Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writer Groups

To join or not to join? That's a question I have asked myself numerous times over the course of my writing career and I must say I'm glad I finally approached a fellow writer friend who has a writer group and asked if they had room for one more. They have graciously accepted me, and I went to my first meeting this morning!

I have waited WAAAAYYY too long to do this. Here's the thing with me. Writing is very solitary. I am not a solitary person. There is nothing introverted about me. I love people. I yak a lot. When I need a recharge, I feel better after spending time with friends and family. My husband, (thank the stars), is also a yakker, and I am able to bounce ideas off of him and enjoy a unique friendship with him that I cherish.

Anyway, yes, writing is very solitary. I find my enthusiasm, energy, drive, etc. lagging when I spend too much time alone with it. I always come home from signings or other writing activities feeling recharged. But often, especially lately, they've been far and few between. This group is just what I've needed to do to keep me on track and motivated.

If you're considering the value of joining a writers group, try to find one with people who will encourage as well as offer kind, constructive criticism. This is crucial. For me, anyway. I suspect for most of us. I feel so lucky to have landed in a good group of people. They're so kind to allow it- sometimes when you're part of a group you don't really want the dynamics to change by adding someone new, and I'm glad they're willing to take the risk.

Find yourself a group! Whether you like to read or knit or quilt or scrapbook or make shoes or eat sunflower seeds...it's nice to connect with like-minded people. Give it a try!

Friday, October 9, 2009


I'm finding that one of the worst things about being behind on a writing deadline is the frustrating fact that I can't blog or do anything like unto it without feeling an incredible sense of guilt. If I have two minutes to blog, I should have two minutes to try for another couple hundred words on the manuscript.

Well, blogging and internet research is one thing I can do while the kids are running around and distracting me, so today I'm using that as my justification. I wish I were the kind of writer who can write amidst chaos, but when I write my novels, I must have complete and utter silence. I can't even have music on. It affects my mood too much.

I keep trying to grab those stray moments when I can, but just when I get sucked into the zone of my story, someone comes along and wants a drink/snack/needs to be wiped/help with algebra (It doesn't have to make sense, honey. Just learn the blasted formula. It never made sense to me either)/or any one of a million other interruptions, and I get sucked right back out of the story and I feel all disoriented. Really, picture the warp speed images from Star Wars and the like, and that's what it feels like when I have to jump back and forth between worlds. I usually find myself literally blinking and trying to focus on the person talking to me. You know it's bad when the five-year-old has to repeat himself and starts articulating slowly and loudly, kind of like people do to my Norwegian mom when they hear her accent.

When I'm in the middle of writing, I also have to be careful of what I read. For instance, when I was writing the Civil War series, I was paranoid about copying anybody else's style so I avoided other historical series. I have yet to read Dean Hughes's Children of the Promise, like the rest of the LDS world has already done five times over. I'm sure it's probably irrational, but I worry about things like that. My 1st Isabelle book was set in Colonial India, so instead of reading helpful books like A Passage to India and The Far Pavillions, I ran in the other direction with my hands over my eyes. I do all of my research, well, almost all, from nonfiction sources because I worry about unconsciously using material I've read from another author.

There is one exception this time around; Isabelle 2 is set in Egypt at the height of the Egyptology craze, and I have been reading Amelia Peabody like crazy to get myself into an authentic feel for the place. Why this is different, I have no clue. I think one of the reasons is that there was a REAL Amelia, who wrote A Thousand Miles up the Nile, and I suspect she was an inspiration for Elizabeth Peters. Amelia Edwards wrote her memoir in such beautiful detail that it makes research on this time and place an absolute joy.

Isabelle 3 will be set in Greece, and I am stamping impatiently to get at that one. If people were to ask me which of my books is my favorite, I think I would say, "the next one." As much as I love to write, it's really hard. There are times when I want someone to come along and tell me what happens next. It always works itself out, but it can be a frustrating, intimidating process sometimes.

Enough of the rambling. Time to pick up kids from school. And then the crazy-busy afternoon melts into dinner time, then shifts to after-dinner craziness and then bath time and then the threats to the teenagers begin. (Go to bed NOW. This is why it's so hard for you to get up in the morning. *ten minutes pass* I swear, I will take your phone. Don't look at me that way. If I had looked at my mother that way I'd have found my head across the room.)

When all this is done, I settle down to write. If I'm lucky, I stay awake. :-)