Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year

New Year's day is a day we give significance to because we're encouraged everywhere to look back. Okay, look back. But the looking back should always inform the looking forward and I hope you see bright vistas. I hope your blessings in 2011 outweighed your trials and that the same will hold true in 2012. I hope for you good health, loving family, moments laughable and profound and – hey – a few pounds off the old caboose if that would make you happy. So here’s to looking forward with courage and good cheer. Keep your pencil and your wit sharpened and use them both to enrich the lives of others. 

God Bless 

Image  Naypong /

When a Writing Bud Dies

The first hint that something might be wrong was when he expressed concern over leaving some kind of legacy for his children. I'd met him in a chat room filled with children's writers and liked him right away. We signed up for the same newsletter where we critiqued each other's stories. He always had something positive to say about my efforts. We became fast friends and moaned together over rejections. We cheered each other's successes. As the years went by we corresponded often and he even chose me to receive the free issue of Writer's Digest he'd qualified for. When he sent out a call to send munchies and snacks to our service men and women overseas, I sent him a big box of Doritos and Hot Tamale candies. He wrote a kids mystery series and sent weekly quotes and writing tips to all his writer friends. And then it all stopped.

If you're reading this you already know what a lonely profession writing can be. It's just you, your keyboard and whatever is in your head. Over ten years ago, when I first got really serious about writing, the Internet was there – true. But not like now. Now you can find just about anything you want, on any subject, and at any time of day. But chat rooms were pretty new when I first met John, and it felt good to know I wasn't alone in this endeavor called writing. Messages from fellow writers were like little gobs of gold popping out at you from the computer screen. I found out that I wasn't the only one bumbling around trying to get my feet under me.

I got better at writing. John wasn't my only friend but one of several in the same group. And the group was primarily women so it was nice to have the male perspective. But why is it we think what's 'right now' will always be? Sure, I noticed when John's emails slowed. The year before he died he emailed to say he'd had some serious heart trouble. I expressed sympathy and promised to pray. But I went on. I kept writing and assumed he was doing the same. And then I got the sad email from a mutual writing friend. "I heard in forum this week that John died this past December."

And I didn't know. I pulled back from the screen and put my hand over my mouth. My mind was rife with flashbacks. One title from a book he was trying to sell, "Bosco Storms the Castle," kept dancing before my eyes. I thought back to our newsletter critiques and the box of goodies I'd sent him for the soldiers. I know the sadness will hang back there in my mind along with the memories of the progress we’ve all made as writers. None of us has rocked the world yet, but John was a rock in my world. So long good friend.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Great Writer Quotes

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead. Louisa May Alcott

I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.  Pearl S. Buck

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.  Tom Clancy

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.  Truman Capote

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.  William Faulkner

Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth... But amusing? Never.  Edna Ferber

Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it. Madeleine L’Engle

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. Toni Morrison

I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself. Mark Twain

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. Thomas Edison.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who's Your Marley?

It’s the most haunting scene in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I particularly like the 1984 made-for-television version of the story starring the late, redoubtable George C. Scott, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge. When his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, hauls his chain-bound carcass through the bedroom door and begins to bemoan his eternal fate, it gives the skeptical Ebenezer a moments pause. He doubts his own senses because small things affect them, like a bit of underdone potato. His musings are interrupted by a terrifying roar from Marley that takes Scrooge to the floor all a-tremble. Okay, now he’s listening.

Dicken’s genius here is that he taps into a fear that eventually haunts every human heart. Fellow writers will understand when I say that Marley comes to remind us of all that distracts. Kids fighting over a television program. Hungry husbands and snarly day job bosses. A long winded friend on the phone. Or in Scrooge’s case – business. But, “The world was my business!” Marley sobs. The essential thing he should have done while alive was to take care of what God had given him – his fellow man.

Is that what you’re doing with your writing? Taking care of the gift you have to affect others? Do you inform, enlighten, entertain with the gift of words you were given? Know this. We all get distracted from our true calling. Right now I’m sitting in my  pj’s hitting the occasional wrong key because I’m eager to get into the shower, get dressed, go to the grocery, the bank etc. I have small children coming for a cookie decorating party tomorrow and I don’t have time right for this writing thing.

But I hear howling and clanging and I’m scared witless that Marley is on the other side of the door waiting to rattle his chains in my direction. He could be in the form of my encouraging best friend, my sister or one of my Twitter followers. He or she will warn me that I’m forging my own chain of half written works that I’ll drag around eternally if I don’t pay heed. So, as the year 2011 draws to a close I have a question to put to you.

Who’s your Marley?  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Welcome to Susan Says!

I'm happy to have you here. Susan Says is a place where I'll share creative advice, showcase my various works, offer some interesting extras, and hopefully, in the process, connect with like-minded people who are also on a creative journey to know more and grow more .

I look forward to your comments, questions, and  suggestions.