(For the month of November 2011, I am embarking on a 30-Day Challenge to finish a final rewrite of my young adult novel. To do so, I am taking a hiatus from posting my Tuesday morning flyingnotscreaming essays. Essays will resume the first week of December, 2011. In the meantime, I am posting a weekly Hiatus Report on my progress during my 30-Day Challenge. See the essay “My Next 30-Day Challenge” for more information.)
Before I begin a new book, I first check the copyright date, read the dedication, examine the author’s photo, and look over the biographical information. Lastly, I read the acknowledgements. You can learn a lot about an author by the type of acknowledgement page they write. Even a few short sentences can give you an impression of who and how they love. Some acknowledgements are an apology for the writing hours spent away from friends and family. Other pages of thanks consist of unabashed praise for editors and agents, thinly veiled hopes for future book ventures. It always makes me wince when either the acknowledgements exceed the quality of the actual novel, or when there is a gushing declaration of eternal love for a future ex-spouse.
Frequently, in my head, I write my own acknowledgements. Even though it is a cliche, it is true that despite the solitary nature of writing, books do not get written by the author alone. Since beginning this flyingnotscreaming site a year ago and throughout this 30-Plus Day Challenge, I have received an enormous outpouring of support. My acknowledgements would now exceed the number of pages allotted by any publisher, so I will take this opportunity to post my words of thanks so you all know how deeply appreciative I am of your acts and words of encouragement and kindness.
A long time ago when I was floundering in yet another dead-end job, my dad said to me, “You should get back to what you do best, you should write.” Even though it took me quite a while to get back to writing, I kept his comment in my mind as a touchstone. My friend Sandra, who was an early reader of my manuscripts, echoed my dad’s advice. No matter what career path I presented as a possibility, she would say, “Yes, that’s wonderful, but when are you getting back to your writing?”
I got back to my writing three years ago after a happenstance encounter with my mom’s friend Paige. As we helped our children make crafts and got to know each other, I mentioned that my youngest daughter was starting Kindergarten that Fall. Paige leaned across the table, her eyes bright, and asked, “So what do YOU want to do now?” “I want to write,” I answered automatically. She slapped the table, “You are a writer.” When I began to hem and haw she stood firm. “You are a writer. I’ve just finished my life coach training, I’ll help you.” Even though we live hundreds of miles apart, we began to work together and in a very short time my life began to move in a whole new direction. Paige taught me how to conquer the fear that had kept me from writing. I felt as if I had been handed a miracle.
Shortly after I started working with Paige, I sat at a table in the Bishop Public Library and wrote the first couple paragraphs of New Brock’s story which would eventually turn into the young adult novel of this 30-Plus Day Challenge. I once read that you can’t write for the whole world, but instead need to pick a person to whom you tell your story. Corrie Kate is the person for whom I wrote New Brock’s story. I needed a reader with a wide open, compassionate heart, and my friend Corrie has one of the best hearts around. She was the first reader of the early chapters of this young adult novel, and her advice and guidance have been invaluable. I am especially grateful for her well-timed emails over the last year that simply said, “I am really looking forward to reading the next chapter of New’s story.” Her gentle nudges have encouraged me to finish what I started.
I would never have gotten even close to the finish line if it weren’t for the members of my 5 Group: Lyn, Carrie, and Jillene. What started a year ago as a tentative attempt by the four of us to set some five-year goals has turned into a powerful network of support, education, and achievement. With a determination fueled by our meetings, I started this flyingnotscreaming site last November, and have been able to meet my weekly deadlines because of their support.
Lyn, a wildly creative artist, never fails to send an email telling me how much she loves my post! Or thanking me for inspiring her! Or asking for more chapters of New’s story! And best of all, she ends each sentence with an exclamation point! A habit of enthusiasm that I love and have adopted in my emails to others!
Carrie is one of my most solid supporters, and believes in me even when I waiver. Once when I was visiting her workspace, one of her employees asked what I did for a living. I mumbled that I was just a stay-at-home mom. Carrie came charging out of her office and said, “Melissa is a WRITER. She is going to be published soon.” From that moment on, when asked what I do, I think of Carrie and say with confidence, “I am a WRITER.”
If you have read any of my flyingnotscreaming essays you will recognize Jillene’s name. She appears often. To say that Jillene has guided my personal development in the past five years of our friendship would be an understatement. She has been a light in my darkness. I am also very appreciative of her daughters, father, and grandchildren whose stories and experiences often make their way into my paragraphs. Special thanks to her husband Leo, gentleman and friend.
The added bonus of creating flyingnotscreaming is that it has reconnected me with old friends. I met Ron and Nancy in a writing class when I first moved to town fifteen years ago. I fell in love with them immediately. I was thrilled when last year I received an email from Ron tentatively offering some editing advice on an early essay. From there, a beautiful relationship developed. Both excellent writers themselves, Ron and Nancy skillfully and tactfully pre-edit all of my flyingnotscreaming essays, look over my novel drafts, and check all the manuscripts I send out to publishers. They are my editing angels, and I know that I write better with them watching over my shoulder. Occasionally, I leave an offering of baked goods at their doorstep. Upon leaving the first time, my oldest daughter stated, “Those are two very good-hearted people. You can tell.”
Another good-hearted and brave-hearted person is my friend Jen. An extraordinary writer and naturalist who is terribly busy with her own projects, she offered to look over my current young adult novel even though years ago she suffered through a messy rough draft of another novel I’d written. I am humbled by her support and encouragement.
Many other kind-hearted people have commented on my essays, and encouraged and inspired me along the way this year. I am greatly appreciative to friends new and old: Rachel, Mary D., Heleen, Anneke, Mark, Jenny, Sarah, and Natasha. Howard not only heals me and is astonishingly kind when I need it most, but he has spend hours discussing ideas and concepts that I then twist into essays. He is one of my favorite people in Bishop. It has been wonderful to reconnect with my old college friend Seth, an emerging writer himself. Even though I embarrassed him twenty-five years ago by becoming hysterical while viewing some ridiculous modern art at a well-known gallery, Seth writes me wonderfully funny and quotable emails that often turn into essay topics.
It’s one thing when your mother tells you that you are a good writer and will go far, but it is another when her best friend does. Ardyth has continually offered steady, unwavering support of my writing to the extent that it leaves me a bit stunned. Whenever I think of quitting, I imagine having to tell Ardyth and immediately find a way to return to my desk. As long as Ardyth is around, I have no intention of stopping until I reach the finish line.
Everyone needs someone to make them laugh. Luckily, I have Jara. Not only has she commented on my site frequently and encouragingly, but she can make me laugh like no other–at myself, at her, at the absurdity of it all. You can learn a lot through laughter, and I appreciate all the lessons I have acquired from her humorous intelligence.
Before I started flyingnotscreaming, Diane at East Side Books took a chance and gave me free rein to post essays on her website. (www.eastsidebooksbishop.com) She also gave me room to postpone essays when I was having health issues and trying to keep up with my own site. And then she let me start up again this fall as I got better. If that wasn’t kind enough, at the beginning of this month, when I began my 30-Plus Day Challenge and was looking for work space, she graciously offered me a little table back in the Romance Section of East Side Books. She even gave me a key so I could come and go as I pleased. It was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me. I love going to my “office” especially because of the warm welcome from East Side employee, Kim. Kim not only calls me their “Writer-In-Residence” but she offers me tea, friendship, knitting patterns, and lunch companionship. It is a work environment made in heaven.
Behind every great writer. . .there is a mom. My mom, a fine writer herself (www.lightsonbrightnobrakes.com), has offered support in a multitude of ways over the past several years. When I was confined to the couch for weeks on end due to an injury, she overnighted a brand new laptop computer so I could continue to work. She taught me the phrase, “I can’t, I’m working,” to help me say “no” to the avalanche of requests that are piled on stay-at-home moms who everyone seems to think have hours of extra time on their hands. And she has sent me scores of encouraging emails that have phrases such as “when you have your Harry Potter moment–and Ardyth and I KNOW you will” and “My heavens, Melissa, where DID you find that writing ability.” No matter how old you are, it is always nice to have your mom’s stamp of approval.
Whenever you are trying to soar, you need something to keep you grounded, somewhere to come home to. My family–my husband and my children–do that for me. They keep my feet on the ground. They make me better, and they make me want to be even better still. They have deepened and widened my heart as well as stretched my thinking capacity. My girls teach me more than I will ever teach them. At times, I feel like I am tripping over motherhood on my way to the finish line, but I know that the truth is, when I make it, it will be because of motherhood.
In the twenty-five years that we have been together, my husband has never said to me, “You can’t.” He has patiently watched me stumble along as I searched for my way, never judging, never questioning my process. It is a precious gift he has given me, this room to find myself, and I have promised him that someday soon, I WILL have my moment, and he can quit his job and walk around the yard with a cup of coffee to his heart’s content.
To each and every one of you, my deepest thanks.