It’s All In The Writing…   Leave a comment

Writer's Desk

The neater part of my desk…

It started about two years ago.

Life always has its challenges and never more so than when you and your husband decide to adopt two kids from foster care.  We wanted a family, wanted to give deserving kids another chance in life, and most of all out of love.  These kids needed an awful lot but perhaps the biggest challenge facing us was they were 9 and 12, to be exact.  And like most things, one has to be fully committed to making positive changes in these kids’ lives, and so Andrew and I did our absolute best working hard towards doing just that.

It isn’t easy, but parenthood rarely is, but we’re brave folk and did what we could.  Along the way, bits and pieces of ourselves kind of went by the wayside, as most parents find true.  Fortunately, we had something to help us along.  Andrew has his photography (and he’s magnificent at it) and I found fiction writing.

You see, I’ve always written.  I’ve composed brochures, ad copy, web content, teacher’s guides, children’s activity books, radio scripts, flyers – you name it – and I’ve got a mountain of evidence to prove it.  All of it’s either informational or cold, hard facts.  No fantasy, no imaginative story lines, no arc or explosive ending.  Just…information.

Two years ago, my sister Gwen and I went out to lunch.  My kids were at the beach and Andrew was enjoying some precious alone time.  Gwen says, “You look awful.  What happened to you?”

“Parenthood, that’s what.  These kids – they’re work!” (I’m leaving out a MULTITUDE of details…use your imagination)

“C’mon,” says Gwen, “You’re not the only parent out there.  What’s up?  You used to be so creative.  You were a musician.  You produced shows.  You lived in New York City for 20 years!  You owned an apartment in Manhattan!  You ordered food over the phone and stayed out until dawn.  Where did that Gretchen go?”

Truth was, I hadn’t a clue.

Gwen knows what a sci-fi fanatic and astronomy freak I am.  Sat on the board of an astronomy club affiliated with the Museum of Natural History in NYC, and yes, that certain famous astrophysicist was also on the board and he’s really one of the nicest, down-to-earth people I’ve ever met.  Never missed an opportunity to look up to see what’s there.  Received “Sky & Telescope.”  All that and more.  “So this is what you do,” said Gwen.  “Tap into that and come up with a story.  I’ll help you.”

A few months later, Andrew went off to England to visit his family, the kids were in bed and I sat in front of the computer and stared.  I tentatively placed my fingers on the keyboard and let them glide over the letters.  They hit letters that turned into words.  Those words turned into the roughest of outlines.  Andrew came home, we went out for coffee and I told him about it.  After listening to my story, he joined in.  Here we were, in a java joint, flushing out finer details and possible motives.  Before you know it, he became hooked, too.

Andrew’s a fanboy, so his input’s invaluable, especially when it came to world building.  We both weighed in on my plot devices, creations, characters, what they were up to and the messes they found themselves in.  When I got to the end, he came up with such an amazing twist, I never even considered it, but once he said it, it made perfect sense.  And believe me, it’s a doozy.

Once I hashed out these ideas in prose, Gwen helped me make nice with it.  She’s the MFA in creative writing, a college professor and is published by Harper Collins (see above paperback in picture, one of her collection in print).  She played devil’s advocate, told me what was stupid, or good, or on its way to being good but most of all she convinced me I really did have talent and could do this.

I joined a fine writer’s group where nearly all the members are published, and at least half are bestsellers.  I participate in their writer’s conference that attracts over 300 people each spring, using it to hone my craft and make connections.  I’ve kept up on trends and buried myself in my office spending hours writing, or trying to.  Andrew constantly sends me links on things he believes will help and Gwen keeps checking my work.  Best of all, I have a circle of writer friends who keep me keeping on, encouraging me when I think I no longer have it in me.  I even got a cousin of mine involved – he’s a MAJOR fanboy and he’s reading the book to see what he thinks, and my librarian friend, who read a VERY rough draft last February, is reading it once more.

Yes, folks, I’ve gotten through four rewrites, but I’ve gotten extremely favorable feedback and possibilities for it (the printout of the manuscript is also in the picture).  I have to admit I’m really proud to have shaped this story, but ever grateful that I had a cheering section helping me get through it all.  Along the way, I’ve learned to let my nonfiction self go (and BOY, was that hard!) and embrace sentences in quotes that weren’t grammatically correct (clue from Gwen: read your quotes out loud.  Do you talk like that?  No?  Then don’t write it that way!) and let my brain accept the unacceptable (tip from Andrew: why not?  It’s your world, after all).

I guess my last thought is this: you can’t do it alone.  So don’t.  And sure, you can write.  Everyone has a story to tell.

Even me.

Even you.

Now get going and write it!

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