I am taking a course at UTexas called Kickstart your Novel. Last week I brought in a sample of my story and a few classmates and the instructor took it home in order to critique it. Normally the instructor critiques your writing while you are in a small group setting. But for reasons I won’t go into, my writing was critiqued in from the entire group.
The instructor is kind and has a way of delivering a critique without squashing your dreams. Overall it was a favorable review by all who read it with one classmate saying it was the best thing she’d read so far in class. The instructor pointed out my good word and phrase choices. An example, “Michael casually shredded her life.”
I have the most difficult (my therapist would say impossible) time accepting praise. I sift out the good and only keep bad. Silly, I know and I’m working on changing.
So who knows, maybe I will someday realize my dream and be a published author.
Yesterday I received a survey from Austin Trail of Lights asking me about my experience. There was one question asking who I came with and how many people there were. They had one HUGE error. There was no selection for anyone who might have gone alone. It was assumed that to go you wouldn’t go alone.
I find this mentality is pervasive in our society. Even when you go online to book a room at a hotel, it is automatically set to 2 people. Restaurant hosts look at you odd when you say just 1. The movie ticket booth isn’t any different. I’ve taken to buying my tickets online to avoid the odd stare.
There is a difference between being alone and lonely. I was lonely when I was married. Even though someone shared my bed, my home, my life it was hollow and empty. I wasn’t alone but I was desperately lonely. I don’t mind going places alone. I have traveled alone because I didn’t want to wait to see places and experience new things. That being said, I do get lonely. It’s not easy making friends especially at this age. I have no home which means no neighbors. I have no children in school so no classmate parents. I don’t have a spouse’s co-workers or a job of my own with co-workers. Churches aren’t generally friendly places. I know they like to think differently but typically there is nothing more than a nod or a quick handshake. Very few are willing to go the extra mile and reach out.
I pray I don’t spend the rest of my life alone but I can guarantee you either way I won’t be lonely.
Why do I always feel a little sad when I finish a good book? I should be happy to be finished and ready to move on to the next good read but unless it’s a sequel I never feel that way.
A good author can make the characters seem real. I become involved in their lives, sorrows and joys. Time, life situation and age are immaterial. I connect as much with a thirty year old single female trying to make it in New York City as much as I do with an angry Englishman in 1779. Then there is the love longing Mexican girl and the post World War II single, female author seeking the place she belongs, so different but I identify with both.
I wonder what happened to the newly divorced woman who gave herself and her soon to be ex husband a divorce party in a failed effort to save her marriage. Did she find love again? Or what about Demelza? Does she become a grandmother and Ross a grandfather? Did the abused wife heal her heart and soul once she was free?
I can go places I will never see and meet people from the beginning of time to present day and even people from the future. I wonder could I possibly write about and share a story, a world and people? I just know my life would be one dimensional and gray without books.
I am a collector of books. Typically I read every book I buy but sometimes I buy a book that requires interaction. This summer I purchased the above Experience Passport from Chronicle Books. It gives 45 ways to broaden your horizon without going anywhere. Since my life circumstances have changed, it is unlikely I will be doing any extensive traveling again. I thought this looked like a way to have fun and push myself out of the cocoon I have created for myself.
Some of the suggestions are easier to accomplish than others but all will open up my life to new possibilities. You don’t have to do them in any particular order. I’ve done #2, #7 and #26. I will share some of the things I learn while using my experience passport. Care to travel with me?
#26 Favorite quotes from an award winning piece of fiction. I will share one quote from Still Life by Louise Penny.
“Life is change. If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still and the rest of the world is surging ahead.”
Have you ever read a book that is timeless? I believe Poldark is just that.A book written in the 1940s about life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Cornwall, England. The struggles faced then are as relevant as the ones we face today. Ross Poldark is a soldier just returning home from a war which was lost. He learns not only has the love of his life, Elizabeth agreed to marry his wealthy cousin Francis but his father is dead and his small estate in ruin.
Heartbroken Ross pours himself into his farm and reopening the mine on his land. Unlike his cousin Francis and his wife Elizabeth, Ross was never separated apart from the people on his father’s land. He grew up with the sons of the miners. They were his friends despite the huge difference in their social status. Ross’s experience in the war has given him a clearer perspective on life and the injustices he sees everyday in Cornwall and England.
Miners are forced to poach game to keep their families from starving while the gentry live a life of luxury which is paid for on the backs of the workers, the miners. Justice is only justice if it serves the gentry well because while they say all are equal before the law, that is not how it is actually carried out.
Ross finds himself torn between what he knows in his heart is right and what the people of his class tell him is right. It is the unexpected love and faith he finds in a young girl, a miner’s daughter, that helps Ross find his way.
He stumbles. He fails. He succeeds. He’s torn between love for two women. He carries on doing his best.
Aren’t these the same challenges we face today? The divide between the rich and poor growing. The idea that some are born to succeed and others to fail. Aren’t we struggling to find true justice in our court systems? Not justice for some but justice for all? Aren’t we fighting for education, jobs and the disenfranchised? Aren’t we working to save the men and women who return from war some broken and scarred changed forever? For soldiers who can’t find employment and face poverty? Aren’t we seeking our voice and our right to be heard even if we are poor or a minority or just the plain forgotten?
When Winston Graham published Poldark, World War II had just ended. His country was facing the very same challenges Ross faced when he returned from fighting the American War of Independence. The only difference is Britain won WWII and lost the AmericanRevolution but the returning soldiers faced the same fights as Ross did 150 years earlier. And now in the 21st century we are facing our biggest battle, the fight of ideology. Will we win this world war of terrorism imposed by the few on the many?
This is absolutely my favorite book series and I hope you find the time to read not just Poldark but all twelve books.
“We envy a man for something he has and yet the truth may be he hasn’t got it after all and we have.” Francis Poldark PBS
We live in a world where the message is what you have isn’t enough. We are taught we need to be ambitious, make more money, attain a higher status, just get more. But does stuff and more money make us happy? Does it make us envy our friends and neighbors more or less? Do we ever reach a point when we’ve reached the pinnacle of success and feel satisfied or are we on some endless road?
I think the character Francis Poldark from the Winston Graham book series Poldark’s worcs ring just as true now as when Mr. Graham wrote them and also when Francis was supposed to have said them in the late 1700s. People don’t change. Status whether it’s brought by money, a beautiful wife, a big house or a successful business is a temporary fix for what we all desire on a deeper level.
Things are temporary. Jobs are temporary. Relationships can be shallow. Money comes and goes. But what if while we are so busy acquiring and envying others we miss the joy we already have in our lives? Studies have proven money doesn’t make us happy. It makes us comfortable and offers security on one level. I understand how devastating it can be to lose financial security. I’ve lost all the financial security I had when I divorced. I understand how devastating job loss and loss of a relationship can be. I was married for 30 years only to be tossed aside. It hurt. It still does. I see my friends’ lives and the security they still have. I feel envious. I feel cheated. I feel angry that my ex could discard me and our daughters like yesterday’s trash.
But what I’ve realized is that if I spend my time envying the life I had, the lives of my friends then I cheat myself out of recognizing the blessings and joys that I have in my life now. I have close and loving relationships with my daughters and son-in-law. I’ve learned who my true friends are and that the appearance of happiness doesn’t mean they are happy. I have peace of mind. I no longer wonder in what new way my ex husband was going to betray me and hurt me. I’ve learned I’m strong.
As I have said in my earlier posts, I’ve become a recluse. I have begun to worry if I am developing agoraphobia (the fear of public places). It’s so easy to stay in my apartment and the more I do it, the easier it becomes. I have made the first step towards to shutting the door or should I say opening the door to prevent that from happening.
I have signed up for three weeks of sewing classes at Stitch Labs in Austin. I have been sewing for more than 40 years, but didn’t want to take a class that would be so frustrating I would end up feeling like a failure. So I selected a beginner II class. We will make a pillow with piping and a zipper the first week. The following two weeks we will make a book style bag. I hope to brush up my skills and then possibly take a more advance class.
One of my most cherished memories are the dresses I made for my daughters and all the Halloweens I made costumes for them and then later on for my neighbors’ children. The photos bring back such happy memories. With this class, I hope to take the first step towards making happy memories again.
While researching one of my favorite characters, Miss Phyrne Fisher, I came across the website for the company that publishes the books. Allen and Unwin which is located in Australia. They have all sort of posts about how to write, improve your writing, getting ideas etc. I thought I would share the link to the Getting Started page. I hope you find some helpful information there.