It’s that time again …

It’s late Tuesday afternoon EST and another Wednesday lurks in the shadows, haunting and tempting me to come up with something new, fresh, fascinating, and so captivating, you could not resist.

I don’t think I have anything to say today, however, I’ll rev up the engine and see where she takes me.

To-do or not to-do the lists …

The Big Guy called me a doll, wooden head and all. The tease came from my inability to stay on target, stick to the subject, reign in my over-active imagination, and never, and I do mean never, could I follow instructions.

girls

To my daughter and granddaughters.  

I have post-its on a small bulletin board in front of my computer that I manage to ignore. I have to-do lists in the kitchen, in my office and detailed descriptions of “things” to-do in a computer file on Microsoft.

No matter how many times I remind myself of where and what I am do to on any given day of the week, I will manage to rearrange or reschedule, pushing dates and obligations forward until an entire month might expire before I make a simple phone call.

In fact, I have already written a post for two weeks from today and an interesting idea for next week and haven’t the slightest notion of what to say today .

Writing about nothing at all is a great challenge for most, a pain for others, and a way of life for this empty-headed Brooklyn Doll.

Get to the point …

When I write outlines or first chapters, first drafts or odd characterizations and story plots, I might send them via-email to my two main BETA readers. Then I might also send them to a couple of my blog readers or innocent victims I’ve met in various groups.

First, to explain.

I bet you were afraid I’d explain. Tough.

To explain. I was born a verbal story teller. I followed my poor mother around our cramped, cold-flat in Brooklyn, waving my hands, breathless and melodramatic. I’d risk life and limb walking inches from her heels whilst she wielded her wooden spoon or took frozen sheets off the line in the dead of winter.

Nope. There was no dryer. There was no washer either. No gas range, no refrigerator. There was a coal stove and an “ice box.” We lived in this frozen tundra until I turned nine. In my story I left poor Antoinette in the frost-bite until she was fourteen.

Okay. To get to the point.

slow learner

From Kid’s Spot.

I am a “Later” bloomer (thanks Debra) and a slower learner. My children seemed to believe because I completed my Bachelor’s and first year of my Masters in three years, that I am some sort of genius. No, the resident genius of our family was the Middle One. The Big Guy and I had the same method of learning.

We did something over and over and over and failed again and again and again. The downside being, we had to work harder to keep up with the genius. The up-side was obvious. Once we finally learn something, we’re damn good at it.

However, if you have ever been pained to read my stories in their first, second, third or fifth drafts … before I finally settle down and get to the point … you know how I can jump and circle and bounce until I settle down and let the characters finally do their thing.

Two weeks ago I sent the first three chapters of a new book to three friends. All three “liked” the story and encouraged me to continue. But the one I was the most worried about said what I was afraid she might.

Like Lisa Shiroff, my first and main BETA reader, this experienced and multi-published author told me in no uncertain terms that I had to STOP doing it again. Stop jumping, calm down and let it happen.

Listening to all three of these truly generous women, I became fascinated with the process, more than that … I finally got it. Well, I had gotten it with my first mystery, but I guess when I sat down with first thoughts running at the mouth on this one, I somehow forgot.

Last week I listened to my good friend, sat still, and let each woman speak to me.

It wasn’t my fault, Shelley. I was born a verbal story teller … did I mention that?

When I was in my early twenties I was an Executive Secretary, working on the prestigious Executive Floor of the second largest textile company in the world, and of the eight of us, four of my mates insisted on scheduling their lunches with mine so I could entertain them during lunch.

Thousands of stories told at book clubs, luncheons and dinners, during phone conversations or at our writer’s group, and thousands more with my school-mates, college friends, work-mates, and family distant and close.

Extemporaneously, I can go off on a tangent, start at the beginning of a tale, veer off to the side for a bit, swing back, boomerang and “shake myself about,” until the listener’s hair starts to fall out. Yet, for some strange reason, my friends and family still listened.

My Big Brother once told me why. “When you finally get to the point, you’re funny.”

“When you settle down, I love what you write,” my two BETA readers tell me. “But until you get there, you make me nuts.”

The end results of my learning curve …

The-Learning-Curve-2

Credit.

I took an Advance Editing Workshop with Margie Lawson. I read all of Donald Maass. I read each post at Writers in the Storm. I took Laura Drake’s query/pitch workshop. I took several other workshops, watched hours of stuff on You Tube, read over a dozen how-to-write books, and paid both Chuck Sambuchino and Rachelle Gardner to critique queries and synopsis.

My two BETA readers and over a dozen of my writer friends have helped by reading several of my books.

So why does it take so long for me to finally get it?

I have a very wide-angled learning curve. Like my Italian body, it curves in dimensions that might be pleasing once it’s all together, but taken one body part at a time, I might have been thought of as bottom heavy, or my feet too long and narrow, my nose a bit askew, my left-handed skills a bit off.

Like the Big Guy, it takes me a long, long time to learn something to get it right.

And like the Big Guy, I love to do lots of things. I am currently developing a workshop I can teach in various communities and assisted living facilities in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Called … Beyond Scrapbooking …this fun workshop teaches people the hundreds of things they can do with scrapbook paper (with hundreds of types of paper) and never do a scrapbook The idea came after a very successful Flea Market where I brought my decoupage “stuff,” and was invited to join a group and give a workshop on how to make what I make.

Isn’t it the best to get paid for something we love to do?

I’ve been writing full-time (on paper at least) for six years. For four of them, I played and had the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.

Long before I decided to write novels full-time, I played with poetry and thoughtful prose, I did a stint as a journalist, I did essays and wrote professionally for four non-for-profit groups, the main group, my heart and soul, Children’s Arts & Science Workshops, taught me more than I could have learned taking two more degrees. The strange truth is that I never had the same problem with the structured work as I have since I became a free-agent.

I spent my childhood imagining fantastical tales, studied people on the street or at luncheon counters, and met hundreds of people from the four corners and the seven seas. I’ve had three careers that had nothing to do with each other. More than anything else, I’ve loved being a people watcher, a people pleaser, and I’ve had great fun reading everything from several newspapers and news magazines to fantasy fiction.

Before I got down to the reality that telling a good story is NOT the same as writing a good book, I had the joy of reading and writing everything that teased my fancy.

Did I say I didn’t have anything to write about today?

I guess I did. Truth be told, I seem to have a lot to say about a lot of things.

And what I’d like to say today is a simple … thanks. Thanks to Christi Corbett, Patricia Yager Delagrange, and Shelley Freydont (aka Shelley Noble.) Thanks to Lisa Shiroff and Harriet Amato … and

Thanks to the dozens of patient readers who have helped me during this learning process.

What say you, reader? 

What do you love? 

And who has taught you to do what you love?

fOIS In The City

Note: About those sentences, people. I might leave this note every week. Even though I won’t get to the first one for another month and I have one more left over from the last round, I will continue to nag. I’m on a mission here, so anytime you’re ready.

Also note that each link leads to my good friend’s pages at amazon or the website of WITS and Margie Lawson. I’m sure you all know how to find the others.

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29 Comments

Filed under Ramblings

29 responses to “It’s that time again …

  1. Florence, you and I are SO alike! I too am bottom-heavy, have too big feet, and learn the hard way – by doing it wrong every way known to man, before stumbling on the RIGHT way – then I never make another mistake. It’s hard on a body, but I have no choice in the matter.

    One thing we differ on though – I have focus. When I find something I want, I work until I get it. Stubborn? Fixated? Yeah, probably all of the above.

    But you know what? Our way sure leads to an interesting life, huh?

    Write on, Florence!

    Like

    • Laura, the last … that of focus … is something I have learned from knowing gals like you. It’s interesting how likened spirits always find each other. Good unpacking. Texas is lucky to have you 🙂

      Like

  2. vicki

    Hi, Florence: I would have never thought you jumped around like you described. Have you considered taping your stories then transcribing them? After that, though, is the hard part–putting in all the things you’ve learned in those workshops. Stick to it. The result will come.

    Right now, I am having a hard time staying with one scene. It is keeping me from finishing the story. grrr.

    My passion, besides buying handbags–lol, is needlepoint. Big surprise. However, I love the rhythm of making the stitches. The in and out calms me down. I think, I watch movies and TV, and finally, have something worthwhile.

    Perhaps, your decoupage does the same for you. P.S. I’d love to see pictures. Hugs, vb

    Like

    • Thanks, Vikki. I have improved much with age. My attention deficit stuff settled down and now I can at least recognize it when it starts. I didn’t think it would follow me into the writing, since I never had that problem with college or my career in not-for-profit. I won’t even begin to describe what I was like as a secretary 🙂

      I believe that busy hands puts the mind at rest. We are more in peace when we are working with our hands making something. I get like that no matter what crafts I do and more so when I crochet. I love your work, your handbags and I think I even saw examples of your needlepoint.

      I have two shops on Etsy.com … one for my collectibles and fine china and the second one for my crafts. I just separated them four weeks ago so it will take time to build the new shop. Truthfully, I have rarely posted about that stuff because this is not the place. I sometimes put listings on Facebook. Take a look if you like: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CottageCraft4u

      Have a great day 🙂

      Like

  3. Hey Florence. What a kind thing to say thank you to me and the other women when I’m betting we all love having the opportunity to read your posts and chapters of your books. It is “I” that want to thank “you” for letting me share in your writing experience. I love your stories and the three chapters I read a few weeks ago, in my opinion, were really really good. I especially adore it when you take one sentence and use it as a springboard to tell a story for us. You are one of the kindest people I’ve had the privilege to meet online. Thank you for being, well, YOU.
    Patti

    Like

    • Patti, speaking of kind … thanks so much for your comment. It warms me that I know others might like my stories. The one sentence gig is a labor of love. I challenge myself to be able to stretch myself and create a flash from practically nothing.

      Ditto on being YOU as well, dear friend 🙂

      Like

  4. christicorbett

    Florence,

    Thank you so much for allowing me to read those pages. I consider it an honor and I’m excited to see where you take those unique characters 🙂

    Christi Corbett

    Like

    • Christi, as my oldest and most supportive blog friend, we have gone through much with each other. From here to Facebook to Writer’s Digest and always back here. I feel it is a privilege to be a part of your budding writing career and am encouraged at how hard you worked to succeed 🙂

      Like

  5. I love this post. It is a privilege to read this blog.

    Like

  6. A question my critique partners and I toss across the divining table now and again: If we knew what a journey this would be, what a climb, what a curve, would we have taken the first step?

    Unanimous, and resounding, answer: He**, yes!

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  7. Florence you are a pleasure to know (if only virtually) and to work with.
    I love reading your words and I empathize with your butterfly thoughts, however . . .

    Like

    • However indeed, Shelley 🙂 Without your patience and honesty, dear one, I might have fluttered too far afoul with this one. Have fun at the conference this weekend. Yeah, and it’s a great pleasure to know you, virtual or otherwise 🙂

      Like

  8. Florence, studying the process of writing, and all of the nuances involved, has been one of the greatest joys of my life. If we still love it despite the heartaches and frustrations, then we were born to tell stories. Keep on entertaining us. And congratulations on the chance to teach others about scrapbooking! 🙂

    Like

  9. I read lots of great books too! I also joined my local chapter of RWA . .. I would’ve never gotten published without their guidance 🙂 Blogging provides lots of wonderful practice for writing, too!

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    • Jamie, the expression is that we “read to write.” There is no way we can do one without the other. Love that you have learned from your peers and that you have found a home for your great books 🙂

      Like

  10. Florence, the journey always feels like it takes way too long, yet we end up exactly where we need to be. As Laura said, just keep writing. 🙂

    Like

  11. And many, many thanks for shouting out Writers In The Storm. Our readers are the absolute best on the web, and you’re at the top of that heap.

    Like

  12. Florence, Quit the how-to books. They represent an industry that encourages: sales of their own theories and pep talks, stories whose patterns all sound the same, and the assurance that there is a right way to proceed. Blech! You have a talent. You’ve owned that talent for wild, raw and original storytelling since you exited the womb and began to laugh. So run wild and stop feeling anxious about it. It’s that wild romp with word necklaces that elicits the tales you have to tell. You’ve already learned good grammar and mechanics. So now reach for your own raw. Telling you to settle down is equivalent to saying, “Write more like me.” I come here because the what and how you write is *different.*

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  13. Florence – I’m late to your party, again. Let me say, I couldn’t agree with Anthony, more. I’ve taken on-line classes, gone to conferences, read every craft book anyone recommended and on and on. I’m through with all of that. I’ve finally cut myself free.
    You should have my sentence via message.

    Like

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