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What Started It All

September 14, 2012

I began writing a fantasy novel several years ago when I realized (I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes; this was after a 20+ year business career) that my job as a corporate instructional designer (creator and teacher of training programs for businesses) was never going to fill up the creative chasm inside.

I’ve read fantasy and science fiction since grade school when I picked up Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, then on to Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein.  The reason I love the genre so much is that it’s the ultimate expression of imaginative fiction to me — worlds we’ve never seen, beings we’ll never face.  But I digress….

After my last contract ended June 1, 2012, I was in job transition. At that point, I was more tired of life, cynical and bitter than I’ve ever been. Was this all that life was about?  Going to work day after day just to pay the mortgage, make the car payment and put kibble in the cat bowls??  And I have ten more years to work before retirement!  Is that all there is???

Because I had lots of unencumbered time, I picked up my final draft of Lady of Snows:  Quest for the Heir and did some rigorous editing.  I’d had a Story Doctor-type read the first draft, reviewed her recommendations, and changed what made sense according to the creative intent of my book.

Next, I checked out an internet site on literary agents and followed their suggestions:  write a query and do a word count.  No problem writing the query.  But the word count set me back on my heels.  190,000+ words.  Holy Long-winded, Batman!  Leo Tolstoy had nothing on me!  So, my next task:  tighten it up – major.  It took me about three weeks to go through all twenty-three chapters front-to-back and back-to-front.  I got rid of 30,000+ words.  It was a heckuva lotta work but a labor of love.  At my next MinnSpec, East St. Paul meeting, two lovely women volunteered to beta-read it for me!  Awesome!  Thank you, Genta and Renae!

The tightening exercise left me a much more efficient fiction writer — but as devoid of inspiration as Mars is of flora and fauna.  I also needed people contact because sitting home waiting for employers to call just wasn’t getting me out there.  I checked out, and I found a Poetry Writer’s meetup. I signed up and went that week; it was just four blocks from my house at a local coffee shop.  Walking distance, even!

What a gift that meeting was!  One young woman’s poem was a word-picture of a painting she’d seen at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.  Another young man, new to writing of any kind, had captured stunningly vivid images of a caterpillar poaching his heirloom tomato.  What a mundane topic for an utterly spiritual experience for me!  I could see the vivid greens and reds, smell the musky-sour tomato vines, and watch the sticky inchworm move.  Wow!  Thank you, Khan!

My coffee mug ranneth over.  I walked home and composed a poem on the way. I hadn’t written poetry for years. When I got home, I wrote it down and then two more came!  And another the next day!

After that, I resurrected an urban fantasy novel I’d begun drafting two years ago that had foundered due to life, lack of inspiration, and other distractions.  With my new zest for the creative life, I’ve written six more chapters since that meeting a month ago – around 24,000 words.

I’m happier and more fulfilled in my work than I’ve ever been in my life.  See, miracles can happen!

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