children don’t see that.  Sometimes, neither does my husband.

            But working from home, it’s not just humans who call for attention.  The laundry likes to crowd around my feet and grace the air with its fragrance.  Dishes do this, too.  They clatter all over the house, sometimes.  With seven people living at home, I have five children remember, some chore always needs to be done.

            And, yes, I’m training my children to become competent contributors to the home front.  But for some reason there’s resistance in the ranks.  Hence, I run and hide from everyone and everything at the library and hold out for as long as I can.  

            Once at the library, I hide among the stacks at a table.  I turn on my computer, glue my bottom to the seat, and pretend I’m invisible. I’m not saying I don’t still stare at that blasted blip, but I don’t allow myself to get up and go look for things to do.  Not until I have a huge pile of poop on the page do I allow myself to wander to a window and look outside to give my eyes a rest.  If I’m truly blessed and have many pages of poop after a few hours, I promise myself a quick walk around the pond by the library to let my thoughts simmer.    


            Do you feel the need to hide from both family and laundry to be able to write?  Feel free to offer any tips on how you cope with family, chores, and writing. 

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Worlds of Wonder: Middle Grade Fantasy Guest post by Author Darcy Pattison

It is my privilege, today, to introduce Darcy Pattison to everyone.  Darcy is a well-published children’s writer with a host of fiction and non-fiction titles on her shelf.  Her shelves also contain books on writing and publishing in today’s market.  She holds writing workshops at Highlights Foundation Workshops at Chautauqua and at other conferences as well as online. 
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Children's Writer, Darcy Pattison


Darcy is going to talk about her newest title, Liberty, a middle grade adventure story on the high seas.  This is a tale of struggle and hard work to obtain dreams.  It’s a tale of learning to believe in oneself in order to help others. 

Welcome, Darcy, to Adventures in Writing.  And thank you for sharing some of your writing expertise with our readers.   
My pleasure, Victoria Marie, and thank you for having me. 
One of the most important elements in children's literature is a sense of wonder. As a children's book author, you must remember that children don't have a strong base of experiences to draw upon. Everything is new - and full of wonder. The appeal of fantasy is exactly the same thing, that this story reaches outside the realm of everyday and takes them to a new place for new experiences.
In my new middle grade fantasy, LIBERTY, I play upon that need for new experiences by starting with pigs on Farmer MacDonald's farm, the normal world. Quickly, though, you realize this story won't stay near home. Santiago Talbert is a pig who wants to sail the seven seas! Pigs at sea? Yes!
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Darcy Pattison's new
            release book cover
The story started soon after 9/11 when I sat at the dinner table with my elementary school age son and his friend and asked what I should write about next. 
Pigs, they said. 
Okay, but what will the pigs do?
Go sailing.
From a simple conversation the concept grew. Santiago and Penelope Talbert leave the farm and go to the mythical land of Liberty, where any intelligent creature—human or animal—can get ahead in the world. They learn the world of sailing and map making and finally join the crew of the H'alloween, where the polar bear Captain harbors a dark secret.
It's a journey or a quest, a coming of age story. The character's growth was important to keep in mind. They move from naive about the world to savvy sailors. But the deeper question is how do you decide what you value in life? The Talberts' character qualities are challenged by their adventures. Will they pursue selfish dreams? How will they treat others?
For this type of fantasy, it's been important to keep the character change in mind. The adventures aren't just for action's sake, but instead to put the characters in positions where they must choose a course of action. Quests are about discovery of new places, but most importantly about discovery of a character about him/herself. While revising, I went back often to check exactly what they said at important points and made a list of these statements. Then, I read through them to be sure there was an emotional progression that made sense.
LIBERTY is a story about following your dreams while holding onto your ideals. Set in the fascinating era of tall ships, it's a rousing story of danger on the high seas. But in the midst of the action, Penelope and Santiago grow up and become the sort of pigs that take care of their friends.
               Thank you so much for this post, Darcy.  If you are interested in purchasing Darcy’s new release, you may access it through these links:
Mims House publisher's site for print books: http://mimshouse.com/books/liberty


Have a beautiful day, everyone! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Post: Where is the Very First Piece of Writing I Wrote?

Okay, so I may not remember if this was the very first piece of creative writing I wrote as an adult, but it was toward the beginning of my “writing career,” if I can call it that. 

            At the time, I was taking a correspondence writing course with The Institute of Children’s Literature Group.  I’m sure I’m dating myself with the mention of “correspondence courses,” but I had five little kids and no time to go to the bathroom in those years.   I wrote several pieces during that course.  This particular story was my favorite.  Luckily, I never abandoned it.  I did constantly revise it, though.  One of my many insecurities—constantly revising!

            “The Unusual Tour Guides” became “Emerging from Darkness,” my first YA published short story in Cricket Magazine in 2012, the October issue.  Since then, I have published four stories with Cricket Magazine.  Yes, I’m still pinching myself to be sure I’m awake!  And, no, it didn’t happen overnight.  It took years.  And years.

            “Emerging from Darkness” went through various workshops and critique groups.  I made the mistake of taking too many people’s advice, another insecurity I have.  Everyone else can write better than I can. 

Even short stories need to have both the internal and the external struggle.  What I needed to filter out was any advice that was outside my story scope or not how Victoria Marie Lees wrote.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is the difficult part when receiving critiques and advice.

 The editors at Cricket liked the premise: a young teen still grieving from the recent death of her mother and resisting the need to become the caretaker for her younger brother.  Of course, then I needed to add in a bit of adventure in a national park setting, it’s becoming my trademark.  My family and I have been blessed to go camping every summer and we usually choose National Parks.  I maintain a Camping with Five Kids blog of our many true adventures. 

It’s so easy to say, never give up on a story.  I have many stories living on my computer for which I am still trying to find homes.  Perhaps I need to try harder.  At least I should stop trying to incorporate everyone’s advice or revising the poor things to death, and just send the stories out to markets.   


Please feel free to offer some advice of your own on how you filter out which comments to incorporate from critique and which to disregard for your manuscript and how you let go of revisions to send it out.  It would be greatly appreciated.  All the best to you.  
This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

An Academic Foundation Can Be Had

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Remaining positive for the
  new draft of my college memoir
All I needed was time.  But that’s what I lacked.  Or so it seemed.  Many times, the older students have fulltime jobs and/or a family to care for.

            I fell under the “family” category—all five of them.  As I’ve said before, my oldest daughter is special needs.  She required more of my time for her education to be a success.  My children were my life.  Their future was in my hands.  I couldn’t mess it up.

            But so was mine.  I couldn’t mess up my future, my education either.

            So I started studying the college’s idea of basic math that summer before I began college.  I bought a used math textbook at the college’s book store and tried to figure out percentages and fractions and basic algebra.  I even took the text and a notebook on our family’s camping trip.    

            Somehow, the math didn’t seem so basic to me.

            I drove my poor husband nuts each night for two weeks.  After days of hiking the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia with young children, after trying to feed seven people with one old two-burner Coleman stove, after campfires, telling stories and putting them all to bed, he was not in the mood for math.  [Imagine that!]

I needed to wait for the basic skills math classes to begin at college.

Luckily, some of that basic math helped out in a funny little requirement called college-level science because there wasn't a basic skills class for science.  The only drawback with my college science course was that Chemistry was all new to me.  It’s true, ladies and gentlemen; I didn’t know what a periodic table was.  And don’t even ask me what all the little numbers meant!

            Then there was the literature.  No basic skills classes here either.  I mean I heard of Shakespeare.  Not Homer.  Never read either's work.  I hadn't even read Hemingway.  I didn’t have literature in high school.  I didn’t know people wrote books about journeying through Hell.  I read mysteries and adventure stories.  I needed to start collecting literature and begin reading before classes.

            The traditional college students, the ones entering college directly from high school, possessed all this foundation.  I couldn’t cope in college without it.  I needed to make the time to obtain it. 


Did you find your college preparatory classes in high school truly prepared you for college?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Post: Writers helping Writers

Hello and welcome everyone to my first Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.  The topic this month is: What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

For me, it was: “Your story is interesting.”  I received this comment for my memoir about attending college with five children in tow from an experienced writer.  A good writer.  A writer I admire.  And my first thought was, whew!  Now I can sleep nights. 

Then I started thinking, but what do I do now?  “Interesting” is only part of the writing process. 

I’m still floundering in the dark about this. 

I am a concrete thinker and writer.  You see I overthink my writing.  Constantly.  Even my blog posts and facebook notes.  I fret, I fuss.  My college journey was quite difficult because of all this.  I thought for sure the family would disown me before I graduated. 

The only way I can think to move forward on my memoir is to apply some of the tactics I used to get through college.  

Lock Inferiority in a closet—preferably one far from where you write and create.  This way you won’t hear her rattling the doorknob.
Trick yourself.  Tell yourself that what you write is only for you.  No one else will see the poop you create.    
Go for a walk—just you, your thoughts, and your doubts.  Don’t be afraid to get inside yourself and listen to yourself.
Talk to yourself.  Go ahead.  I do this all the time.  [Since we’re not supposed to lie, I’m not going to say that I always get good answers.]
And reward yourself if you stay seated [or standing nowadays] writing at your computer or by hand for any length of time.  You deserve it.


Well, it’s time for me to use some of my advice and move forward on my memoir.  Please feel free to offer some advice of your own to move forward on any project you begin.  It would be greatly appreciated.  All the best to you.  


This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Inferiority Comes to Live at My House

           
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Looking across the chasm of
   confusion to a new version
      of my college memoir.
 And she was worse than a newborn baby, draining my concentration so.  Inferiority was in my face constantly.  Every time my younger classmates, like experts, maneuvered around the websites or programs in the new technology during class, there she was, laughing at me as I tried to jot down notes and perform the steps necessary to complete the task, desperately trying to keep up with the class. 

            Inferiority would hide inside my book bag and sneer at me as I racked my brain trying to come up with some concrete connection to the literature text at hand, or find some philosophical theory that could explain the actions of historical public figures at the moment of crisis or even explain the historical context of a poem.  Where did my younger counterparts come up with all these ideas?  Why were they so much braver than I?  

At home when I tried to write my critical papers, I had to shove Inferiority into a cupboard.  You could hear her scratching at the door and rattling the doorknob.  I’d post a note on the cupboard door: “Beware, Mom’s Inferiority is trapped inside!”  I didn’t want the kids opening the door to find out what all the noise was and then have Inferiority escape only to fly to my fingers at the keyboard and keep me from writing. 

No, I needed to get past this feeling of inferiority.  I needed to learn to speak up for myself during class if I had a question, ask why something was wrong if I didn’t understand, and challenge a grade to see how to improve for the next time.  This is something I had been teaching my children their whole lives.  Now it was time I did the same. 

Believe in myself.  I needed to believe in myself.  But that blasted inferiority.  I felt that everyone knew much more than I, had read all the appropriate texts prior to enrolling in the class, or at least had the foundational courses necessary to excel in the present class.  I was twice their age and never heard of half the technology used at college, never mind the pertinent movies or literature.    

To gain that belief in myself, I needed a solid college foundation.  But I wanted to attend college classes.  Now.  Playing catch-up becomes a reality.  Everyone knows foundations take time.  And time is another issue for the older student or parent attending college. 


As I begin a new revision of my memoir, please pose any questions you may have about my college journey as a mother of five or share some insight from your college journey.  It would be greatly appreciated.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Finding Courage to Begin College

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My treasure! They helped
me survive college.
Happy Mothers’ Day, everyone!  I wish you smiles and sunshine, love and laughter.

My memoir is a story about believing in oneself, of finding the courage to begin a dream and then discovering the strength needed to see it through to completion.   The perspective is an older student beginning college, one with no college preparatory foundation.  A person with children to raise, a home to maintain, and a college curriculum to understand.  It’s supposed to be a humorous journey of a mother of five through college: how I coped with both motherhood and college.

I don’t know if I was afraid of academia, afraid of going to college exactly.  I think it was more like I was nervous about embarrassing myself in front of other adults and people I didn’t know.  But aren’t most people worried about that?

            Compounding this was the fear of looking bad in the eyes of my children.  Let me explain.  I was the head of my household.  Okay, I shared the duties with my husband, but I was in charge of the home front.  I did the homework and projects with the children.  I retaught my learning disabled firstborn each day.  I was their entertainment more often than not.  We were a tight family unit.  [God blessed us for sure!]  If I did poorly at college, I thought, it would be like I failed my family.

            These are some mental issues I address in my memoir.  But I need to go deeper.  I need to explore this idea of finding courage.  And then maintain that courage to gain that degree.

            Now because I lacked the courage to begin college, I feigned bravery to be able to register, to take the basic skills test, and then the basic skills math courses.  Because I was afraid and dressed myself in a false front, I became edgy and started lacking in my attention to the children, their antics, their well-being, the home, meals.  These anecdotes fill the pages of the memoir.

            If I think about it, it was more a feeling of being unprepared for college.  Other college students, younger college students, had a preparatory foundation that I lacked. 

            Not having this college foundation tied into my next obstacle attending college:  a feeling of inferiority.  And it intensified once I gained entry to University of Pennsylvania.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Critiques: A Necessary Part of a Writer’s Life

http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com
Testing the waters of critique.
It’s deep and luminous in there.
Why is it easier for writers to see what’s not working in other writer’s work but not their own?

            *Sigh*

            This is why all writing needs to go through critique, because more often than not, writers may not be able to unlock the problems in their own writing.  It’s probably because as writers, we are so married to what we wrote, we can’t see past it.  Having someone who does not know our story look at it with fresh eyes is extremely necessary for all writing.   

Take my “collection of anecdotes,” ahem…I mean my memoir.  I know the memoir is mostly a collection of anecdotes, but they’re funny anecdotes.  However, I also know that anecdotes alone do not make a memoir.  At this point, I’m just not exactly sure how to fix it.

            Organization and pacing is what’s needed according to Kate, my super Author Accelerator editor

            People come to memoir looking for personal connection with the author, she reminded me.  Readers are looking for my progress as a human being and not just a progression of college courses.  Just as in story, the protagonist needs to grow and change.  I knew this, too, and in my memoir I certainly grew and changed.  But it seems that I didn’t put in enough whys and whats and hows and a consistent overarching theme that affects the plot arc.  

I have so much work to do.  
           
            But I need to help Kate understand that no one was abused or tragically died in the making of this memoir journey.  Well, except for that shy and unsure mother who was afraid of her own intellect in the beginning of the memoir.  The mother who emerged at the outset of this college journey is a more confident woman. 

Or at least she was…until the critique of the memoir came back.

            Does there need to be more substance in the memoir?  For sure.  How do I do it?  Um…that’s what this next leg of the journey will be about.   

This is when, my dear followers, I dry my tears, blow my nose, and consider and decide and revise.  I haven’t even gone through the entire manuscript critique yet.  I’ve only read the summary of the critique.  I need to remember this will take time and lots of intestinal fortitude. 


You have all been very helpful with your insight.  Do you have any advice to share regarding these points?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Narrative Voice in Writing

http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com
The narrator guides readers through 
the story journey just as a trail guide 
leads hikers through the forest. 
The narrative voice is just as important in memoir as it is in fiction, for memoir is a true story. 

Writers need to think who is telling the story. 
What point of view should they use? 
First person; I, me, through the speaker’s mindset only. 
Third person; he, she, Victoria, through his or her mindset only. 
Omniscient; think God here, the narrator knows all and can think and see the action through the minds of more than one character. 

This is just a quick stroke from the point of view narrator palette.  The main point is for the writer to focus in and realize whose eyes the writer is looking through to make the story exciting for the reader. 

A good way to find the narrator of a story is to determine who changes the most in the story.

Most times, memoir is a first person account of a particular time in the writer’s life.  Remember that memoir is only a slice of life story and not the entire life of the writer.  Sometimes the writer can act as an observer of another in a third person account of the time being remembered.  For my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, I am the narrator who is experiencing each of the lessons in the story as they unfold.

Like any important character in the story, the narrator must be well-developed for readers to stay connected.  He or she needs to be the guide in the story, taking the reader along the journey of events.  The reader needs to be immersed in the scenes, feeling what happens.    

To do this, the writer must provide specific details to flesh out the scenes and make the world real to readers, details that encompass the senses—not forgetting taste and touch.  The narrator’s primary job, according to John Gardner in The Art of Fiction, is to convince the reader that the events she recounts really happened. 
                                                                                                       
Beth Kephart says, in her book Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, the narrator needs to remain vulnerable in order to learn, along with the reader, on the journey of the story.  The narrator must discover something new, something surprising—even to her.  This shows the growth and development of the narrator character throughout the manuscript.  The narrator can find the order in the disorder of story life.

This is how good authors write.  We want the readers experiencing the drama right along with the narrator. 

            Is it easy to do?  Hardly!  If it were, writers would have a seamless time of it.

            By the way…my “seams” are in tatters after all the comments made in my synopsis. 

However, instead of revising and getting yet another copy of the same manuscript with the same flaws, I decided to send my 73,099-word, 237-page memoir about attending college as a mother of five for a developmental critique by professionals.  The Author Accelerator group says it will take about a month to get back the critique.  I’ll let you know how it turns out. 


In the meantime, do you have any thoughts on the narrative voice that you’d like to share?  They would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Write Game's Blog Hop!

Hello and welcome everyone, to Adventures in Writing.  Thank you so much for visiting.  I hope you find my blog helpful and interesting.

I'm trying
 C. Lee McKenzie's blog hop for the first time and hope I do it correctly.  I decided to look at two famous quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt because I think they can be of use to writers.  

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  

Sometimes when writers send their manuscripts out for critique or to be published, they can feel inferior when they receive negative comments or rejection letters.  

Notice I didn't say I feel crushed, although sometimes I do.  I try to rise above a feeling of inferiority to allow the comments or rejection to sink in, to notice if the comments pertain to the story I'm trying to tell, to see what revision needs to be accomplished to move from the rejection pile into the publishable pile.   

Another nugget of wisdom I've gleaned from Eleanor was to “Do one thing every day that scares you.”  

Okay, so maybe I can't do something scary every day, but maybe most days I try to stretch out of myself and submit my manuscripts, hoping not to feel inferior if negative comments come in.  I try to learn from every instance.

Do I succeed?  ...Mmmm, sometimes.  

But this leads to my own personal quote for writers:

Don’t let a blizzard of activity keep you from writing.
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com
The things I do to be alone to write.
I got all the way out to the chairs
 and forgot my computer. Can you believe it?

Fellow writers, this means cast out your manuscript into the sea of publishing to see if you can catch a contract.

All the best, in 2016!





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Monday, February 8, 2016

Synopsis Mini Course Part 2

http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com
Surviving critique and revision in writing is
as tough as backpacking the
Appalachian Trail.  But it can be done!
Okay.  My revised synopsis critique came back. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to hate question words.  You know the type.  Why did you do that?  How did this make you feel?  When did this happen?  What exactly do you mean by that?  What finally made you decide?  Where’s the trigger?  Why now? 

Why, why, why?  How, how, how?  I feel like I’m in therapy.  She’s worse than my children with all her questions.  It seemed like everything I wrote wasn’t specific enough for this editor.  

All these details are supposed to be in the synopsis? 

There are mountains of messages in my margins.

She picked on my phrasing:
            This is too formal.
            What happened to your humorous voice?

She unpacked my factual sentences:
            Clip some facts here.
            Sprinkle some other facts throughout the synopsis.  

She tried to get me to move from the general to the specific:
            Why is this important?
            What’s the bigger picture here?
             Comment on your experiences.
           
She poo-pooed my maxim: 
What is this statement tied to?  It feels random -
            I’d said, “Opportunity changes lives.”  [I thought it was one of my themes.]

This seems like a stretched reference:
            No person is an island.  [Okay…it is…but doesn’t it sound cool?]

Transition lines were missing.  So were some explanations.  I’m supposed to step back and reflect—even in the synopsis.  Then some of my reflections are too abstract, and others need to be more specific to me.  

Pick!  Poke!  Shred! 
…Boy, is she good.    

She helped me put my voice back into the synopsis.  I had changed some of the language, and even I thought it sounded too stilted.  I thought I needed to sound educated.  Obviously there’s a huge difference between educated and my particular voice.

I reminded myself that I asked for this carnage.  Unfortunately, it still stings.  But it’s the only way for the manuscript to get better.  For a writer to learn of her weaknesses.  To see what she can no longer see for herself in the manuscript story.  Don’t you think so?

As I sit here licking my synopsis wounds, crying into my teacup, I berate myself to get over it and send the entire manuscript in for a formal undressing if only to see what’s worth saving, what should be expanded upon.  This is my college journey, a ten-year ordeal.  Let’s not make the writing of it also a ten-year ordeal, Victoria.    


Thanks for listening.  Your insight is invaluable to me.  Feel free to share any experiences you have or to offer any tips.  Thank you!