Waiting as taught by Thumbelina

I hate waiting.

I rank it up there with pulling teeth and stupid people. It’s not that I can’t deal with having a tooth pulled or muddle through interactions with the intentionally daft, but I’d rather not–thank you very much!

But writing has taught me about waiting because books don’t spring forth perfect and complete when you snap your fingers. I’ve tried and barring the sudden arrival of Samantha or Tabitha, it won’t happen. (I would have used a more contemporary reference like Charmed, but they were always so worried about that personal gain thing).

Currently I’m in the longest waiting period, the time before school begins and my days become mine again. I now understand all those Staples commercials where parents push carts beatifically buying school supplies for disgruntled children–it is the most wonderful time of the year! As I’ve seen time and again, mothers (and fathers) who are also writers have had to reconcile their lack of productivity while their kids are home. We talk about it, write about it, commiserate and tell each other it’s okay. Use the time for other things, like reading or in my case note taking for book 4.

But all the sympathetic noises in the world can’t silence that small voice in your head saying you had a deadline, which has come and gone. That got me to thinking about Thumbelina.

Photo Credit: kissabug via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kissabug via Compfight cc

You remember the story? Woman can’t have children (I think because she’s alone and sperm banks weren’t exactly the rage in Early Modern Europe), so the village witch gives her a seed to plant from which a girl “no bigger than my thumb” is born. Good thing is wasn’t me–I’ve killed cacti.

Anyway, after the idyllic stage, Thumbelina is kidnapped, lost, stolen, and myriad other things which take her from her mother. And just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, she wants to go home. At some point, winter comes (just as it always does–thank you GoT) and she knows she can’t make the trek in that kind of weather. She hibernates with a field mouse and an injured bird until the spring thaw. And then she is reunited with her mother. But during this time away she made friends, met other people her own size, and even fell in love with a fairy prince (I object to that part, but it rounds out the story).

Photo Credit: katinthecupboard via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: katinthecupboard via Compfight cc

Now I can’t claim that I’ve gone on life-changing adventures, but I’ve spent time with my family, written notes and learned new things about my story I wouldn’t have noticed if I was furiously writing. The same thing happened when I was looking for work. While I was keeping my head in interviews, resumes, and searches, I didn’t stop to ask why I was doing it. When I finally took a breath, I realized I was happiest writing. I don’t know if I would have made that leap if I were still keeping my head down.

So, the next time I start to get down on myself for not finishing book 4 by the end of summer I’ll think of Thumbelina. The journey is worth just as much as the destination…but I still hate waiting.

The Valiant Little Tailor and Other Brave Declarations

If ever there was a fairy tale character to look up to, I think Grimm’s The Valiant Little Tailor should be at the top of the list. Here was a man who had no problems telling the world about his amazing deed, even though the “seven in one stroke” he killed were only flies who wanted his jam. It led to other great deeds with giants, unicorns and even marrying a princess.

The reason I admire the Valiant Little Tailor (or VLT for short) is his ability to declare his accomplishments to anyone and everyone he meets. I think we all have parts of ourselves of which we’re proud, but don’t date tell anyone. Mine is easy—I’m a writer.

I know that sounds like a statement from Captain Obvious, but I find it challenging to tell people I’m a writer. I have this recurring fantasy where I finally tell everyone while simultaneously passing around copies of my newly published book. In a sense, I’m a closeted writer and I only tell people I trust to keep it quiet.

But why? As I continue to navigate the publishing world, words like platform and following keep popping up. I know my silence will only hurt my chances of generating buzz and keeps me from things like Facebook and Twitter. Even this blog has the name FairytaleFeminista, but I’ve never listed my name. It’s hard to put yourself out there, but people who want to make their living in creative fields have to do it constantly.

Writing becomes so personal because it’s mostly you and your words inhabiting a cozy universe of your making. In this world you can delete the unpleasant bits, reword the awkward phrases, and configure personalities that fit into your creation. When your writing becomes public, you can’t erase what other people think, do, or write about your work. And honestly, who’s a bigger control freak than a person invents people and decides their fates based on the needs of a plot. Doctors have nothing on writers when it comes to a God complex!

Was VLT on to something? Should we just emblazon our truth on a sash and wear it out in the world? When is the right time to “come out” to friends and family about your literary aspirations? Will it be more like a debutant announcing herself at a cotillion or am I declaring my alternative lifestyle, horrifying the practical 9 to 5ers in my life? Well, I’ve taken a few positive steps in that regard and introduced myself as a writer to a stranger. That was easy. Let’s try some more.

Hello, my name is Ivia Cruz and I’m a writer. I’ve written three novels and I’m working on a fourth.

That felt good.

Now what should I do about that LinkedIn page?

How about you? What’s your VLT story?

Community in the Wilderness: Searching for a Writer’s Group in the Wilds of the Web

“Why did you start a blog?”

It’s a question I get asked periodically by people who don’t write blogs. The honest answer is “platform”. It’s one of those buzzwords you can’t escape if you go to conferences, subscribe to newsletters, and generally stay abreast of the latest in writing and publishing. You hear it often enough that you begin to feel inadequate or inauthentic as a writer if you don’t have one. So, kicking and screaming I began a blog that focuses on fairy tales. It made the best sense because the YA series I’m working on is based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

At first, it was a chore. I agonized over the About Me section, trying to sounds both informative and pithy enough that other people would want to read it. I tried to look at it as my “trial by fire” because whatever I wrote would immediately be critiqued. At least that’s what I thought until I realized how hard it is to make your lone voice heard in the cacophony that is the blogosphere. But even when I wasn’t read, I felt as though each posting was a courageous effort to put myself out there–proof I was a writer each time I clicked Publish.

My best day was when, out of nowhere, a random person started following by blog. My initial reaction was, “Why are you following me?” But soon that gave way to real happiness and a renewed optimism in this process. Maybe blogging could be rewarding. Maybe I could grow to love it. Well, I was happy that I could at least find times to like it.

I kept writing. I also kept blogging and reveled in every new follower. I would post and click (too often) on the Stats page to see if my post was being viewed. Often I would be disappointed by the turnout. Sometimes I was surprised by what really got people’s attention. Nevertheless, I continued hoping to find the magic recipe of topic and writing that would make readers want another helping. Then I fell into what all bloggers can attest to.

Call it Blogger’s Blahs or Poster’s Paralysis, but I felt discouraged by the lack of interest and my lack of ideas. It came in waves, and then the Blahs ebbed because a new reader joined or a new comment would buoy me. The realization was almost anti-climactic. What I really wanted was not readership, I wanted community.

Deen Village Scotland

My search takes me everywhere

Blogs about how to find a writer’s group or a critique circle are endless. They have stories of writer’s being bestowed with the friendship of like-minded writers like the Commandments. It all sounds so warm and inviting, a stark contrast to the solitary clicking of cold computer keys. You’re encouraged to branch out, make connections, join clubs and all will fall into place. Well, after a few hits and misses and, just like the querying process, you’ll find the perfect match for you. It’s like blind group dating or “Naked and Afraid” writer’s edition.

My attempts to find my tribe have been mixed. I have one writer friend who is very dedicated to helping me with my writing and we’ve forged a friendship of respect and reciprocity that makes me believe in serendipity. But you learn early on that you need lots of eyes on your work.
The rest of my circle (non-writers all) have fallen away, unable to keep up with the back and forth of rewrites. For once I could say without fear of sounding clichéd—It’s a writer thing, you wouldn’t understand. So, my search continues. Blogs exist to create a virtual community, but eventually virtual isn’t enough.

Why did I start a blog? The short answer is to find more readers, but now I know it’s really to find more writers.

Why did you start a blog? Is it the same reason you keep blogging?

The Danger

All endeavors have their pitfalls. Lawyers can become too jaded. Doctors–to robotic. Policymakers–to self-interested. And it doesn’t stop at professions. A mountain climber will tackle an even taller mountain because she hasn’t found one that has beaten her–yet. Surfers are always searching for that big wave and there’s a moment between doubt and sheer terror where invincibility washes all questions away. For every creative person the next work, the next piece, the next manuscript digs a little deeper (you hope) until you reach a core where only you live. That’s the danger. Living inside your head so much that no one can get in. That’s what all these risks have in common–standing in your own way.

Now that I’ve made this post sound so esoteric, let me bring you back to earth. I’m a writer and one of the things I write (obviously) is this blog. I concentrate on fairy tales, myths, and such and how they speak to us now. Not on an academic level, although it can sneak in there sometimes, but on a everyday human level. What does that mean? It means that I tend to spend a lot of time in my head figuring out what I think, feel, and believe regarding entertaining fiction. But living in my head I have a tendency, as many of us do, to overanalyze–to reach for something that maybe no one else sees. Nothing’s more jarring to an analyst than someone who reads your thoughts and comes back with, “Really? You went there?” “Yeah, I went there! And what?” Okay that’s defensive, but you get the point. But when you can’t find something in your bag of tricks, you tend to reach for snark.

This idea has been swirling around in my head for a while now and it started with Frozen, the new Disney movie sensation. I won’t pretend that I didn’t love it–because I did both as a parent and as a life-long lover of all (well, almost all) things Disney–but it’s gotten a little over the top. People want to dress up like Ana and Elsa, they record themselves singing, Let it Go, for public consumption, and they overanalyze the message. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the fact that (spoiler alert!) the main idea is true love which doesn’t involve a prince. I’m writing a series trying to debunk the myth that all girl-power adventure stories have to have a romantic focus. I just think that the cult-like following it’s attracting is…I’m searching for a word that isn’t too judge-y…unbelievable. It’s middle-aged women obsessing over Twilight unbelievable. Okay that was judge-y. Then I go back to my defensive analyst and hear others saying, “Yeah, I went there! And what?” To which I have no response.

We all have our own obsessions. Mine just happen to be quiet and solitary, while others can be loud and in your face. I came to blogging kicking and screaming and still haven’t joined Facebook or Twitter. I’m not secretive or shy, but I find I’m intimate. I’d rather have drinks at a bar than shots at the club. So, to end this long digression here’s the danger of blogging–living in your head and then being too judgmental of other people’s headspace. While it can be constructive, sometimes is can be cruel (like my Twilight remark). And though I don’t promise that I’ll always be big enough to take the high road, I like to think that I’m conscious of the danger.

No Excuses…On with the Show

When I made the decision to become a writer, I made an interesting discovery. Lots of people in my life and some new acquaintances voiced the same desire. However, they didn’t have anything written down. Or they had an idea which they haven’t resolved. Or…the list goes on and on. This really bugged me–like people who use the elevator to go up one flight at the gym. Nothing brought this home to me more like the one and only episode of “Girls” I watched. (To my contemporaries, I apologize for having no interest in this series to which I’m supposed to watch like the Gospels.)

It was the pilot episode. To sum it up the lead Girl wants to be a writer and lives in New York City, which is beyond expensive, but she makes no money. She’s still an intern and when her parents tell her she’s cut off so they can actually enjoy themselves she throws a hissy-fit. Being on this side of thirty I no longer commiserate with Girl and now root for the parents. And no, I don’t feel old–just really peeved that my mother’s “wait and see” was more prophesy than idle rant. Anyway, at some point she shows up at her parents’ hotel to show them the book she’s working on. And it’s a mess! Jots and doodles on 10 pages about who knows what and the parents are thoroughly underwhelmed. I was, too. Maybe it’s harsh, but come on? That makes you a writer? No wonder you can’t get respect for calling yourself one unless you’re published.

Now, I’ve been a blogger for almost a year and I’ll admit it’s gotten away from me a times. As the title of the post says, no excuses, so I won’t bore you with details that will make you sympathetic to my plight. I have been working on a novel (two in fact), but this blog is my exercise. It’s like having a thriving business, but not being bothered to work on the accounts. It catches up to you. I refuse to let this blog become a New Year’s resolution that only makes it to March. Go to the gym, eat better, oh and use your blog to actually blog! So to that end, next week I will publish a short story about my take on the 12 Dancing Princesses (It also proves I have been writing, just not blogging).

I still don’t like “Girls” and I think people are too quick to say they want to write, too. But instead of griping about it, I’ll just get on with my blogging.

National Book Lovers’ Day

Today is a day to think about how books affect us.

I’m a writer so I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I’m also a reader. Avid is the word I would use and sometimes obsessive is another phrase I’d tack on to my literary addiction. If you’re reading this, I assume you’re a reader, too. As such I’m sure you can relate to what I’m going to share with you.

Working on rewrites with book 2 in my series has brought about ideas for books 3, 4, and 5. At first I was over the moon that I now know the beginning middle and end of this series that has lived in my mind for so long. It’s become a very real place, this world I’ve created with characters I’ve come to see as old friends. I have glimpses of this world in my mind’s eye when I’m not writing and I’m struck by such a powerful urge to get back to my notebook and keep writing. However, I’ve also started feeling anxious about what happens next.

When I read a really good book, I invest not just time but emotions in the story. The characters become part of my day to day life and I wonder what they’re doing and what will happen to them. The phrase THE END becomes bittersweet and I miss those people I invited in to my consciousness. The same will happen, one day, when I finish this series. Years from now I will write that same phrase on a page and mean it. For the longest time I didn’t understand this sensation when I read, but now as a writer I know exactly what to call it. It’s loss and for a period of time, sometimes a few days sometimes a week or two, I grieve. I grieve by not picking up a new story and think about the events over and over again. I remember the sad bits, the parts when I couldn’t put the book down because I needed to know where I was leaving these friends before going to sleep, and I smile privately at some inside joke or moment of tenderness that I was allowed to witness.

I almost fear this with my own books. I know what will happen in book 5, but it hasn’t been written yet. So I can tell myself I have time. But the story continues to tell itself to me in quick snatches and long dreams insisting on being finished.

Just with the books I read, one day I’ll start to feel restless and unaccountable uncomfortable with my surroundings. I’ll tell myself it’s the weather or that the day to day hectic rush is getting to me. But I’ll realize I’m just missing my outlet—I’ll need a story. Only this time I’ll itch for a pen and I’ll meet a whole new batch of friends that I create despite knowing I’ll miss them terribly at some future date when I type the words…

THE END

That’s being a book lover. Enjoy the holiday!

On Writing – The Tree

“Writers use words to create the tree under which readers take shelter.” – Me

Tree Canopy

Tree Canopy

I read a pretty good blog post the other day about how part of talking to others about your work is tell them how you work. I always thought of that idea as too self-indulgent – the proverbial Facebook post about buying socks – but after seeing it written out I see the sense in it. Writers like to read about how other writers “did it” for inspiration, for strength, and to feel as though we’re not alone in our craziness.

The above quote is something that came to me one morning after a productive writing session followed by a good night’s sleep. I fell asleep the night before wondering why it’s okay to want to be a writer. I’m essentially a practical person and the thought of making my life about writing sounded too ephemeral and (again) self-indulgent. There were other things I could do with my time to enrich not only myself and loved ones, but perhaps the world. Doing something that makes you happy should result in helping others…it should give back. I couldn’t think of how writing could do that. That’s when I imagined this quote.

I remembered all the times reading brought me, joy, peace, safety, and myriad other feelings of well-being. I’ve been transported, fallen in love, learned and caught a glimpse of the sacred. The written word has the power to make you feel whole, sane, connected. I’ll admit that it can also make you feel the exact opposite but the journey is usually invaluable. Priceless. Practical.

So, my moment of “why me” was answered in a cliché.

Why not?

Countless writers have given me pleasure and made me think and I can think of no better way of giving back than to return the favor. I hope to give other readers shelter where they can take a few moments to be more.

Why do you write? Why don’t you?