Letters to my new writer self

Dear New, Young, Passionate, Painfully Aspiring Writer Self:https://www.flickr.com/photos/rightee/1257384934/in/photolist-2V7qJA-f53bGW-aqLtfV-f53bNo-f53bKA-kfCw7-iGsrd3-bkW1jX-aj699g-5dNDc7-ifDfk3-5C5g1X-kzfbqM-8D4zwo-4SQXUM-bN1oSe-9PG53Y-j8p8pU-dmFX6J-gasMno-fxddKr-nr5Wr2-6xnrVk-eUhbNb-gsXvkx-6vaNSi-eUYdqL-bUQdeY-ezj98j-ezfUB6-ezfVik-5FQYQN-7WRZ8B-hnmLtF-dJzN2o-4VvLvq-bQu3Hz-4As9wf-9rnux-hcN3iz-3Prxu-4wZ2FW-5rnNZp-4ZZL89-7eVnCE-4wYZeh-4wZ8Ho-ek4Luu-f2BHW3-7kNGQf/

I am looking at you with great tenderness. Your passion for your craft, your hunger for publication, your commitment to continue to try makes my heart swell with pride. It is not easy, what you’re doing, writing, or rather, writing with the full intent to publish.  It’s easy to write if you are doing it only for yourself.  It’s only a joy, then, a secret pleasure, a tattoo on your inner thigh that you share only with your most intimate associates.

Writing for publication is a much more dangerous and challenging undertaking.  It means risking your ego and your standing in the community. People don’t understand your desire, even those you expect to understand, like reader friends and your librarian. Oh, I know how you’ve learned to dread that question at gatherings. You say you are a writer and someone says with excitement, “Are you published?”  You have to say no, and watch their eyes dim and their attention stray.

But you will not always have to say no. If you stay the course, you will be published.  For now, you go ahead and claim the title of writer, because you are a writer. You write. You put in the hours of study and practice, over and over, whenever you can fit it in. You do it even though no one does particularly understand or even believe that you can ever break into the hallowed company of Authors.  I am so proud of you.  Keep it up.

A few other things that will help you stay the course: pay more attention to what you are doing right than what you are doing wrong. Time, reading, and practice will heal most of your flaws, but no one can do what you do as well as you do it, so stick with that. Polish it, explore it, love it.  That’s where your voice is, in the things you love and do well.

Keep reading a ton.  People tell you that writing will corrupt your process, but that’s how you came to writing in the first place, isn’t it? You read, more than anyone you know, always.  Keep doing that, and don’t just read in the areas where you write. Read everything—articles and essays and poems and books of fiction and non-fiction. Read crap and read classics. Read genre and read literary fiction. Just read. It teaches and guides new writers better than any other single thing.

Keep your eye on the prize. You’re going to keep trying on hats until you find the one that fits, and once you do, your life is going to change in such big ways that you will never believe it could be your life. You will eat a meal in New York City with an editor. You will see your book on the shelves of your local bookstore. You will get letters from readers who love your work more than any other writer out there. Honor her, that reader, with your will to stick with it.

One more thing: don’t be afraid of editors and agents. They are busy, but they are always looking for the writer they connect with, the one they can publish, the one they adore. Some of them, over time, will become your friends for life.  Some of them will only make you crazy, but this is the great secret: editors and agents are your equal. You are all a corner in the great triangle of publishing. Don’t be intimidated.

Finally, you are more powerful than you know. Have faith in yourself, and the work, and trust it to take you where you want to do.

Your older, wiser, more experienced self

Want to read more letters from other writers to their younger selves?  Check out http://soyoureawriter.blogspot.com/

1-random-front  stoked_800  IMG_0222  echo_800  (click on covers to read more)

And don’t forget to like Lark O’Neal on Facebook, so you can stay current with new releases (and there are quite a few coming, my friends!)  https://www.facebook.com/LarkONealAuthor

Fare thee well, James

I’m trying to remember to post when I have blogs elsewhere, which is quite a lot more than it is here these days.  (The Goddess Blogs, Writer Unboxed, Reinventing Fabulous)….
By now you’ve all heard the news about actor James Gandolfini, who died of an apparent heart attack in Rome.  Weirdly fitting that he was on his way to Sicily.

I don’t get much into celebrity watching, the lives and deaths and weddings and babies of famous folk, but I am quite sad about the passing of Gandolfini.  There was something real and true and clean about him, a deep understanding of the vulnerability of the human condition that made his acting one of the best things we’ve ever seen. Continue reading at The Goddess Blogs

The end of one cycle…the beginning of the next

We are working on a new title for my next book. I’m nearly finished with the copy edits, and cover discussions have begun.  That means it’s time for me to think about what’s next.

I’ve started working on ideas for new books. This is–by far–the most enjoyable stage of the process until I have a finished book to hold in my hands, and one of the pleasures is in building collages.  Tonight, I’ve been leafing through some of my favorites, tearing out pictures and simply enjoying the quiet, restful pleasure of looking at beautiful photos, leafing through magazines, letting images and ideas rise.

One of my favorites, Artful Blogging, actually provided the seed for the new book.  In its pages, I read story after story of women whose lives had been transformed by the act of starting and keeping up with a blog.  Some were artists, some chefs or bakers, some quilters or photographers, but over and over again, they said the same thing: “Blogging changed my life.”

I kept wondering what that would be like, to live somewhere isolated, and decide to begin this journey.  And what might my character discover? And where would it take her? And so the book was born, four food bloggers who support and encourage each other, and finally meet on the blue moon at a lavender farm….

Anyway, tonight I was leafing through all these beautiful magazines and thought of all of you. If you have not ever picked up Stampington.com‘s artful magazines, I hearby order you to go look around the site and click through a few.  And remember that little things can change your life, too.

Do you collage or quilt or make art in some way? Do you have favorite art blogs to share with us? 

Tilting toward Spring

It is February which means I have survived the worst month in Colorado, which is always January.  The days are short, ending claustrophobically even before I’ve started dinner, and it is often bitterly cold. The worst is the boring weather–indifferent, icy sunshine pouring from a frozen blue sky, day after day after day.   I ache for snowstorms in January, or cloudy days, or something to break up that endless blah cold.  It isn’t that I hate winter.  I just hate boring January.

And then February arrives and the earth tilts ever so slightly toward summer, and the days progress minute by minute toward dinnertime, then catch it.   In February, it can snow a lot, soaking the ground in readiness for spring.  If we’re lucky, crocuses might start popping up.  The tree branches start to swell.

My gardener’s heart turns to catalogues, oh torturous exercise!  Look at those plump tomatoes, those tender flower sprouts, even the clogs and knee protectors.  I want to go turn the compost just to smell the earth.  I spy the seedling trays and tug them off the winter shelf, wondering when I might be able  READ MORE  on The Goddess Blogs>>>>>>




The Lipstick Chronicles

I have been in hiding, deep in my cave, finishing the new book, THE GARDEN OF HAPPY ENDINGS, which will be coming your way next May.  I finally mailed a second pass back to my editor on Monday, which felt like delivering a very large, overdue baby.  It’s alive and well.

Some readers here know that I post twice a month at The Lipstick Chronicles, with a group of very entertaining and interesting women writers.  I am posting there the first and third Friday of every month, and here are the opening paragraphs of  the most recent three.   Stop by!


Ian and the Blue Gill

Three women, ranging in age from senior to ancient, are settled in a half circle at the end of the dock.  The chairs have been dragged down to the pond from the main house, metal lawn chairs with green and white woven seats.  My young son and I sit on the wooden slats of the dock.  A little while ago, there were some bigger boys, young teenagers in baggy shorts and skinny chests, daring each other to swim in the murky water with snapping turtles and water snakes, but they’re gone now.

The old women wear cotton skirts and sensible shoes and soft cotton hats to protect their good complexions. Gnarled fingers fix bait. Fishing lines trail lazily in the water of the small pond.  The air 2143129809_1ffac3b16c
is thick and still, so hot I find it hard to breathe, and my son’s pale cheeks are flushed.  We are Colorado natives, and this is the countryside of the border between Missouri and Illinois.

I’d rather be almost anywhere else.

I hate fishing. I hate humidity.  I hate the heat.  Before we arrived, I’d been excited about this gathering with my husband’s family, but the reality is daunting. It’s hard to understand some of their deep south accents, and I don’t understand references to times and people I don’t know. And maybe they’re notpatronizing me, the much-younger, blond wife of an older African-American man, but all the usual in-law negotiations seem particularly exaggerated.




The Ghost in the Garden

Have you ever lived with a ghost?  I have.  In fact, I’m pretty sure she wanted me to save her house.


My eldest son was in kindergarten when I first saw this house.  It was a narrow, two story brick, with a bay window on the top floor, and deep porch.  It was well over a hundred years old, and looked it—the yard was bare dirt, baked by the southwestern sun to absolute sterility, the paint on the old wood was peeling.  There was a crack in the brick over one window.  It was empty. Abandoned.

But every day, as I passed by with my son’s five-year-old hand in mine, the house caught my eye.  A pair of windows faced east, illuminating a staircase with a beautiful old banister, and spilling sunshine into the open front rooms.  The light was so inviting, so peaceful, that often I would pause on the way back home and peer in the windows to see what else I could see.  That inviting upstairs bedroom with the bay window.  The enormous front windows overlooking the street, arched and ancient, the glass thin and wavery.  One of them had a tiny bb hole in it.  The kitchen was horrific—a single bank of cupboards made of tin, covered with wood-grain contact paper.



How to be a Perfect Mother In Law

216411_10150157611105893_698160892_6602988_6015592_nMy son was married on April 7.  This means that I am a new mother-in-law. I have to forget everything I knew about mothering, and adopt a new approach.

This is not the simple transition I imagined it would be.  For one thing, the son who got married is my mama’s boy, a child so devoted to me as a baby that I called him my joey.  He was two weeks late emerging from the womb, and then I carried him on my hip for the next ten months because he wouldn’t allow anyone else to so much as change a sock.  He’d howl piteously even if it was his father.

DSCN3392He’s grown into a strapping man who towers over me and has tattoos all over his arms and shoulders
(including, natch, one for “Mom” (please note the quill)).   His bride is a serious, level-headed Air Force sergeant who looks at him with enough love in her eyes to make any mother happy.  He’s an exuberant character, and worships the ground she walks on.  I liked her immediately and have only grown to love her more
over time.




5 Dos and a Do-over at Chick Lit is Not Dead

Join me over at Chick Lit is Not Dead for a special blog and a chance to win a free book.

1. Take a chance on something that seems impossible. Write a novel, maybe, or throw your heart into a crumbling old house and try to save it from the wrecking ball. When my boys were small and we were poor, I fell in love with an old house down the street. It was empty, maybe abandoned, and I could see into the light falling across the stairway, and upstairs was a big room with a bay window beneath the high pointed eaves. Every morning, I walked by and it whispered to me. Somehow, with no money whatsoever, we ended up buying it and spending years and years renovating one thing and then another. There was a ghost in the garden, who befriended my cats, and it was her ancient globe lilies and giant roses that grew out of the rock hard dirt in the backyard. (I am convinced she is the one who called me to save her house.) My children grew up with torn up floors and ancient bathrooms and sheetrock tape, the two of them crammed together in one bedroom so I could have the tiny office downstairs for work. It was a house of great love, and although it never became This Old House, all gleaming and perfectly restored, we saved it from the wrecking ball. READ THE REST….

Food and love and important things like that

One of the ways writers get their books out these days is to guest blog everywhere.  It’s actually fairly productive, but it leaves the local blog sadly neglected.   As I said before, I will be posting at Lipstick Chronicles twice a month starting in February, and you can catch me there talking about food and women’s fiction and…well, you know, the whole catastrophe.

In the meantime, this is a blog I posted there that I think many of you might enjoy

“A little while back, when I first blogged here at Lipstick Chronicles, a couple of people mentioned writer MFK Fisher.  I had never read her, but always hungry for food writers, I googled her and started reading.  Two hours later, I ordered four of her books from Amazon, including the hefty anniversary edition of The Art of Eating.

When the books arrived, I curled up in my chair with two kittens and a class of wine and cracked open Art, and I’ve been dipping into every day or two ever since, doling out the pages like some rare, complex cheese.   Sometimes, I cannot stop reading as fast as I’d like, carried along by the drama of her narrative as surely as if I’m lost in a novel.  She led an unusual and adventurous life, and was a highly celebrated woman writer during at time when that was not at all common or easy. I feel as I did when I first read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast—how is it possible I missed this work until now?

All things in their proper time.  Thanks to some of you here, I have found a new favorite in Fisher.

For those who are not familiar with her work, she was a food writer who predates Julia Child by some decades.  She wrote in the thirties and forties and fifties, writing with good humor and intelligence and wit.

In The Gastronomical Me, she writes in her foreword:

“People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do?


Guest blogs elsewhere

I’ve been recovering from all the back and forthing, and doing copy edits for my next book, THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING, which will be out at the end of December, and sleeping, and watching movies.  Also have guest blogged twice in the past week. 

At WRITER UNBOXED, I blogged about how to get yourselve moving even when you really, really don’t want to write, and you have a headache, and the baby woke you up three times last night and you have to–whatever.  Here it is:  Six tricks for writing when you don’t feel like it.

Over at Romancing the Blog, I wrote a post about my life and RWA conferences and how much this writing world has given me as a woman.  Check it out here:  As Time Goes By, My Life and RWA Conferences.

I started working seriously on my new book this morning, after hearing it rattle around for a few weeks.  Now it’s starting to rain again, so I’m going to curl up someplace warm and read the afternoon away.

Hope all of you are well!