Guess what?

So many people walk around this earth with no idea
how to communicate their gifts to the world.

But you, dear writer, have already found your language.
Now it’s simply time to trust YOUR voice.

With love and total belief in you,
Marni Freedman

Welcome to The Feisty Writer!

Ummm, what is it exactly…

A New Blog for Feisty Writers Everywhere

What does it mean to be a feisty writer? Is it for me?

Well…

  • Are you ready to take your career into your own hands?
  • Are you looking for ways to improve your craft without being bored out of your mind?
  • Are you looking for new techniques that will actually get you to the page?
  • Are you seeking a writer-tested-and-approved method to complete your novel, memoir, screenplay, or play?
  • Are you a severe procrastinator with a fierce inner critic?

 

Guess what?

We are your tribe.

New (School) Year’s Resolutions for Writers

Orange maple leaf (due to seasonal change) on green grassFor me, fall ushers in a mourning period. Although I welcome its drier air and kaleidoscope of color, its football season and Minnesota State Fair, loss lingers beneath the breathless bustle of a new school year. Loss of daylight and summer warmth. Loss of long walks with my sister and family time at the lake.

I grieve writing losses, too. Loss of (mostly) undivided attention, absent my full-time teaching job’s preoccupations with lesson plans and committee reports, student struggles and institutional politics. Loss of mental energy to revise a book without brain-draining essays to grade. Loss of early-morning quiet when my mind is fresh and ready to fire. Loss of time due to commuting in traffic and raking leaves.

After half a lifetime as a student and almost 20 years teaching, I’m getting better at managing fall’s losses, but there is a point each year—usually two weeks after school begins—where I sink into a mini-depression before I rebound. In the two-plus years I’ve spent writing and revising my first book, I’ve discovered my mini-depression carries with it resentment that I have to keep in check.

To prevent my negative emotions from leaking out in classrooms and meeting halls, I have begun treating the new school year like the New Year’s holiday. I have developed a New School Year tradition that consists of three parts: assess, acknowledge, select.

The advantages of New School Year Resolutions over their January counterpart include:

  • no holiday complications
  • no pressure to make resolutions public
  • no baggage left by decades of failed calendar-induced resolutions
  • no opposition from nature; it, too, is beginning a time of great change.

Here’s how I implement my tradition:

Assess

Teachers hear a lot about assessment every fall. We assess our teaching, students’ learning, the institution’s development, and yes, we even assess our assessment. Assessment is on already on my mind, so I turn that focus to reflecting on and assessing my writing year:

  • What did I learn about myself as a writer? about my process?
  • What did I do well?
    • How did I spark new ideas? avoid rushing the process? manage time? balance deadlines? let go of projects that didn’t work?
  • What evidence supports my answers to the questions above?
  • What would I like to do better?

Acknowledge

As a Type-A personality, I can get hyper-focused on achieving goals and checking them off lists. Once something is off my list, it’s off my mind, so I forget to savor successes and recognize progress, especially if that progress isn’t attached to a tangible result. To foster health and happiness, I’ve built into my tradition a step for acknowledging and celebrating growth.

Sometimes acknowledgment means sharing a publication on social media—something I used to avoid because it felt like “bragging.” Other times, I reward myself: a visit with my sister, an extra hour of reading, a new helmet for horseback riding lessons.

Select

Reality rarely allows enough time and energy to pursue every goal I can dream up, so from among those goals, I select resolutions that will become my year’s focus. Then I follow nature’s lead by asking:

  • What mindset or habits do I want to let die off this winter?
  • What mindset or habits do I want to cultivate for next spring?
  • What don’t I know that I want to find out?
  • What would I like to gain?
  • How will I mark my progress?
  • Where do I hope to be next year?
    • aspirationally (sky’s the limit)?
    • realistically?
    • minimally?

My answers include short- and long-term resolutions, and they vary widely, from submitting monthly blog posts to The Feisty Writer to finally finishing and sending my book to literary agents. But the best thing about fall resolutions is that, unlike New Year’s resolutions, they don’t come with a built-in expectation to share and then forget them.

For too long, I relied on a lot of stick and very little carrot to keep myself moving forward as a writer. Riding horses has made concrete for me how ineffective that approach can be. Therefore, I’m trading both carrot and stick for an ongoing process of reflection and renewal.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com

The No-Good, Very Scary, Terrifying Amazing Miracle That Is Launching a Book

Author in front of books that say Permission to Roar
Marni at her book launch for Permission to Roar

A few weeks ago, I was part of a multi-author book launch. We launched ten books in one single event. Yeah.

You may have seen the celebratory pictures on Facebook. You know, the ones with people toasting large glasses of wine, the happy authors signing their books, or posing with the completed book with friends and family.

It all looks so shiny.

I hate that shit.

Was the night wonderful?  Yes.

What Was Missing?

The part I don’t like is what’s missing from the celebratory pictures. For example:

  • the twelve-hour proofreading sessions,
  • the middle of the night panic attacks,
  • the calling your editor in a clutch, wondering if it will be completed on time

And, oh yeah, the ever-present fear that creeps up and asks:

  • What if everyone hates my book?

And to top it all off, I was plagued with a severe fear of running out of cheese.

This is what I want to talk about today. The pictures that are never taken. The unseen clutching panic. The fear of exposure. The cheese-worry.

The Behind-the-Scenes Experience

As a writing coach, I am privy to the behind-the-scenes experience. I see what the authors go through. I see all the baby steps the author must take to move themselves through their emotional tornadoes. And as an author myself, I am all too familiar with the ups and downs of making it to publication.

Don’t get me wrong. The launch was one of the best nights of my life. People came, they ate cheese, they drank wine. They purchased books. They listened to readings. They bonded as a tribe. My dreams for the night came true.

Yet the next day, I was talking to a writer who was complimenting me on the event. I said, “Hey, that could be you next year.” She responded, “Well, stuff like that is easy for you, but I can’t do that.”

Giving Yourself Permission to Roar

It made me think. My new book is called, Permission to Roar. My mission is helping women to reach deep down to find their voices and boldly own their passion and express it to the world.

But part of owning and expressing your voice, part of the author’s experience itself, is learning how to dance with your fear, without letting it stop you from dancing all together. Because taking creative risks is not easy. Stretching your skin, moving into realms you have never moved in, can be downright terrifying.

I’m telling you this not to scare you, but to empower you so that when you come face to face with feelings of terror, when your inner critic whispers things like Who are you to dream so big? Or, You can’t pull this off, you will know that that is not the end of your experience.

Feelings of terror, panic, fear, wild vulnerability, and worrying about cheese, are all moments along the path.

My suggestion to you is this.

Keep Walking

When the fear threatens to engulf you, keep walking. Even though your legs feel wobbly, keep walking. Talk about the fear with your writing tribe and keep walking. Gather your strength when you are ready and keep walking.

And one day, you will find yourself walking into your own book launch celebration. And someone will snap a picture of you toasting with a glass of wine and think, how does she do that? It must be so easy for her.

But how did she do it?

She kept walking. One baby step at a time.

(Oh, and we did run out of cheese. And I just ordered another one so all was well in the world.)

Photos curtsey of Marni Freedman

 

Crowd at book launch party listening to readings Permission to Roar sign at book launch

Large cheese platter at book launch
The infamous cheese platter!

Feisty Writer Writes Feisty Characters

Flapper Wears Mile-High Pearl Tiara Inspires CharactersI’m a feisty writer who spent over ten years working on my first novel. After being an inner city educator for twenty years, I turned to writing. I thought I’d create children’s books or a memoir about my classroom experiences, but that’s not what happened at all. I had no idea I had begun to create a dual timeline trilogy!

The books are about Anne, a San Francisco artist, who discovers vintage clothes and imagines through art making the lives and experiences of young women from past eras who originally wore the clothing pieces. Through many years, coaching from wonderful editors, and grit I’ve finally learned how to weave a novel. And who knew my main theme would be about women searching to find their place in the world?

Through attending Judy Reeves weekly Brown Bag, drop-in writing group, I learned how to write intuitively, and my feisty characters began to appear out of nowhere. Sylvia, an early 1960s young heiress, led me down paths where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do. And the kernels of The Black Velvet Coat were born. Learning the craft, I spent years writing the first draft. I took it through two read and critique groups. And then hired a line editor to clean it up so I would feel comfortable enough to share it for professional feedback.

Marni Freedman read the manuscript and told me it was good and coached me that it could be so much better. For instance, she said Anne shouldn’t be a waitress to make ends meet, because that had been done before, and also that I was too nice to my characters. It was hard for me to hear. Marni was right though—I do love my characters, and I did make things easy for them. So I returned to the drawing board.

I thought about my early trips to San Francisco and considered what would be the most demeaning, difficult job Anne could have. I remembered driving up and down those hills in a stick shift and how hard it was to find a parking place. So Anne became a parking valet for a large hotel on Union Square. I brainstormed all the plot point problems that can arise for a thirty-year-old single woman trying to make it as an artist and wove those into the story too.

Sylvia, my 1960s character, falls for a scoundrel, does the unimaginable, and escapes to Northern Arizona. She experiences guilt, fear, a flash flood, howling coyotes, etc., but other characters kept saving her right away. On the next draft, I ramped up the peril to make the reader want to keep reading and had Sylvia work through many of the obstacles by herself.

As The Black Velvet Coat was at a final editor, Clair, a 1929 New York debutant, arrived on my pages. She pushes past the constraints of her controlling father to become a flapper but when the stock market crashes she becomes entwined in the world of burlesque. After I was almost finished with Clair’s story, Anne appeared on my pages and told me she wanted to be in this book too. I thought Anne’s story had ended at the conclusion of The Black Velvet Coat but it had shifted again and she had to figure out her life all over again. From the get-go, I focused on obstacles to throw in Clair and Anne’s paths.

After that first draft of my second novel, which became The Silver Shoes, I used Marni’s plot points from her book, 7 Essential Writing Tools, to guide my second draft.

In the third novel that I’m working on now, The Green Lace Corset, I’m instinctively writing in obstacles for Anne and my Midwestern, 1865, Sally Sue who is kidnapped on a train and taken to the Wild West. Both of these women are trying to find their true life’s’ purposes and the meaning of love. Haven’t all of our lives been like that? With stick-to-it-iveness, we find the strength to keep catapulting over our challenges to discover our true purpose in life. I know I have.

Six Tips for Writing Feisty Characters

  1. Develop a daily writing practice.
  2. Write from your heart, not your head.
  3. Find your fellow writing community.
  4. Keep your characters in peril until the very end.
  5. Put yourself in your character’s shoes.
  6. Consider writing play instead of work.

My Three Favorite Writer Books in My Library

A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves

7 Essential Writing Tools: That Will Absolutely Make Your Writing Better (And Enliven Your Soul) by Marni Freedman

Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing by Brooke Warner

 

Photo of the author with blond hair in an up-do and red shirtJill G. Hall is the author of dual timeline historical novels The Black Velvet Coat, an International Book Award Finalist and the recently released, The Silver Shoes. The Green Lace Corset, the third book of her trilogy, is scheduled for a Fall 2020 release also by She Writes Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of publications, including A Year in Ink, The Avocet, and Wild Women, Wild Voices. On her blog, Crealivity, she shares personal musings about the art of practicing a creative lifestyle. She is a seasoned presenter at seminars, readings, and community events. In addition to writing, Hall practices yoga, makes mosaics and collages, tap dances, and enjoys spending time in nature. Learn more at jillghall.com.

 

Photos Courtesy of Jill G. Hall

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