Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thursday's Children: Inspired by Friends on the Journey

Today I want to give a shout-out to fellow writers participating in Thursday's Children. Writing can be a lonely journey, as I'm sure many of you will agree.

I haven't been among the fortunate few that have friends, acquaintances, and fellow writers lining up to read my drafts. I've seen writer's acknowledgement pages thanking almost 100 people for their input (I counted)--and I think: how in heck did they get that many people to read a WIP? It can be a tough sell.

So what's the happy medium? We all need feedback and editing. Other eyes can help us see the inconsistencies, lack of tension, plot holes, and redundancy that books can suffer from. Not to mention the missing words or wrong word choice (thank you, spell check). I always spot those things AFTER I hit send, don't you?

I've been leery of local writers' groups, although I've been urged to join one or two. I'm sure some groups are great but it's a magical, rare thing, don't you agree--finding people who understand your work and provide constructive criticism. So until recently, I've had only a few trusted souls read my work.

Networking with writers through the internet has transformed my solitary landscape. I've been part of Verla Kay's blueboards for a couple of years and have found much support as well as industry opportunities. There I learned about contests (notably Brenda Drake's) and during Pitch Madness, I had the privilege of mentoring three writers.  The next step was joining Twitter, since a lot of the contest action happens in that venue. Due to all these connections, I've made some wonderful writer friends who understand the journey. It's fabulous fun to learn about their work and root for their success. So now, when I finish my current WIP, I have three critique partners lined up. Yay! The pressure is off my dear husband, who edits for me.

My icing on the cake is joining the Thursday's Children blog hop, where I get to connect with a delightfully diverse group of writers. Their posts are funny, insightful, educational, thought-provoking and yes--inspiring.

Cheers to the Thursday's Children gang!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thursday's Children: Inspired by Nancy Drew

I'm sure telling you that I was inspired to write by Nancy Drew isn't exactly noteworthy. This series of books, first launched in 1930, has been reprinted and revised numerous times. It still sells briskly, with new books added to the series and the character appearing in movies, television shows and games. Several of the books are among the top selling children's books of all time.

Nancy Drew was one of the first packaged series, pitched to a publisher by Edward Stratemeyer, who created the Hardy Boys. He then hired ghostwriters to write the books (using his outlines) under the name Carolyn Keene. Mildred Wirt Benson was the first and it is said that she fleshed out the Nancy character based on her own personality.

I remember reading my first Nancy Drew. I was seven and had just moved to Maine from Virginia Beach. My father had been in the Air Force and we'd moved around since I was born in California--to Savannah, England, France, New York and so on. We were in Maine to stay--my dad's life long dream was to have his own business in the town where he spent many happy days visiting his favorite uncle. He was a native of Astoria, Queens and hated the city. 

Anyway, it was January and I'd never seen snow. Or ice. The library was on the main road, just down our long driveway, in an ancient and listing old Colonial house. Along with siblings from the family we were staying with temporarily, I picked my way down the slippery route to my first library experience. Ah, that indefinable dusty smell of old paper and leather and wood! The creaky floors and the whisper of the librarian as she hand-stamped your book. "You have two weeks."

On the way back, a black cat ran in front of me and I fell down on the ice, still clutching Nancy, and sprained my wrist. I remember thinking that black cats were indeed bad luck. LOL.

One of the best things about small town libraries is that they often keep old books on the shelves. They had some of the original Nancy Drews, written in the 1930s and 1940s. Have you read those? They are odd and quirky, especially when contrasted to later sanitized versions. Thinking back, perhaps those editions sparked my interest in that period as well as in creepy mansions, diaries, and secrets.

Nancy Drew (and the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden and the Three Investigators) all stimulated my interest in mysteries as a genre. I still love them and most of what I've written is in that category.

How about you? Do you love Nancy Drew?

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday's Children - Inspired by Nature

I thought I'd focus this week on a positive source of inspiration: Nature. At least I find it so, because there are many majestic and breath-taking spots on this planet of ours. The photo above is Profile Lake in Franconia Notch, NH. Franconia Notch is right up there on my list with Acadia National Park and the white beaches and palms of the Gulf Coast.

I've been an avid nature fan all my life, ever since my mother kicked us outside to roam the woods and fields of rural Maine. We took occasional trips to the Maine coast and mountains, too. My artist's eye and poet's heart finds peace, joy, and nurture in the sights, scents, and sounds of the outdoors.

When I discovered that during the 1800s, traveling artists visited our nation's (and Europe's) famous beauty spots to work, I was inspired to write my Canvas & Corset series. In the White Mountains of NH, for example, we had many "grand" hotels that housed visitors seeking the peace and inspiration of nature and God--while providing three sumptuous meals per day, social events, and sporting excursions. Sigh. They knew how to take vacations during those days--all summer!
Several of these hotels remain. Here are two in the Whites: Mountainview Grand and Mount Washington Hotel

I love the contrast of a luxurious resort set down in wilderness. I also appreciate the philosophy of the late Victorian period that recognized the power of our great landscapes to inspire. This era gave birth to many conservation movements. The Sierra Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Acadia National Park, Yellowstone--all these were started by wealthy and/or cultured nature-lovers who recognized something worth preserving for future generations.

In my books, I hope to convey the beauty and power of these landscapes, providing the reader with a mini-vacation of their own. That's my particular challenge.

How about you? Are you inspired by nature?