Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Closing Shop for a While

Quote of the Week:
If being sane is thinking there's something wrong
with being different....I'd rather be completely fucking mental.
~Angelina Jolie

Current Local Weather:
Showers of too-much to do, followed
by sanity storms rising
out of the west.

Currently on my IPOD:

Crazy Bitch

~Buckcherry



Dear John,

Its been great. No, its not you, its me. Really. Don't take this the wrong way, it wasn't your mother, or your cooking, nor was it the way you acted the last night we were together after drinking twenty-two martini's.

It's just that I think you're fat. Really fat. And I also think you could stand to get a nose job, a tummy tuck and probably stand to move to another part of town because of the way you smell.

Actually, its the fact that I have TWO books going on, three if you count the follow up to the first fiction one, a retreat business to run, a household, a few billion pressing issues like dinner, dishes and the floors need to be swept, a few billion reads/interviews/reviews, matron of honor fun...

...and I'm in love with someone else.

The person I am in love with is witty, smart, charismatic, playful, writerly and is more often than not the person I should be. Instead, I have turned into a stressed out ball of red hair and tears more nights than not lately. I just need to finish up some projects, get things moving in the right direction, which they are going in now, just at an amazingly sluggish pace. So, until this side of my personality returns, I will be MIA.

Sure, email me. I have no problem with that.

Go to the retreat site: Writing Away Retreats and if you are compelled, which I think you should be as it is going to be wonderful, sign up. Upcoming retreats are going to include award winning authors, editors, agents etc. And you will have ample time for feedback and working on your craft.

I'll be back when the storm settles and my commitments have waned. Promise. I always do return. Right?

right.

Hopefully, the next time you will hear from me, I'll have an agent, a finished final draft and my sanity.

Yours in Overly Frazzledness, Over-cooked Eggs and Only One Life--Gotta Make it Right,

Cicily

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Town Monday-Cold Stoned Stupidity

Yet another pictorial My Town Monday Blog from Cicily:

Except this one is in third person POV because Cicily is too angry to write in first.


Cicily has been sick. Too sick to eat for a while. Her tummy has been wanting to revolt against her due to mutant bacteria from healthy food that was probably undercooked at a restaurant in Atlanta that has decidedly taken up permanent residence in her gut. But as of the last few days, Cicily's appetite is back. After losing almost 20 lbs. she is finally eating again. And although she is taking it easy, today Cicily decided to eat something not so healthy, but rather something tasty...

So she went to the local Cold Stone Ice Cream Store.


For some Cake Batter with Brownie Chunks and maybe a little Marshmallow Cream.

And found this instead.


And this...

Cicily at the moment, hates her town. Cicily is now going to clone herself and protest.

As a matter of fact, Cicily is so angry she is going to clone her children and have them go to the public auction and raise hell in front of public officials...


There is another Cold Stone in Cicily's town but it also closed. I think I am going to adopt Travis's mindset from now on and only eat meat...wait a minute, wasn't he just in the hospital too? Alright, never mind, I'll stick to water.

Yours in Frickin Idiots, Finding My Way Down the Ice Cream Aisle and Fudge,

Cicily

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Pics of Horse Mountain Lodge/Writing Away Retreats Lodge

This is where you could be sitting and working on your MS or journal or short story collection in October 2008 or May 2009....Read on....
What did you do today??? I got into the car with a very nice person whom I had never met, who is interested in the retreat , who happens to live in my hometown, and drove almost four hours each way to reach out and literally touch my dream... and it looked like this...

And this...

And this...
Literally, this was a breathtaking dream come true. I started to cry. I was overwhelmed with the beauty and the thought of being able to welcome writers into my world and help them achieve their dreams in this fabulous and too good to be true setting. Although I had seen pictures of the lodge on line and the Realtor once expressed the beauty of the lodge over the phone, there were, for once, no words to express what I touched, smelled, or laid eyes on in person. It was quite different than what I had expected. I'll start with the Realtor's directions. She stated that after driving 2.6 miles off the road, a log cabin would suddenly "appear" on the right hand side. At first, a small kinda dumpy little house (No, not the one above, this is the actual one) appeared on the right...yeah, I was thinking I had been fooled. One of those looks better online than in person things. Kinda like a personal ad for a single guy: Looking for life-long commitment, looks don't matter, I'm tall, dark, handsome with six figure income and he turns out to be short, pale, skinny and older than Stonehenge living in a trailer park with his even older mother, their twenty five shaggy dogs and surviving, just barely, I might add and on welfare...not that there's anything wrong with that.

But she was right.

Against a deserted mountain setting, a BEAUTIFUL log cabin appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Another thing she was right about was the fact that once people come to this cabin, they don't want to leave. I tried pulling the old toddler addage: YOU CAN"T MAKE ME...she said, oh yes I can. I could call the police. Yeah, I guess she's right about that.


Lining the path to the house are many, many Aspen trees. In the fall and spring, they promise to be beautiful. The house is...indescribable. A true retreat and I think if enough of us protest or pitch in maybe we won't have to ever leave. But, what I can promise is a true get away, a true retreat of luxury, peace, quiet and nothing around but surrounding nature, good company and time to hone in on your craft. If you have any comments, questions or well....anything at all, please do not hesitate to contact me at any point. Thank you for being a part of my dream. I hope to make this a memorable experience for all of you. Come and see us this October or next May at Writing Away Retreats!

Yours in Nature, Not Knowing What to Do with Myself and Never Wanting to Wake up From this Dream,

Cicily

Enjoy the pictures. But trust me...they don't even begin to tell the story...



YOU MAY FILL OUT THE FORMS TO SIGN UP FOR THE RETREAT AT ANY TIME ON THIS
SITE:

http://www.freewebs.com/literaryretreat4couples


Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Town Monday-Cicily Style

Quote of the Week:

Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for?

~Alice Walker

Current Local Weather:

Glorious Sunshine, Warmth and Showers of
Long Lost Friends Who Finally Paid
Us A Visit

Currently on my IPOD:

Leader of the Band

~Dan Fogelberg



Dear Friends and Family of Friends and Everyone else,

Alright Travis, I joined your bandwagon...are you happy? I thought I would spice things up a bit and show you my version of My Town Monday with a pictorial blog.... Enjoy!



In my hometown aquarium (Atlanta), we can teach our children how to walk on water...



In my hometown we run into fish who claim to be Angelina Jolie's mother



We like to go for rides on the E.A.C. with Dudes from Finding Nemo




Pig Boy Doug Crandell lives in my hometown...I hung out with him and interviewed him for Art Nouveau Magazine...Weird angle for both of us. I look huge in this pic...But of course, we had pork bbq...We questioned what Cornhole tournaments were and Oh, and if you ever want to know how Doug got me lost in my hometown, just ask...Although I hadn't lived there in over twelve years, he managed to get me lost in under half an hour. Good thing both of us are laid back and good natured.



Assessed the damage the tornado's caused in downtown Atlanta...
Yes, those are all broken windows.



Where I live now, the deer have no fear! They take over large observatories by climbing over the roofs and the sides. they really don't care if its the USAF Academy. They don't even have the proper ID!

They were everywhere. I got within five feet of the deer. They
could have cared less that I was there.



People here regularly breach security and use their super human powers to stand a bunch of
airplanes end on end at the USAF Academy
(actually that's the chapel)

It's usually cold but sunny. I love to bask in the sunlight at the
Garden of the Gods under layers of sweaters and t-shirts.



If you want to have fun here in Colorado Springs
One must pay close attention to park signs...


Apparently you aren't allowed to bring scrambled eggs to the parks anymore...
Back in my day...We could scramble all we wanted, but kids these days ruined it for all of us!

This is Pikes Peak, and I was making sure it was still intact and where it should be. Everybody
in this town uses it to give directions to newbies. Like...where is the car dealership row?
Well, you head towards the mountains...and then take a left after you pass under the highway.
Where's the downtown area. You go away from the mountains and then take a right after you pass under the highway...You can never really get lost in this town. Now my real hometown...Atlanta, yep, you can get lost there in a heartbeat. Just ask Doug.

Thanks for getting me on board for this Travis and I hope you feel better soon!

Yours in My Town Mondays, Making it Something Cool and Mostly Having Fun,

Cicily

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Writing Away Retreats Announcement

Hey Guys...Just a quickie today. Wondering if any of you could please repost this blog in support of the writing retreats. I really appreciate any help and support I can get for this. First five people who repost this blog on theirs will get a 10 dollar gift certificate to Amazon.com. Thanks for your help! Email me at cicily@ryanjanus.com with the link to the blog post.

Thanks for your help!



WRITING AWAY RETREATS!







All-inclusive, luxurious, and intimate retreat
nestled in the mountains of Vail, Colorado
MS consultation and coaching sessions included in price.

Join your host, fiction and non-fiction writer: Cicily Janus
Award Winning Author: RA Nelson
Senior Acquisitions Editor for Champaign Books and Author: Lee Ann Ward
and
Life/Creative Coach: Lisa Gates

Join us for an unforgettable writing experience
against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

Come Write Away with us!

Sign up now for our retreat in October.
Space is limited to ten people.
Couples welcome and offered discount.
October 17th-21st, 2008
*Early bird special until August 1, 2008*

We hope to see you there!


Yours in Retreats, Resting and Really Doing What I Love,

Cicily



Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Paying It Forward

Quote of the Week:
When you allow yourself to begin to dream big dreams,
creatively abandon the activities
that are taking up too much of your time, and focus your inward
energies on alleviating your main constraints, you start to feel an incredible
sense of power and confidence.
~Brian Tracey

Local Weather:

Schizo periods of sun with snow showers followed by serious
periods of contemplation and belief in this thing called Global Warming.

Currently on my IPOD:

Lost Without You
~Robin Thicke



Hello to Each and Everyone of You...

Thanks to author, Brad Meltzer, I spent most of the night not writing, but rather listening to a lecture. No, this wasn’t Brad lecturing, this was a man by the name of Randy Pausch and his lecture for Carnegie Mellon University Series titled: The Last Lecture.
But it was Brad who mentioned this man and the video and book on his blog.
So, thank you to Brad for giving the gift of this man’s words.

I have half the mind to end the blog here and make you guys spend a little over an hour with this guy. It’s worth it. Finish reading my petty words, which don’t have near the weight of his and then please, stop what you’re doing, fake sick at work. put the chapter you’ve been working on for the last few hours away and watch this guy. Please.

Alright, onward bound.

Randy speaks in his video about the power of not only fulfilling your dreams, but helping others fulfill theirs. Karma, Love, Power, Whatever you want to call it. But, I can atest to the power of paying it forward. There have been years in my life where I have been unable to help others because I needed the help in the very worst way possible: my seemingly failing health at times, twin preemie girls and a host of difficulties with their early days, out of work spouse, depression, death of family members etc. And to tell you the truth, I am amazed that I am still standing, and others who have seen me through the worst of it are probably saying the same thing.

About a year or so ago, I had a very bad thing happen to me. I collapsed at a writers conference, I wasn’t in good health when I went, and now I recognize that. For a few days I was in the hospital, on a vent, with a virus in my central nervous system. When I awoke, there was one person at my side. I won’t name who this is, as he knows who he is, but I will never forget him or stop loving him for what he did for me. And then the whole community of writers who were at the retreat who incidentally kept me in their prayers, thoughts etc after witnessing my collapse, rallied around me and to this day are some of my very best friends in the industry.

In the days following my release from the hospital, I experienced something that I have yet to experience in my life. A total breakdown of myself. Having lived through all the above stated problems, and a number of health issues, I assumed I was strong enough to deal with this too. But I was wrong. Mentally, physically and emotionally I broke down. I took approx. a month or a little more off of writing the novel because the medications I was on limited my ability to think clearly or see very well and at times I was so forgetful I even lost my way around town when going to pick up my children at daycare. And once again, had it not been for my friends in this time of my life, I wouldn’t be here today. Sharon, Travis, Alex, Mike, Ryan, Nicole, Carrie, and too many others to name, I thank you whole heartedly.

So, you may ask what the point of revisiting my sob story is...(and I have blogged on my experiences after being on the vent. Check out the months of March and April 2007 here on myspace) to pay it forward. To tell you the truth, most people I know think of me as a tenacious person. One with confidence, not afraid to conquer anything or anyone. But, when it comes to writing, it has taken me a very long time to build up confidence within myself. Not that I am overly confident, I believe there needs to be some confidence in order to write anything and to make it to those fabulous two words, THE END. But, I have worked very hard, staying up into the wee hours of most nights to try to make this industry one in which people will know my name. And day by day, minute by minute, I am getting one step closer than I had been the day before.

Part of my pay it forward movement is to do what Randy talks about in his lecture. I want to help others. No, I don’t have a publishing contract with a major house...yet...but, I think I can help other writers build up enough confidence to take on the overly negative world of literature. It amazes me that so many writers are sooo helpful and willing to work with other writers when the agents and editors are out to seemingly eat the newbies for their dinners. Look at the blogging agents like Miss Snark and then take a look at Kristen Nelson’s blog
, Pub Rants.

These are two very different examples of how business can be handled. Miss Snark is well, a wee bit angry on most days and if you suck or are just learning the biz, then she will eat you alive. But, Kristen, in her blog is a very nice person, and I’m sure she feels on some days, more snarky than not, but the way she handles hapless authors and makes the industry seem a little more human and approachable is a breath of fresh air. This is what I’m trying to do. Yes, I’m going to plug my retreat.

I set out in this business with no intent on becoming a published author or even doing anything more than getting the demons out of my closet and onto the blank page before me. But now, I want to give back..I have even gone as far as starting my own business.

I am now offering a retreat for writers (*Writing Away Retreats) in Vail, Colorado, with the first one taking place in October this year. What I really want to give to other writers is a place to go and work. Not an overly crowded conference with hotel rooms, anonymous speeches that all tell you how to pitch or how not to pitch, how to get published with your epic novel on the Care Bears and how they slipped their MS under the bathroom stalls etc. That's just not my idea of fun. Do I go to these conferences? Of course, and will continue to go so I can network and meet others who have this same habit...Instead, I am offering a haven for writers to live and breathe their works-in-progress. To get away from everything and with an established, published author, editor and mentors. The writers who attend my retreats will have days with them, not 10-15 minute slots.

I want to give other writers every chance possible to succeed in this industry. Face it, Borders Stores are closing, books aren’t being put up on shelves as they should be, people would rather read signs on the highway than books. What we need to do as a collective group, is bring back the art of writing. Benjamin Franklin saw the power of books, and therefore started the public library system in this country. Where did the excitement go? There are FABULOUS writers out there who have to work day jobs such as bank tellers and Starbucks in order to make ends meet. Did you know that Ireland actually supports their artists? Yeah, anyone wanna move over there with me?

So here's my plan...Lets all get excited about writing and help one another in succeeding. Let's build up platforms for others, promote the works of people you have read and enjoyed.

Take this attitude with you: You are not my competition. You are my colleague and friend. Bond together, work together and form the human connection that is soooo lost today and you will find that people, despite the jaded reality around us, haven’t changed a bit.

This is my chance to give back. My friend Lisa Gates says that she loves how I look at the world. I take the world is flat approach. This approach works, I promise. Let’s level the playing field, learn from eachother and be better for it. Future slush pile writers unite with the rest and the best. I encourage you to check out the blog I posted on Sunday with our guest author, R.A. Nelson. He shares this philosophy and is a wealth of encouragement for other writers.

I hope you will allow me to give back to you. What can I do to help you become tenacious, positive and willing to let your real life begin? Is it attending a retreat of mine, working with you daily to make you smile and see the world a little more clearer or offering life affirming positive thoughts? All you have to do is ask. Right? If you need something, if you need to be loved, if you need someone to give you a light to carry, then ask. There is no point in being shy. I know...easy for an extremist extrovert to say.

I have an interview with Photographer and National Geographic Eco-Ambassador, Chris Jordan, coming out in Art Nouveau Magazine on May 1. I will make sure I send you the link. He talks about the same principles of reciprocation kindness, love and love for the world we live in. It seems that most of the successful people in this world share this thought process. Do you?

Instead of shunning the other people in the world, think what it is like in their shoes, love them for the culture they provide and the contributions they could potentially make to this world.

I hope this hasn’t been too preachy. I really wanted to take the time to point you in the direction of some wonderful and very giving people as well as give you the chance to tell me what I can do to help you, for you are all my friends and my family of friends.

Lots of love.

Yours in Loving, Living and Letting the World Turn Without Negative Pressure to Be Someone I’m Not,

Cicily





Monday, April 7, 2008

Author/Editor Interview Series #1: R.A. Nelson Guest Author of Writing Away Retreats October 2008


Hey guys! Happy Weekend!

I am beginning a blog with a series of interviews to promote the staff of Writing Away Retreats. I’ll be posting this blog on Saturday in addition to my usual blog on Tuesday. I hope you learn something and enjoy it as much as I did. I’m kicking this series off with our brilliant and kind guest author for October 2008, R.A. Nelson.

Staying Positive in a Negative World:
An Interview with R.A. Nelson:
Guest Author for Writing Away Retreats October Session.

Author of two award winning YA novels, Teach Me and Breathe My Name, RA Nelson, will be the guest author for the October 2008 Writing Away Retreat Session. His writing is provocative, evocative and most of all, well-crafted and his advice weighs heavy with years of experience in many areas inside and out of literature. But what makes him more unique to the literary world is his glowing and very real optimism. His words are spot on, but it is this buoyancy that he hopes to provide writers starting out on their journeys or looking to complete their journey to becoming published. His writing may be dark and thrilling, but his advice has glints of a bright and fresh look at the pessimistic world of publishing.

To give our potential retreat goers an idea of exactly who R. A. Nelson is as a writer and more importantly as a person, I have taken the liberty to gather up the information you need. Actually, its information we ALL need as writers.

CJ: Tell me about yourself, your typical writing day etc…

RN: I’ve always heard about writers setting aside a certain time to write or an amount of time each day, but because I work full time, I go with a word count for each day. in Which means I write whenever I can, even if it’s just 15 minutes here, an hour there, you’ve got to make do with the time you have. Usually, when I’m really into a project, I a minimum of 500, but I shoot for 1,000 and average around 1,200 when I’m really chugging along. These days I do a better job of keeping my internal editor in check, and so I’m able to put out more words. I don’t want to kill the forward momentum of the story. . On the other hand I’ve never been a fan of the proverbial ‘crappy first draft.’ I have to feel good about a book I’m writing, even during the first draft. I know some writers hate the actual process, but I love it. But only if I know what I am putting out is not junk. But for the most part, my routine is to keep doing what I’m doing day after day. It slowly piles up.

Life goes by too fast, let this work to your advantage as a writer…I like to tell people to hitch their writing to the wagon of time and let it pull their book along. Let the work build on its own by working at it each day.

CJ: How long does it typically take for you to finish a project?

RN: It really depends on what’s going on at the moment. I wrote two or three books, all of which remain unpublished, before breaking into the published world with my novel, Teach Me. One of those books took me three years to write because I was working a lot of overtime at NASA. But Teach Me took seven months. The first draft of Breath My Name took about six months. Revisions, other parts of the writing processes, including publishing issues, turn over at Razorbill etc, delayed it for much longer. But really books take longer than that. After completing a first draft, I like to put it aside for a month or so to give my brain a rest and be able to come back to the work with a fresh eye. However, a lot of times I begin to think of my next project while I’m working on the current one, and I have to watch myself, or I’ll want to keep going and finish the first one quickly, so I can get started on the next. I read an article where Norman Mailer said you have to let your imagination rest, otherwise it will temporarily burn itself out. If that happens to somebody as prolific as Mailer, imagine what happens to the rest of us!. The year before I wrote Teach Me, I wrote 150K words. I had to take a couple of months off from writing. But when I started working again, I found the voice for the main character in my first published book. You need to live a little too, spend more time with family or friends, coach some basketball, whatever it is you need to do to bring you back to life and ready to write again.

CJ: Have you ever formally taught writing before?

RN: I’ve coached a few workshops here and there at writing conferences, and I’m doing more of that now that I have two books out, and I’m becoming better known. Invitations are coming in.. But I’ve helped writers across all genres with critiques and MS edits for a number of years.

CJ: Why do you write? What makes you write on the subjects you write on?

RN: I’ve always loved telling stories. I think I kind of live life according to stories. Just about everything I see makes me think in narrative terms. Like when we took a trip down to Florida, I remember stopping to get gas and seeing an old pen lying next to the pumps. Immediately my mind started churning: who did the pen belong to? Why was it left behind? Did they leave it behind on purpose? Or was it lost by accident? Maybe there was a fight in the car, causing the pen to be thrown, or maybe someone wanted to leave it behind as a kind of clue? Or did they use it to write amazing love letters? Blah blah blah…..see, it’s really like an autonomic function. I can’t help it. Don’t even realize I’m doing it. Everything seems to be interpreted in the form of a story. And that’s just a pen. Imagine what goes through my head when I pass a strange looking house. An abandoned barn. A swollen creek. Etc. As to subject, I like to write books that scare me. By this I mean, books that challenge me, or push the envelope in some way. Each book should have an idea that really excites me, challenges me in some way. Some writers say they hate to write, they hate the process etc, but I usually love the process. I really enjoy it. But I can only enjoy it if I’m really excited about the idea I’m working on. I want to write books that wake me up in the middle of the night, books that cause insomnia. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it. If an idea seems too scary, to big, that’s the one you should be working on. That’s the one that will give you the most satisfaction as a writer.

I once read a book on confidence. The author spoke of goals for life, and she said to take these goals and divide them up into two piles: the goals that scare you and the safer, smaller ones, the ones that don’t. Then you go and do the pile of things that scares you. That’s where you’ll find satisfaction in life. It is in the challenges of your life where you will experience the most growth. Ignore the formulaic life.

CJ: What’s the most important tip you can give a new writer or one who has been writing for a while, but has yet to become published?

RN: My thinking on this often runs counter or backwards to a lot of the advice you might hear. I‘ve never liked the idea of wallpapering your bathroom with rejection slips, for example. Getting published is not like winning the lottery. I really feel if you work hard enough at it, compare yourself to the best writing you see out there, that you can substantially increase your odds. Don’t compare your work to the worst writing you see, compare it to the best. You always hear people say, “I can write a better book than that.” Well, if it’s a bad book, so can thousands of other people. Do the best writing you are capable of doing, and then when you submit your work, you will be competing against dozens of submissions rather than thousands. Then the odds work much more in your favor.

Also, there are plenty of writers who are perfectly competent at their craft, but they don’t have enough at stake in their books. A genius can take any subject, any conflict, and stand a solid chance of making it a terrific read, but for most of us, we need to have a lot at stake for the protagonist. Now I’m not saying every book has to be full of explosions or world-saving heroics. Not at all. I’m saying you have to make the book’s central conflict truly matter to the reader, whatever it is. Always remember that most readers simply want to be entertained. They are looking for story, first and foremost. This doesn’t mean you should give them books that are formulaic and riddled with clich├ęs and easy, “first draft” writing, but it does mean they are expecting a great story, no matter what your style or genre. Your competition is fierce. These days you need something that can hook the reader and keep them hooked. I always want to take the time to choose the kind of idea that keeps me excited about what I’m doing. Because usually that means the reader will be excited as well. For me its the excitement generated by great ideas that helps you do it every day, that makes you work hard and keep improving until what you are doing is good enough to send out into the world. Writing is very hard work, some of the hardest work you’ll ever do. A lot of writers compare writing a book to running a marathon…you can’t do it all in one crazy burst. You’ve got to keep at it, day after day, even on those days when you don’t feel one bit creative or your exhausted or your life outside of writing is driving you nuts. So it’s best if you don’t worry about what’s hot, the latest trends, but write what really lights your fire. That’s the kind of writing that will keep you going through the rough days.

I didn’t submit my work for a really long time because I wanted to submit the very best work I could. Sometimes writers get desperate to publish, and they will do just about anything to see their name on the cover of a book. Writing what you love, writing books you can be proud of, that’s what’s important to me. Sometimes this takes a little longer, but in the long run, this is the kind of thinking that I believe will build a career with a solid foundation.

CJ: You’ve been touted as writing racy, thrilling novels….what do you think about those who are out there, trying to succeed with a quiet novel?

RN: The people who call my books racy probably haven’t read them. They are just going on what they’ve heard, what the story is about. And they assume it’s going to be sensationalistic or titillating. But I work very hard to right books with a lot of depth to them, stories that resonate with the reader emotionally. I almost didn’t want to right Teach Me, because I knew that’s what some people would think about my book before they ever read the first word. But a friend of mine convinced me to write it – she said I would do a good job of it for that very reason, knowing that that was a concern of mine. And that I would take my subject seriously and would not write a shallow, racy novel. There are enough ‘junk’ books out there already. I don’t intend to ever write one. Which brings us back to your question. It’s not that you can’t write a quiet novel, it’s just that it is up to you to build enough power behind the story to turn it into a memorable experience for the reader. How do you do that? It usually takes an extraordinary writer. But if that is the kind of book that thrills you, that is the kind you should be writing. I feel that any good book has lots of “quiet” moments – moments of character development, reflection, growth. That’s why I don’t think in terms of writing books that are character driven or plot driven. My goal is always to write a book that is the best combination of both—what I call “story driven” books. It all begins with two things for me: a great idea and great characters. There is no need to sacrifice one for the other. Some of the most famous novels and stories out there are quiet, but powerful tales. I once read a James Joyce story where the turning point for the protagonist was when she sat down and said, I’m tired. But at that point in the story, hearing this from her was enough to break your heart. If you have a really good story to tell, then tell it. Give your story authority no matter what the subject is.

CJ: What do you think is the biggest stumbling block for new writers?

RN: If you are serious about getting published, your writing has to read like it has already been published. By this I mean, it has to be polished, professional these days to catch someone’s eye. For the most part, the days are gone where an editor will buy a raw manuscript with a lot of flaws, with the idea of nurturing a new writer’s career through several poor books to get to a breakout book. To stand out, your writing needs to be the very best work you can produce, as measured against the very best writing you see in your chosen genre. And when I talk about polish, I’m talking about structure even more than sentence and word choice. Your story has to be very solid. Editors simply don’t have the time these days to shepherd new writers through a major rewrite of their first novel. It’s too big a gamble, unless the writer shows incredible promise. Some editors will work with a writer on an unpublished book to a degree, but they usually will do this ‘on spec,’ meaning the writer has to spend months, even years, of work without any guarantee of a contract. I’ve known a number of writers who spent months or years revising books on spec, only to see the final work rejected. Or, in some cases, the editor who was working with the book has moved to another publishing house, and the new editor has no interest in the project, no matter how much work the writer has put into it. So you want your first offering to be the very best, most professional manuscript you can possibly turn out.

Thomas Wolfe used to send his editor manuscripts that arrived in crates and were several feet tall. Then Maxwell Perkins would spend months cutting and rewriting the story to get it into publishable form. Those days are long gone. Editors expect to see something sharp, as if it’s already shelf ready. Even query letters need to be tight, well written, with a solid, concise hook and maybe give a little taste of the writer’s style. As a new writer, you don’t get much of an audition. A first reader can literally read a few paragraphs and toss your manuscript aside. And it’s important to remember that your writing not only has to please an editor, but also a committee of sales and marketing people, accounting types, design specialists, etc., and even other editors. Meetings are usually held to attempt to determine just how many copies of your book it will be possible to sell before it’s ever bought. These people can kill the idea if they don’t think it will sell. First novels are bought because they feel ready to be published. And even after you are published, your books will be judged on their sales figures, and if they aren’t meeting expectations, a publisher will give you one or two books at the most to see if your career will start blossoming. It’s very much a bottom line business.

CJ: What do you feel is the main thing you can offer writers who come to this retreat?

RN: Writers I have worked with in the past say that I am very good at critiquing and editing. I think I have a good sense of what works in a story and what doesn’t, and I can rapidly put my finger on what needs to be corrected and offer suggestions on how to fix what is not working. A critique is much better if you can offer suggestions on how to fix problems rather than just point out the problem.

I feel writing can always use a new set of eyes, especially eyes that are . I very experienced. I can offer a different approach to a manuscript if needed, giving different ways to address the issues the author is having. Also I have worked with a lot of different genres. Fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, children’s picture books etc…

Plus, I like to find what’s good about a manuscript and go from there. I have an immense amount of respect for other writers, particularly if you can complete a story, no matter what the end product is. Completing a book takes a lot of endurance, willpower etc. I’m not one who will pounce on people. I believe it’s counterproductive to ‘punish’ writers for their work. . To me, it’s all about being constructive and helping them make their end product better. That’s always the goal. Serve the book. Whatever you can do to improve it, that’s what you need to do.. I get no thrill out of tearing something down for the sake of it. I get real joy out of seeing others succeed. I’m an optimist. When I see others succeed, it’s inspiring. If they can do it, then so can I. . Inspiration is the key, not jealousy.

CJ: What would you hope for our attendees to walk away with?

RN: A more solid sense of what is required to break through in this business. An insider’s sense of what publishers are really looking for and suggestions on how to approach them, the editors/agents etc. Plus, I hope to demystify the experience, help them to learn how to deal with the isolation every writer goes through, especially when they think that there’s nobody out there who cares. Sharing what it’s really like to work with editors and agents. They’re people too. I also want to share my evolution as a writer, how I worked towards my career as a published writer and how I really got serious about it, buckled down, and the strategies that made the difference for me.

CJ: What excites you about attending this retreat?

RN: For years I was isolated, as many writers are. I never knew anyone who was a writer, especially a published writer. I had no other writers to talk to. I went to writers groups, but the other people treated it more like a hobby than a possible profession. They weren’t really serious about getting better. I think a lot of writers groups treat writing the same they would treat growing orchids or building model train sets or maybe as a kind of therapy. I wanted to be read, I wanted readers.

It’s wonderful to meet people who are writers and want to write. Whether they are published or not doesn’t matter. Getting to talk ’shop’ is rare and exciting. Unless you’re a writer, it’s odd to talk about writing. It’s hard for the general public to imagine what it is we do as writers. Being around a group of like minded individuals is an energizing experience. Being able to talk about the craft without making everyone nod off is exhilarating. To meet other writers, who think about writing as the center of themselves, their ‘right livelihood,’ is thrilling. To meet up with a group of people like this, where the sum is always greater than the whole, the energy that comes from this is exponential in its return. It’s all about that human connection, the drive to have others share in your experience.

R.A. Nelson’s full bio can be viewed on his website at http://www.ranelson1.com or you can join him on MySpace at www.myspace.com/ranelson1

He looks forward to working with you this fall!

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Hope you guys enjoyed this! I’ll have a few more in the coming weeks in order to promote the retreat and give you ONE more reason why you should attend the retreat in October or make plans to attend one in the future.

Have a great week and my usual blog will still be posted on Tuesday.

Yours in Thrilling Writers, Telling it Like it is and Taking Some But Giving More,

Cicily

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Doormats

Quote of the Week:
There are only two types of women-goddesses and doormats.
~Pablo Picasso

Local Weather:
Sunshine, despite the lack of warmth
most likely followed by showers of
undigested food particles in the late evening.

Currently on my IPOD:
People are Strange by: The Doors

Hello my dear friends,

I am home. And as Benjamin Franklin says, Fish and Relatives smell in three days. I have been gone for seven in Georgia. Deduce what you want from that statement. Although I must say I am not sure if they were the ones with the stench, I have the feeling it was me...

Regardless, this was not an uneventful week. First off, the plane ride over to Georgia from Denver is not a short one. Coming in at around 3 hours, there are times in which I wish the pilots would just speed it up to around Warp Speed and get us the duck out of fodge. My children were angels for the flight. As a matter of fact, they slept 99.9% of the time of the flight, the only challenging thing was waking them up and making it all the way down the concourse with them in my arms along with our carry on luggage.

However....Other people on this day decided to travel with their children. I did learn that I have surprisingly poor super power abilities to make myself and the others around me invisible. I failed. Miserably failed. And guess what. The others who were traveling with children...they were seated to my left and then to the immediate rear of me.

Let’s address the issue of the children sitting behind me. Two boys. Two boys around the ages of say...hmmm...7 & 5. One boy: Blonde, rowdy and into the whole hair pulling thing. The other one: Brunette, Pissed off and into the whole biting thing. I won’t distinguish which was which. The mother: Looked fairly normal. Let me emphasize the word "looked" for you. Now, I don’t have boys, I have girls, but still. The second we sat down, she handed them brownies or some kind of other Little Debbie Snack cake in a plastic wrapper. They finished the delicacy within the confines of processed foods and then the fighting started. Not the no I didn’t, yes you did, no I didn’t sort, it was more of ultimate fighting championship ala Airtran Airlines. My seat was bucking, the girls, although asleep, were going back and forth in their seats and the airline pilot was managing to keep the plane as steady as I had yet to experience.

Then the biting started. I think one of them drew blood from the other. At least it was beginning to smell like blood. Status on the mother: Silent, reading her book. I thought for a brief moment, good for her, ignoring them, letting them kill themselves without her help. And then it was time for the drink service. The hapless air waitresses came down our section of the flight, offering a bevy of plastic cups that aren’t recycled and a limited selection of drinks and snacks, most of which dehydrate you further while you are flying. (***Nurse Cicily says: Dehydration is a known problem during flying, next time you’re en route and enjoying the entertainment of those around you,choose the water and skip the pretzels and or peanuts. You can order vodka or gin..if you have the money, just make sure you follow it with water) I ordered my water, threw the peanuts into the carry on bag for a later date and thought that maybe the three ring circus behind me would settle in for a drink.

Yeah, fat chance.

No, they didn’t want the peanuts and yes, that’s all the ladies had to offer. The mother smacks the older kid upside the head and says, wadda ya want? at the top of her lungs. He screams back, Cherry Coke. Oh dear hell. Caffinated, dehydrating fluids. My index like brain quickly ran over the side effects. Irritability, excessive hyperability and possible death by bludgeoning from the unsuspecting quiet red head in the seat in front of him. The next boy...ordered the same. Then the two boys proceeded to scream that they didn’t want the healthy shit their mother was offering them. I peaked behind my seat and found them throwing the nutri-grain simulated nutritional bars she had just tossed their way, onto the floor. The younger one even ground the bar into the floor with his untied shoe.

The older kid was, at this point, grabbing his brother in the head lock he had promised him a few minutes previous to the beverage service and the drink spilled all over the floor. I was waiting for candid camera to pop up. The mother finally turned to them, and through her gritted teeth mouth, said, if you don’t stop now, I’ll take away your M&M’s. Yeah, stick it to em’. WTF?

I would have killed them and easily taken the jail sentence or corporal punishment. On the way out of the plane, they pushed, shoved and screamed their way out to the ramp. The mother, screamed back, wait, wait up. Helpless little kittens, oh, how they have lost their mittens. Right? The oldest boy turned around and said, I don’t have to listen to you anyway, you’re my step-mom. BINGO! Doormat 1, we have a winner.

So, as I ramble on and on, I come to the uncertain fate of the woman next to me and her seemingly angelic little girl. The girl had ringlets, yes, real ringlets, pouring down from her scalp to her shoulders. Her light and unblemished skin aged her to be around 2 or 3 at the very most. She had a pacifier in and for most of the ride. Nearing the end of my patience with the boys from hell behind me, she woke up, plucked her pacifier out of her mouth and threw it across the aisle. At me. I picked it up, offered the mother to go rinse it off and then the girl said NO! I want it now! The mom looked at me and smiled. I forked over the pacifier without saying a word. The little girl then looked at her mom and screamed, I WANT OUT OF HERE NOW!!!! Sure, most kids get frightened on their first flights and may get a little claustrophobic like the adults in the cabin. But then the little girl got up, ran around the aisles and started to scream at the adults. This flight was not a late night flight. This was not a red-eye flight.

The mom just sat there and took it. Yeah, I wouldn’t have been so kind. Not that I am one to completely duct tape my children to the chair or anything, but come on! Be responsible and keep your kids under control.

Okay, enough about that. Sorry, my rant went on longer than I expected. And as for the last part of my weather forecast? Yeah, Saturday night went out with some friends and got the worst case of food poisoning in my life. I still have not stopped with the nausea or the product of nausea. I don’t think it’ll ever end. My stomach feels as though its been hole punched by some mutant bacteria.

I’m sure I’ll survive, but you better tune in next week to make sure I do...

Oh, and don’t forget to check out my retreat site: Writing Away Retreats. Would love to see you all there!

Yours in Fabulous Parenting, Food Fights and Fussing Over Nothing,

Cicily