Busy writing on this rainy day. Found this gem recently. It perfectly describes my lead character in the next book. She is Grace Memengwaa Weber. Memengwaa is the Ojibwe word for butterfly. Grace goes through a metamorphosis to find her freedom. She also hears many wishes…
An American Indian Legend
If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first
capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it.
As a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly cannot reveal
the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all.
In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly freedom,
the Great Spirit will always grant the wish.
So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the
butterfly its freedom,
the wish will be taken to the heavens to be granted.
There are perks to being a writer—perks other than the ones some people might expect, those probably being immense wealth and recognition, neither of which I ever would consider as a true perk. I experienced my kind of perk this week when I received a phone call from one of my readers. He formerly lived in Bella Vista and we attended the same church at that time. That’s how I got to know Sheldon and his wife Nina. They always asked about my interests, and even attended my book signings.
Sheldon enjoys my stories (I’m truly honored and even somewhat amazed!). He shares his comments and responses to my work with me fairly frequently, and most especially when each new title comes out. After they moved to another state to be closer to family, and wintered in Arizona, he would find articles about writers and writing and send them to me. I appreciated those articles and notes. Sadly, Sheldon’s wife passed last year. He still makes it a point to keep in touch. This week, I was surprised to answer the phone to hear Sheldon’s voice. After the initial “How are you?” and “What have you been doing?” pleasantries, he asked, “So, are you working on a new book?”
“Why, yes I am. I’m a little more than half way through this new one,” I said.
Sheldon asked more questions about the plot, and then he explained that he had shared my books—all three of them—with a friend who also reads detective crime mysteries. And she enjoyed them as much as he did, he said. And now, they were both waiting for the newest story. And my heart swells! Music to a writer’s ears!
I’m not sure readers truly understand what a response to their writing means. When I published my first novel, I didn’t think much about who would read it beyond family and a few close friends. I didn’t expect to really have much of an audience, or that anyone would even pay attention. I’m just a friend, relative, with a hobby. After all, I’m just doing what I enjoy … just being me! I was wrong! (and my husband knows I don’t say that often enough) <insert grin>
The initial response to my first book was unexpected praise, (which I assumed was just because they were being nice) followed by, “What happens next? Are you doing another?”
Sometimes the query, “Are you writing?” is all it takes to keep me going.
Someone wants to know. Someone is interested in the fictional characters that are part of my life. And believe me when I say they are part of my life! They linger in the back of my brain for months before I begin to tell the story they want me to share. I research, listen to podcasts, and then I’m ready. When I’m in the thick of writing the novel, I find I can’t sleep. I wake in the night, needing to write down something about a recent event in the story. I rise in the morning and head to my computer, iPad, notes, or whatever is at hand (sometimes it’s even the back of a receipt) to get down a description or words of a character before I forget. We can be headed down the highway, listening to the radio, and something is triggered. I must get that down. Where’s a post-it?
And so, Sheldon, my friend, I truly enjoyed hearing from you in person this last week! Thanks, always, for your encouragement and support. Now, I’ll get back to that story and let you know when it’s ready! —Gail
It’s NaNoWriMo for writers. It’s all about the challenge for writers to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I’m working on it. Sometimes it’s a struggle. The question in the back of my mind is often, ‘Is this any good?’
Sometimes, the best advice comes from other well-known, experienced writers who help and encourage other writers to keep on keeping on.
Check out the link from Diana Gabaldon below. Her blog provided me with much needed encouragement. (scroll to the top of the page when you get to the blog.)
In the meantime, I’m moving along at a turtle’s pace. Up to about 28,612 words—and I’ve been working on it since October! That’s 100 pages and 9 chapters. And, I’m not even half way through telling the story of young Grace Memengwhaa Weber, an Ojibwa Native American.
First lines are always important in writing a novel. This one is no different. I hope I got it right…at least no one’s died…yet.
The fireworks had been a dud. Thick fog had moved in and hung low, drifting across the Lake Superior shoreline, muffling sounds, and allowing only brief glimpses of a smeared blur of reds, yellows, and blues. Fireworks in Grand Marais were supposed to have been part of her birthday celebration. A Fourth of July birthday meant you got to see fireworks. Grace gave up waiting for the fog to lift, and wandered away from her family and headed toward the shore to look for agates. She was wearing her birthday gifts, new jeans, a soft blue denim shirt, and a pair of moccasins that she’d eyed at the local trading store in Grand Marais. Her parents must have heard her tell her sister Lexie how much she wished she had a pair of moccasins just like these soft, leather ones with the colorful beads woven over the tops. She loved her gifts! It wouldn’t be long and she’d be able to drive, too. Being fourteen was going to be great!
She had just reached the shoreline when she heard the change in the tone of the men talking with her father. Their voices rose and echoed through the fog with increased anger and what sounded like accusations. She suddenly realized her father had been right. Those men must have followed them. They were in danger. She was in danger!
“It may be that one little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it, then when it blooms, fill it with singing birds.” – From the Ojibwa Tribes
As I research and learn about the history of the Indigenous People of North America, I am filled with respect for their love of the land and the reverence they hold for their ancestors. There is so much to learn.
I realize I have never fully understood or, at least, been fully educated about the history of Native American’s struggle to remain on their lands, and true story of the many treaties with governments which were made and broken. These people had faith and hope that the government meant to keep their promises. The true stories of their struggle to preserve their heritage is inspiring. The incredible lack of understanding by the European settlers who simply wanted the wealth that land acquisition could provide—at any cost—saddens me.
I do realize those were different times. We understand more as we look back at our history. We can easily say, “Well, that wasn’t right.” But the thing that eludes us even today, is how do we now begin to work together and better understand to make a right new beginning?
The Ojibwa in Northern Minnesota have been my focus for the new novel I’m writing. I hope I am respecting them as I tell the tale of fourteen-year-old Grace Memengwaa Weber. Her middle name means butterfly in Ojibwa.
Grace has the beauty of a butterfly. She also has courage, wisdom, and strength. As a fourteen-year-old she amazes me as she leads me on this journey to meet the old world while forging courageously ahead, respecting her father and forefathers, and bringing them into her world and her life today.
I’m anxious to let her tell her story and that of her family.
The Witch Tree nourishes the tale of years past and years to come.
I saw this on Twitter this morning from Anne Lamott:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” — Anne Lamott
So, please excuse the language from Ms. Lamott, but she’s right! I’ve had time to really sit down and write this week since I’m at my son’s house dog sitting. It’s pretty hard to procrastinate when there’s nothing standing between you and the computer screen in front of you on the table! Gotta do it. And I’ve been a busy bee, working away at the research and the story line.
For awhile now, nothing seemed to be coming together. I’ve written six chapters and struggled with the right line, the right word, the best character description. I’ve read and re-read. I’ve crossed out, added, deleted, and saved for a later page/chapter.
There’s another aspect. As an author/reader I tend to analyze the work of other authors. For me, the craft is not pure. It is never perfect. But it seems theirs often are near perfect. I admire the description, the word choice, the perfect line, perfect thought. I highlight them in my Kindle eBooks. I am amazed at how prolific other writers are. How are they able to put together plots, characters, and thoughts in such perfect succession? I’m sure I can never meet those standards.
My thoughts seem to be random. I’ll think of a phrase I’d like to use. Perhaps a change in the character’s appearance, even name! Should the location be different? Perhaps a different setting would help tell the story?
And then, I have the picture in my mind of exactly where it needs to be. What he or she needs to look like, act like. Frightened? Secure? Devious? Assured?
There’s never perfection, but then I tell myself, life isn’t perfect. Maybe other authors harbor these same insecurities. So a good story can have those imperfections, just like people’s lives. Cant’ it?
Looking into the void and facing the darkness. Is there light? It has been dark for so long, it seems. A Pandemic, in the midst of violence, hate, divisiveness, anger, frustration, and feelings of futility.
Do we dare venture deeper into the void? Should we? Would it be better to sit back, make no effort, simply waste away, allowing worry to blot out all else?
How could one know?
—Unless the fear is faced, the attempt made, the venture taken?
Exploring the unknown is what each of us has done from the moment of birth, isn’t it? For we really had no choice then but to continue, did we? Each hesitant breath marked a decision to continue. Each step, though perhaps unsteady and faltering, was a decision made to explore and accept the challenges ahead.
Over time, we’ve been conditioned to believe in the force of positivity. Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled” tells us that our choice can make all the difference.
We have sighed with satisfaction at George Bailey’s decision to return to the living in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. But it’s true George Bailey accepted a return to a life filled with worry, anger, and divisiveness. Only to discover in the end that his decision brought joy, unity, and peace. It all worked out, and like Orphan Annie, “We love ya, tomorrow!”
But what new trials will tomorrow bring? What is the cause of our worry? The cause of our fear? The cause of our frustration?…Often all of these things are simply caused by the unknown. The trials of that horrible, unknown, black void.
But…But, there’s always that glimmer of hope in the darkness. If we forge into that black hole with the cloak of Annie’s hope for Tomorrow and even add the strength of Hamilton’s declaration, “I’m not throwing away my shot!” we may indeed find that it makes all the difference.
The causes of uncertainty are many. Our world, our lives today are built upon the perceived experiences of our past. Widening our perspective, we realize the history of these United States of America has been filled with might, determination, and innovation.
But….but, it has also been filled with strife, hate, terror, and domination.
We must recognize that there is an indifference about our history. We’ve been taught about Paul Revere’s determined ride to alert Patriots of the arrival of the British ships.— But…but, he wasn’t alone. He was just part of that story made heroic by the poet Longfellow. We’ve long heard the words of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death.” We weren’t taught that he opposed the ratification of the Constitution and a strong central government and that he was a slave holder.
What we learned as children and the reality are often contradictory. Today we know that history ignored the cries of those who were trampled on to secure American freedom; those on whose backs we built our fledgling nation, those others whose cries of “Set us free!” or “Give me liberty” were conveniently forgotten, as well as those First Americans whose lands were torn away leaving only a small pittance of reserved land in token, often broken treaties.
The hope of our future must lie in a determined exploration into the dark void of our past. We fear going there, but this is how we grow. This is how we learn, and hopefully change.
We explore with uncertainty. Acknowledging our past must have a definitive effect on our future. To this, we ask, which of Frost’s roads will make all the difference?
Our lives are an endless journey into the dark void. We fill the void with our presence, our discovery, and our determination…and hopefully our learning from past mistakes in the end. Together we must be like Hamilton and take that shot!
We must travel into the void. We must!
And in these troubled times, taking that shot means we must VOTE!
It is our life to live, our future to create, and ultimately, our belief that we can affect the change.
We have been here before. We will without doubt be here again. It’s time to venture on!
It’s that time of year. We’re watching the leaves begin to turn and here in Arkansas, I’m looking forward to cooler days. My mind turns to writing…again. Yes, I’m back to it. I’ve been lazy. I’ll share some new scribbles soon. Are you busy, too? What new reads are you enjoying?
As a writer, I’m not always writing. There are times I need to do speaking events, or promotional activities. And there are times I have the opportunity to share my writing by donating my books. Last week was such an occasion. As a member of Bentonville/Bella Vista Altrusa International, I work with our club to support literacy for children in schools and libraries. We have donated literally thousands of books to schools and libraries in the area. Last Saturday we visited the grand reopening of the Sulphur Springs Public Library. We have donated 1352 books to help the library reopen! I was pleased to be able to donate my books to the library to help out!
Just a bit of writing for the new project this morning. Have you been given a Bluebird of Happiness from Arkansas?
“Betsy, you doing okay? Are you doing a picture for us today?” The young aide came next to her, leaning over to look at her work. “That looks like the Blue Bird of Happiness in that tree. Have you ever visited the place here in Arkansas that makes the Blue Bird of Happiness? You can watch them blow the glass to make all different sizes of the bird. They even have pink and red birds made of glass. They’re really special. I like your picture. It’s special, too.”
Betsy looked up and nodded vacantly. Then she reached for the nearest crayon, an ebon black, pulled the paper closer and methodically drew lines with sharp angles and squiggles along the right edge of the paper. The lines looked like an abstract melding of trees sprouting out of nowhere, branches askew. She stopped to analyze the picture, made one more swipe on the left of the page and drew a broad tree trunk leaning at an angle, sprouting withered branches; then she dropped the black crayon next to the paper and reached for a stub of charcoal gray. Her hands flew over the upper part of the page creating a swirl of menacing streaks and smears. Dark clouds appeared along the top of the page and drifted down over the center, almost covering the trees she’d drawn. The smudge of blue bird remained. She stopped to analyze the emerging picture. Dropping the gray stub, Betsy bent closer to the table and paper, eyeing her work. She reached out to sort through the crayons and selected a deep blue crayon marked ultramarine blue. Below the black stick-like lines, her hands flew creating an image of stormy, choppy waves.
She stopped abruptly, held the crayon mid-air above the page, looked at the image, and emitted a sound between a sob and a snarl.