The Power of Showing Up

The Power of Showing Up.

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Oh, Those Golden Moments

I have spoken and written about the golden moments of an author before. These are the twinkling little tiny gems that happen amidst the angst and insecurity that creates fiction and comprises most of the life of a writer.

Most of the time, I’m a writer. Sometimes, I get to be an author.

I was privileged to enjoy an extended golden moment two weeks ago, when I was invited to be on the set of the film production as they shot the movie of my book, Candyland.Candyland book cover art

Rusty Nixon, the screenwriter/director and I have talked about this for almost ten years, and it is finally a reality. He wrote an excellent screenplay.  Much of this story takes place within the characters’ heads, so he had to craft original scenes that dramatized that internal action. He did a stellar job.Rusty and Liz

I arrived in Vancouver (and was a guest of the gracious Judy and Ken Nixon) and went to the set that had been constructed inside a vast warehouse space. A complete apartment had been built inside the warehouse, complete with “wild” walls—walls that could be moved to accommodate the camera.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The crew of about thirty went about their business as complete professionals, from Jan Wolff, the Director of Photography, to Malin Ottosson, the Assistant Director, to the hair and makeup people, to the wardrobe people, grips, gaffers, set decoration, sound, lighting, and craft services (caterers). And, of course, Marena Dix, Blaine Anderson, and Marc Petey the producers, busy all the time making it happen, fixing glitches, and putting out fires. The stars, James Clayton and Chelah Horsdal, total professionals, rehearsed tirelessly in that cold warehouse, and then got out of their down coats, undressed, and made movie magic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For the most part, I watched the actual filming from a tent outside the set on a monitor with the others who were not required to crowd those doing the filming, and was amazed, take after take, as actors spoke the lines that I wrote, and I believed them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There were nesting owls in the warehouse, and every day I got a glimpse of one or the other. Pueo. My ’aumakua. Magic.

Nobody on the set initially knew that I was the author of the original material, and slowly, as word got around, those tiny golden moments happened over and over again for the three days I was on the set.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It has been said that the most exciting day in the life of a writer is the first day on the movie set when a book is being filmed, and the most boring day in the life of a writer is the second day on the set. I did not find that to be the case. In fact, the second unit shoots in April, and I hope to be there, at least for part of it, because it is amazing beyond belief. Yes, there’s a lot of down time, but there is always something interesting to do, someone interesting to talk to. While the actors are working, the makeup, wardrobe and other people are not, and when the actors are relaxing between takes, the other people zoom into action. There is always something going on.

It was my job to keep my mouth shut and stay out of the way (I promised to be an adult and behave myself—this is not my book after all, it is Rusty’s movie), but I certainly took it all in.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Those golden moments. I tell ya, they make all the angst and the insecurity (financial, social, mental and all the rest) worthwhile.

(This post was simultaneously posted in the Shadow Spinners blog

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2014: My Year of Good Cheer

2014 marks the sixth year I have named my years. It provides an interesting focus for me throughout the year as I remind myself (via a post it note on my desktop) my name for the year and gives me something to live up to. To strive for.

2009 was The Year of Hesed (lovingkindness)

2010: The Year of the Tao

2011: The Year of Living Simply

2012: The Year of Forgiveness

2013: The Year of Living Sustainably

2014: The Year of Good Cheer

Have I achieved any goals with these years? I don’t set out any goals, per se, it is just a reminder of ways in which I can adjust my thinking.

In The Urantia Book (a spiritual endeavor that I have studied since the early 1970s), whenever Jesus encountered one of his disciples, the first words out of his mouth were: “Be of good cheer!” This is in the Bible, too, John 16:33.

Words to live by, those. What good does it do us to be critical, to add negative thought-energy into the world, to hate, hold resentments, argue, and live our lives in cynicism?

Why not be happy? Happiness is a choice. Only we can choose whether or not to be happy. No one on earth can make us happy if we do not want to be. Conversely, nobody can make us feel bad if happiness is our chosen state of being.

Only we can choose to put cynicism aside. Only we can choose to focus on the right side, the light side, the good side of things instead of the ugly. Only we can choose to see the successes in apparent failures, to view the future with excitement instead of dread, to banish depression and decide to be of good cheer.

I was privileged to deliver a sermon last summer, the topic of which was how we can change the world with our thoughts.

It starts with a single decision to lighten the world with positive thoughts, thoughts of happiness and gratitude and love and light. There are enough people who add the darkness to fabric of planetary thought with their thoughts of greed and anger and me-first-ness.

It is a mighty challenge to change the balance from dark to light, but we can do it, one day at a time, one person at a time, just by being of good cheer.

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Resisting NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes place every November. The point is to write a novel in 30 days, which turns out to be approximately 1667 words per day. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in it, and every year I have said, “Maybe next year.” The truth is, I could never really see the point. I’m a professional writer with several published novels to my credit. It seemed as though NaNo was for people who had no discipline or needed something like that in order to get the job done. How many, after all, finished anything worthwhile?

Plenty, as it turns out.

Well, this year, when I said, “Maybe next year” to my friend Pam Herber, she said, “You say that every year.” The gauntlet had been thrown.

So I did it. Every day I wrote approximately 1500-1800 words, with an extra spurt at the end that had me finish a couple of days before the deadline, and this is what I discovered:

1. I now have 2/3 of a poorly-conceived, messy, ugly, unwieldy first draft of a potentially good novel that I would not have had had I not participated in NaNoWriMo. I wish I had taken a week to prepare for my project, both plot and character, before the start of the challenge.

2. I had fun doing it, meeting friends in coffee shops to write together with headphones and caffeine.

3. I complained a lot because I didn’t get a Saturday or Sunday off, not even Thanksgiving Day, but I didn’t complain too loudly, because by Thanksgiving, magic was happening in the twists and turns and character development in my book.

4. I watched as my online NaNo “buddies” struggled with and overcame difficulties to also complete the challenge. Not all of them made it.

5. The pep talks the NaNo folks send almost daily are funny and insightful. Though I didn’t attend any regional events, they were frequent and looked to be a lot of fun. I might pop in on the Thank God It’s Over party tomorrow to accept my winner’s pin.

6. NaNoWriMo has writing events all year long. Darfinkle, my regional liaison, is going to give a presentation at the Wordcrafters in Eugene conference next March about NaNo and its camps and youth programs.

7. I read Chris Baty’s funny book, “No Plot? No Problem.” Chris is the founder of NaNo, and he might be more surprised than anybody about how well it has taken off. He has a lot of tips to writing a novel in this book and I found it to be a good read.

Really now, what is the need in the world population that NaNo has filled? That is a question worth considering, because I think that over 600,000 people registered this year, from all over the globe.

8. My process of writing urgently, under deadline, was more than validated. For 23 years I held a series of weekend retreats where all participants were required to write a short story in 24 hours. Though many never believed they could do that, nobody ever failed. 50,000 words in 30 days is a little different, but the same idea prevails.

So now I have a first draft to finish, reorganize, and polish.

Will I do NaNo next year?

Likely. If you do, “buddy” me so we can encourage each other on this crazy journey. It is a writing experience like no other. Highly recommended, at least once. NaNo

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The Other Side of Giving Thanks

The Other Side of Giving Thanks.

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Death Cafe

Last night I drove through foggy fog to a meeting of Death Cafe.Death Cafe
I heard about this national organization and its local chapter at an event last summer where Death Cafe had a booth. It stopped me in my tracks. “What do you do?”
The woman smiled. “We get together, eat cake, drink tea, and talk about death.”
My kind of organization, for sure.
Most of the people there were middle-aged. Many were Hospice workers. Perhaps there were more women than men, but I thought it was pretty evenly divided. We sat at six different tables of five or six, and then proceeded to spend 90 minutes eating cake, drinking tea, and talking about death.
It was fantastic. I am a firm believer that our culture needs to open up a public dialog about this completely natural aspect of life, but it is shrouded in mystery, in secrecy, in pain and grief and a wretched (in my never-humble opinion) compulsion and dedication to staving off the inevitable, no matter the cost to the dying person or the community.
I say “community”, because that’s who pays the exorbitant end-of-life medical bills, as we try to delay or avert what is a natural process.
Would you send your son to the hospital and have him put on all manner of drugs because he was nearing puberty? Of course not. Death is just as natural a process, but because we don’t talk about it enough, we don’t understand it, therefore we fear it.
At our table last night we had a young woman who is terribly afraid to die, we had an older gentleman who has been a Hospice worker and volunteer with a local organization called Nobody Dies Alone, and has been personally present at 25 deaths in the last five years, another woman who has only witnessed one death, but who dreads her own death, and another woman who doesn’t fear death at all, but doesn’t know how to think about the potential of excruciating pain for her elderly mother–or herself, for that matter–that might accompany a death unaccompanied by medical professionals.
We talked, and talked some more, covering a variety of important related topics in quite some depth. Surprising depth, actually, for a group of people who had never met before. We could have talked another hour or two without difficulty. One person said that a son-in-law went through medical school and they didn’t talk about death hardly at all, because a doctor’s focus is prolonging life.
This Death Cafe group meets once a month. Only two people had been to a meeting before; the rest were there for the first time, like me.
One of the takeaways for me was the importance to talk more about death with everybody. Talk about your own death with your parents and your children and your friends and you neighbors. Talk about your parents’ death with them. Open up the dialog. Explore the mysteries.
Our culture is very peculiar about death, and it is time that changed. We need to stop being so afraid of it and start seeing it as an inevitable process of life.
You can find a local chapter in your area by going to http://www.deathcafe.com
I found it to be an evening well spent, and I believe you will, too.

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Top Ten Things I Wish I had Known

Top Ten Things I Wish I’d Known…

After thirteen books in print with a fourteenth and fifteenth slated for publication, I’ve garnered a little wisdom along with all the heartbreaks, hard knocks, high fives and golden moments that only a published author can experience. Here, then, are the top ten things I wish I’d known when first starting out.

  1. If you’re good enough to get one agent/editor/publisher, you’re good enough to get another agent/editor/publisher. Don’t be so grateful to be represented or to be published that you grovel, sell your soul, or take minimum wage for your work. Trust the professional who sees something in your work that makes it worth their while, but don’t hang on to a sorry relationship out of fear that this is the only person who will ever believe in you. It isn’t true in love, and it isn’t true in publishing.
  2. Worry about your writing and your career will take care of itself. This was the advice given to me by my very first editor, and for the most part, it is true. I look after my career, because it means more to me than it does my agent, my editor, or my publisher, but once I turn a manuscript in, it becomes someone else’s job.
  3. The job of an author is to acquire readers, one at a time. There’s the profession of being a writer, and then there’s the profession of being an author. The writer’s job is to write. The author’s job is to grow a readership.  Be nice to your fans. Don’t annoy them with too much self promotion.
  4. Don’t take yourself too seriously. The fate of nations does not hang on your deathless prose. You’re a storyteller. Tell the story that is up for you to tell today and then move on. Do not rewrite it until you have ground off all its edges or smoothed out all its wrinkles or turned it into mush. By the same token, even if you’re an Author with a capital A, you’re still just a storyteller, not a brain surgeon, unless you’re that, too.
  5. Take your writing seriously. While you should never consider yourself all fancypants because you’ve had a book published, you should always consider that the contents of your work may be widely read. While you should be fearless with your truth, be certain that it is your truth before you try to convince others of it.
  6. Relax. There is real value in “creative procrastination.” I believe that we can outpace our creativity with page-count goals. If the words aren’t coming, don’t take a hammer to your head. Make sure you haven’t told a lie in your fiction (asked a character to do something that is against his or her nature in order to serve the plot, because this will cause all the characters to go on strike). If your work is solid, the pages will eventually come—provided, of course, that you are sitting at the keyboard. The book won’t write itself, you know.
  7. Be a professional. Be someone for up and coming writers to look up to. Be the person your agent adores. Be the writer your editor admires and loves to have coffee and/or a chat with.
  8. Be grateful. You have achieved what countless thousands others strive to achieve.
  9. Be generous. Give back. Teach, donate your time, expertise, and money to help the next generation of writers achieve their dreams as well.
  10. Know that there’s plenty to go around. Just because so-and-so got published first, or better, or more frequently, or whatever, this has nothing to do with you, your writing or your career. Don’t compare yourself and don’t be jealous. See number 2.

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