Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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So, what do writers do when they gather

Less than a week to go before I reunite with my spectacular writing sisters–yippee! (if I was more “hip”, I’d have a meme here with the Pointer Sisters and “I’m So Excited”)

I’ve talked about my writing sisters before, but you might wonder: just what do these seven women do when they get together? Come to think of it, when I mentioned to a colleague what I’m doing next weekend, he asked me what we did. What do writers do when they get together? It’s not like heading to the lake for a weekend of fishing and grilling and water-skiing.

Well, right, it isn’t. For someone who doesn’t know writers, they might think of a beatnik coffee house, where they take turns wearing a black beret and reading poetry to the whispering beat of a snare drum.

Give me a minute while I laugh hysterically.

Okay, *wipes tears and catches breath* Now I’ll tell you what a group of writers really does.

Keep in mind our writing group is close-knit; we aren’t the writing group that meets once a month to critique a few pages, and maybe drink tea and keep the bakery in business with consumption of Danishes and biscotti. We’re more like, um, a writer’s version of sorority sisters.

Yes, really.

We usually meet up for lunch on Friday, and spend an hour or more catching up on the past year. Then we take over a bed and breakfast; there are enough of us that we reserve the whole house. Once we’re settled, we gather to review the pages we’ve sent around to the group.

We don’t usually break out the wine and chocolate until later 😀  We head out for a late supper; if our B&B is in town, we enjoy a walk to a local eatery. We usually don’t work much after supper, but we will continue earlier discussions. And wine and chocolate.

Saturday is our working day. After a good breakfast, we gather together and go through the discussion topics we’ve agreed on. Our mentor has been teaching for many years, and is a wonderful facilitator. We break for lunch, then get back to it in the afternoon.

We usually take an hour or so for our own projects around supper time. After that, we’ll finish up earlier topics, and work on odds and ends. And wine and chocolate.

Sunday is our last day, and we’ll work for a few hours before we need to check out of the B&B. After fond farewells, we part for another year, in contact through email, video chats, and FB.

If this sounds a little dull, well, trust me, we’re a spunky group. I mean, what would you think if you heard a group of women talking about the best ways to kill someone and dispose of the body? Or whether college friends would trust each other with a secret that could send one or more of them to jail. Add a little chocolate and wine, toss in a healthy dose of creative energy along with our muses (and yes, my Muse does his share of instigating antics), and you’ve got a helluva fun (and productive) weekend.

So, whenever someone suggests writers are boring, I scoff. They’ve never met my Writing Sisters 😀 I’ve got some pages to read yet, then critiques to do before next weekend, so I’ll sign off.

Enjoy your weekend, and write!

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Saturday sigh

Nope. I got nuthin’. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I don’t know what to write about this week. No new updates on the manuscript front. No ideas from the writers’ grab bag.

Weeding. Taming tomato plants, picking beans, prolific zucchini (big surprise there–not), and patrolling for cabbage worms. Boooring.

Shameless plugs for writing sisters who have books out recently or coming out soon:

Crossing the Line

St. Mary’s Private Dancer

Progress report? Finishing the last edits on my 20 pages to send to my writing sisters. In two weeks I’ll be in Wisconsin at our reunion. I can’t wait!

Hmm, anything useful for fellow writers? Updates on the publishing journey?

I have been reading some good blog posts lately about writing and how important patience and persistence are. I was thinking about my current adventure I’m taking, courtesy of my agent. She started sending the manuscript out in February. It’s now almost the end of July, and we’re still “pounding the pavement”. There are a handful of editors who haven’t said “yea” or “nay”; actually, they haven’t said much at all.

It’s a waiting game. And even once a publisher picks up the manuscript (crossing fingers here!), I know it’ll be at least a year before release, because that’s how long it takes. This is the patience part.

If this manuscript doesn’t sell, I’ve got another one ready to go. It’s just a matter of whether my agent will like it enough to represent it. If not, I’m working on my old “new” WIP, but that won’t be ready until closer to the end of the year. I’ll talk to my agent about next steps.

And I might have to start the hunt all over again (I hope not, because I really like my agent). This is the persistence part. This business is not for anyone who likes instant gratification. Short fiction would have a shorter timeline, and I’ve had short stories published (B.C.–Before Children), so that’s an option.

Bottom line: Keep writing. Keep learning, improving, practicing. Every draft, every query, every rejection is another step on the journey. Keep moving forward.

Okay, that’s about all I’ve got. Heading to my dad’s to see my sister today. I only see her a couple times a year since she lives in WI, so I’m looking forward to catching up a little with her. Gotta finish my 20 pages, so I’m going to sign off.

Have a great weekend! Wear sunscreen, keep hydrated, and WRITE!


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Changing direction

I move another publisher to the Pass list on the whiteboard in my writing office, transfer most of the publishers on the Active to the Inactive one per my agent, and add the latest three publishers to the Active roster before I return to my desk.

I’ve made up my mind. I close the document I’ve been staring at for the past, gads, a long while. I’ve got my first twenty pages about ready to send around to my writing sisters before our reunion, but I’ve been spinning my wheels on that story for a while now. Probably far too long. st-paul-saints-logo

The door to my writing office swings open. My Muse shakes his head and nudges the door closed behind him. He’s wearing a Minnesota Twins jersey with a St. Paul Saints hat, and faded jeans with a suspicious mustard-colored stain on one leg. “What are you doing, love?”

twins-logoSomehow his Australian accent clashes with the baseball theme he’s got going. “Trying to write.” I think it is mustard. “Who’d you go out to the ball game with this time?”

“Casey Jones.”

“Pfft. Yeah, right.”

He settles on the corner of my desk. I can smell the stale beer now. And there’s another stain, this one an unnatural orange only seen in artificial cheese sauces. “I mean, what are you doing?” He turns my computer towards him. “I thought you said you were writing. I don’t see any writing going on.”

“There hasn’t been any writing going on for a while now, of which you are fully aware.” I open another document, this one a small-town mystery I set aside when I decided to start the book to follow the one my agent is shopping. “So, I’m shifting gears.”

He lifts his hat, scratches disheveled hair that needs a trim, then settles the ball cap again. He stands. “C’mon.”

“What do you mean, ‘come on’?”

He sighs, waves his hand in a “follow me” gesture, and crosses the office to the back door. “Just what I said.” The view outside the windows shifts to a thick temperate forest complete with wildflowers brightening the undergrowth. “You coming?”

Sure. It’s not like I’m busy trying to write or anything. I follow my Muse through a clearing to the rock-strewn shore of a lake surrounded by the dense forest. Two Adirondack chairs are planted side-by-side in a sandy section of the shoreline out of the reach of gentle waves. There’s not enough sand to call it a nice beach, but just enough to allow wading into the water.

7a5181b6b751442d0864fa6d969db94aHe drops into one of the chairs and leans back, hands behind his head, long legs stretched out in front of him. I settle into the other chair. I’m starting to think this might be some sort of sneaky Muse trick.

“No, it’s not a trick. And trust me, love, if I wanted to be sneaky, you’d never see it coming.”

I hate it when he does that. “So glad my private thoughts are up for grabs. Stop it.”

He chuckles and offers a charming lopsided grin. “You know I won’t. You’re just too damn entertaining.”

“Glad you’re enjoying yourself,” I grumble. “Why are we out here?”

“You need to figure out what you’re going to do. You need 20 pages to send to your writing sisters. The question is, what project are you going to focus on?”

I slump back in the chair. “I’m going back to the small-town mystery.”

“But?” he prompts.

Arrgh. “But I’ve been thinking about doing some flash fiction or short stories.”

“Pick one or the other, love. Your book or shorts.”

“Other writers can work on a novel and a short story at the same time.”

He picks up a small stone and tosses it into the lake. Concentric circles ripple across the smooth surface. “Other writers who do that don’t have a full-time job, a big vegetable garden, and kids at home for the summer. Or a lack of focus.” With the last, he pokes my temple with a finger to emphasize each word. “You, on the other hand, have all of the above, with a big gold star for the last one.”

“Who did you really go to the game with? Gandhi? Sun Tzu? Jung? You’re getting a little philosophical. It’s kinda scary.”

“Would you rather have the Indiana Jones fedora and bullwhip? I can still go there.”indianna-jones-hat-whip

Hmm. He looks damn good as an adventuring archaeologist.

“I heard that, love. I’m flattered.”

“Stop eavesdropping.”

“Comes with the job.” He stands, hands on hips. “Stand up.”

I consider ignoring him, but I decide to acquiesce to his request (can you tell I’ve recently watched Pirates of the Caribbean?). I stand.

He points to his face. “Look here.”

No reason to refuse that one. I comply, noting his 5 o’clock shadow.

“Focus.” He lifts a finger between us. “Right here.”

I’d much rather focus on something more interesting, like that dimple in his cheek.

“And that’s why you’re having trouble.” He grabs my shoulder and squeezes. Hard. “You will sit at your desk and write.” He pushes me ahead of him toward the office. “I’m going to block the wireless signal until you get your twenty pages figured out. No internet, no research, no email.”

“But–”

“‘But’ nothing, love. I’m trying nice but firm. And I’ve got some Moon Man and Ghirardelli chocolate for you when you’ve gotten that finished.”

“Are you bribing me?”

“Yes.”

I’ve got until next weekend to get my twenty pages dusted off and polished up before I have to send them off to the group. And my Muse is right, I’m having a hell of a time focusing lately. Maybe that was because of my uncertainty with the new project. Anyway, back to an old “new” project.

Have a great weekend, stay cool, and WRITE!


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The countdown begins

The calendar says July. Seriously? What happened to June? In a week, the summer will be half over.

If we’re into July, that means the reunion with my Writing Sisters is coming up. I can’t wait!

Wait, I’ve got to get 20 pages ready to send around before the reunion. Hoo boy.

One of my fellow bloggers asked about my writing sisters (B, has the baby arrived yet?), and I’ve mentioned them before, so I’ll give y’all a brief history of my fantabulous WS and some ideas on how you can find your own awesome writing group.

It was a dark and stormy night… Er, wait, wrong story. Give me a minute *shuffles papers* Here it is.

It was June, 2012. I’d learned (through my Writers’ Digest subscription, I think) about a writing retreat in Madison, WI, a six-and-a-half hour drive–super close when considering most writing retreats are in the Pacific Northwest, or out East, or someplace like Italy or Iceland (that one’s on my wish list 😀 ). I was at the point in my writing journey where I felt ready for something intense, like a week of writing by a lake. I’d heard wonderful things about the novel Master Class at Write-By-The-Lake, so I closed my eyes and jumped in.

There were only six slots, and the instructor had to accept you. Gulp. She did (woo-hoo!). We started slow, as people do when meeting strangers for the first time, and especially when we’re all writers, and the point of the class is to critique each other’s work so we could improve it.

We had different genres (YA, mystery, women’s historical, SF/dystopian), and had taken different journeys to get to where we were. But we clicked. And to seal the deal, one of our classmates invited us over for dinner one evening.

The Writing Sisters were born. Not with the name, not yet, but we had a bond. We had stories to share. And we had fellow writers to encourage us, critique our work, and offer ideas.

After our week was up, we kept in touch. We reunited the following spring at the Writers’ Institute in Madison. And afterward, we started our annual reunion tradition. Every year since that week of writing by the lake we’ve gotten together, even if some couldn’t make it. We’ve had sisters move away and return. We’ve adopted a new sister who fits into the group like she was in our Master Class with the rest of us.

Of the seven of us (not counting our mentor), three have published novels (two through publishing houses, one self-published), one has an agent shopping a manuscript, and three are within spitting distance of getting books published. Our beloved mentor continues to guide us, challenge us, and encourage us.

We’ve become more than a writing group. We’ve become good friends.

I promised some ideas on how you can try to find your own “writing sisters” (or brothers, or whatever). The most important step (in my opinion) is to get out of the house (yes, I know we’re all introverts, but you can do it). Go to conferences, classes, or writing retreats. Meet other writers face to face. Talk to them (Yes, I know, the whole introvert thing. Take a deep breath and do it anyway. They’re just as anxious about it as you are.). You can meet other writers to bond with online, but somehow meeting in person seems more “real”.

You won’t always “click” with the writers you meet. In fact, you might cross paths with some you can’t stand to be around. The important thing is to try. Be open and welcoming.

Regular writers’ groups are a good place to meet other writers, but sometimes there isn’t a group near you that “feels” comfortable. I highly recommend going to writing conferences. They are great opportunities not only to learn more about the craft, but also to spend more than an hour or two with fellow writers. Often there are critique group sign-ups with the added benefit of meeting other writers who may end up in your group.

If you can attend a writing retreat, do it. Not only for the time you can focus on actual writing, but for the time you will spend with other writers. A learning/teaching retreat, as opposed to one that offers only time and space to write, encourages you to get to know fellow writers and get a “feel” for how you get along.

At some point, you will run across other writers you can form bonds with. It might be just one or two, or it might be half a dozen. You might meet in real life at the local coffee shop, or you might never see each other in the flesh. In any case, finding one or more writers you can collaborate with, bounce ideas off of, or learn from is valuable.

Another weekend of butt-in-chair-staring-at-the-computer-screen. I think I’ve got a few things figured out, though, so I’m hoping–no, planning more productivity this weekend than I’ve had lately. Bonus: the kids are staying with my SIL until Sunday night. Woo-hoo!

Have a great weekend, and WRITE!