Haiku Friday: Winning

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Winning:

winning’s not the point
say the dogs at the dog park
running is the point

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Writing Tip – Another Excellent Blog

If you’re a writer, then you need an editor. We all do. A great blog about editing is The Blood Red Pencil (http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com), which is written by a team of professional editors sharing their expertise and opinions – for free. I contribute to this blog occasionally (I am their “resident ghost” which means I get out my chains and clank them for 500 words or so). On this blog you’ll find posts that will help you understand the vital role editors play in making your writing the best it can be; such as posts titled “Things that Drive an Editor Crazy” or “10 Steps to a Better Story” or “Top Reasons Your Submissions are Rejected.” I urge you to check out this blog! Let me know how you like it.

Compost – Autumn Equinox

The equinoxes and solstices have been celebrated by many cultures since antiquity in response to the natural rhythms of the earth. In the Northern Hemisphere the autumn equinox is celebrated from September 21st to the 24th.

At the equinox there is a balance of Light and Dark, as the day and night are of equal length. In the Northern Hemisphere the trees are alive with colors – orange, gold, deep red, and browns. The air is crisp and light. The equinox is traditionally the time to give thanks for the earth’s bounty. Nuts and apples become ripe around this time, as do many other crops. It is time to gather and store them for sustenance in the coming winter, or to have a feast of squash, corn, nuts, apples, wines, and ciders. Wear earth colors, orange, or deep green or brown. Make a wreath of autumn leaves and wear it on your head. Go ahead, the neighbors won’t mind.

Since the Equinox symbolizes balance, one of the things I enjoy doing to mark this time is to make a mobile out of found objects. We go on an autumn walk, taking a basket or bag filled with ribbons, string, scissors, glue, or tape. We pick up objects such as beautiful leaves, moss, small rocks, twigs, barks, or anything that strikes our fancy. We find a couple of sticks and tie them together as a frame for the mobile, hanging on it the found objects stuck on with glue or tied on with ribbons. We hang the mobile on a tree branch along our path, and leave it there for the enjoyment of the next passersbys. Surprise!

Haiku Friday: Summer’s End

Here’s my haiku for today, on the subject of Summer’s End:

the end of summer
pale light on faded roses
spider webs sprouting

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History – More Adventures of Memoir Writers

I work with many memoir writers (and am one myself) and I know that we have things to say that may help other aspiring memoirists. Every month I feature excerpts from my interviews with those who have written and published a memoir, and here’s the next one.

This month my interview is with Teresa Rhyne, author of The Dog Lived (and So Will I) to be published next month, October 2012. You can buy this book online at Teresa’s website, www.teresarhyne.com or Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

The Dog Lived (and So Will I) is an uplifting, charming and often mischievous story of the relationship between the author and her dog Seamus, including his diagnosis of cancer and her dedication to healing him, followed by her own cancer diagnosis. Teresa’s story shows how dogs come into our lives for a reason, how they steal our hearts, show us how to live, and teach us how to love.

Q: Why was it important for you to write your memoir? (ie, leave a legacy to your descendants; educate, enlighten, or inspire others in similar situations; heal your emotional wounds; entertain; make money; etc.)

Teresa: When my dog was diagnosed with cancer and I was given such a grim prognosis for him, I immediately started researching and reading trying to find out more about his particular cancer and possible treatments. In other words, I was trying to find hope. There was little I could find. Much the same happened when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There are plenty of human cancer memoirs out there, but I only found one or two that really spoke to me and helped me find my way. I wanted to write Seamus’ story and mine because of the hope it offers for anyone going through a difficult and perhaps hopeless-seeming time. And yes, it was also good therapy for me!

Q: What was the most challenging part of your memoir to write? Why?

Teresa: I found writing about myself, particularly the more emotional parts, most difficult. It was much easier, on one level, to tell my dog’s story—because I happen to think he’s wildly adorable and everyone should feel for him. But when it came to writing about my battle with cancer, I struggled with not wanting to come across as needy, or pathetic, or overly-dramatic. I had to get out of my own way and just write what happened and how I felt. It was however also very difficult to relive the diagnosis and prognosis stage of my beagle’s cancer, because it was such a terrible time in my life for many reasons. It’s painful to scratch off those scabs.

Q: What part of writing your memoir came easiest to you? Why?

Teresa: Writing the funny anecdotes about my dog and my boyfriend came the easiest, simply because I love the stories and I loved reminiscing. I also find writing the funny parts much easier than writing the darker moments because humor is how I deal with most everything. It’s a much more natural voice for me.

Q: How long did it take you to write your memoir? Did you write every day?

Teresa: My memoir started as a blog, in January of 2009 shortly after my own cancer diagnosis. After that I was blogging daily. I didn’t start writing it as a memoir until that summer. After I had a rough draft of the first half of the book, I learned that non-fiction requires a proposal, not a finished memoir. So I turned my attention to the proposal and then the agent search. After the proposal got me an agent, I diligently went to work on more chapters, but also was revising the proposal. I signed with my publisher in October, 2011 and wrote like a mad woman until my due date for the completed manuscript—January 4, 2012.

I don’t write every day. I wish I did, but I’m a full-time lawyer with my own law practice, so that’s a tough one. I write on weekends, sometimes in the evenings during the week, and I take week-long writing retreat vacations as often as possible. In the last few months before my manuscript was due, I did indeed write every day.

Q: What is your favorite memoir, other than your own? Why?

Teresa: It’s difficult to choose. One that quickly came to mind is Cheap Cabernet: A Friendship by Cathie Beck. It resonated with me in so many ways, but particularly relating to a close friend I had had a falling out with and recently renewed the friendship in a much healthier way. When I was in breast cancer treatment I was devoted to Cancer Vixen by Marissa Acocella Marchetta and I still keep it on my bookshelves (many other “cancer books” were donated to a local breast cancer resource center). I loved how she dealt with the whole experience with such humor but at the same time was brutally honest. She let me know what to expect in a way that was approachable and not frightening (well, not too frightening). Ironically, though I love them all, I have a hard time reading dog memoirs because that is the one time I will cry like a hysterical newborn—I can’t handle dogs being injured or dying. That’s actually why my memoir has the title it has—so wimps like me will know up front that the dog lives! I did love The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery. In fact, I loved it so much I queried her agent, Sarah Jane Freymann…and that’s who I ended up with as well.

Q: Which element do you think is most important in a memoir – setting of time and place; underlying theme or focus; storytelling plot; characterization? Why?

Teresa: I think voice is the most important. Memoir is so intensely personal that if the voice doesn’t come through, it’s not going to sound authentic. I believe that’s why I struggled so much with the more emotional parts of my memoir—I’m not a person who cries easily; I’m very low drama, very logical, and in fact unemotional. So I had to find a way to convey the drama and pain that was occurring while still being true to my voice and my character. I kept hearing from my beta readers “where’s the emotion?” And I heard that as “you need to cry.” But since I never did cry throughout my cancer odyssey, it seemed inauthentic to have my “character” crying or carrying on outwardly. Eventually a beta reader said “I don’t need to see you cry. I need to understand why you are not crying.” That one piece of advice made all the difference. The story had to be told in my authentic voice and it had to be honest.

Teresa has more interesting things to say about the process of writing a memoir, so Part 2 of her interview will be next month. I hope you’ll check back. And I hope you buy her book! (I too am a sucker for dog books – after all, I wrote one myself.)

Ghostwriting for a Dog: In Praise of Ambling

Goody Beagle here. My dog brother Alex Terrgi is a runner. He lives to run. He runs just for the fun of it. He runs in straight lines and he runs in circles. He runs when he doesn’t have to, when no one is calling him. When someone is calling him he often overruns and has to loop around and run back, which means extra running, yippee. He runs past bushes and trees and mailboxes and speed bumps and he even runs past squirrel or rabbit droppings without even pausing to sniff. He evidently thinks he is part greyhound, but if he is it isn’t visible. He looks like a stubby terrier-ish dog to me.

I don’t do running, unless it is very important. And I mean very. Instead I amble. Isn’t amble a beautiful word? It means to walk with an easy gait, or to stroll, ramble, or saunter. Ambling is what you do when you don’t want to miss all the beautiful or interesting smells that fill the world. When you amble you are at peace.

When you live with Alex you need all the peace you can get.

Haiku Friday: Chickens

Here’s my haiku for today, on the subject of Chickens:

practice compassion
we are all chickens sometimes
cackling as we run

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Writing Tip – Thinking of Self-Publishing? Check out this website and blog!

If you are a writer, of course you are considering self-publishing as one of your options. After all, even many well-known writers have jumped on the self-publishing bandwagon. But there are good ways and bad ways to self-publish, and if you are new to the “book biz,” then it may be difficult for you to tell which is which.

Writing a book is a big challenge all by itself, and when you add in the many challenges of publishing and marketing a book, both obvious and not-so-obvious, it is easy to get overwhelmed.

But I know where you can get help! Check out this new website and blog, www.assistedselfpublishing.com. Here you can get information about the right ways to self-publish, and read an ongoing blog written by an author who is self-publishing and her team of book professionals. (Full disclosure: I am one of those professionals – I am blogging about the vital function of the editor.)

This blog creates a window on the self-publishing process that allows inexperienced authors to see how to self-publish the right way, with a virtual author’s assistant and a team of experienced professionals. You can do this work yourself – it is easier than you think.

There are many advantages to self-publishing including keeping all the rights to your own work, keeping all the profits, and taking less time to get your book to market. The disadvantages can be that it takes time to learn the publishing industry and knowing how to produce a professional quality book. www.assistedselfpublishing.com can help you lessen those disadvantages.

Assisted Self Publishing is the brainchild of Jan King, who I have personally worked with for over ten years, and it is my opinion that what Jan doesn’t know about publishing is not worth knowing. Her experience in the world of publishing is second to none, and if you don’t believe me, read her bio on the website. I guarantee you will be impressed.

If you are writing a book, or have already written one, you owe it to yourself – and your potential readers – to check out this site. www.assistedselfpublishing.com.

Compost: Fame or Money?

Why do writers write, or artists of any kind do their art? Is it fame? Is it money? I think it is neither. I think we do it because we just can’t help it. This is a good thing, because most artists make little money, and even fame, if it comes, often comes too late.

You’ve heard of Mathew Brady, the photographer who took those iconic photographs of Abraham Lincoln. He also took photographs of Edgar Allen Poe, Daniel Webster, and others, which he published as a book called A Gallery of Illustrious Americans. But it was his documenting of the Civil War and Lincoln that brought him fame – although guess what? He died penniless. Congress eventually paid him for his war archives, 10 years after the war ended, but since he had risked everything he had to document the true images of the war (they disturbed everyone who saw them) the amount he was paid did not even cover his debts.

But I bet that if you asked Mathew Brady if his art was worth it, he would have said “yes.” And I further bet that everyone alive now would agree with him.

Haiku Friday: Complaints

Here’s my haiku for today, on the subject of Complaints:

did griots complain
when writing was invented?
yes, probably so

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.