Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Celebrating Wordsmith Studio: Becoming a Real Writer

Before Wordsmith Studio, I wasn’t a Real Writer. I didn’t actually write. Not really. I played around some. Had a couple of novels in the deepest, most hidden files of my computer.

But in February 2012, I learned we were moving from the Upstate of South Carolina to Clemson Road. I would have to leave my real job behind.

I wanted to be a writer.

So I started this blog and I started looking around for advice, avenues, and allies. The path to real writerhood.

I found Writer’s Digest and Robert Lee “My Name is Not Bob” Brewer. In April 2012, he hosted a writers’ Platform Building Challenge on his blog. In the challenge, he had daily social media tasks. Things like read a blog and leave a comment. Open a Twitter account. Get a Facebook page.

Through comments of all the other participants, I learned there were dozens of people trying to do what I was trying to do: trying to tell other people that they were Writers.

Before Wordsmith Studio, I was a “Shhhhh…writer.”

Whispered as if unwilling to admit it.

Though my entire life I’ve felt called to storytelling, prose, composition and revision, I had yet to admit that passion to anyone.

Well, not since undergrad (1999) when it was made clear that being a writer was Just Too Hard and would never make me any money. I was encouraged to want money.

And not since my brief stint as a sportswriter (2000) when it was made clear that being a writer meant following around athletes who were Actually Accomplishing Something while I just took notes.

In 2012, I was in the middle of my dissertation research. I was writing the biggest, most important manuscript of my life. But I called myself Doctoral Researcher.

I was teaching English classes and I called myself English Professor.

I was freelancing, writing anything anyone would pay me for and I called myself an independent contractor.

I was blogging and I called myself a Job Seeker.

Then Wordsmith Studio. Born out of the platform challenge, Wordsmith Studio was the enterprising idea of early adopters who wanted to take our collaborative group and make something out of it. Give it a domicile of its own, a website, a Facebook group, a Facebook page, a Twitter account.

After a couple of weeks I was asked to co-manage the Wordsmith Studio book club on Goodreads. I learned the Goodreads platform.

After a few times attending the Tuesday 6 p.m. #wschat I was asked to co-host those. I learned Twitter, Hootsuite, and Storify.

After a year I was encouraged to apply for the steering committee. I learned how to hold online meetings, how to organize online events, and (recently) how to Bitstrip.

Before Wordsmith Studio I was an “I'd like to be a writer.”

Last summer I finished the dissertation. It was 130 pages long. Last fall I submitted 13 short stories to literary magazines. Total page count 190. Last month I submitted my first novel to a contest where the prize is publication. It was 330 pages long.

I have been teaching revision workshops and coaching fellow writers on storyline, character development, dialogue, and finding the real story in the stuff they write.

I’ve been white boarding my own stories and blogging about my journey. I’ve been researching my subjects and have committed myself to telling GenX stories.

I’m a Writer. Capital W. Said aloud. Shouted if need be.

Before WSS I wanted to be.

Now I am.

I know it was the community I found at WSS that brought me here. I’m so grateful. I don’t have the words to express how fortunate I feel to have found them.

How’s that for being a real Writer? 

This post was in response to the first of the Birthday Celebration Prompts on Wordsmith Studio.

Monday, March 31, 2014

What You’ll Miss

MaMa sends Hollie mail every week.

It’s a kind of devotion that I admire. I used to write to my Nana sporadically. I respond to my cousin’s letters almost immediately. But they’re sporadic, too.

I have a friend who has never failed to send a card for appropriate holidays. Her mom sends them, too. They arrive within days of one another.

I am not that organized.

So my mom’s weekly ritual of filling out the note and folding it into the envelope and dropping it into the mail box is one that demonstrates her devotion to my daughter. And we’re so blessed by that devotion.

As we age, the rituals of our lives together fade.

We used to swim on the summer league team and dad would make us milkshakes before meets.

We used to open one gift every Christmas Eve, it was always new pajamas and always from my Dad’s mom (though we learned later my mom had bought them, wrapped them, and signed Nell’s name).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We Might Be Red Giants

There are a lot of reasons people stay in their own small orbits.

Maybe it’s safer there, surrounded only by objects you know, pulled by the familiar gravity of your own life.
Photo courtesy of NASA
Maybe there’s no opportunity to travel. Maybe location or position or conditions keep you grounded.

Nana lived in South Carolina almost her entire life. Granted, it was a much bigger world back then. Before interstates, traveling city-to-city could take days and state-to-state longer than that. International travel was more than unlikely, it was almost unheard of.

Now the world seems smaller. Now the 22 hour flight to Australia sounds painful but do-able. 

When I was in the Philippines, twelve hours ahead on the clock, Charlie called me “Future Girl.”

Even easier is connecting over the internet, where we can feel like we’ve been transported. We can experience culture, language, and perspectives from people who seem far removed from us.

We could feel even more distant. The Far East. Down Under. Across the pond. The Left Coast. Another hemisphere. Another continent. Unknown worlds of wonder and worry.