Spinning…

Look closely at this photo of some fall veggies sitting on my counter to see a metaphor for the writing life:

On the top tomato, do you spy a whitish, fuzzy object? It’s hard to get a good shot of this. Let me have my husband try. 

 

Hmm… maybe a little clearer. Or not…

When I picked that top tomato from our vines sprawling wa-a-a-y out of control, this small caterpillar attracted my attention. Spinning away, in the business of transformation. 

That’s how my days pass–spinning stories, except when I surface to instruct a class, facilitate a writing workshop, or attend a grandchild’s ballgame. On September 10, 17, and 24 this year, I have the joy of interacting with an incredible group of writers at an Iowa State University OLLIE class. Such fun discussions–wish I lived closer! 

Spinning, spinning…that’s my task, weaving the threads of characters’ lives together. Or in the case of the WWII nurse I’m writing about now, discovering how the actual threads of her life carried her through the horrors of war.  Five long years she gave to the effort–the best of her twenties.

This past week, I had the privilege of hearing this incredible woman’s voice in a DVD as she spoke to a group in her later years. Oh my! What a memory she had…what a lovely, intriguing woman. I’m indebted to her daughter, who sent me that video presentation, along with photos and information.

In November, I get to meet this daughter, and possiblly her brother as well. I’ll be facilitating a writing workshop at the Joliet, IL library, and be able to walk the streets Dorothy walked during her post-war life, see her photo albums, touch the many campaign badges she earned…

And it will all center on spinning. 

Interesting that I’m a disaster at sewing, and after several knitting lessons, never did master that precise art.

But I am spinning, always. 

RUSH…a Trip Back in Time

I’ve always thought it would be fun to bring an ancestor to life for a modern-day audience. A few months ago, I read Jayme Mansfield’s RUSH and vicariously spent some time claiming land in Oklahoma with Jayme’s great-great grandmother. Jayme is giving a print copy of RUSH to a commenter. 

Jayme, how did you choose your genre? What about the writing process for this genre challenges you most? 

I love reading historical fiction, so it’s a natural draw to write in that genre. Researching for accuracy and depth of story and characters is essential. Since there are so many means available for research, it’s not difficult as much as time-consuming—in a good way! I’ve learned so much while researching and find special gems of information to add to the stories. RUSH was particularly exciting to research as the story is based on my great-great grandmother’s experience in the 1893 Oklahoma Land Rush. My family had a treasure trove of letters, documents, photographs, and an oral history to pull from that brought her story to life.

Tell us about your characters. Do you have a favorite?

Several of the characters are closely based on real people from my family lineage. Mary Louisa Roberts is the real name of my great-great grandmother and the main protagonist. Her perseverance, independence, and faith are not only inspiring, but endearing for readers. Since I share her bloodline, I admit she is my favorite! To fictionalize her life and round out the story, I created several characters. One whom readers wish was real is the handsome and kind illustrative journalist from Boston who becomes Mary’s love interest. Of course, there are several bad guys, and one in particular makes the skin crawl!

What struggles in Mary Louisa’s story are still applicable for women today?

Even though life is much different today than back in 1893, women often still struggle with identifying and following their true calling, especially in the midst of caring for others. Mary is not only a woman in a man’s world, but she is a single mother of a young child. Forgiveness, daring to love again, and trusting are timeless challenges.

What underlying moral premise undergirds your story? (What universal truth can readers take away?)

RUSH’s book trailer, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lbdg6w0c3JA, shares the message that there’s something special about the past—it draws us in and reminds us we are part of it. It’s a beautiful trailer and I hope you take a brief moment to enjoy it.

In what ways has writing changed your life?

Oh, where to begin? Besides all the wonderful people who are now part of my life, my work focus has shifted from teaching language arts and visual arts to primarily writing. I still spend a great deal of time running my art studio, but writing seems to permeate everything and is always on my mind.

Gail, thank you for inviting me to share about my passion for writing. Here’s to all of us crazy about books!

Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator. Her award-winning novels, Chasing the Butterfly and RUSH, are book club favorites and Amazon bestsellers.

Her stories weave artistic, visual imagery with compelling plots and captivating characters. Romance, nuggets from the past, and timeless truths provide the fiber to make her novels rich and memorable.

Jayme lives in Lakewood, Colorado, where she and her husband have survived raising three hungry, hockey-playing sons. Currently, a very needy Golden Retriever runs the roost. When Jayme isn’t writing, she teaches art to children and adults at her long-time art studio, Piggy Toes.

Visit Jayme at www.jaymehmansfield.com and subscribe to her monthly newsletter. She’d also love to connect with you on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JaymeHMansfieldAuthor/

 

Undiscovered Treasure in our Back Yard

Who knew? Purslane, a native Arizona plant I included in one of my novels, also grows in our Iowa back yard. But I only recently discovered at the Des Moines farmers’ market that purslane is edible and also offers a TON of health benefits.

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Suffice it to say I’ve now re-instated  a weed into my vegetable patches. And we’re eating purslane in salads, soups, and a truly delicious pesto.

Sometimes we say, “Who knew?” about other treasures hidden in our own heritage. Maybe a fresh whiff of wisdom reveals a different side of a conundrum that has puzzled us for years, and we grasp the meaning behind someone’s behavior.

Maybe even our OWN behavior . . . life’s journey finally exposes a facet that we’ve missed until now. In the past couple of years, for example, my husband has discovered amazing sights, simply by taking the time to look  up.

 

IMG_9379Until Now might make a good title for a novel some day … Kate, the heroine of With Each New Dawn, experiences many until now moments. Maybe that’s because as an orphan, she entertains so many questions about her past.

What a positive thought–the more questions we have, the more opportunities for new discoveries. May the rest of your summer send some your way! (Just found a purslane plant with bright yellow blossoms!)

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On The Writing Process

Today, I welcome Connie Cockrell – we have yet to meet in person, but it’s fun to host an Arizona writer this week.

A 20-year Air Force career, time as a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

Cockrell grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Gloversville before she joined the military at age 18. Having lived in Europe, Great Britain, and several places around the United States, she now lives in Payson, AZ with her husband: hiking, gardening, and playing bunko. She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre. She’s published fifteen books so far, has been included in five different anthologies and been published on EveryDayStories.com. Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

She can be found at www.conniesrandomthoughts.com or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ConniesRandomThoughts or on Twitter at: @ConnieCockrell or on Amazon at amazon.com/author/conniecockrell

Connie, what motivated you to write fiction? 

I’ve always been interested in writing stories but I never knew how and with the press of working in the military and being a wife and mother and going to college, there just wasn’t time to figure it out. After I retired and moved to Arizona, my daughter moved in with us for a time. She met a young woman who was working on her first novel and told my daughter about National Novel Writing Month, a writing challenge to write 50,000 words, a short novel, in one month.

I asked my daughter how hard could that be and she challenged me to do and loaned me a copy of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Well, it was already mid-October, 2011, so I sped read through the book, put scene ideas on sticky notes on the back of the closet door and on 1 November, began writing my first book, The Bad Seed. I did the whole book in one month and it was pretty darned exciting. It took me months and months to rewrite and revise it but I did publish it in 2012.

Please tell us more …

One question I get all the time from readers is, “How do you write a book?” What they’re asking is, “How do you get started?”, “How do you know what to write?” and even, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The idea comes first. For me it’s usually plot. I see a documentary on TV, or read some trending memes on social media, or it’s a subject my friends are talking about. Anywhere, really. So, I get start with the question, “What if…,” then I take off. What could possibly happen in that situation? What people would be involved? How can I make the situation unusual? For example, instead of a down and out woman being the protagonist fighting against a corporate controlled world, what if I choose a woman from the upper 1% of the population? How would that change the story?

Then it’s a matter of writing those possible ideas down, lining them up, thinking up connecting scenes, maybe even adding a plot line or two. I arrange the scenes in some sort of order, doing my best to make sure the three or four-part story beats are in the right spots, and start to write.

After that it’s a matter of sitting down each day and writing to the scene. Do I stick strictly to the scene as written? Only as far as I get to the critical point, where the scene leads to the next one. But within the scene, I could create a new character from the past, I could reveal an unknown aspect of my character’s background. I could reveal a new plot line. All kinds of things could and do happen while I’m writing.

I don’t shoot for a certain number of words per chapter or book. It’s done when it’s done. Give it a try. It’s fun!

Connie’s giving away an e-book to a commenter. Just leave your contact info with your comment. Happy second week of January, 2017!