The End Is Only the Beginning

Sunday afternoon I managed to type out two very important words on the novel manuscript I have been drafting on and off for the past year or so: The End. Always a good feeling.

A few days before that I was on the phone with my agent discussing submissions and what I’ve been working on and what might be next. I had thought that at the WFWA retreat in September I might work though a new novel concept in Lisa Cron‘s Story Genius sessions, which I would then start drafting during National Novel Writing Month (November). The one I had in mind would be a follow-up/sequel to a novel that hasn’t even gone out on submission yet. We both agreed that it would be premature to start working on it since we don’t know anything about the fate of the one that would come before it. Who knows if and when book one will get published, and if anyone would even want a book two?

And so, I’m left with the task of choosing what to focus on during the rest of the year. I’ll be sending my newly completed draft out to various readers over the next few months, getting feedback, and making revisions before turning it in to my agent at the end of the summer. But in the meantime, I want to be working on the next thing. Always the next thing.

I have three projects in mind, all quite distinct and requiring different skills. First, there’s my poetry chapbook. Second, research and outlining for a historical novel that I’m not sure I’ll be ready to start drafting in November. Third, a new collection of short stories that would tell an overall story over the course of the collection.

This last one is what most interests me at the moment. I first got the idea when I went to Albuquerque for the first WFWA retreat in 2015. All of the stories would take place in the same hotel and characters from one may appear in another in a different role (i.e., the POV character in one story become a supporting or background character in another, or even an antagonist).

Having this mix of writing activities, ranging from research to outlining to drafting to writing poetry to formatting and producing a book, will keep me plenty busy and also allow me to switch from one thing to another as the muse inspires.

Through it all, I intend to continue to paint and to build my freelance editing and writing base.

To some, this might feel scattered. Lots of people like to have one big goal rather than lots of smaller projects. But I’m definitely a project girl. I do have an overarching goal, of course: publish my work. Even bigger? Earn my living from writing what I want to write. Lofty? You bet. Attainable? With persistence and a bit of luck.

Only I don’t actually believe in luck. So how about persistence and Providence? Yep. I’ll take it.

Home from Orlando, Dreaming of Albuquerque

Last week my husband and I took our eight-year-old son on our first big out-of-state family vacation. When the boy was five and just starting his martial arts training, we promised him that when he earned his black belt, we would take him to Disneyworld. Three years flew by and lo and behold, it was time to go.

Our little man took his first airplane ride.

We went to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Hollywood Studios…

Plus Legoland…

We swam in the outdoor pool, watched the palm trees sway in the breeze, enjoyed many interesting conversations with Uber drivers, and generally enjoyed watching our son have so much fun.

We came home to unseasonably warm weather in Michigan, though we know better than to hope it will last. And we’re getting back into the swing of things at work, church, and school.

But I find myself already looking ahead to the rest of the year’s travel. Zach to Israel, the boy and I to the Upper Peninsula, all of us to camp. And once more, in September, I get to head out to Albuquerque for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association annual retreat. The secret Facebook group for attendees has been opened and everyone is already abuzz with excitement! So I thought it would be a perfect time to work on the painting for the cover of this year’s retreat notebook.

Last year, I was flattered when our retreat coordinator and WFWA founding president, Orly Konig, asked to use the painting I did when I came home from the 2015 retreat as the image for the 2016 retreat notebook:

This year she asked me to do another. So this is what I painted today…

It’s the same lovely fountain, but much closer and from a different angle, and I composed the shot such that the background was easy to put text over and it is a portrait orientation. I’m very happy with how it turned out!

I believe I’ll get some good, professional scans done on both of these paintings so that I can make prints later, but I’m thinking about putting both of the originals in the retreat raffle. I’m also cooking up a new Etsy shop in which I can make my paintings available for purchase. They’re piling up in the house and I need to find them homes! Watch this space for more information about that in the coming months.

And Now for Something Completely Different

This week I read a great column in Writer Unboxed by Sarah Callender about navigating between hope and despair, and the part writers have in “disturbing the universe.” She used a line from T. S. Eliot‘s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” as a provocative jumping-off point, which reminded me how much I love that poem.

I was going to write that inspiring line down on a post it and stick it to my computer monitor. But that didn’t seem enough. So I thought I’d type it out in some interesting font, print it, and tape it up somewhere. But then that didn’t seem enough. So I concocted a little plan to do a painting. This is the result.

I’m not sure if it’s actually done yet. I may add another layer after this one is dry. But here is how I went about painting it.

First I typed up the line, chose fonts and sizes, and then printed it. I cut the words apart and arranged them how I thought they would fit on the canvas. Then I taped the pieces together and taped them to the back of the canvas so that, when a very bright light was positioned at the back, the black letters would show through.

Next, I painted over the letters with black gesso, which is a fast-drying acrylic medium.

Once I had all the letters in place, I let them dry.

I knew I wanted the corners to be very dark, so I sponged black gesso all around the outside, almost like a vignette.

I let it dry overnight, though I probably didn’t have to. When I was ready to paint today, I covered the whole thing with a coat of liquid clear.

Then I started to lay in the color. I chose only transparent or semi-transparent paints so that the black text would show through and I started with the brightest (indian yellow).

Now, as I tend to do, I forgot about taking any more photos as I laid in all the rest of the colors. But after they were on the canvas, I didn’t exactly like how they came together. So instead of trying to blend them together and hide the brush strokes, I swirled them all with a 2″ brush so that the brushstrokes would be part of the effect.

As I said, I’m not sure that I would consider this done at this point, but I think I need to let this layer of pain dry before making any further decisions about it.

This was a nice change of pace from landscapes and I got to use some very bright colors, which was fun. Of course, it doesn’t match any room in the house, so who knows what I’ll end up doing with it!

A New Literary Challenge for 2017

In 2013, I challenged myself to write one short story each month, format it for Kindle, create a beautiful cover image, and make it available to readers for 99 cents a pop. It was a fun year that stretched me and, in the end, resulted in one of those stories (“This Elegant Ruin”) being a finalist for the Saturday Evening Post‘s 2014 Great American Fiction Contest, and in the beautiful printed collection which you see on the side bar and on my Books page.

What was great about that venture is that it was completely self-directed and completely within my control. I would succeed or not succeed commensurate with my own effort and I could do everything on my own timetable.

In my writing life now, I do a lot of waiting. The submission process is out of my direct control and there is nothing I can to do speed it up. I know this, but the knowing doesn’t make it any easier to sit and wait. So I continue to write more novels in the meantime, working hard to have options should the first attempt to sell not pan out. But novels are gargantuan projects. And when they are done, they’re just going to get into line to wait behind the rest of their long-form kin.

So I’ve decided it’s time for another personal challenge that I can complete all by myself. This year I will be focusing on poetry, both writing new poems and gathering and editing old ones for a chapbook which I’ll produce myself. I believe I’ll organize it around the four seasons, since so many of my poems reflect themes of nature and the passage of time. I may intersperse some line drawings in there as well. My goal will be to have it completed and ready for purchase in late November. Chapbooks make great stocking stuffers, after all.

Today’s Painting: Rocky Mountain Spring

A couple Aprils ago, I had the great fortune to be able to spend a few days in Colorado with my childhood best friend. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was amazingly beautiful. This painting is based off a photo I took there. It makes me want to go back.