Summer blossomed in South Carolina with all its usual heat and humidity, and the outlook promises more to come next week in addition to thunderstorms and intermittent heavy rains for several days. But the good news is this gives me time to catch up on correspondence, do a stack of editing, finish reading two books I started last week, and maybe, just maybe, I'll get a little writing done as well. And then there is cleaning my study. (loud sigh)
I clean my study twice a year: January and June. That means not just sorting through old files, stacks of newsletters, magazines, and jotted down notes and quotes I've long forgotten why I wrote down in the first place, but it also means going through the book shelves and sorting the keepers from the give-aways. Books breed in my study....truly they do. Two shelves hold books "to be read," yet every six months the shelves bow lower because I add more books than I read. (And that's not counting the kindle purchases.)
I know why this happens. I confess I am a bibliophile and a hoarder of books. It's as if my subconscious says, "Hey, stock up on reading material because the zombies will invade and destroy all bookstores, and you'll have nothing to read!!!!!" So the end result is that I always end up with more to read than I have read.
It's my life.
I accept it.
My husband has learned to live with it.
But the most difficult part of all this cleaning out is deciding what to keep and what to donate. I fall in love with some books (I am not monogamous in that respect). I fall irrevocably in love forever and ever, and I have to have those on my shelf because to not have them would be to suffer untold grief over the loss of something that has become a real part of ME.
And so the problem grows: too many books, too few shelves. The Friends of the Library and various school libraries are so happy to see me in January and June. They know I bring gifts--free and highly recommended. And I derive great joy and satisfaction passing on my beloved friends, but it is still hard, I tell you, to hand over that volume that suffered the cut in the decision of which one do I love most and "have to" keep.
I know there are others out there with this same issue, and that brings me joy. Joy because as long as there are readers and hoarders, our work as writers will always be a necessity. We will always be needed, wanted, and loved by someone, somewhere.
And in this whirlwind world we live in, it's comforting to know we will not become obsolete.
A few days ago, my writing critique group lost a dear friend. Dave Thompson was a fellow writer and one of the founding members of our group. We have been together some eight years now.
Dave published his first book of stories early on—stories of his boyhood and friends. He presented those books as gifts to friends and family. Those stories highlighted his humble, honest style, strong images, and the heartfelt emotion Dave poured into everything and everyone. Over the years, he also wrote a novel and two books of poetry. His latest book, Poems for People Who Don’t Like Poetry released just a couple of months before his unexpected passing.
As in most serious writing groups, the members share what is most precious, most important, most meaningful to them in their works. And although those revelations are not always intentional, a careful read reveals the true values and the core of a person’s spirit hidden inside the lines of stories, poems, or essays.
And such is the case with Dave’s writings. He was smart, honest, kind, generous, and humble. But what lay at Dave’s core, what motivated his actions and his words, what directed the path he would take each and every day, was simply the prayer that he would do his best in the eyes of our Lord. This prayer is in every single work Dave wrote.
In the writing process, there are several stages we, as authors, must endure. There is the origination of an idea. Developing the idea. Revising the idea. And finally, letting the idea go out into the world. Some writers navigate these stages quite quickly. And I say YAY for them. But Dave and I often teased each other that although we might zoom through the origination and development of a piece of writing, both of us tended to linger….no make that: both of us tended to take up a somewhat permanent residence in the stage of revision. We both lovingly lived in that place we called Revision Land…trying over and over and over again to get that writing just right. And with each thing we wrote, we needed each other and the other members of the group to move us along to letting it go by saying, “Hey! You’re done. It’s more than good. Time to let it go, and move on.”
Without that clear directive, some of us might live in Revision Land forever--never feeling the work was quite good enough to let go. Dave worked hard at his craft. He wrote and revised and revised some more. And most of the writing he did this last year concerned life and his relationship to Christ.
Dave’s writing also reflected that he lived his real life much the same way as he lived his writing life. His words reflected his desire to do more, be better, draw closer to and stronger in his faith. His poems reflected his unwavering beliefs, his doubts of his worthiness, his need for the Lord. And his poems especially reflected the longing to keep improving himself and his service to the Lord.
Through my own grief, I have come to believe all this quite strongly. And while Dave nor the members of our group ever suspected his passing was so near, the Lord knew. He took the book of Dave’s life in His hands and closed it. I smile through tears as I imagine Dave kneeling, his head bowed, tears on his cheeks, a shy smile on his lips, and the Lord saying, “ Hey Dave! You’re done. It’s more than good. Time to let it go, and move on.”
Our writing group will miss the sweet, gentle spirit that we knew as Dave Thompson. But we draw comfort from believing the Lord has called home this faithful servant—one in whom He is well pleased.
Well done, sweet Dave. Well done.
To Purchase Dave's newest book of poems, click the button below:
.by Guest Blogger Crystal Klimavicz
Indie Books Unleashed!
It would be an understatement to say that a chasm exists in our nation today, one that divides not only political parties but genders, races, classes, and more. You can’t read a magazine, visit social media, or go to the grocery store without getting someone’s opinion. Just this morning, I overheard this at the gym: “Well, I’ve lived through two Bush and two Obama administrations, and the only thing that changed was my healthcare. Beyond that, life has pretty much stayed the same.”
Regardless of the ‘truth’ to this opinion, the reality is that the political arena is, for the most part, fought on a much larger scale than the individual worlds in which we live. And in my little world, I saw a chasm that was equally as great, one that exists between the world of traditional publishing and those of the self-published. It is a divide that prompted me to facilitate a change and start something new to make a difference.
Of course, there are the traditional publishing houses and the smaller publishers that have cropped up to meet demand. They may argue that there is an inherent gatekeeper to the system through the agents and editors -- people who ensure a level of professionalism -- within the process.
Some may even say that self-published authors circumvent this gate and promote books of ‘unequal’ quality to go to print. For the record, the J.K. Rowlings, Margaret Atwoods, and Stephen Kings of the world make publishing a book the old-fashioned way look far too easy. Yet even many of them received rejections on their work. Agatha Christie was rejected for five years before landing a publishing deal and Louis L’Amour received 200 rejections letters before Bantam accepted him. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times and has since sold over 20 million copies.
So, what about those people who don’t make it that far? Though the traditional system may weed out some bad books from the good, I would argue that only sometimes is that true. There are wonderful, life-changing, and inspiring novels written by talented people who for whatever reason choose to self-publish, perhaps because of their age, their goals, or perhaps even a belief in themselves. Sylvia Plath, whose talented mind was demise, once wrote, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
Fade in Indie Books Unleashed, a brand, new program with a simple, fun concept: Help authors get their books into new markets, into the hands of new readers, and get those coveted online book reviews. This unique program circumvents the traditional methods of book distribution and promotes name recognition for the authors and the businesses who agree to ‘house’ their books.
If you have a book in print that you have self-published, join us today at www.IndieBooksUnleashed.com. And, if you are a lover of books and would like your shop, office, or café anywhere nationwide to be a participating location in the Indie Books Unleashed program, inquire at info@IndieBooksUnleashed.com.
Crystal Klimavicz is an author, instructor, and entrepreneur with a passion for the written word. She loves creating stories that inspire thought and change, as much as she enjoys helping others learn how to write their own.
Her three books include Falling Through Trees and This Side of Perfect in women's fiction, as well as a historical memoir collection entitled The Days of Not So Long Ago. You can read more at www.CrystalKlimavicz.com.
Her most recent endeavor is the exciting launch of Indie Books Unleashed, LLC. IBU is a program for self-published authors that helps get their books out into new markets, in readers' hands, and gets those books read and reviewed. Real-world discoverability for indie writers! Check out www.IndieBooksUnleashed.com for more details and to join.
When Crystal is not writing, she is often playing card games with her two children (and getting beat), or heading out for a run around the beautiful island where they live near Charleston, South Carolina.
Countless writers have compared writing and publishing to giving birth. And while most mothers would say, “No way,” I agree that taking a book from conception to delivery is in some ways a similar process.
Guys, please don’t stop reading. This post is not for women only.
Eighteen years ago, a friend and I shared a chocolate (what other kind is there?) dessert one rainy day. We had met a few years before and formed a solid relationship as writers, readers, and women.
I have always lived in South Carolina. But my friend, while born here, was a military child and had lived all over the world. She returned to South Carolina to teach at a major university. I was Caucasian; she was African American. Married for over twenty years, with children in high school and college, I returned to the university to pursue my passion—writing. She was, comparatively, a newly wed with a toddler, and was my professor.
We discussed many things that day, but when the conversation turned to family, our mother-in-law stories crossed the lines of coincidence. How could that be when our backgrounds were so different? Did others have similar stories? Were most mothers-in-law horrible people? Or was there the possibility that the bad-rap about them could be challenged?
We wanted to know, and right there over chocolate, our book His Mother was conceived.
Later, my friend found she would not be able to participate in the book, but glowing with the idea of a new project, I continued.
TAKE AWAY: Don’t close your mind as to where book ideas can originate!
I needed contributors like a pregnant woman craves food. I wanted both published and yet-published writers, who loved the project as I did. I wanted writers with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities.
I crafted emails outlining my specific wants for the submissions. I contacted writers I knew personally. I asked them for recommendations. I contacted groups and placed submission calls on select writing websites.
Waiting on responses, I prepared my book proposal using models from books and publishers’ guidelines, paying specific attention to books on the market that might compete with His Mother. I focused on how my book differed from these, what it offered that others did not.
I narrowed the hundred responses to eighteen suitable to my focus. Then, I began revising and editing.
TAKE AWAY: Develop a writing network. Join writing groups and associations. Get active in the writing community.
Be specific about your REASON for writing a book, whether fiction or nonfiction. You must have a focus for writing whether you are a pantster or a plotter, or your manuscript will become unmanageable.
Seek the best advice and models for what you write.
Research the market.
REVISE and EDIT SEVERAL TIMES. Your work grows stronger in proportion to the time you allot to this.
With the sample stories in shape and the proposal done, I prepared a list of agents and publishers, and sent out the proposal. Then I waited.
Several rejections later, a flutter of interest occurred. But it came to naught.
I re-submitted the proposal, sent in full manuscripts when asked, and waited again. More rejections, another flutter, but again, it proved false.
Years passed. I grew tired. Frustrated. I distracted myself. Worked on other books. But the urge to get that book out was ever-present.
I revised and resubmitted, again.
Then one fine day, when I felt totally out-done with the project, a contract offer arrived.
TAKE AWAY: (You already know it): DON’T GIVE UP!
After more revision and editing, all was ready, but then came a complication. Three months before the scheduled release, the publisher closed its doors.
But no way was I going to stop the momentum we had built. I owed my contributors. I decided to open my own publishing company, and His Mother debuted right on time.
TAKE AWAY: (Again) Do not give up. Be creative in your solutions to today’s publishing challenges. Believe in your work. Find a way. This business can be painful, yes, but it can also bring immeasurable joy.
e to edit.
I can hear your sighs loud and clear at the very mention of the word…REVISION. You’ve heard all the usual “why you should do it’s.” You have probably forced yourself to “revise” at least portions of your manuscript. But do you really “get” the necessity of it? Do you know the real reasons why most writers insist that revision is the REAL writing?
In the writing workshops and classes I teach, I preach revision. It is much like a religion to me. Why? Because I know from personal experience that revision gets writers closer to the final product we desire the world to see.
Re-vision. To see again. To think about again. To imagine again. To shape our written words into a re-fined form. Fine. Something valuable. Something desirable. Something to treasure.
In compiling the narratives in my anthology His Mother, I saw firsthand the rewards of the revision process. The re-visioning of my own contribution to the book took place over a period of about 15 years. (No, I’m not advocating for all revisions to take that long!)
I began my narrative in the form of a letter to my mother-in-law. At that time, she was still very much alive and working hard to make life uncomfortable for her family. My initial draft was filled with frustration, hurt, and anger—the typical “mother-in-law-from hell” article you would expect in a book about mothers-in-law.
But with delays in finding a publisher and real-life interruptions, I found myself re-writing that letter five years later. My father-in-law died, and there was much juicy stuff to add to my litany of complaints against the woman.
Another five years passed with more delays and frustrations, and I tackled the piece again, adding a growing list to the “expected” gripes and groans about the relationship. But then, life intervened. Rather, I should say death; my mother-in-law died, and with her death came the task of sorting through the detritus of her life.
And in that sorting, I discovered much that caused me to re-think my mother-in-law—not as the person we knew, but as a soul encased in a damaged body, a soul that, dark as we sometimes perceived it to be, was a soul no less.
What we discovered led me to re-vision my mother-in-law. It was a healing, unexpected and sudden, in its on-set.
These discoveries led me to revise my letter once again to include my newfound perspective. And while my original versions of the piece fit okay in the overall focus of the anthology, I discovered my new vision worked even better to focus my piece toward the whole purpose of compiling the anthology in the first place.
The healing I had prayed for her to receive all those years came about, but not to her, to me. That re-visioning of her allowed me finally to forgive her.
The letter in the anthology fulfilled what the book’s primary focus had always been: that any relationship, no matter how difficult, can have value. Perhaps not in the form we anticipate, desire, or pray for, but certainly, in the healing that takes place when we see relationships outside our narrowed view of them.
My writing critique group members sometimes tease me about living in “revision land.” and I admit to spending most of my writing time there. However, I’ve never heard them say a revised version of a story impacted them less than the previous version.
I’m not a plotter. However, I do begin with a focus for my writing. Revision helps me maintain that standard. It also justifies my belief that timing is everything. If you put writing out into the world before its time, it is going to come back to you, for a reason—the need for you to re-vision it. This is true, EVERY SINGLE TIME.
So take the time to revise. What is the focus of your work? What is your purpose for writing this particular piece? Does your work support that focus? If not, revise and refine it. All it takes is a little time and a new perspective.
Check out our guest blog at SouthernWritersMagazine.com at Suite T....lots of fun doing this one.