Updates from February, 2011 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Rebekah James 12:26 pm on February 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Savvy Writers,   

    Writing without a net…work 

    Anyone who knows me for more than say, 5 – 10 minutes will know that my goal in life is to revive myself as a fiction writer.  The last time I had anything credited to me as a writer was in 1997 and as a journalist in 2004.  I have been hoping for some time now to recreate myself as a fiction writer.  To that end I have been spending a lot of time taking workshops (http://www.savywriters.com), taking classes and generally trying to improve my writing.  However, the more time I spend learning about writing, the more I am finding that there is a lot more required of writers than simply perfecting their writing.  When I worked for CBS, I didn’t really have to worry about creating my online presence, or networking with potential readers, or keeping my twitter status updated, because I was on air daily.  I spent all day interacting with my peers in the network and my show aired on several different stations.  I did maybe 2-3 commercials a month for my shows, but most of the time, people were pitching to me as a news editor, and the whole personal PR thing was really taken care of for me by virtue of being a news editor.

    To write fiction, it is a whole different game.  First, writing radio news, at least in my idealistic fresh out of school mind, meant sticking to a specific style with pretty clear rules, including keeping your personal opinions out.  It also meant keeping it short since most radio news is reported in 30-60 second blurbs, and those that get a full 60 seconds were supposed to be pretty darn important.  Now I am learning to think about things that most journalists only consider in vague, abstract terms sometime during their required literature classes in college. Terms like Character development, world building, sub plots and voice are opening whole new worlds for me. I love this part of it, and thankfully I have a husband who understands that I will spend any free time staring at my computer, and that when I walk around the house mumbling to myself about plans to kill someone, I am not really schizophrenic or homicidal, I am trying to work out a story.  He even understood when he found me sitting at my desk sobbing because one of my favorite characters had “died”.

    However there is a whole new realm to writing with out a network that I hadn’t even considered.  At CBS there was a whole legion of PR and Marketing people who took care of all sorts of things.  I had meetings with vocal coaches to improve my on air voice; other editors who caught my typos and made copy edits for me; IT guys who maintained websites, and for those rare times I had to be seen as well as heard, people who even did my makeup and told me what to wear.  Now I am discovering that a fiction writer has to have a lot of things that I never even thought about.  I was turned down by an agent last year, not because he didn’t like my writing – that was entirely workable and had great potential – but because I didn’t have an “online presence”. My website is oriented around my family instead of my writing.  My Facebook account is limited *gasp* to people I actually know, and I had a grand total of 40 followers on Twitter.  I didn’t have a blog talking about my recent activities and accomplishments, and I didn’t even have any pictures of myself floating around the net unless you count the occasional pictures I post on Facebook that again, only my family and friends see.

    Ignoring for the moment that he also recommended that I use a pen name (Rebekah James is just too common apparently), none of this had occurred to me.  Silly me, I had been naive enough to think that I needed to focus on creating a well written manuscript.  Now I have tried to follow some of this advice, particularly since I have heard the same from several sources now.  Here is the real problem for me: I am actually pretty shy.  I am not sure that anyone other than my mom or husband actually cares about my personal life, but then again, there are a lot of authors I admire who seem to be posting a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with their writing on their blogs, so maybe there is something to the idea.  To be honest, I hadn’t spent a lot of time actually reading blogs or with social media before, so this is a whole new world for me.  Now I have twitter accounts, been trying to rebuild my website, and after a battle royale with my servers finally set up an actual blog here on Word Press.  My problem of course is that between all of this image building stuff, the day job, taking classes and workshops to improve my writing, building friendships and networks with other writers – there just isn’t a lot of time left to actually write which is a common complaint among the writers I am following now.

    I’m learning, and as evidenced by the presence of the blog here, I would like to think I am making progress – I just have to overcome the biggest obstacle of all – enough confidence to actually believe that anyone is actually going to want to “follow”, “friend” or better yet, actually read my manuscript.

  • Rebekah James 12:10 pm on February 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: garden, ,   

    Spring buds 

    About this time of year, I start to get antsy for spring.  It is tempting here in Texas.  We have passed the worst of our winter weather and often, as we are now, are rewarded with a spurt of warm weather as if the region just doesn’t have the energy for maintaining the cold.  I am always frustrated that the regional nurseries seem to be linked to the weather cycle in colder regions, and while my yard is budding with new leaves, most of the nurseries are going to be buttoned up in “winter” mode until April.  Oh yes, I know, we are expected to have one more spurt of cold before the end of March – but having lived in much colder regions, I know that what passes for the last of the winter weather here, is by and large, mild enough that tender spring plants can be easily protected.  For most of my garden, the threat of another frost is irrelevant – it is 70 degrees in my garden now, and I cannot stop the buds and flush of new green from appearing even if I wanted to.  To make me even more antsy there are a handful of spring festivals that occur now – Imbloc, Tu b’Shevat are encouraging me to plant trees and generally have a spring frolic.

    I often find myself comparing my own life to my garden. In the fall, I anxiously watch the weather and spend hours carefully transferring my precious potted babies into the shelter of the garage and coddle them with fluorescent lights and space heaters, holding out hope that the plants billed as annuals will indeed make it through the winter and be ready to rebloom in the spring for me.  I know that the marigolds are going to die regardless. The Basil that is so lovely now, will indeed die down to pathetic sticks and that there is no hope for the tomato and pepper plants no matter how wonderfully they are still producing in October.  I fight for the lost causes even when I know I am going to lose. I just can’t let things go.  Inevitably, when I discover in early December that the marigolds have indeed died, I am always somehow surprised, just as I am surprised when the realization hits me that something else I have kept past its time – a project that isn’t going to work, or a friendship that was based on the fragile conditions of work or place – has died.

    I realized something this year about both my garden and myself.  Finding myself faced with the usual slew of dead pots, I found myself not focusing on what was, and what I had lost of the glorious summer garden, but instead saw the delicate beauty of the winter garden. The sculpted twists of the mini trees I have planted, waiting for the warmth of the sun to awaken them. The complex patterns of the roses against the walls, and the first lanky tops of the tulips pushing their way out from the mulch they were covered in all winter.  Yes there are dead branches and leaves that need to be cleared away, but the structure is still there, and those marigolds that died left seeds in their wake that will reawaken.  Seeds are in the rest of my life as well. Goals not met, dreams that were thwarted or changed – even the possibility that we may have to move this year  from the apartment with the garden I love so much – there are still the seeds of new things lying among the dead leaves in the rest of my life as well.  Perhaps I have finally reached the point where I have established enough of the underlying structures in both my garden, and the rest of my life that instead of  fighting the winter, I can simply flow with the seasons like the trees and when it freezes, protect my roots instead of mourning the flowers.

    • Shethra Jones-Hoopes 9:31 pm on March 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      My friend Maria said something remarkable the other day, that the emerging fresh shoots were “spring asking permission to come in.” Sometimes, I think, things in life work that way, too.

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