Category Archives: dreaming

ALONE IN THE DARK

Image result for alone with thoughts

 

 

 

I thought by now, I’d  have a few books under my belt. My dreams are still there but each day I swallow reality and it looks as if it may never turn out the way I imagined. I went through some of my short stories today. I like to do that now and then. Often they inspire me to keep writing. I have so many little pieces that I decided I will post them on my blog.

This story contains an exercise. Maybe you would like to try it.

 

“I have an assignment for you,” she said. I wanted to knock her teeth down her throat.  Every Tuesday, she sits there in one of her French suits staring at me with condescending eyes. She hates that she can’t get in my head. Sure, she smiles that fake bright red smile but I know she thinks I’m hopeless.

“Reagan, if you don’t do this assignment I will have no choice but to let your parents know you are not cooperating.”

I peered at her. I wanted to jump out of my chair and scratch my initials into her face so she would always remember that she pissed off the wrong girl. But, I knew I didn’t want to be shipped to a boarding school half way around the country. My friends wouldn’t survive without me. Lyn would get beat up the second I wasn’t around. Sam would do something stupid again like getting caught slashing the principal’s tires if I wasn’t there to keep an eye out for her. I had to agree to the assignment. My friends needed me to stick around and I had to prove to my parents that I am not influenced by my “troublesome friends,” if anything they are influenced by me.

“What do I have to do?” I mumbled.

“For one week, I want you to lie in your bed with the lights off and think.”

“Are you for real?” The sarcastic reply raced past my lips before I could stop it.

Her shoulders arched and her chest flared. “Yes, I am.” She said before forcing that annoying smile.

“You will need to set an egg timer for twenty minutes. “ She lifted one from her desk, “During the quiet time, you are to reflect on your thoughts and behaviors then record them as they come.”

She won’t give up until she has my thoughts. I should have guessed that she would have figured out a way.

“At first, you will probably feel uncomfortable, but by weeks end you should begin to feel free.”

“Free?” I laughed at the ridiculous comment.

“Yes Reagan, our minds are very complicated and keeping thoughts and feelings in will affect everything you do.”

I was surprised when she handed me a small black recorder. “I bought this for you.”

I couldn’t believe I actually felt guilty for wanting to scratch her skin off. I have never felt guilty for anything I have done. But, for the first time I think I felt remorse. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to thank her for it.

“Okay, the assignment starts tomorrow. I suggest you do it when you feel most awake. You don’t want to do it when you are sleepy because you may end up falling asleep.”

“Are you going to let my parents hear this?”

“Absolutely not. To make it a little easier, I have written topics on index cards. Each night you will pick one of the cards and record what your feelings are based on the topic.”

 

“I guess I’ll see you next week.” As I was about to slam the door she rushed up to me. “No, Reagan we will meet every day this week to discuss the topics you recorded.  I have arranged it with your parents. I will see you tomorrow at the same time.”

I couldn’t help but laugh and then I slammed the door.

Wednesday Night, I speak into the recorder.

     This is stupid. This is stupid. This is so friggen stupid but here it goes. I am alone in the dark. The only light I can see is the tiny blue light on my ipod charger. I hate the dark! I’m not afraid of it, I just hate it. I hate my voice too, so I doubt I will ever listen to these dumb recordings. Okay, the timer is set. I didn’t set no egg timer, how stupid is that. Why would I get an egg timer when every cell phone has an alarm on it, duh. Wow, twenty minutes, do I really have to talk for twenty minutes?  I wonder how many minutes have passed.

     I picked the first index card tonight and the topic is hate. I guess it could have been worse. I hate a lot of things so talking about them for twenty minutes should be fairly easy. I will start with myself. I hate that my arms don’t look good in a tank top. I hate that I can’t wear shorts. My legs are fat. I hate that my voice sounds like a transvestites. I could definitely pass for a man if someone only could hear my voice. I hate that I have things to hate about myself. I hate that right now I am talking so much. I guess I figure it will make twenty minutes go by faster.

     What else do I hate? I hate sitting in the front row of Mr. Townsends class. History sucks, if I was sitting in the back, I could at least nod off but with Hawkeyes staring at me I have to stay awake. Okay, right now I am just going to sit silent for a minute…I guess I should say what I was thinking about in that silent minute. I was listening to the sounds. I could hear my brothers rap music through his bedroom door and I thought about how much I hated rap music.

     I could hear the faucet in the bathroom dripping but I wasn’t about to get up and go turn it off. Then I heard a car drive down the street and I thought about how much I hate that my parents drive a beat up Volkswagen when they have the money to buy two brand new ones. I hate that they are stupid.

The light flicks on, my younger brother stares at me like I am a crazy person. “What are you doing?”

“None of your business shut off the light.”

I hate that my bedroom is the only bedroom without a door.  Hooray, the alarm went off. I don’t hate that I’m done.

Session with Therapist

“Okay, Reagan, I have listened to your recordings. First I’d like to say, good job with your first assignment.”

I nod. There is a smile fighting to emerge but I cover my mouth and pretend to cough. I don’t want her to think I actually care if she thought I did a good job.  She looks different today. It’s the first time I have ever seen her wear pants.  She actually looks less stuffy.

“I am sorry that you hate yourself Reagan. I’d like to help you learn to understand why you hate yourself and maybe begin to embrace who you are. Just by doing something as simple as this assignment you may find the choices you make will be different.”

     I don’t answer. I stare passed her out the bay styled window behind her desk. I can see the train bridge in the distance and I can’t help but wonder if Sam and Lyn were hanging out on it without me. I hoped Jimmy Michels wasn’t there flirting with Sam. She wouldn’t do that to me, I don’t think.

“Reagan, don’t drift off. Tonight I think you should choose Love as your subject. I’d like to know about the things you love. “She rises from the desk and hands me a leather journal with a thin leather strap that wraps around the center. “This is for you. If ever you feel uncomfortable verbalizing your feelings, please feel free to write them down.”

Another gift?  Wow this lady is either super cool or completely determined to learn every deep dark secret I have. She’d probably be disappointed to find out that I don’t have many.

     “Reagan, I also want you to know you can be creative about where you are in the dark. I know originally I said lie on your bed but please feel free to choose different locations.”

 

Thursday-Love

I took my therapists advice and decided to take a sleeping bag out in my backyard and lie underneath the stars.  Good thing my parents know I have an assignment or for sure they’d be shipping me away.

Okay here goes nothing. Love! I was told to start with talking about what I love about myself. Ugh, not much. I guess I love that I’m strong. I love that others fear me and no one would think about hurting my friends because they know I would kick the shit out of them if they did. I love the small birthmark on the underside of my wrist. It almost looks like an arrow. I think a lot of people think it’s a tattoo which I also love. I love that Jimmy Michels thinks I’m funny. I love that my little sister thinks I’m cool regardless if the rest of my family thinks I’m trouble. I love Mrs. Roman’s creative writing class. She once told me I was meant to be a writer which I think was neat. Okay recorder, I’m sitting in silence again be back soon…

     I love the sound of the crickets. I wonder if they are talking to each other in their own special language. Okay, I love some bad things which I guess might make me a bad person. I love sneaking a cigarette with Sam and Lyn on the train bridge. I love skipping school to hang out with Jimmy Michels and his friends who are much older than me. I love pool hopping in the summer and I love the taste of peach schnapps. Twenty minutes is up. Goodnight crickets.

 

Therapy

“Another great job Reagan.”

Today, I smile. I don’t know if verbalizing my thoughts is making me a little bit happier or if I’m just in a good mood. I actually washed the dishes for my mother today. Her face was priceless. I even told Sam and Lyn that I’m planning on doing one good thing a day and they laughed. They said if I did they would. Sam brought her younger brother to the park and Lyn washed her father’s car. I guess I can influence people in a good way too.

“I will not preach to you about smoking and drinking but I do hope you choose to give both of them up.” She shows me a photograph of a beautiful woman with silky brown hair. The woman is sitting under a tree and smiling up at the sky. “This is my mother. She died of lung cancer.”

I stare at the woman and for the first time feel sad for my therapist. I don’t know what she is doing to me I’m thinking differently and feeling emotions I often dismissed.

I can’t bring myself to respond. I want to say I’m sorry for her loss but I’m not there yet. Maybe I’ll write about it in that journal she gave me later.

“I want you to write down one thing every day that you love about yourself and one thing that you hate about yourself. At the end of the week, take a moment to reflect on those things and see how you feel and then write that down too.”

She lifts a black rectangular box from her laptop case. “I have another small gift for you.”

I feel giddy. I have never received so many gifts in such a small time other than on Christmas morning.

I lift the lid to the box. A shiny black pen with my name written in gold letters rests upon velvet.

“Verbalizing and Writing is very therapeutic Reagan, it’s how a person learns about themselves. I would love to read one of your creative writing pieces one day.”

“Okay, thank you.” I said thank you. It wasn’t even hard it just came out.

Friday Recording

     I’m in a closet. I know, I’m weird but I wanted to be creative and this felt right. I brought in my pillow and blanket so I would be comfortable. It’s definitely dark in here. I can feel a small vibration underneath me from the ceiling fan below. It’s a bit annoying. Tonight I picked Happiness from the index cards. Happiness. What makes me happy? The first thing that comes to mind is Jimmy Michels smile. It’s wide and beautiful and I feel happy whenever I see it. Knowing that Lyn and Sam think of me as their best friend makes me happy. I shouldn’t be happy when I get away with skipping school but I am I can’t help it. The music of the Beatles makes me happy. It reminds me of being young and dancing around the living room with my parents to the song The Octopus’s garden. It was long ago when my parents still actually loved me. I guess receiving the gifts from my therapist made me happy. I am getting used to recording and I have written a few things in my new journal with my new pen. The alarm is going off. Twenty minutes is flying by. One more thing that makes me happy is losing weight. I lost ten pounds once and I felt great. I need to try that again. Bye recorder.

 

Therapy Session

“Reagan, it sure looks like you are getting the hang of this.” Today my therapist actually has on jeans. They are a pair I might even attempt to wear if I was thirty pounds thinner. They are faded and have small rips in the knee. Each day I think she seems a little cooler.

“So, how did it feel to talk about happiness?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“You know Reagan, your parents still love you very much. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have you here. I know it’s hard for you to comprehend but one day you will understand that everything they are doing is because they love you.”

I have heard that before but I don’t see it. My mom barely speaks to me. I can feel the disappointment in my father every time he is near me. I think he thought by age fifteen I’d be a musical prodigy playing the piano in recitals all around the world. I liked playing the piano but I never loved it the way he wanted me to.

I can’t help but wonder if I get another present today. I guess I’m expecting one, but have no idea what it will be.

The therapist sits in her leather chair and swivels back and forth while jotting down something on her notepad. “Okay, Reagan, I want you to talk about disappointment tonight. We will talk about it tomorrow.”

I stand there waiting for a gift and quickly realize today I won’t be getting one. “Okay, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Saturday Recording

I am back to lying on my bed in the dark.  I didn’t feel like being creative today. I guess I was disappointed that I didn’t get a gift. I didn’t expect one, okay maybe I did. I was hoping for one. I’m sorry; I know you will be listening to this but if I am trying to be honest, I should let you know I was disappointed that I didn’t get a gift from you today. I am disappointed often. I am disappointed every time I step on the scale and see I’ve gained weight. I am disappointed every time I hear Jimmy Michels tell Sam that she is hot. I want him to think of me as hot not just the fat funny friend. I am disappointed when I walk into Mrs. Roman’s writing class and see a substitute. I am disappointed in myself for not being a better daughter but I don’t know how to become one. I can’t stop hanging around with my friends, I love them. I guess I could stop cutting classes and stealing liquor from my parents’ cabinet but then I would disappoint my friends and doing so would disappoint me. Twenty minutes feels like eternity tonight. I don’t’ feel like talking. I am going to be silent longer tonight. I’ll let you know what comes to mind…

     I didn’t pay attention to any sounds. I guess being disappointed puts me in a bad mood. I never realized that before. Hmm, I suppose that’s what the therapist meant when she said I would feel free. That bullshit she said about verbalizing and talking might be working. I think I’m beginning to understand myself a little more. I don’t know how or why.

Therapy Session

     “Reagan, I want to explain a few things to you today if you don’t mind.”

     I shrug my shoulders.

“Most people never pay attention to what’s inside their heads. If you are happy, there is a reason for it and if you want to remain happy you must know what makes you happy and seek it out.” She holds up a cd. “I know you were disappointed yesterday that I didn’t get you a gift. But, today I did. It is a Beatles cd and the song The Octopus’s Garden is on it. Anytime you find yourself going into that funk of sadness or disappointment I want you to promise you will play this song so you can get back to your happy place.”

Immediately my feeling shifts. I know trying to hide my happiness would be pointless. “Thank you,” I say again. It’s becoming easier to say thank you.

“You’re welcome Reagan. I am happy to give it to you. But, Reagan, I want you to take a moment later on and ask yourself why it took me buying you gifts before you would give me a chance.”

The recordings were complete and my therapist Miss Raven assured my parents that my behavior was nothing more than teenager antics and I was normal. She encouraged them to practice the “Alone in the Dark” exercise so they would gain a better understanding of love, hate, happiness, sadness, disappointment and a whole laundry list of other emotions.

I still record my thoughts once a week and write in my journal and whenever I need a spirit booster I visit the Octopus’s garden and dance.

I stood at the front of Mrs. Roman’s class and watched the mouths drop when I shut off the recorder. There were looks of horror, compassion, sorrow and even ridicule. I cleared my throat. Mrs. Roman nodded in encouragement and then I began…

 

Alone in the dark

As I sat alone in the dark I heard my thoughts

Happiness sang, Disappointment cried, Love hugged and Hate punched

As I sat alone in the dark, I came to understand who I was and who I no longer wanted to be

I’m a teenager doing the things we do. It doesn’t make me bad, troubled or crazy

As I sat alone in the dark I paid attention to sounds I have often ignored

The chitter chatter of crickets, the beat of a musicians song, engines from cars roared

As I sat alone in the dark things jumbled within my mind began to make sense

I can’t love others without loving myself.  I can’t ask not to be judged when I’m filled with pretense

As I sat alone in the dark something cool happened to me

I don’t know exactly when or even how, but, all of the truth I faced set me free

 

I walked back to my seat feeling proud of my poem and myself. I could tell by Mrs. Roman’s eyes that she thought I did a great job. There were some awkward stares from some of the kids but Lyn and Sam both gave me thumbs up which made me feel good.

“Class, for the first time in a long time, I have been inspired by one of my students,” Mrs. Roman said after I was seated. In her hand was a stack of index cards. She walked up each row and set one card on every student’s desk. “Reagan was very brave in sharing her recordings with us.” She looked directly at me. “She didn’t have to share something so intimate and I told her that, but, she said the poem wouldn’t be as good without them.”

I picked up the index card she placed on my desk. The word Anticipation was written on the card in bold black letters.

“I have decided to make the Alone in the Dark exercise a part of this writing class. Once a week you will be given an index card with a word. I want you to sit alone in the dark for twenty minutes, just as Reagan did and think about the word and what it means to you. You will then be required to write a short story based on the word and the emotions it evoked.”

I felt flushed.  Dozens of heads spun around. I was surprised to see most of the faces had smiles. I couldn’t be sure but I think the class actually thought it was going to be cool. I thought about my word Anticipation, I wondered what would come to mind when I shut off the lights. Then I thought about the gift I bought Miss Raven, a vintage French ormalu picture frame for the photograph of her mother.  I knew for sure I would think about her reaction when I shut off the light.

I know one thing; I don’t hate the dark anymore.

 

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Filed under BLOG, dreaming, emotions, Inspirational, short stories, story telling, Uncategorized, writers, writing, Writing, Young Adult

I FEAR SUCCESS

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I don’t fear rejection, I’m used to rejection. I’m familiar with the sensation that rejection brings. The stomach sinking, tears in your eyes, fists in the air type of feeling that I’ve experienced too many times to count. I’m an expert when it comes to rejection. I expect rejection.

I fear success.

I dream of success but the thought of it actually happening terrifies me. I have grown so accustomed to living life in a little corner of the universe that the idea of stepping out from the shadows to share with the world my imagination makes my heart pound faster than normal. What if my dream came true? Could I handle it?

I’ve never been on a plane. What if I did make it, would I be able to jet off to another state to promote my book or do author signings? Could I face that fear?

I have feared success most of my life. It’s a weird fear to have because there is no guarantee that it can be faced.

My fear of boarding a plane can be conquered. I can book a flight today to face this fear. But, there is no guarantee that one will become successful. Being successful means different things to everyone. For me, success would be becoming a well-known author with many published books. This may never happen and if it doesn’t, I can never face the fear.

Yes, I fear success. The thought of it makes my stomach turn and causes my palms to sweat, but the fear of never finding success may be worse.

Do you fear success?

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Filed under BLOG, dreaming, emotions, rejections, Uncategorized, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing

How’s Your Writing Going?

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April fried my blog writing brain. I took a month or so off from posting but I’m back. When it comes to blog writing, I like to be inspired. The thirty day challenge used up a lot of the ideas I had stored away in the blog post bank. So, I allowed my mind to chill and waited for my next post to surface.

Here in the writing world, it’s easy to share our accomplishments, rejections, ideas and everything else writing related. We get each other! But, sometimes it’s the people outside of the writing world that impact our thoughts and push us to become the person they believe we will be.

My family, circle of friends, co-workers and many acquaintances know by now that I’m a writer with a dream. Everyone is encouraging and supportive. They keep me in check and won’t allow me to give up (not that I ever plan on giving up).

Today, a co-worker asked me a question that she asks often, “How’s your writing going?” I know by now what she’s really asking is, Are you working hard to make your dream a reality?
There were times in the past that I would answer this question by saying, “This week has been busy.” Each time I’d give her this response, her eyebrow would raise and she’d give me this look that summed up her thoughts. I’m pretty sure she was thinking, Excuses won’t get you to the top. (Or something similar)

I’ve shared my dream with others. I’ve allowed them to read my work. They’ve crossed their fingers for me when I told them I got requests. They wrapped their arms around me when I became discouraged, but never once did they stop believing that I have the ability to become successful. There’s something that happens when you know someone else believes in you. You start believing in yourself. You begin fighting harder and when you feel knocked down you get up because you want to be able to respond with “I’m fighting hard,” when they ask you “How’s your writing going?
I’m a dreamer but with a little help and encouragement from my friends I’m determined to be the one telling others Yes, dreams do come true.

How’s your writing going?

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Filed under BLOG, dreaming, writer's life, writing, Writing

Zzz’s Let Your Mind Rest

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Today is the last day of the April A to Z writing challenge. I made it! Woo! Woo! Woo!
This month has been fun and challenging. I’m ready to give my mind a few days to rest and then jump back into my works in progress. If you haven’t already commented on my “I” post –Interview with Divinity author Derek Miller you still have time. I will select a random commenter next week to win a special prize.

I have to be honest, my mind feels scrambled. I’m searching for the right words but none seem to want to appear. I’m waiting to become inspired but something tells me inspiration has checked out for the day. I’m trying to collect my thoughts but I’m finding myself staring off into space. My thoughts are silent or at least very quiet.

Sometimes this happens and when it does the best thing to do is go with it. Great ideas aren’t always going to be roaming through our minds.

What are some ways that you rest your mind? Do you believe inspiration hits stronger after you allow yourself to take some time off from thinking?

lake yoga

Here are a few techniques that may help bring back inspiration.

1. Doodle- This act of unconscious drawing keeps your brain working while your thoughts are resting. I’ve always been a doodler. My journals are filled with doodles. I’m often fascinated by the scribbles that sometimes turn into pictures.

2. Meditate- There is several different ways one can meditate. You can choose one object and focus on it and only it or you can focus on your breathing. The act of meditation is said to improve your mind’s focus when not meditating. If you want, come up with a mantra and repeat it over and over to induce a meditative state.

3. Go outside- Breathe in the fresh air. Take in the scenery and allow yourself to become one with the earth.

4. Choose to Experience Something New- New experiences free up clutter in our minds and helps restore inspiration. The next time someone asks you to do something you haven’t done before say yes.

5. Take a Nap- I’m a huge fan of naps. Naps help rejuvenate you and if you are lucky enough to dream during your nap you may wake up inspired by the story told to you while you lay sleeping.

I had a blast this month. Thanks again for visiting my blog. I’m inspired by all of you.
Now it’s time to catch a few Zzzzz’s.

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Filed under A to Z, dreaming, writers, Writing

WHEN A WRITER WALKS INTO A THEATRE

movies

Last night I went to see Catching Fire. As I sat there and watched the characters I read about come to life on the big screen, I thought about the characters I’ve created.
This post isn’t about the movie, even though I will say I enjoyed it. It’s about what happens to a writer when they sit down in a movie theatre. Yes, they are excited just like everyone else to see their favorite books become movies or the previews they watched for months finally become the movie. But, there is something else going on in their minds. They are imagining their creations being brought to life, they are envisioning their names across the screen, they are fantasizing about the emotions that will fill their bodies and surround their soul.
I watched the previews, I laughed at a few, but within seconds I felt my mind drift. I was outside the theatre watching droves of people sprint up the steps, scurry into the lobby and wait in a line that extends to the snack bar for the movie that’s based on the book I wrote.
I watched their reactions to try and get a sense of what they were thinking. I stared silently at them during the sad and funny parts to see if they responded the way I hoped.
I waited for the credits to roll and the lights to come on, and then I eavesdropped on their conversations. I imagined their words to be positive. I cringed when I thought I heard someone say it sucked.
The daydream I had, covered all scenarios but only took up a few seconds of my time. Before I knew it I was once again focused on the screen in the theatre. I was anticipating the battle Katniss was about to face and I was hoping that at the end I would be satisfied.
Our creations may never hit the movie theatres but our dreams of our stories becoming recognized must never dimmer. We are the characters in our own life, so why not imagine great things happening.

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Filed under audience, dreaming, writer's life, writers, Writing

10 THINGS NOVELIST DREAM ABOUT

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1. Seeing their name in Print

2. Signing their autograph

3. An offer from an agent

4. Selling their book

5. Their book cover

6. Making The New York Times Best Sellers List

7. Great Reviews

8. Writing full time

9. A book store filled with their books

10. Their Next Book

What did I miss?

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Filed under books, dreaming, life, novel, random, story telling, story writing, writer's life, writers

BELIEVE

Often, when I do interviews for my blog I end with asking the author if they have a favorite word. Today’s blogging letter is B which also happens to be the first letter of my favorite word.
I don’t have any tattoos, but if I ever dared to get one it would be the word Believe. In my opinion, it’s one of the most powerful words out there.
As writers we need to cherish this word and hold onto it in order to keep pushing forward. If we didn’t believe that our writing served a purpose, I’m not sure we’d keep doing it.
There are so many things I believe that you may not and that’s okay. I “believe” we are all entitled to our own beliefs.

A few things I believe in today are.

1. I believe with God all things are possible
2. I believe in symbolism. I enjoy incorporating it into my written work. Even if no one recognizes it as symbolism, I know it’s there
3. I believe that I was born to be a writer
4. I believe that my dreams will come true one day
5. I believe that life is a journey and writers help others see the beauty within their own journey
6. I believe that every rejection we receive is a medal of courage and they should be cherished
7. I believe in signs and try to recognize them when they appear

8. I believe that just like others are meant to be in my life, I’m meant to be in others as well

9. I believe dreams can sometimes bring messages

10. I believe that creative minds can create messy people. (I like to say I’m organized in a disorganized way.

I can ramble on and on about what I believe but I think above should suffice. I’d love to hear what you believe. By the way, what is your favorite word?

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Filed under creating, dreaming, story telling, Uncategorized, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing

Writers, What’s Your Story?

 

Every time I walk into a book store or library a feeling consumes me. The feeling is a combination of excitement, inspiration and contentment. I always have the same thought, This is where I belong. I feel at home amongst the sea of books and authors. I envision what the covers of my books will look like. I picture myself sitting at a table with a line of people waiting for me to sign a book. I imagine my name splattered across the books. There is nothing in my life that I have ever been more certain of. I was born to write.

 I also think of all of the authors whose dreams have become reality. I often wonder what their stories are. How long did it take them? What inspired them to write their book? When did they know their book would become published? Did they ever want to give up?

I want to hear your story. When did you decide to write? Do you think writing is a calling? What would you do tomorrow if someone told you you could never write again?

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Filed under dreaming, Fiction, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing

Interview With LK-Gardner-Griffie

I’m back! As promised I have an author interview for you today. LK-Gardner-Griffie is the author of Misfit McCabe and Nowhere Feels Like Home. The third book No Boundries will be released this summer. The books follow the life of 14 year old Katie McCabe.
LK is very talented and her journey to publication is extremely interesting. She inspires me to keep going.

The online reviews of Misfit McCabe are impressive. If you are looking for something to read now that the summer is here, pick up Misfit McCabe and Nowhere Feels Like Home. I am positive you will be happy that you did.

I’d love to hear what you think of this interview so please leave a comment.

Hi LK, How are you today?
LK: I’m actually recovering from pneumonia, but I can breathe, washed my hair, and I did a little revising today, so we’ll call it a win all around.

I’d like to start off by asking you a question about your name. Is LK something you chose as your Pen name? Did you choose this or did an agent or editor recommend it? I always wondered if pen names were suggested or not (you know, sort of how some celebrities are encouraged to change their names).

LK: I think I decided to go with my initials at around age ten, so no agent or editor was involved at that time. I decided I wanted to write books when I was nine, and by ten I started thinking about what name would be on the cover. Every year at the beginning of school, or with every substitute teacher I had, my name, which is Liana, would get mangled and it irritated me that teachers, who should know everything, couldn’t get a simple thing like my name right. So I started thinking about how much more it would get mangled when I became a famous author and how easy I would be to find (I’ve always been a private person). And came to the conclusion that if I used initials, it added a bit of mystique and I could write as either a boy or a girl. And while the sting of being called Linda every year until the teacher learned my name had faded, by the time I had completed my first novel, the idea of using initials stuck with me.

Okay, let’s start with Misfit McCabe. How did you come up with this idea?

LK: Misfit McCabe came to me. Literally, in the form of a dream. I woke up one morning with the dream still playing in my head and the desire to write it as a book was born. I didn’t dream every detail, but most of the key parts of Misfit McCabe were in the dream. You’d better believe I did some fast scribbling to capture as much as I could.

Ooh interesting. The book I am currently completing also came to me in a dream.

Can you tell us about how long it took you to write this book?

LK: Believe it or not, this question is a little difficult for me to answer because Misfit McCabe was written quite awhile ago. But my memory says, I think approximately two months for the first draft. Nowhere Feels Like Home was drafted in four weeks, but it gushed out and I just rode the wave. With Misfit McCabe, I wasn’t sure what I was writing was worth the paper it was on, so I took a writing class to help get some feedback on the work, and I’d finished before the class was over, but revisions took longer—as they always do for me.

What was the querying process like for you? Did you rack up a lot of rejections prior to getting the “acceptance”.

LK: With Misfit McCabe, I had a roller-coaster type of experience. I didn’t rack up a lot of rejections prior to getting the “acceptance”, but I did afterward. Let me preface this by saying publishing was a different animal when I wrote Misfit McCabe and even then my experience was an exceptional one. As I mentioned I took a writing course to help make sure I was on the right track with the technical aspects of the story. During the class, we found out about a local writers conference and I decided to go. My first exposure to agents came at the conference when the agents who took the stage that day gave a talk about what they look for in their submissions. One basically said she had a full client list and wasn’t interested in any new submissions. (And I wondered why she was there.) The other gave a realistic talk about the type of time the agent spends on the various activities and where you, as a new writer, fit into that time scheme. Then after the conference, I noticed the agent who actually said something of value had a circle of people around her asking questions, so I joined the group on the fringes, just so I could soak up the information. I had no intentions of asking any questions, I just wanted to learn as much as I could.

She then turned to me and asked what I wanted to know. I panicked. And thinking fast, I asked what the best way was to find agents who handled juvenile fiction. (This was prior to the internet, and even prior to young adult as a separate category, and agents for juvenile work were sparse.) She said that she had a friend who handled juvenile, and that they were trying to work out a co-op type of arrangement where they would recommend clients to each other, and to send her my first three chapters and she’d see whether she could refer me to her friend.
I was ecstatic and scared. And I probably wrote the lamest query letter of all times… along the lines of “Hi – I met you at the conference and you asked me to send you three chapters and here they are.” I sent my package off the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and that Sunday I received “the call”. She couldn’t stand to be away from the office, so had gone in and my manuscript pages were there and she read them…and LOVED them. By that time I couldn’t feel my feet, but managed to squeak out “does that mean you’re going to refer me to your friend?” To which she responded, “No, I’m want to represent you.” And it was done. (Again, different times and most of publishing was handled by a “handshake” and not a contract.) I had an agent. And after a bona fide happy dance, panic settled in. Holy crap, she wanted the rest of the manuscript and I hadn’t finished it yet. So I came down off my cloud and finished writing the book.

The rejections. Well, it would have been nice if my agent had done something with my manuscript, but I’m afraid it languished around the office waiting to be noticed again. My mistake was not insisting that it be sent to someone who handled juvenile fiction as a part of their work. I was just so happy that an agent loved my work, and to be honest, I was so new to the publishing industry I didn’t know any better. Then there were problems within the agency and the agency dissolved and all of the work was divided up, but my lone little juvenile manuscript didn’t have a home because no one handled juvenile, so it came back to me after a couple years. And Writer’s Market and I went to work. But in those days, simultaneous submissions were taboo, so one submission at a time, via snail mail with average response times of approximately six months. So while I didn’t wrack up a lot of rejections, it happened over years. And life kept getting crazier until I had a job where I traveled constantly and I simply stopped submitting.
Then one day toward the end of 2007, I decided enough was enough, Misfit McCabe had gathered enough dust, and I wanted to put it out to share with my family and friends, so decided to self-publish it. I did another couple of rounds of revisions (I’m addicted to revisions and sometimes don’t know when to stop), had a cover made, and put it out. I’ll share a little more about what happened with it, when I answer some of the questions below.

Can you tell us about Katie (the main character)?
When I first read the back cover of Misfit McCabe I thought I bet I could relate to this girl (growing up I was sort of a rebel but never really wanted to be. I guess you could say I was an accidental rebel).
LK: Katie. She and I have been together for so long it’s like she’s a part of me. She’s smart, but doesn’t think before she acts most of the time. She definitely has attitude, and can be contrary to work with. But she has an innocence that comes of having been well-protected growing up. She’s a staunch friend, has a quick temper, and is very emotional. In short, she’s a teenager. And in many ways, while she rebels, she doesn’t really want to—she craves acceptance, but has difficulty in believing that her new family does care for her and wants her to be a part of the family.

In the first book it is told that Katie lost her mother and her father was seriously ill. How did you tap into the emotions of that for this character?

LK: I’ve always been an empathetic writer. Well, I guess first I’m an empathetic reader. I’ve always been able to put myself in the place of the characters in a book and feel what they are feeling. Which is why when I read, I’m so often a mess afterward, all it takes is a sad moment and I’m bawling my eyes out. So I use that same ability when I write. I experience my characters’ pain. It comes naturally for me to do this, so it is difficult for me to explain how. I believe in them, they are real to me, and just as when you share the pain and suffering of a friend, I share theirs. My job is to keep enough of my mind above the feeling to capture it. But my heart has broken many times with Katie. I go through it first draft, and with every single revision.

I know a lot of what we do as writers is imagine what it would be like to be in a situation. Did you have to imagine the pain she felt or did you have life experiences that told you first hand?

LK: Yes and no. I had both parents in my life growing up, so for the emotions surrounding the absence of her mother, I have to imagine… or the way I think of it, I allow Katie to tell me how she feels. At the time I originally wrote Misfit McCabe, my own father was still alive and at that point well, but had been very ill with cancer during my teens, when I was a little younger than Katie’s fourteen. So I understand her fears about her father’s illness, but because her life changes so drastically, those fears are somewhat sublimated because of all of the new experiences she’s having. When she loses her father, I had not yet lost mine, so you can say that I had to imagine the pain, but I would disagree. Throughout my life I have experienced loss of loved ones, and with the illness my father had in my teens, I went through the same emotions as if I had lost him because he was not expected to live. As writers we can draw on any life experience and extrapolate it to what we need to connect with our character. The loss of a pet is a loss, and can be used to delve into that emotion. I think I have even called on emotions experienced from reading a book to help me in my writing before.

Early in my writing career, I read that a writer should interview their main character. Was their a process that you followed when writing about Katie?

LK: I was so green when I started writing Katie, I wouldn’t have known what you meant by a character interview. But since that time I have done character interviews with her, and with some of my other characters. Katie talks to me…when she’s not in a snit about something, so most of the time I don’t need to interview her. I use the question and answer times for when she’s clamming up about something, which usually means it’s something that has more layers and she’s not comfortable with exploring, which means we have to. For the third book in the series (no release date yet), No Boundaries, I had to do a character interview with one of my characters who kept feeding me fantastic lines, but refused to tell me her name or let me see what she looked like. I had her voice, but nothing else. The root of the problem? She didn’t like her name and she didn’t want to be stereotyped. No worries on that score—she is decidedly an individual. I have another character for another book (Middle Grade) for which there was no need to interview her. She marched up told me her name and told me I was going to write her story.

It is always interesting to me to learn about how other writers connect with their characters. I have journals filled with my character interviews.

The follow up to Misfit McCabe is Nowhere Feels Like Home. What can readers expect in the second book?

LK: Nowhere Feels Like Home was an interesting one for me because, without giving too much away, Katie winds up with a broken ankle at the end of Misfit McCabe and Nowhere Feels Like Home picks up hours after the conclusion of Misfit McCabe, so I have a very active, always looking for something to get into, teenager laid up in bed for the duration of the book. Also, originally the book was not supposed to be a sequel, but a companion book to Misfit McCabe. As I mentioned, the first book was written years ago, but Nowhere Feels Like Home, was written in 2009. And all those years ago I meant Misfit McCabe to be a stand-alone. But after finishing it realized there was another story I wanted to tell, that of Katie’s cousin Sarah. So Nowhere Feels Like Home became a blended book, where I fulfilled the needs of my reader’s by continuing Katie’s story, but also had a chance to tell Sarah’s story as Sarah relates her past to Katie. It gives Katie more of a feeling of her roots, and there is so much from the past that is influencing Katie’s present that she knows nothing about. I like to think of Misfit McCabe as being a story about a girl and her experiences and is very Katie-centric. Nowhere Feels Like Home gives more of a flavor of the McCabe family. The third book, No Boundaries, focuses more on school life.

I’d like to congratulate you on the awards these books have received. Misfit McCabe placed runner up in the Montreal’s Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award and then Nowhere Feels like Home received the The Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award the following year.

How did it feel to be told your book won an award? Was it a surreal moment?

LK: Thanks!! As I mentioned in a previous question, I published Misfit McCabe with the idea of giving copies to family and some friends. But then it started selling to strangers, and I received an email from Michael Sweet, a teacher in Montreal who runs the Learning for a Cause organization, requesting Misfit McCabe’s participation in The Pearson Prize Teen Choice Awards. To say I was surprised was an understatement. I checked into the contest and I really liked the premise of it and even though my book is geared toward the younger side of young adult, and these were high school students, felt that it was an honor to be asked to participate, so I sent in the book expecting to be a participant only. So it was very much a surprise to receive the letter advising me Misfit McCabe had achieved runner up, in a contest where 150 books were read by over 100 students. Not bad for a book which was really geared more toward middle school/junior high age. Then when I completed Nowhere Feels Like Home, the submissions were being accepted for The Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award for 2010, so I sent it in, again not expecting to win. So yes, surreal covers it nicely. It provides me immense satisfaction that students voted on the stories and two years in a row were deemed favorites. They are who I write for, so it really does mean a lot to me.

Everything about becoming published intrigues me especially the book covers. Did you have any input into what your book cover would look like? I have to tell you, I thought Katie looked like a younger version of you. I wondered if this was purely coincidental.

LK: On the covers, the current Misfit McCabe cover is the second cover it has borne. The first one was more comic like in appearance because I really didn’t want to show a person on the cover. I like for the reader to use their imagination and come up with what the character looks like to them. But I had several comments about the cover being too young for the book. People either seemed to love it or hate it. It was polarizing. And since it was something I put out myself, I had complete control over what was on the book, so I decided to change it. In the traditional scenario, I would as a debut author, have had little to no say at all about the design of the cover. Being the publisher, I got to change it, so I started looking for suitable pictures. When I ran across the pictures, which were listed with a creative commons license, it was Katie to me. I recognized her instantly. I knew she had to be my cover. And yes, that she does look like a younger version of me is completely coincidental. I didn’t look like that at her age. The new cover has gone over much better and is more universally liked. What’s interesting is that at a book festival I attended when I was trying to decide on which cover to go with, I had a few books made up with different covers to ask readers which they liked the best. I had both bookmarks with the old cover and ones with potential new covers. Younger kids and boys picked up the old cover and the target age girls picked up the new cover. I have quite a few boys who really enjoyed Misfit McCabe, so in a way I was a little sad to change a cover that appealed to them. I don’t know how many boys will feel comfortable reading the book with the new cover. At least in public.

Can you tell us what you find to be the biggest challenge when it comes to writing?

LK: Sustained belief in myself and my abilities. Most days, I’m pretty good about knowing that I’m a good writer, and that my stories hang together well, but I have, as I think we all do, some devastating moments where believing that what I’m working on matters to anyone else, or that I have the ability to string a sentence together is a long stretch. I don’t write edgy, so it won’t fit in today’s market, or my story isn’t about big issues, but the small ones kids face daily. And usually that’s where I can get myself turned back around. My work does connect with kids and it connects with adults. And I have some concepts for books which scare the tar out of me… I’m not sure that I have the writing chops to take them on, but I know I will and I’ll futz with them until I get them right. And then the world can judge whether I accomplished my goal or not. I’ll continue to write because I have to. The stories keep coming and I need to be able to write faster so I can get them all down.

Twitter is a great way to connect with other writers and potential readers (it’s where I met you) can you tell my readers where they may find you (eg. blog, twitter facebook etc).
Website: http://www.griffieworld.com
Blog: http://blog.griffieworld.com
Book site: http://www.misfitmccabe.com
Twitter: @lkgg (http://www.twitter.com/lkgg)
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLKGardnerGriffie
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MisfitMcCabe
AuthorsDen: http://www.authorsden.com/lkgardnergriffie
I also have LinkedIn & Myspace, but am so rarely there I won’t bother to put the links.

Do you have more planned for Katie?

LK: No Boundaries the third book in the series will be released some time this summer. I’m going through the final revision stage (again and again) and have the cover already done. I am currently working on the fourth book in the series, which is untitled as yet. And have a fifth book planned. For me, that will be the end of the series.

Okay, I have a few personal questions to ask if that’s okay.
1. Do you have a writing spot?

LK: I would LOVE to have a writing spot. At the moment, I tend to do most of my writing in bed because I have three long-haired miniature dachshunds who bang on the door, whine, or will scratch my leg if I write in another room. I have a lap table and a bed stand that I use for my laptop and they lay next to me or on my lap as I write. When we move, I plan to have a specific writing room and will use good ear plugs, so I’m not distracted by pups or my husband. Actually, I did use a writing room when working on the revisions for Misfit McCabe and wound up using a pouch to put our then youngest pup in and had to reach around her to get to the keyboard. She’d go promptly to sleep, but couldn’t stand to be on the floor at my feet.

2. When an idea comes to mind what do you do with it?

LK: Usually when an idea hits me, it’s one of those brain-stopping moments so the first thing I do is try to get beyond the “Whoa!!” stage. Then I try to decelerate the brain because it goes into overdrive. And when I can finally get it settled down and partially coherent, I notate the idea. Ideas for me have to simmer for awhile. Sometimes they start like Misfit McCabe with a dream and are nearly intact, but other times it is the whisper of an idea and I have to let it percolate and mature. Some don’t mature, and others do.

3. Where is the most unusual place you scribbled down something you needed to remember? (mine was on the back of a book of matches).

LK: I’ve used napkins, I think, but they are not that unusual. A drink coaster once or twice, but most of the time I note things in my mind and then put it in the computer when I have a chance. If the idea sticks around, then it’s worth exploring. If it disappears before I can get it notated, then it probably wasn’t the right idea for me.

4. How valuable do you think critique groups are? Can you tell us if you have one?

LK: I think critiques definitely add value to the process. Without gaining feedback on the work at hand, you lose a perspective or multiple perspectives which could aid you in making your work better. Working with a group can be wonderful, and it can also be challenging. A group has members that are at varying levels, and if you have the most experience, you end up being the teacher and don’t grow as much as you could should you be in a group where your abilities are on par with or even below the other members. That’s not to say you can’t gain in both instances, but usually in the first, you’re giving more than you’re taking away. Also, there is the issue of time, whether the group is online or in person, etc. One of the most invaluable experiences I’ve had as a writer was the writing class I took when writing Misfit McCabe. It was run very much like a critique group and each person turned in two pages each class and they were read aloud by the designated reader (who wasn’t a writer). In this way, the same voice read all of the pieces, you were forced to listen for the nuances, and where the reader stumbled (time to rewrite), then the class would comment and the teacher would sum up. Hearing the work read aloud is invaluable—especially by someone who has not read it before. I think it is important to find a group that has the same values you are looking for as well. I have heard horror stories about some groups where the members are vicious about the writing. There isn’t any need for that.
I currently do not have an in person critique group, but belong to one online, although I have not been active with the group of late because of time constraints. I rely heavily on people I trust to read and critique my work, who will give me honest feedback and tell me where the writing needs to be tweaked, what works, and what doesn’t.

5. What is the best thing about writing for you?

LK: The moments. There is so much I love about writing. The creation, the getting to know the characters, figuring out the plot, but the best is the moments. The moments during the creation phase when the story starts moving in a direction you hadn’t thought of, and wouldn’t have taken it. The moments during the revision & editing phases where tightening a sentence or adding two words create an additional layer of meaning for the reader. And finally, the moments when the reader connects to the words on the page (and hopefully tells you) and knows what your character is feeling because they have felt the same.

6. Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? I know some writers need their chocolate before they sit down or their cup of coffee or glass of wine, how about you?

LK: I used to be a lot more persnickety about my writing habits than I am now. The only thing that I think I can say is mandatory, outside of my characters talking to me, is something to drink by my side, usually hot tea which cools and goes stone cold as I’m in the middle of working through a scene. But I drink it anyway.

Lk, I’d like to sincerely thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. You are extremely talented and an inspiration for me.

LK: You are so kind. Thank you very much for allowing me to participate in this interview.

Is there a piece of advice you’d like to give before you leave?

LK: Believe in yourself and keep writing. Even if what you write is crap, let it pour out on to the page, because bad writing can be fixed, but no writing cannot. And don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Only by stretching ourselves can we find out what we are capable of and it strengthens our abilities.

LK Gardner-Griffie – Author of Misfit McCabe & Nowhere Feels Like Home
2 Time Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award Winner
Preview Misfit McCabe / Preview Nowhere Feels Like Home

Visit me at Griffie World
Where in the World is Misfit McCabe?
Follow me on Twitter: @lkgg

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Writing About Love Giveaway

Happy Valentines Day! Love, aah yes, it’s what makes the world go around. We all look for it, give it, receive it and would have a hard time living without it. Love is a writer’s friend. If you are a writer then chances are you have written about love.

Today is a good day to write. It is a day of observation. Take the time to focus on what emotions are being displayed. Is there a co-worker that is in a terrible mood because her and her significant other called it quits and today she has no valentine?

Did you witness flowers being delivered to an unsuspecting person? How did they respond?

I’m willing to bet that every novel written has some element of love within its pages. It can be materialistic love, sibling love, romantic love, love of power, platonic love or unconditional. Love is not just mushy. It can be the root to violence, insecurities, and betrayal.

Today’s post is a writing exercise. It has two parts.

First Part- Take one of your favorite novels down from the shelf and begin exploring the pages. Where did the author write about love? What type of scene did they create? How did you feel after reading their words? Did anything about their words inspire you?

Second Part- Create your own love scene. Remember it doesn’t have to be sunshine, rainbows, kisses and hugs. It could be storms, rocky roads and sacrifice.

Writing Prompt: Lexie stepped off of the train (What does Lexie stepping off of a train have to do with love? Was she meeting up with the guy she left everything for? Was she returning home to tend to a sick parent? Was she following her dreams?)

You could go anywhere with one sentence. What the heck let me see where you take this and you might win a surprise. I’m in the mood for a giveaway.

Make me feel love in 100 words or less and you may be a winner.

Because this giveaway was spontaneous I do not yet know what the gift will be but I promise it will be well thought out.

Love and Kisses xoxoxoxo

Maribeth

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Filed under audience, books, character, character building, constructing, contests, creating, critique groups, dreaming, editing, emotions, Giveaway, Inspirational, life, middle grade fiction, novel, platform building, query, random, routine, stories, story telling, story writing, Style, Voice, WISHES, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing, Writing Contest