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This book caught me off-guard. I was expecting a historical tale about a family that lived on the Mississippi River. What I discovered was the devastating story of Georgia Tann’s Tennessee Children’s Home Society and the baby/child trafficking that was so long hidden from the public.

The part about Georgia Tann and her baby business is true. The story itself is a riveting revelation of the terror and helplessness these children could have gone through as they were betrayed into Georgia Tann’s clutches.

The story of the family at the center of the book moves from freedom and happiness to fear, horror and separation. It’s a page-turner in a dark world, and to me, the realization that similar horrors happened to hundreds of children, made it even darker.

I followed up this audio book with an internet search of Georgia Tann and her infamous life, and was stunned by the facts. Some evils take a long time to be uncovered and stopped.

Kudos to Lisa Wingate for finding this story, digging up the facts, and passing them along to fiction readers. A chilling but fascinating read.

Lisa Wingate

 

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ARE WRITERS INTROVERTS?

Not necessarily. But, I would guess that a large percentage of writers are introverts. At conferences I’ve attended, the emcee will often comment about the buzz of talk among all the introverts, but that is, of course, because of our common interests, and the fact that we are respectful of one another’s reserved nature.

When I was young, I read a Peanuts® cartoon that stuck with me. Charlie Brown said to Linus, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” I concurred, not knowing anything about the basic differences between people who love to foster new relationships, and those reluctant to do so.

However, there have been times—I call them magic moments—when I’ve met another introvert and we’ve become instant and lasting friends.

MOVING PAST INTROVERSION

I attended my first Write! Canada conference in Guelph, Ontario at the invitation of the planners, to facilitate a fiction workshop. (I felt anything but qualified, but that’s another story.) One of the responsibilities that accompanied the gig was that I agreed to be available at mealtimes to speak with people. I wanted to crawl inside my shell, to put my back to the wall and observe. But I couldn’t. I had to step out of my area of familiarity and pretend I was comfortable speaking with strangers.

At one meal, two women approached me, one being the spokesperson, because the other was too shy to come forward on her own. Barbara (not her real name) and I sat down together and found instant camaraderie that amazed both of us, as well as Barbara’s friend, who shook her head in wonder. The two of us chatted away about writing and life and stories until lunchtime was over, and we hadn’t thought to eat. That’s also rare for me. Although I’ve lost touch with Barbara, our instant relationship will always remain in my memory as a true heart-connection.

REWARDS FOR STEPPING OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE

Recently, we visited our daughter and family in Alberta. Since their son’s teacher knows I write, she asked if I’d come read to them and speak a bit about writing on Read Aloud Day. I was thrilled…until a few days before the event, when I had second thoughts. Silly fears jumped into my mind, questions like, why on earth did I agree to this? But I followed through and the event was lovely. The students were enthralled by the reading (excerpts from the beginning chapters of The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton), they participated in the discussion session, and they helped create a simple “Story Quilt.” The pièce de résistance was the gift of a story written just for me— Goldie Goes to the Vet—by Daniel, one of the grade three students.

As much as I love my quiet times alone, these magic moments are rare gems to store away in my memory, to remind me that I can do things that are uncomfortable, that introversion should not be allowed to control my life, and that opening up to people can be rewarding, no matter what my life work is.

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It’s called perseverance. That stubborn drive to reach for a goal. Dedication to a cause. Steadfastness. Endurance. Growing in spite of obstacles. Doing our absolute best.

These days of winter here on the prairies continue to drag. Temperatures are cold enough to freeze my brain. My focus shifts like the drifting snow and ideas are elusive. All I really want to do is curl up by the fireplace, wrap myself in a cozy blanket, and read a good book.

But where do those good books come from? They come from persistent writers who push through the dreary times when ideas are hard to pin down. They come through the tenacity of dedicated storytellers. Good books take work and resolve and heart.

Good books require effort, just like good marriages, good parenting, good friendships. All of life requires commitment to make it rich and worth living. But no one is going to do it for us.

I’ve come to the realization that no one is going to pull me along on the path to my goals. I’m the only one who can stretch to attain them. I’m thankful that over the years, God has pushed me in the right direction, helped me find connections, gently reminded me of my responsibility to apply myself to my calling (vocation, mission, passion). That’s because I foster my relationship with him. But the work is up to me.

Whatever your work, I encourage you to put your best into it and keep on keeping on. That’s what it takes to make a better world. I remind myself that God’s creation was never “good enough.” It was purely and simply “good.”

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We all have fears and insecurities as writers. If we don’t, we may be in denial. I created a list of my five top writing fears. Yours may differ in the order or the content, but you may also find some that match.

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

—Thomas Mann

5. Fear of Success: Yes, really. What if I succeed? What will I do with that? I’ll need to speak and promote. I can’t do that (smacks of inverted fear of failure, doesn’t it?). 

The Fix: Don’t worry about overnight, brilliant success. It’s rare. Keep at it, take opportunities to learn about promotion and how to handle it. I will forever be a proponent of Toastmasters. I joined when my first book was due to release, because I was terrified to speak. It worked. I’m not incredible, but the fear is very much decreased.

4. Fear of Losing your Muse: What if I have no more stories left, or life pushes me away from writing or I end up wanting to retire from the writing life.

The Fix: Don’t live for someone else’s approval. All we need worry about is God’s approval. What if He calls us away from the keyboard? What’s the worst that can happen? People will eventually get it. If they are true friends, they will understand, and if they’re not, why do we care? We must follow God’s path for our lives.

3. Fear of Not Meeting Expectations: We’ve written a book, maybe two, and other people have started to see writing as our forte. But, we doubt ourselves and feel we will let them down sooner that later. We might choose the wrong genre or the wrong story structure.

The Fix: Stop comparing yourself to/with others. Be who you are called to be and concentrate on that. It’s enough. You have only one life to live; live it the way you need to. You will not be held accountable for fulfilling the expectations of others, only following your chosen path.

2. Fear of being an Imposter: The Imposter Syndrome is prevalent among writers. We manage to put out a book and now people think we are real writers. What do we know? It was a fluke, right? Anyone could have done it. We may never be able to write another book, and we’re just pretending to be writers. 

The Fix: Most of us experience this fear when we’re called upon to live up to our CV. Take it in stride. We will always have less experience than some people, but likewise, we will always have more experience than some. So gather up what you know and share it.

 

 

 

1. Fear of Failure: I’ll never be able to complete this project. I don’t have what it takes. I don’t have the organizational skills, the time management strengths, the understanding of grammar, etc. 

The Fix: Keep at it. No one can call you a failure as long as you’re trying. Organizational skills and time management can be learned and adapted to your specific needs. And grammar, well, there are many writers and editors out there who excel at fixing that. Trade skills or pay them for their work.

AFTER I composed this list of fears, based on the ones I’ve experienced personally, I went to the internet and googled. It appears I’m not alone. Nor are you.

Here’s some of what I found:

* https://writeitsideways.com/15-common-writing-fears-you-need-to-face/ (paste URL to search)

* http://menwithpens.ca/7-deadly-fears-of-writing/

* http://livewritebreathe.com/writing-fears/

* http://thewritepractice.com/common-writing-fears/

* http://copywritematters.com/writing-fears-revealed/

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Where do our ideas come from? Best answer: everywhere.

I’m visiting with friends and someone mentions a strange circumstance that intrigues me. Or talks about a quirky character they met. Or refers to a larger-than-life experience they read about online. These are all fodder for the idea mill.

 

First lesson: Be observant. Listen. Imagine how this or that can be recreated in our writing.

 

 

Sometimes good ideas slip away on me because I’m not convinced they are novel-worthy. Can I build an entire book around a particular idea? Will it really fit into my plan without messing it up? Perfectionist tendencies show up and may need to be squelched in order to give the brain free reign to imagine the possibilities.

 

Second lesson: Cast off perfectionist tendencies. Welcome the ideas and save them for later use.

 

 

As amazing as some of the ideas are that come to me, I have a confession to make: they often take leave as quickly as they come. I have an unfortunately poor memory. I may remember having a fantastic idea, but the gist of it is gone forever.

 

Third lesson: Write. It. Down. We can’t always trust our brain to remember even the most intriguing ideas. At least I can’t.

 

 

 

 

To recap:

* Observe

* Accept

* Note

Grab those ideas and run with them. They are everywhere, but they want tending.

NOTE: This post first appeared on the InScribe Professional blogsite on August 30, 2017.

ANOTHER NOTE: All photos from pixabay.com.

 

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I recently read an article in “The Writer” magazine (July 2017) about creating characters “that are not secretly you.” It was one of those revelations that came to me a little late, but resonated nonetheless. Here’s my take on it.

When we are young—I’m talking babies and toddlers and young children—oh yes, and teenagers—the world revolves around us. Or, at least, we think it does. We are naturally selfish and needy, and expect others to put us first and fulfill our needs.

Most of us outgrow this eventually. Or do we?

What was the main character like in your first novel or short story? Did he or she at all resemble you? Good chance your answer is yes. We often create characters that think like us, respond like us, even look like us. Through them, we are able to work through our thoughts, feelings, struggles, dreams and hopes. Non-writers may not realize how much of our hearts and souls feed into our characters.

But, as Susan Perabo suggests in her article in “The Writer,” it’s time we got over ourselves and started creating other kinds of people, freshly imagined folks who are nothing at all like us.

This is what happened when I started writing the first draft of my current WIP: I had invented a young woman passionate to know who she was, but after a couple of scenes, I was looking into a mirror of sorts. Diana was a “fraidy cat.” She didn’t like challenge or risk or danger. She was naïve and passive and, frankly, boring. I’m not putting myself down; I’m being honest. But I didn’t want Diana to be that way. Too easy. Too much like some of the characters I’ve written in the past.

So, what to do? I rewrote the first scenes (I know, I know. You should never edit until you finish the first draft. It’s not the first rule of writing I’ve broken.) and for my every inclination to make Diana respond like me, I stopped, listened, and allowed her to be herself. And do you know what I discovered? She is nothing like me. She’s rebellious. She adores the limelight. She is sometimes disrespectful. I’m not sure I even like her very much. But she’s interesting. I want to know why she does these things, what she really wants, how she is going to become her own worst enemy as the story unfolds.

Two specific takeaways for me from the article:

1) Often we don’t realize what we’re doing until someone points it out (thanks, Susan Perabo)

2) It’s helpful and wise to consider the truth of the matter and make the necessary changes

So, let’s get over ourselves and bring into being brand new, fascinating fictional characters that inspire and spark our stories.

©2012 DEBBIE RIDPATH OHI. URL: INKYGIRL.COM

 

NOTE: This post was first published on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog on August 7, 2017.

 

 

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Writing involves not only good technique but also personal investment. It involves practice and learning.

An acquaintance said recently that practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. In other words, if we continue to repeat our mistakes, we are not getting any closer to perfection.

Michael J. Fox said he doesn’t aim for perfection but for excellence.

Sometimes it’s a matter of semantics. The key is to do our best at whatever we are doing, and that will always require effort, practice, and time.

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Here are seven key points that will, in my opinion, help us to grow our writing:

1. Keep writing regularly. This is the practice part, the refining, the trial and error.

2. Keep reading. This is the activity that helps us get the feel of good writing (and poor writing).

3. Keep learning. Attend workshops and conferences, take courses online or through books, videos, etc.

4. Polish your writing. Strive for excellence. Don’t ever say, “Good enough.” Be the best you can be.

5. Publish. This step helps us commit to finishing a project, whether it’s a blog, a guest post or a novel.

6. Market. Oh, bother! This is my greatest challenge in the writing arena. But what do we have to lose? If we want people to read our writing, we must make it and ourselves available. Try writing in a new genre or point of view. Try writing at a different time of day or a location more conducive for you. IMG_1116Subscribe to a new social medium that you’ve so far avoided. Can’t hurt. Then analyze the advantages and disadvantages and refine your lists to what works for you. Most new things become manageable with practice and familiarity. Some remain useless and can be scrapped. But give them a chance. Note: if you don’t have a website, create one. You can do it yourself or ask someone else to do it for you. Without a website, you won’t be searchable.

7. Share. One of the best ways to learn is to share what you know or what you’re learning. Again, use blogs, guest blogs or various social media to accomplish this. It will invariably help strengthen your knowledge and understanding of the topic, method or genre (or show you where you need to bone up a bit).

So let’s keep writing and encouraging each other to strive for excellence.

This post originally appeared on the InScribe Professional Blog in May of 2016.

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