Guest post by Robin Mimna
Most writers who have put their work out there have at least one regret that stands out among the buckets of rejection that rain down on them. That one agent or publisher you felt an instant connection with. The one you knew in your soul would not only get your ideas, but champion your work like no other could.
For me, that’s Graywolf Press. In retrospect, I aimed pretty high and it wasn’t publication, but a paid remote internship I was after. Advertised on Instagram, I was one of Graywolf’s 44,000+ followers who got the update the day this “small press” posted the position. I became infatuated with the idea of beginning my publishing career with such a lofty internship and poured over the requirements. Graywolf primarily works with established authors or academics like Claudia Rankine, author of Just Us: An American Conversation. And unlike the scores of younger, college age applicants all over the country, I was over forty with a fulltime job, limited flexibility and not much experience to bring to the table. Nevertheless, I threw myself into writing a killer cover letter outlining why all the knocks against me were irrelevant, and why I was (obviously) the best person for the job.
Founded in 1974 by Scott Walker, Graywolf Press started out as limited hand sewn chapbooks. In 1984 it was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and later moved to St. Paul, Minnesota.
Today Graywolf publishes about 30-40 books a year, mostly poetry, memoirs, essays, novels, short stories and translations. Occasionally, they will have an open period or contest, but otherwise does not accept unsolicited submissions. They vet most of their authors through magazines, writing conferences and agented submissions. In short, it’s an exclusive press.
In preparation for my grand application. I haunted Graywolf’s website and social media. While doing research, I purchased several of their books, including The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang. It’s an intimate view from the point of view of someone who struggles with the effects of mental and chronic illness.
I spent weeks working on my application, which included a cover letter and a thousand-word analysis of a book of my choosing. I settled on The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Not just because it’s one of my favorites, or because I’ve read it a million times, but it’s also right in line with what Graywolf publishes. Bauby’s short memoir is a day dream-nightmare into his transition from able-bodied, womanizing editor of Elle magazine in Paris, to bed-bound quadriplegic. After a massive stroke took out Bauby’s brain stem, he was diagnosed with “locked-in-syndrome.” This left him unable to move beyond a slight swivel of his head and a single blinking eye, yet his mind fully intact. Using a translation alphabet designed specifically for him, he was able to blink out his memoir using his left eyelid. He did this without losing a hint of his sharp sarcasm or high humor. Sadly, Bauby died two days after the book’s publication.
With the confidence of someone suffering from her own massive stroke, I whisked my application over to Graywolf, wishing only that I could stand over the shoulder of the lucky editor who got to read MY perfect and inspired analysis.
I wish I could write you a happier ending to this story, but this isn’t fiction. During the reading period I checked my e-mail in fifteen-minute intervals and picked up my phone every time it rang. (So many expired car warranties…) But no offer came, and no e-mail was sent. Obviously, I didn’t get the internship. I didn’t even get a rejection. I found out I didn’t get the job when they announced on their website a few weeks later they’d filled the position. I’m totally fine by the way. I hardly ever talk about it publicly anymore. (I’m not crying, you’re crying)
Graywolf posted two new paid internships this year. Although conducted remotely, all applicants must reside in California, Hawaii, Minnesota, or New York for the duration of the internship. Maybe they figured out offering a national paid internship in the middle of a global pandemic would yield more applications than they cared to review.
It’s clear breaking into publishing in the modern age is a complicated process, but not impossible. Take your shots when you have the chance and move on from the rejections. My writing might not be sophisticated enough to grab Graywolf’s attention, but you never know. Paying dues sometimes means finding opportunity in the failures. I ended up using my grand analysis for a literature class later that year and got a B+ on it. Perhaps it wasn’t the inspired piece of iconic work I imagined it was, but it got me through a tough spot while I was struggling with my Spanish II final so, I’ll call it a win. Adios!
Editing and revision can be incredibly hard work, but useful tools can help make the process easier. Over the past few months, I've been keeping a list of my favorite items I use to pour over manuscripts. Everything listed below is something I have in my house and am giving first-hand recommendations for. Hopefully you will find something that helps you be a little more productive so you can reach your editing and revision goals.
1. These red pens are great for marking up printed pages. The thicker tip is perfect for making those added commas stand out. Plus, I get a whole box so I can always grab a new pen when I leave the other one in some mystery place in the house.
Get a pack of 12 on Amazon, $14.99.
2. This might be one of my favorite purchases of all time for my home office: a coffee warmer. How did I ever live my life without one?! My kids always want 10,000 things in the mornings and I used to microwave my coffee at least three times every morning. Not anymore! I make my cup and set it on this warmer and it's just the right temperature whenever I can manage to take my next sip.
Mr. Coffee coffee warmer, $11.99 on Amazon.
3. Sitting in a chair all day can be hard for your back and bum, but I love this super-comfy chair cushion you can pop on any desk chair. Memory foam and cooling gel? Yes, please!
Get it on Amazon for $33.95. Your bum will thank you.
4. Staring at a screen for a long period of time can be really hard on your eyes. That's why I like to put on these stylish blue light blocking glasses. They have ten different styles to choose from and keep the headaches at bay.
They are only $19.95 on Amazon, which is cheaper than a visit to the eye doctor!
5. Here is an item I use every. single. day: a portable laptop desk. You can use this bad boy while working on the couch, in bed, or as a standing desk. It's so versatile, I use it more than my regular desk!
It's worth the investment; $49.99 on Amazon.
6. Sometimes it takes me a while to get focused, or to stay focused on editing. That's why I like to light up my lavender Yankee Candle. It makes me calm and relaxed so that I can let go of distracting thoughts and focus on my work.
I love this candle brand because they last a long time and the scent carries well. $22.99 on Amazon.
7. You know, I used to tease people who had wireless mice. Why do you need an extra mouse when you have one right there on your laptop? Then I was gifted one. So. Much. Easier. I get it now, and not only that, I'm a huge fan. I love how this cute wireless mouse has so many color choices.
And for only $11.99 on Amazon, it's a steal. (Can you tell I love purple??)
8. There's nothing better for bringing attention to a part of your manuscript than a great highlighter. What I love about these highlighters is the quality of the ink and how you can see how much you have before it goes out.
Plus they have great precision tips. Get them on Amazon for $9.97.
9. I don't mess around when it comes to being comfortable. Cozy slippers are definitely a must-have for me to get any work done at home. These ones are my tried-and-true brand that I can also run outside in to roll the garbage can down when I hear the truck coming. They also have cute colors.
I already had a purple pair, so the current ones are pink. $24.99 on Amazon. Guys, I asked my husband for his slipper recommendation. He likes this shoe-looking style slipper.
10. Let's face it. Editing and revision can be boring. So boring that you might start to nod off. I have a trick to wake myself up and get refocused: chewing on crushed ice. I am kind of picky about the size of the crunched up ice chips. This ice crusher makes the PERFECT SIZE ice chips to munch on and wake yourself up.
For $36.47 on Amazon, it's worth every penny for each hour it buys me.
11. I will confess, my husband teases me about this one, but I do not care. This sleek plastic ruler makes me slow down and focus on a manuscript line-by-line.
The transparency allows me to see the next line if I need to, while keeping my eyes on the current one. It's only $2.69 on Amazon and a cheap, easy tool to stay on task.
12. Ginseng is a wonderful supplement for brain health. I asked my doctor what brand of vitamins she recommends, and her answer was Now brand. This ginseng supplement can help boost your brain power.
Get a bottle of 250 capsules on Amazon for $18.33.
13. If you get nothing else on this list, GET THIS. The Chicago Manual of Style is the number one tool I use while editing, personally and professionally.
There is nothing like being able to go straight to the rule book to answer your grammar and convention questions. This book is HUGE, 1146 pages, which is why it costs $29.62 on Amazon. BUT, you will use it over and over and over again, and have the satisfaction of knowing you've gotten it right.
Well, there you have it. Those are my must-have favorite tools for editing and revision. Now get that manuscript and get to work!
*Note: I signed up for an Amazon affiliate account after I made my list, so if you make a purchase, I may get a small commission...so I can buy more slippers!
Guest post by Savannah Cordova
One of the great things about storytelling is the ability to create brand-new characters, complete with their own fascinating traits and backstories! That said, no matter how unique your characters are, they’ll inevitably fall into certain categories.
A particularly common character type we see is the dynamic character. This is someone who learns some kind of lesson over the course of the story, changing in one way or another as a result. Main characters are usually well-rounded dynamic characters; their evolution is often what drives the story, and readers enjoy being along for the ride.
But what about those characters who don’t change? They don’t learn any lessons, they don’t fix any glaring flaws, and they presumably carry on — business as usual — after the story ends. Do static characters have any place in your book?
Dynamic characters go on a life-changing journey
We know that dynamic characters have to change somehow throughout the story, but what does that really mean? Well, a good dynamic character will often realize they want or need something that they don’t already have, and their journey to obtain it will move the story along.
Take the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, for example. He starts the fairytale very set in his ways, wanting only solitude in which to languish. He believes his appearance stops anyone from getting to know him, and he’s doomed to live out his days alone. Belle stumbles into his life by chance, and at first, his bitterness and temper prevent them from being anything but enemies.
But as the story progresses, Belle teaches him the joys of companionship and love, and the Beast gradually becomes less guarded. He learns to have fun and enjoy the company of another person — and to think of someone other than himself. By the end, he’s changed his mind on how the world works, and his faith in love has blossomed.
The Beast is a great example of a dynamic character because he slowly transitions throughout his story, piece by piece. Looking back, we’re almost shocked by the stark difference between the Beast we meet at the start and the one we see at the end (and not only in his appearance!).
In any story, a dynamic character is one who has an experience that teaches them something, and they act on that lesson — the action being the important part here. Indeed, if Belle had taught the Beast how to love but he forced his feelings down and kept to his lonely ways, we wouldn’t see much of a shift in him.
Readers want to see characters change (for better or worse)
You know the saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”? A dynamic character drinks. Without dynamic characters in a story, there simply wouldn’t be much to invest in. Readers want to see change in a narrative — and though the vast majority of protagonists experience positive growth, characters who change for the worse can be just as interesting.
Walter White of Breaking Bad is a great example of such a dynamic character. He starts out as a regular science teacher, but turns to the life of crime to pay for his lung cancer treatments. The novelty of this makes not only for a strong character arc, but for a fantastic story; after all, we probably all know a science teacher in real life, but we don’t all know a science teacher who started cooking meth to survive in a country without free healthcare.
Of course, the most intriguing part of Walter’s story is the moral shift that accompanies his transition from science teacher to meth dealer. While it might not be something your average reader would see in their own life, it’s easy to imagine how extreme circumstances could alter someone’s principles so drastically. Depicting this kind of change makes your characters feel much more realistic and engaging — even if the dynamic character ends up being pretty unlikable, as Walt does, it’s much better than if they’d never changed at all.
And remember that your protagonist doesn’t have to be the only dynamic character around! Giving your antagonist a shift in how they see the world adds a lot of depth to your story. Modern readers are looking for nuance in the books they pick up, so rather than sticking to a static villain in your next piece, play around with giving your antagonist a chance to change… again, whether for better or worse.
Static characters fill in the cast—and contrast with the hero
While our dynamic characters are out there changing their lives, our static characters show zero growth as the story progresses. They have a set of morals or beliefs that they don’t feel the need to change. A static character looks the same from page one to page one-hundred and beyond.
If we’ve already concluded that dynamic characters are the most interesting to read about, what’s the point of using static characters in a book? One reason is that stories need more characters than just the protagonist — and if every character underwent some big change, the story would lose focus. If a reader is presented with too many ongoing, life-changing story arcs, the story starts to muddy up.
Let’s look back at Beauty and the Beast. There are quite a few static characters in this tale. The blonde Bimbettes only want attention from Gaston, and Gaston is a player who wants what he can’t have. If we had to watch the Bimbettes learn a lesson about inner beauty and Gaston learn one about treating women with respect, we would care less about Belle and the Beast’s story.
Another reason to include static characters is for meaningful contrast with your main character(s) — in Beauty and the Beast, the static characters are also used as foils. The blonde trio of Belle’s provincial town demonstrate Belle’s well-roundedness, and how she wants more out of life than to marry Gaston.
Gaston, meanwhile, is handsome on the outside but ugly on the inside, superficial and misogynistic, and he stays that way — ultimately serving as the Beast’s polar opposite. Using static characters like this makes us like our dynamic characters even more!
Occasionally, “static” main characters represent strong ideals
There’s one more less-common reason to include a static character in your story: if you want an extremely dependable protagonist, often in the context of a chaotic or unjust world, a seemingly static character will do.
Take Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games for example. She starts the story strong-willed and set in her morals. She believes in the people, and she is loyal to her friends and family. By the end of her participation in the Hunger Games, these are still Katniss’s key traits. She doesn’t let the Games get the best of her and crack her morals — in fact, her beliefs only seem to strengthen as she’s put through the worst the dystopian world has to offer.
But while Katniss’s beliefs may not change, the amount she believes in them does. Her dynamism is in not how she views the world, but in how strong her views are. So while she might seem static on the surface, she’s actually a dynamic character in her own right — just in a subtler way than you’d see with most protagonists.
Overall, it’s important to take a look at your cast of characters and determine who the story is really about. Often, that will tell you who your dynamic characters are. How can your static characters support (or get in the way of) your dynamic characters? What is the relationship between these two character types? Having considered this, you’ll be well on your way to a perfectly balanced cast — and a story that readers won’t soon forget.
Black Friday is all about the deals and Orange Blossom is here to bring you some good ones!
We have FIVE great deals, some lasting longer than just Friday, November 26th. Check them out below:
We hope you get in on some of these great deals and enjoy the shopping holiday!
Guest post by Bay Collyns
At the early of age five, there were many enjoyable memories for me and my brother especially when our mother took us to the public library to check-out our selections of books. I remember the warmth and feelings of solace being in the library while reading our books and watching as others were attentive to their studies. As I look back, we were also delighted to see the mobile library come to the neighborhood park during spring break as well the summer months; we were amazed how convenient it was to have available library books. Currently, the availability having resources at our finger tips is quite remarkable. The cellphone has made it easy to read and retrieved information within seconds. Which makes me wonder, are libraries needed today?
Did you know that the first library was created in ancient times? The first library stored clay tablets that were used to document knowledge. One of the largest libraries in the world is the Library of Congress; it is the national library where millions of books, newspapers, and manuscripts are within its collections. There are research materials from all parts of the world in more than 450 languages. This library is worth visiting.
Libraries today continue to be known for their printed books, multimedia resources, and periodicals. They have grown to include audio and eBooks, as well as other technology, 3-D printing, and materials from the Library of Congress.
Today’s libraries are places where children of all ages are able to read their first book, high school and college students meet to collaborate and do required research, first-time parents take a birthing class or a grieving widow meets for a support group, and there are classes to learn to play chess. These are places of transformation on so many levels.
Globally, libraries are adapting and responding to the needs of their local citizens. My mother, who is on a fixed income, enjoys meeting and discussing the assigned book club reading of the month and checks out the assigned book for the next month before she leaves the library. She is thrilled to share with me the book discussions and who agreed and disagreed with her. It is an exciting part of her week where she gets to converse and meet people.
I think libraries will continue to evolve to meet the diverse needs of the communities for which they serve. Libraries are needed as a place to learn, to explore creative ideas, and develop critical interest.
Guest post by Randy A. Gerritse
This simple statement, which eventually became the title of my first ever poetry book after spending over a year writing daily poetry prompts on Twitter for the #vsspoem hashtag, may not be what it seems. This is not a conclusion, an endpoint. If anything, it signaled the start of my personal journey, a first stepping stone if you will to learning the craft of prose.
My first thoughts on the essence of poetry were on what it is not—that is, what it’s not to me, born from my early frustration with the most widespread form of poetic expression—forced structures of rhymes, connecting every other line in subjects mostly related to love. I felt that there had to be more to this poetry thing. In certain ways, I still do.
You see, I’ve always been a watcher on the sidelines, trying to make sense of the world and its many moving parts, fascinated by the little things that people seem to think that matter, and the big things they dismiss without a second thought. I have always studied patterns of expression and behavior. They intrigue me. As a species, we seem to love these recognizable templates of identity, of communication, of, well, everything. Just pick a form and fill in the blanks—voila, that’s you. Or at least, so the world always seemed to me, call me a cynic.
Today, roughly three years into my poetry journey of discovery of both my inner and outer realities, through even deeper than my usual levels of observation and introspection, what I’ve learned is that this thing we call poetry is highly personal. It is the expression of a moment, a feeling, an observation, in naught but words. It is the art to convey what these most human of time capsules meant to the narrator at their moment of conception, to an unknown future reader—more often than not, a future self.
Where I am now in my journey, is far from where I started. If I look back at my earliest work—still devoid of any punctuation—I see someone who I barely recognize, and not just in the choice of subject matter. My style of writing is still highly lyrical, but over the years my patterns have shifted, reflecting my changing insights and the changes in my everyday reality.
My early work, by a self who despised simple rhymes, despite their already distinct rhythms, these poems are riddled with cliches and naive preconceptions—shifted truths no longer my own. Often these writings feel disconnected to me now and could perhaps have used a little more rhyme to bind them into something more coherent to anyone but my past self. It’s funny how we grow, isn’t it?
Let me state this as clear as I can. Do not let anyone—not even me— ever tell you, what poetry is, or should be, for none but you can see inside your soul, your thoughts. If you feel your expression works best using a meter or a rhyming scheme? Go for it. If you think best in Haiku or Tanka? Five-seven-five the hell out of those thoughts and feelings. There is no right way, nor a wrong way. What there is though? Lots of poetic arrogance.
Where it comes to poetry, write for you, and only you. Go ahead and share those words, light up the world with your uniqueness, but do it for you—not glory in the eyes of others. Even the masters never found that in their lifetime. Cynics though, trolls and critics, those are ever-present, maybe more these days than in any other age before, ever but a click away.
For me, that first statement that became my first book still rings true, be it partly. The part about finding the rhythm, the living heartbeat of existence. I’ve since written many metered works, yet my poems and stories rarely follow conventional paths, for my truth follows a different rhythm than most. It always has. But that is my truth, and there are many.
Find yours, it might set you free—I know it did so for me.
Guest post by Rita Henuber
Humans can detect over ten thousand different odors.
Our scent receptors are capable of smelling a piece of clothing and determining if it was worm by a male or female. Nothing conjures memory more than smell. Scent is a memory bomb trigger. Memories elicit emotions and we want to deliver emotions in our writing.
Using smell effectively is not as easy as using other senses. We provide details, mapping out other senses. When we see something, we can be descriptive using visual adjectives like red, blue, bright, big, and so on.
For touch we can examine textures—a damp, thick Fisherman’s Sweater with fish scales here and there. Describe the crispness of the hair on a lover’s chest. (That would be the guy BTW.) That feeling when someone gently touches your hair and you’re home alone.
As the author you relay to the reader what everything tastes like. Sweet, salty, sour. Bitter. Pepper hot. But who can map out a smell?
It’s nearly impossible to describe a scent to someone who hasn’t been exposed to it. As with the name of this blog, Orange Blossom. The very words conjure heavenly scents drifting for miles in spring to those native to Florida. To convey the scent, I can’t gift a reader with a bottle of orange blossom perfume. I use words such as smoky, floral, fruity, sweet, we are describing smells in terms of other things (smoke, flowers, fruit, sugar).
Describe how smells make us feel—disgusting, intoxicating, sickening, pleasurable, delightful hypnotic— use of word pictures bring out a reader’s emotional response.
“Eww. You stink.” Or “Eww. Get away. You smell like my brother.” It’s more describing how the smell makes you/your character feel. Again, what we want in our writing.
Smell is the most evocative sense. Pheromones are nature’s romantic calling card. Writers rely on it to increase intimacy between heroes and heroines. Studies have been done proving women are more attracted to men who smell the least like their own genetic codes. Women were given men’s sweaty, stinky t-shirts and asked which they liked best. I dunno, maybe it was an early Bachelorette show. Anyhow, they found their brothers and fathers shirts to be the worst smelling.
When you use the sense description make it applicable to the character. A truck driver is more likely to describe senses in the way he experiences them. “Dinner smells like burning tires.” In the movie Apocalypse Now, Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) is often quoted as saying, “I love the smell of napalm.” That alone, taken in context of the movie is intense. But the quote is not complete. It reads:
“Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin'; body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell? The whole hill. Smelled like... victory."
That is chilling. It nods to the horrors of war that the character faces, and the way it’s warped Kilgore.
If you think using smell isn’t important in your stories consider we can’t taste until we put things into our mouths. Can’t see if our eyes are covered. Can’t experience touch unless we make contact with someone or something. Can’t hear if our eyes are covered.
We always smell with every breath. Always. If you cover your nose to stop smelling, you will die. So, yeah, I think using scent in a story is important.
What do you think?
Guest Post by Eva Tortora
Writing. It's the most beautiful word in the English dictionary. Expressing oneself through writing is the most romantic, tangible, symbolic substance. It's artistic and infinite.
When you write about someone you love, they live forever.
I used to go to coffeeshops before COVID for four or five hours at a time, writing, being inspired, and drinking coffee endlessly. Just people watching would inspire idea after idea, with me contributing to everything from magazines to newspapers to bigger companies.
Expression is for anyone and everyone. Anyone can do it in any form and be inspired and change the world, quickly or slowly or anything in between. The written word is powerful and subtle, soft and light, light and dark. It forms beginnings and endings.
Today I will write this, and think of the people I care about, who change form over the years, light my way, and reside in my heart, with words spoken and unspoken. Love is language in any form. Love is light. I capture love in the written word, in silent poetry screaming rhythm and substance.
Today I will write.
I will write until I'm tired, until you change form, until love calls me away in the distance to finish my chores I never started, to dance with me rhythmically into the night. I will stay awake writing, and fitting together words like a puzzle, making you live forever, infinitely in my heart.
Writing is important and silent and loud and rhythmic. Let's write. Shall we dance? forever in my lungs....
Guest post by Antoinette Truglio Martin
I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up. At a young age, I was awed by lines that formed letters and gathered into words, sentences, stories. I played with the sound of language, the syntactic cadences and clever semantics. Through the written word, scenes came to life, characters resurrected from the words, and imagination had a place to grow. Since I had learned to make those lines into words and sentences, training to become a writer should have been a cinch. Instead, Writer’s Training held many parts and was a long haul.
As a kid, I filled composition notebooks with stories about horses (something I knew nothing about), and sisters (a subject I knew too well). I wrote silly plays and directed my sisters and neighborhood friends to act them out. Everyone shared one crumbled handwritten script since copiers or ditto machines were not in the production budget. When I was a teenager, diaries with locks held my deepest thoughts and darkest secrets. The practice led me to journaling, where chronicles of mundane events, epic adventures, worries and revelations unfolded. Practice was part of Writer’s Training.
My parents enjoyed my writing and claimed that I was the writer in the family. They saved some thoughtful poetry and stories but did not post them on the refrigerator like my siblings’ A+ math tests. No one had the notion to read a kid’s poem when looking for ketchup. Encouragement was part of Writer’s Training.
When it came time to pursue college, I announced I wanted to be a writer. Writer was not a choice. My father said that writing was a hobby, not a job. My mother added, “If you have to support yourself alone, you’ll starve.” Teacher, nurse, or social worker were the given career choices. I was not sure what a social worker did, and I fainted at the thought of blood and guts. I went to college to be a teacher—specifically a speech therapist and special education teacher. Adaption and detours were part of Writer’s Training.
I fit a few creative writing electives where harsh criticism and rejection prevailed. One professor stated my work was dribble. “Come back after you suffer in life,” he said. Pursuing a life of suffering was not my ambition. I lived a charmed life filled with blessings and still wrote. Developing a tough skin and learning from rejection and criticism were part of Writer’s Training.
Life moved forward. I married my high school sweetheart. We settled in our hometown, had three daughters, a dog, cats, and boats, and a load of family and friends surrounding us. I juggled home and work life. Teaching suited me. It was a creative calling, and I loved working with children. I made felt board characters to play out my tales for my daughters and students, created tongue twister stories for articulation drills and scribbled ideas, thoughts, and observations. I bought a pretty journal notebook each year with the vow to fill it. Some years were more prolific than others. Eventually, I wrote two regular columns in local periodicals. The pay was terrible, but seeing my words in print fueled the writer’s drive. Perseverance was part of Writer’s Training.
Writing is a lonely business. One sits with a paper, pen or laptop, waiting for the next brilliant word to appear. Stories could live in the writer’s head for decades, before taking shape on paper. I am not that writer who can compose from a spark and produce a worthy work of art quickly and confidently. Before social media was invented, I joined face-to-face groups with fellow writers of varying levels of success. It proved key to gaining skill, confidence, and a genuine cheer squad. I took on roles in the regional children’s lit group, met with writers in our homes, and, recently, have joined virtual Zoom sessions. The rigor of workshopping, researching, and presenting honed my craft. I put in the work, learned, evolved, explored, took risks, and was generous with my fellow wordsmiths. Being part of a tribe was part of Writer Training.
To date, my authorship comprises a small library. I have not reached fame or fortune, but have a sweet following and attained that writer’s badge. It’s been a long haul—a lifelong labor of love. Passion has always been part of Writer’s Training.
Guest post by Samantha Brown, edited for clarity
Hi, my name is Samantha. I was born five weeks early with brain damage.
At a little over a year old, we learned I have Cerebral Palsy. Then at the age of four, my parents discovered I had epilepsy after having a seizure that threatened my life. I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The doctors said my life would not be normal. I would not do things like others, and I would not finish high school.
But now I'm 24 and I beat the odds.
When I was younger and first started school, people would turn or look away from me. I felt shy and nervous. You should take the time to learn about someone because you never know what they are going through. You need to see the bigger picture. Sometimes the hardest roadblocks we face are the ones that can't be seen clearly by others. Remember words can change the way someone thinks or feels, and it might become easier to talk about what you came from.
The challenges we face in our lives make us look at the blessings we have been given. It can help bring you to where you belong with a brighter outlook on what can happen. Use your own voice to bring back the joy, happiness, and blessings of the world we live in.