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I Am a Writer

April 3, 2013

If you ask, I will tell you that I am a writer. Intellectually, I know that I am. I am comfortable saying it now, embracing it. I am a writer. That is part of my essence.

What about from a practical standpoint?

I am learning much from my faith that resonates throughout the rest of my life. Imagine that.

In my faith, I have discovered the necessity to “die” to oneself on a daily basis, maybe even an hourly basis. Some days a minute by minute basis. I must turn away from that which constrains me, that which binds me to this temporal existence in order to transcend, to elevate, to fly.

I am discovering that this applies to my creativity as well. I can call myself a Christian but what am I doing this morning other than claiming a name? I can call myself a writer but what am I doing right now that earns that distinction?

I wake up with my mind full of ideas and thoughts wanting to be expressed, needing to be committed to a more permanent form. But I also wake up knowing my responsibilities, the “what must be dones,” that escort me from my bed, through my day, back to my bed, and, on occasion, wake me here and there throughout my nights, to remind me of my failures and to point out the futility of my attempts.

If left to their own devices, they will lull me with promises that I can do better if I just give them more time. If I just make more checklists. If I just…

There is an exquisite balance that must be reached for things must be done. People must be cared for. Houses and lawns must be kept up and maintained. Dogs must be fed and groomed. Babies must be held.

But the Responsibilities are never ending and are ever unyielding. When the fact is grasped that one could literally work on Responsibilities from sun up to midnight, seven days a week, and never finish, that “things” shall always be left undone or worse, continue to “undo” themselves even as you work, one begins to understand the need for this balance.

And so, at least for this day, I have decided to die to myself, to the pride that says I can do it all, that if it were not for me, my little part of the world could not function. I am deciding for this minute on this day to stretch to find the balance that gives me room to breathe, to transcend, to create. I shall take counsel from the Responsibilities and make my decisions rather than being governed by them.

This is my commitment for this day. This is how I shall be a more spiritual person for the next few hours. This is how I will claim my life as a writer on this Wednesday.

And tomorrow I shall be required to do it again. And the next day. And if on succession of my remaining days I am successful, I shall have had a most wonderful life.

Guest Post: Charlotte Rains Dixon, author of Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior

February 18, 2013

Terry’s note - I am very excited to be hosting a guest blog post by my good friend and colleague, Charlotte Rains Dixon. I have known Charlotte for a decade now as a mentor, a fellow Spalding MFA in Writing alum, a Co-Program Director of The Writer’s Loft at Middle Tennessee State University, an author, a co-writer for literary magazine 2nd & Church, and most importantly, a friend. She and I both are currently mentors in The Writer’s Loft creative writing program and are planning literary events for 2013 and 2014 for the middle Tennessee area. She writes an essential newsletter for creatives that you can sign up for at her website www.charlotterainsdixon.com and regularly conducts workshops, retreats and virtual classes.

Her latest novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior is being released this month and I couldn’t be happier for her. So without further ado…Here’s Charlotte!

Finding My Own True North

By Charlotte Rains Dixon (www.charlotterainsdixon.com)

One of the things I love about Terry’s site is his tag line: finding true north.  To me, this conjures up a romantic image of celestial navigation—standing on the deck of a ship at night, looking up at millions of sparkling stars.   While I’ve been a writer for years, it took me a while to navigate through the stars to find my own current true north of novelist, blogger and teacher.

I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was a child, but once I grew up, something in my subconscious decided this wasn’t a serious enough goal.  I mean, entertaining people as my life’s work?  Come on.  And yet, writing seemed to be the only thing I could commit to over the long haul, so I turned to more “serious” writing and pursued free-lance journalism.

Later, as my career morphed, I took up ghostwriting for business people, and out of that a natural outgrowth was coaching those who couldn’t afford the ghost writing.   This was good—I was writing, and making a modest living at it.  But I was confused.  I’d earned my MFA in creative writing and rose early nearly every morning to work on a novel.  Plus, I wrote a blog about creative writing.  And taught it at a Tennessee university.

Which was the real me?  Which arena should I focus on?  Should I go for love (creative writing) or money (working with business people)?  I felt like I was sailing for two different worlds, without a star in sight to guide me.   I decided (not all that consciously) that helping business people was what I should do—it was more practical and more lucrative to boot.  And so I signed up for a program that would show me how to do this at a higher level, reaching more people and making lots more money.

And I was immediately miserable.  The thing that made me happiest was that hour in the morning, when I rose early to work on editing my novel.   I was even starting to submit it to agents and publishers.  And I still spent a lot of time on my blog, where I attempted to write about creative writing and writing for business. During the day, I’d go back to my “official” self, striving to be a ghostwriter and coach to small business people.

Here’s the funny thing—I wasn’t very successful at helping business people.  The promised riches and clients didn’t appear.  And one day I sat down and looked hard at what I was doing.   It hit me—I didn’t have to be all things to all people!  I could just be me.  If only I could figure out what me really wanted.

The answer came immediately, as it always does when we slow down enough to listen.  Me wanted to be a novelist, and a blogger, and to help creative writers, not business people.

And so I switched focus back to my own true north, with my inner critic screaming all the way that I’d be broke and never get my novel published.  But I’m happy to report that, though the ride has had a few bumps, it is all working out.  Vagabondage Press published my novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, on February 12th, and now I can call myself exactly what my heart desires—a novelist, blogger and teacher.

So pay heed to Terry’s call to find your true north, because it will guide you exactly where you need to go.

The Next Big Thing: Not Exactly According to Plan by Cindy L. Corpier

January 28, 2013

Note from Terry:  I am honored to host another talented writer’s responses to The Next Big Thing. I met Cindy Corpier in Paris last summer during the Spalding MFA in Writing summer study abroad program. She is funny, fascinating, intelligent, and talented and I am proud to call her a friend and colleague. I’m no doctor nor do I play one on television but I’m willing to bet that “Not Exactly According to Plan” will be the perfect prescription to those searching for a good read. And now, here’s Cindy!

What is the working title of your book?

Not Exactly According to Plan

 Where did the idea come from for the book? 

From my experience training as a physician in the 1980’s at the Texas Medical Center in Houston and from my life in medicine since.  Also from reading a book known to almost all doctors called The House of God.  This novel was published in 1978 and is still in print.  As funny and heartbreaking and true as the novel is, it was written from a male physician’s perspective.  I wanted to write about the experience from a women’s point of view—from the trauma of watching patients die, to the salvation of friendship, to the numbing exhaustion that gives rise to bad romantic decisions and ultimately, to inner strength and the grace of forgiveness.

 What genre does your book fall under?

Mainstream fiction or Women’s fiction

 What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The main character, Courtney Doucet is confident on the outside and constantly second-guessing on the inside.  I like to think Ellen Page or Emma Stone could pull her off beautifully.  Wyatt, her main romantic interest, is handsome and privileged, maybe Ryan Gosling.  Carter Murdock, the dangerous older man, could be Clive Owen or (why not?) George Clooney.

 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young doctor is seeing her professional and romantic dreams come true when she makes a series of choices that sabotage both and she must face losing everything.

 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will seek representation this year.

 How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About nine months for the first draft.

 What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Both Emily Giffin and Anna Quindlen have written books with complex female heroines navigating the demands of career and love.

 Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

I graduated from medical school at the age of twenty-three with the boundless confidence of the truly naïve and took on the awesome responsibility of caring for sick people long before I was fully mature.  This story is part-insider view of the world of medicine, part-tribute to the patients I’ve known, and part-love letter to my younger self.

 What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Not Exactly According to Plan will be attractive to book lovers who want an insider view of medicine and are forced to watch House or reruns of Scrubs and E.R. to get their fix.

The Next Big Thing: Three Ways to Disappear by Katy Yocom

January 21, 2013

Note from Terry:  It is my honor and good fortune to host the wonderful Katy Yocom’s responses to The Next Big Thing. She is amazingly talented in so many ways but she is a gifted writer and storyteller. I have been privileged to know about her novel for some time now and I’ve followed it’s progress from first draft through the current agent representation. I’m so excited to look forward to seeing it in print and and am proud that you can learn more about Katy and her work on my blog. Katy…take it away!

Huge thanks to the kind and talented fiction writer Terry Price for inviting me to participate in The Next Big Thing. Not only is Terry a wonderful friend, he was also kind enough to host my answers on his blog. So if you’re here, you probably already know what a prince of a guy he is.

Without further ado…

What is your working title of your book?

Three Ways to Disappear. It’s a reference to the three siblings at the heart of the book—Sarah, her twin brother Marcus, and their older sister, Quinn—American children who were raised in India by their parents. Marcus’s sudden death at age seven is one disappearance, a loss that informs his sisters’ lives forever. The other two “ways to disappear” can be taken to reference the ways Sarah and Quinn each cope, as adults, with the legacy of the tragedy. But disappearance is also a theme because tigers—a species on the verge of extinction—play a central role in the story.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It began with tigers. A few years ago, a tigress at our zoo had a litter of cubs. From the moment I learned of their existence, I was obsessed. I visited the cubs weekly—soaked them up the way you’d soak up a painting at a museum. I always thought of my tiger obsession as something slightly embarrassing. At the same time, I was hungering to write a novel, but my brain kept telling me, “Katy, you can’t write a novel about tigers” … until one day a friend told me: “You know, actually, you can.” Two days later, I was on my deck, planting impatiens, and the first line of the novel whispered itself to me. And then the second line. I set down my gardening spade and raced inside to my computer. An hour later, I had a beginning and a good idea of the arc of the entire novel.

It’s a story of family, love, and loss. But tigers, both real and metaphorical, do figure prominently in the story. Tigers are fierce predators, but as a species they are critically endangered. Their wildness and vulnerability echoes that of my characters, particularly of Sarah, my protagonist.

What genre does your book fall under?

I like to think it will be considered literary fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Sarah, the protagonist, is impulsive, fearless, large-hearted, and determined. A little reckless sometimes. Up to now, she has traveled the world as an itinerant journalist in war zones. Now, she’s back in India to work in a tiger conservation organization. Jessica Chastain has Sarah’s strength, ferocity and vulnerability.

Quinn, Sarah’s sister, has a stable home and family in America. She struggles with fear that the tragedy might repeat itself in her children’s generation. Naomi Watts would play her well.

Ursula is British and very, very crusty. I’d love to see Helen Mirren in her role.

William is an aging Brit with a certain sadness and loneliness about him. William Hurt could capture his melancholy.

For Sanjay, I’d cast Naveen Andrews. Sanjay is a man cut off by fate from love and children. It’s a role that requires longing and intensity, and Andrews amply demonstrated that smoldering quality as Sayid on Lost. Plus, he’s gorgeous, and what can I say? I’d like Sanjay to be gorgeous.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After a nomadic existence constantly embracing risk, American journalist Sarah DeVaughan returns to the country of her childhood—a place of unspeakable family tragedy—to preserve the Bengal tigers of India, while her sister Quinn, also deeply scarred by the past and herself a keeper of secrets, looks to forge a new connection with her sibling by casting aside her fears that India will also be Sarah’s undoing; in the end, the gifts India bestows and the price it exacts leave the sisters’ lives changed forever.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have the incredible good fortune to be represented by Lisa Gallagher of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates literary agency. The novel is currently on submission.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year and a half. After I had the initial idea, I quickly realized there was no way I could write this story without traveling to India. I spent three weeks there visiting tiger preserves. It was a stunning experience—I never imagined I’d be lucky enough to see tigers living in the wild in some of the most beautiful spots on earth. The trip still seems like a dream to me—even more so, the fact that it was funded by grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to these organizations, which do so much to bring art into the world.

After traveling to India, it took me months to process everything I’d seen and experienced, including a number of close-up tiger sightings. Success in the form of a completed draft finally came at a writing residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, Nebraska—another organization to which I owe a huge debt of gratitude.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

When I tell people my book involves tigers, people inevitably reference Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, though the stories are very different.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The tiger cubs at the zoo get direct credit! As for the family tragedy, Sarah’s life as an itinerant journalist, the events that unfold in India—I’m not sure. Inspiration is a mysterious thing.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A forbidden love affair, a suggestion of magical realism, a collective of village women lifting themselves out of poverty. Characters torn from their families who make unorthodox new families of their own. A family of Bengal tigers struggling to survive. And then India itself—the sights, the smells, the sounds, the amazing people. A lot has been written about the India of cities and slums. The India I write about is rural India, where villagers compete with endangered tigers for food and water. I loved the people I met there, and I hope that shows in the book.

Next up for the Next Big Thing:

Cindy Corpier – find her on Facebook!

The Next Big Thing: An Angel’s Share

January 14, 2013

NOTE: The Next Big Thing is a blog series, winding its way through the internet. I was graciously asked to participate by authors Bren McClain and K. L. Cook. 

Brenda McClain is the author of “One Good Mama Bone.” Her website is http://brenmcclain.com and you can find her responses to these questions there.

K. L. Cook is the author of three books, the Spokane Prize-winning collection Love Songs for the Quarantined, the collection Last Call, which was the inaugural winner of the Prairie Schooner Prize for fiction, and the novel, The Girl from Charnelle, which received the 2007 WILLA Award for contemporary fiction. His story “Filament” appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2012 and his “Bonnie and Clyde in the Backyard” appears in Best of the West 2011.  His answers to the questions below can be found at http://schuster.blog.com and his website is http://www.klcook.net

I am beholden to both of these wonderful writers and people for so many things.

So, here goes!

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book? The working title of my novel-in-progress is An Angel’s Share. When distilled spirits, such as whiskey and bourbon, are aged in barrels, over time there is a loss of volume due to evaporation. The story is that while the liquor is aging, the angel comes and takes its share thus explaining the reduction in amount when the barrels are opened.

Where did the idea come from for the book?  It’s been brewing for some time. When I submitted stories for my creative thesis to my Spalding MFA in Writing mentor, the afore mentioned K. L. Cook, he pointed out that every story had an obvious reference to fathers missing from the life of the sons. Some were obvious, some were subtle but it was consistent throughout all of the short stories. I had never picked up on this. The main thrusts of the stories weren’t about the absence of fathers but there was a subtext there. My birth father was not in my life and died when I was very young. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. So I believe that subconsciously I was processing these facts of my life through my stories. And so I decided to write a novel about the relationships between fathers and sons and set it in Nashville. The novel takes place between 1926 and 1969 so there is a historical fiction element to it that, to be candid, has been a tremendous amount of work to research, but also very rewarding. I’m hoping that the city of Nashville also resonates as a type of “character” of its own in the book.

What genre does your book fall under?  I think I flatter myself by saying it’s literary historical fiction. We’ll see how literary it turns out to be.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  What a great question because I haven’t thought about it. I have a pretty clear idea of who my characters are (although they constantly surprise me) but I’m not sure I have a mental image of them. Since the novel takes place over a seventy year period it would take different actors to play the characters at different stages of life but as adults, I would love for Colin Firth to play the lead character if he could pull off a Nashville accent or maybe Tommy Lee Jones. He’s already played Loretta Lynn’s husband in Coal Miner’s Daughter.  Chip Esten would be perfect but he’s already playing a similar role in the current series, Nashville, on ABC. Maybe Melissa Leo as his older sister.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? There are bonds between fathers and sons that are permanent and eternal, regardless of physical absence or presence, of time and place, regardless of the recognition of the bonds or the pretense of their non-existence and the quality of our lives largely depends on elements of grace, forgiveness, love and chance with regard to these bonds. It is a story of flawed human beings who try and fail, who then try to make sense and find a measure of forgiveness and redemption from the ashes.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? My hope is to submit the manuscript to an agent by the end of 2013.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’ll let you know when I finish! It’s about a year and a half in serious process right now.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The books that have inspired me more than others are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund, and A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines. All deal with social justice and individual relationships and family. I flatter myself by even answering with these books but if my manuscript could touch some small measure of these works, I’ll be very happy.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? You’ll get a sense of this by reading the above but I would add that my birth father’s sister (who is the inspiration for the lead female character) probably did more to inspire the narrative than others. She basically raised my birth father and loved him dearly in spite of all of his flaws. She loved him past his death, until hers and she grieved until her last breath feeling somehow that she had failed him. She didn’t but that didn’t comfort her any.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Since the story takes place in and around Nashville, I’m working hard to include local history, attractions, legendary events and locations. I’m hoping that those who know Nashville will smile and nod with recognition. I’m equally hoping that those who don’t know Nashville will be intrigued enough to come for a visit. I’m hoping all readers will understand by the end of the book why it takes place in Nashville.

Here are the excellent writers I get to tag for interviews, all highly recommended:

Carolyn Flynn – http://www.carolynflynn.com

Bonnie Johnson – http://bonnieomer.wordpress.com

Katy Yocom – Right here at http://www.anangelsshareblog.com

Roy Burkhead – (details to come!)

Dave DeGolyer – (details to come!)

Welcome to a New Year

January 5, 2013

I love new beginnings. I think most of us do. We look at what we’ve done or haven’t done and want to start over. That’s why New Year’s is so popular.

It’s a new beginning. We can blame our shortcomings and deficiencies on the old year. Yes! It was 2012’s fault that we weren’t at our best. But now…now…2013! So ripe and full of promise. You won’t let us down now will you?

The truth is every day is a new beginning. It’s a chance to start anew. I didn’t get done all that I wanted to yesterday.But, as Scarlett famously said, tomorrow is another day. There is always hope. A new chance. A new beginning.

So make your resolutions. Make your plans. Make your lists of all you want to do and want to be. But don’t put them away until 2014. Don’t put them away, period. What is it you wish to be on this day? What is it you wish to do? I want to finish my novel. I can’t do that all today but by gosh I can write some pages. And I will. I want to learn Italian and freshen up my French. But it would be a terrible mistake to think I could do that in a day with all of the Rosetta Stones at my disposal. But I could learn ten vocabulary words today. And I will.

And if I don’t?

Tomorrow is a new beginning.

I am a long distance cyclist and a hiker. What I am not is a bike racer and a sprinter. I’m the tortoise not the hare. You don’t “beat” a cycling century (100 miles) or the Appalachian Trail. You outlast them. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. And I use that cliché and others because there is truth to them. The 100 mile bike ride is one pedal stroke after another, thousands and thousands, that culminate at the top of Grandfather Mountain, if you keep going. The Appalachian Trail is one step after another, tens of thousands, that culminate at the top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine for north bounders if you keep going.

2013 is made up of one day after another, 365 in all, that will culminate in…what?

You get to decide.

As I said earlier, I’m going to finish my novel and have it ready to send out to an agent or editor. I’m going to learn more Italian and French. I’m going to lose twenty-five pounds and am going to ride and finish some cycling centuries this year. I’m going to work on how to figure out ways to be a better husband, father and, now, a grandfather. I’m going to figure out ways to be a better friend, a better colleague and a better citizen of this grand world in which we live.

What will you do? And just as importantly, when will you begin?

Right now is a new beginning. Do your best. Try your hardest. Reward yourself for your victories and forgive yourself for your failures. Recognize your shortcomings but don’t embrace them. You may never beat them but you can outlast them.

Today is a new beginning. But always remember. So is tomorrow.

New Podcasts on Submitting Your Stories from Terry Price and Carolyn Flynn

October 17, 2012

Are you unsure as to whether your work is ready to be submitted or maybe you’re ready but not sure how to go about it? Then join Terry and Carolyn for their weekly podcast series on submitting your work! Catch the two most recent episodes either at the iTunes Store or by going to the following link and listening online! http://www.terryprice.net/Terry_Price/Podcast/Podcast.html

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