New Voices of Experience Part VI:
The Healing Power of Words: Audrey Semprum on finding your way through writing.
Time and circumstance have a way of challenging a person beyond what they feel like they can endure or overcome. As a seasoned writer, the greatest breakthrough I have ever experienced is when I came to the realization that there is viable healing that can be gleaned from addressing a situation with the power and permanence of words.
I have discovered time and again that using words as an anchor grounds me, and helps me come to the place of peace – knowing that somehow everything is going to be okay. I had been a leader for several years in different capacities in my local church, but I had never been so challenged. It was during this time of great trial that I first realized the power of overcoming adversity with words. I was dealt a harsh life blow and I had nothing to stabilize me – mentally and emotionally. I was caught in a perpetual state of anguish and despair. I couldn’t change a thing. The whole situation was out of my control, and just awful.
With great effort on my husband’s part, I was coaxed to come out of my room. I had stowed away in despair and felt powerless to battle the hopelessness that was enveloping me. My husband convinced me to take a ride with him. As my husband and I quietly headed down the highway, which was our norm, I began to feel a song rise up in my spirit. I wasn’t trying to create anything. I was just trying to survive. I grabbed a pen and a notebook and I began to write down the song. As the words flowed onto the paper a healing washed over me.
When I returned home that day I was changed by the power of the words in the song that I had penned. I had discovered that as I released the hope and the words that were tucked down deep inside that I was able to actualize them as I applied my stored faith from deep within. It wasn’t a momentary breakthrough, but a monumental breakthrough. When I returned home that day I was able to pick up the shattered pieces of my life and move on – no longer broken beyond repair.
Through the years I have applied the same principle when I am faced with other challenging situations. I sit down and I start writing, and as I face my adversities by writing about them I find answers that I hadn’t previously been able to see because of the circumstances. As I write away my problems I find a great release. I am able to tap into an inner strength and peace. Words indeed, have the power to bring about healing if allowed to flow out of a painful or confusing situation. As a writer, I am grateful for the opportunity that writing allows and I am always amazed at the healing power of words.
Blog hub – Singular Multiplicities in Art – links to several online social media sites: https://audreysemprun.wordpress.com
Email for Public: firstname.lastname@example.org
Audrey Semprun lives with her husband in the high desert terrain of Prescott, Arizona. Audrey enjoys the peacefulness that living in a small mountain community allows. She gleans inspiration from not only the small town atmosphere, but also from the beauty that surrounds her. She is passionate about her faith, her large family, and about writing. Audrey uses her creativity to relay life lessons in a down to earth and meaningful way – always trying to bring light, love, and hope by means of the poetry and the stories that she shares.
New Voices of Experience Part V:
Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt: J.C. Salazar on the journey to become a writer.
I want to write. I have always wanted to write. I published my first book at the age of 61. So what took me so long? Fear and self-doubt. I’ll explain later. I am a late bloomer. As such, I came late to writing. My path to the place where I could don the title of writer with full confidence was a long and frustrating one.
I won’t go into the myriad of personal setbacks, though there were many, so I will just give an overview of my journey. I was an immigrant child at the age of nine. I arrived in Houston, along with my family of seven, in 1965. My life seemingly began that summer.
In reality I had been a dreamer of a child, with notions of creativity since infancy in my family’s farm in Mexico. I discovered this, along with a richness of other facts about myself and other family members once I embarked in writing my first book in earnest. I wrote Of Dreams & Thorns much later than 1965. It wasn’t till after my retirement as a college professor and administrator of a federal college program that I was able to clear my head and heart of all negativity regarding my proclamation that I was indeed a writer.
Of course, in reality I had been writing Dreams since my adolescence, at least. It came to me as vague notions of something that ought to be written down and shared. Aspects of it, bits and pieces, phrases, images, characters speaking their mind, shouting out for attention. I kept telling them I wasn’t ready, or I wasn’t the one. I was afraid to let them down if I lacked skill. After all, I had studied the best writers in the world. How could I presume to join their ranks?
I studied writing even as I taught freshman composition. I eventually learned about a pathetic disconnection between academic and creative writing. I studied poetry (last year I published my book of poems, states of unitedness) and I attended a couple of courses in fiction, taught by members of our University of Houston’s award-winning creative writing program. Alas, it seemed the more I studied, formally and independently, the more I knew that the best way to write and finish a book is to just do it, to borrow from Nike. So I began my book in 2017.
Before that, I wrote lots of poetry and ideas that I never threw away. Forty years wasted, it seems like sometimes. But more often than not, I believe that, for me with my history and circumstances, those 40 years were necessary preparation. Of course, I could have cut that time in half had I made a conscious assessment and decision to just get started. By the time of my retirement, and finally embracing my total freedom of choice, it was 2014.
It took a year to get reacquainted with myself and sort out all types of elements that defined me. All that assessment pointed indubitably to my being a writer. I finally had no more excuses not to act on my truest impulses. I wrote the book in six months, but in reality I had been writing it for forty years, at least at some basic level. The writing experience unleashed a pent-up craving to master the novel form. I made myself go beyond most basic writing book advice, and I assumed the mantle of writer in my own right.
With that, it was as if I gave myself permission to never again let self-doubt or fear of criticism slow me down. When you are a Mexican immigrant child, when you see yourself as a poor country peasant, when you doubt if you have mastered the English language enough to use it creatively, it builds up self-doubt and insecurities. Well, I somehow managed to shed all that garbage. I was well accomplished in many other areas, after all; I certainly had the wherewithal to do it.
I wrote, and I studied, and I wrote. I edited, and edited, and edited. I hired professional cover and book interior designers, and I hired two professional editors. I was investing in my book as if I were a minor “traditional” publisher. I learned the business, and it taught me that my route was to be an independent publisher. The aspects of publishing a book and getting it to market, or “in shelves,” end up falling into a category of business that we creative types seem to hate. I certainly do.
I will not expound much on the trials and tribulations of the modern status of publishing as regards novice writers, but I do recommend a thorough study of it if you are planning to embark in a writing career or adventure of your own.
So there it is — My short version of how I became a writer late in life as opposed to the more ideal time of my twenties through forties. I do regret that I started late, but only because with age come health issues and other things that slow me down. I have so many projects I want to complete. I have grown considerably as a writer since first publishing my two books, but that is part of the process.
New Voices of Experience Part IV:
You May Say that I’m a Dreamer
Like many baby-boomers, Dianna Hammond remembers watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Too young to really crush on them, she grew up appreciating the music, and their seemingly unlimited talent. She reads a lot, but mostly non-fiction. So what was she to think when she awoke one September morning after a dream with a title, characters and story arc in her head?
Time X 2 is a time travel love story involving Paul McCartney, pre-1966. Now, that date doesn’t mean a lot to some people, but others firmly believe Paul McCartney was killed in 1966 and replaced with the person currently portraying him. Dianna wasn’t in that camp when the dream came to her; she had to look up the term “PIDer” (one who believes Paul Is Dead), although she does remember thinking “That’s not Paul” when Sergeant Pepper came out in 1967.
Dianna began listening to interviews, watching videos, using the things she saw to make Paul as authentic as she could in her story. In the process, she became convinced that Paul is indeed dead, saying, “I can in seconds flat tell you which picture is Paul or his replacement. The mannerisms of Paul pre-1966 and the current one are inconsistent, as are their speaking voices.”
Why is this important so many years later?
It shows the cognitive dissonance that we all exhibit as we look at life. In the book I use John Lennon’s lyric, ‘Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.’ Written in late 1966 early 1967, coincidence?
What would you like people to take away from the book?
I hope to bring some ‘ah-ha’ moments to people who read it much as Dan Brown did with The DaVinci Code. Please understand, I am in no way comparing myself to him, just using the fact that his book sparked conversation.
Have your life experiences influenced what you are writing in any way?
Yes and no, Paul and Emily have a very healthy relationship even though they come from different times. Personally, my relationships have been one-sided. I’ve been married twice, but I am not sure I have ever been truly in love, so I observed couples who are, mainly my son and his wife, to understand what it must be like to give yourself to another but still hold on to your own individuality.
What do your family and friends think of this new venture? Are they supportive, dismissive, neutral?
My family and friends are very supportive and encouraging. Some (the younger generation) have mocked me for writing about Paul McCartney, but that’s alright, at least they know who he is. My son is currently reading the book to help in mechanics of it. I have had friends read it and they seem to enjoy it. My 91-year-old father says I’m the ‘Grandma Moses’ of writing. I don’t know about that but it has given me enjoyment and I feel as if Paul and Emily are my other children.
Do you have a real-life writing community?
No, I don’t at the moment. I am looking to reach out to local writers here in Atlanta and join a group soon.
Are you going to pursue an agent, a traditional publishing contract, a smaller indie house, or self-publication…and what’s driving that choice? Or is it too soon to tell?
I am on the 4th draft and final editing. I plan to pursue traditional publishing through an agent. I think I would feel more comfortable with an agent guiding my way. Let the querying begin!.
I retired early at the age of 61, I am now 63. I am single so I have unlimited freedom to pursue this new adventure. I’ve been thankful that this has given me a purpose in retirement I am outlining the second in the series which will be called Time X 4. Keeping the theme going.
Dianna can be found on Twitter @DiannaHammond90
New Voices of Experience Part IV:
Critical Learnings: Eileen Curley Hammond on becoming an author after 60.
Other writers: “I penned my first story at 13;” “I started writing at an early age.” “I always knew I wanted to write.”
Not me. I was perfectly comfortable in the corporate world. Sure I dipped my toe in on occasion, when necessary, but I always kept my eye on the next most profitable move. Enter age 50: I lost my job.
Then a wonderful thing happened. They sent me to an outplacement service. The service made me focus on what was most important in my life. Through that I realized I wanted to write. And if I didn’t have some semblance of writing in my life I’d be unhappy. It was a revelation.
I’d like to tell you that I immediately whipped out pen and paper. No, I still had to pay the bills. But I found a great company for which to work. And in every venue, I strove to tell a succinct story well.
When I was 57 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was another turning point. Although I’ve now been cancer free for nearly six years (Yay!), it was time for some changes. I set a goal to retire from corporate life at 60 and to write a book after retirement. And I did.
While writing the first book in the Merry March cozy mystery series, I researched various publishing options. I bought books, attended writer conferences, and badgered everyone I knew. After examining all the options, (and reading Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry’s great book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published) I decided that the independent route was best for me. Being older, I didn’t want to spend my time knocking on agents and then publishers’ doors.
Some critical learnings on my path to becoming an author:
Hire an editor. It was an investment, but it was a critical step. The old adage, you don’t know what you don’t know, was absolutely true in my case. Miranda from Editing Realm edited my first two books and she was wonderful.
Read Stephen King’s book On Writing. He writes 2,000 words a day, no matter what. And if he has a good day, he gets done early. He suggested that newbie writers hit a lower target, 1,000 words. Why was this so helpful? Because I always felt guilty. If I wasn’t writing, I felt bad. If I was writing, I felt I should be getting things done around the house. And worst of all, I retired, gosh darn it, and that meant I should be able to have some fun in my life. This one piece of advice made my life manageable again.
Understand that self publishing is hard. You are in charge of everything. Cover design selection, interior book formatting, copyright and Library of Congress applications, etc. Helen Sedwick’s book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook helped me think about the steps I might need to take.
Where am I now? I’ve published three books in the Merry March series and am finalizing the first draft of the fourth. It’s been a struggle on occasion, but it’s also been incredibly fulfilling.
Follow Eileen Curley Hammond:
New Voices of Experience Part III
Getting Those Stories out There: an interview with S.L. Partington
The dream of many writers is a publishing contract. But as author S.L. Partington has discovered over the last ten years, in many ways it is only the beginning, and there are many ways to define success.
I’m Sharon Partington. I live in Alberta, Canada, and I’m a retired uber nerd who plays video games when I’m not writing. I wrote my first story when I was nine or ten – Star Trek fan fiction. In high school I wrote an S.E. Hinton-inspired short story, which my teacher read to the class (I was thrilled and mortified). A high school creative writing course taught me to write an appreciate poetry. Then came the first fantasy novel, hand-written almost 30 years ago. Finally, in 2007, a contract with a small press, for Hunter, a science-fiction thriller.
All the feelings that come with that contract: elation, trepidation, disbelief: I’ve done it! I’m going to be a published author! But publishers are in business, and business models change. My publisher decided to change from a multi-genre publisher to focus on romances, and Hunterdidn’t fit. I requested my rights back, and they agreed. The contract didn’t specify that they had to, so one piece of advice I’d give new writers is make sure your contract covers rights revision to the author, in case of a change of publisher focus, or if it goes out of business.
Hunter then went to a second publisher, one my editor was working for at the time. That didn’t work out either, due to communication problems and creative differences. But what I learned was that I can do this writing thing: my stories, and my storytelling abilities are good enough. I’ve chosen to go indie at this point so I have absolute creative control over my books. I don’t have to worry about whether or not Vampires or Zombies or whatever are hot or trending. I can write my own stories and put them out there myself. There’s a huge amount of freedom in that.
Marketing has been an enormous challenge – mostly finding strategies that don’t cost a lot (I have a very limited budget) and actually produce results. I do have a Twitter presence, and I also have a Facebook author page, although the Facebook page doesn’t get much traffic. I also have an author website. I have tried the Amazon ads, but didn’t get a great result. Navigating the keywords is very much a mystery for me – finding ones that work can be daunting. There are resources to help with that – from Amazon itself, and from other authors – and I have looked at a few of them. It’s very true that it takes money to make money and that can be a real challenge when your budget is so limited. I don’t think my age has anything to do with it really – I do know how the internet works and readers don’t know how old I am, they just know whether or not I’ve managed to tell a good story.
Success for me has more to do with getting those stories out there as opposed to being on the best seller’s list. I write the stories that I want to read. That’s the main reason I chose to go the Indie route. I don’t have the patience (at the moment) to query traditional publishers and/or agents. That’s not to say it will never happen – just for now it’s not the way I want to go. There are lots of roads that lead to the same destination.
Hunter is the first of a series – there are 4 books planned. I also have a fantasy series in the works, but it’s still in the planning stage. Fantasy and science fiction have always been my genres of choice. Hunter began as a first line prompt that took on a life of its own. I write (and read) to escape reality for a while. Fantasy and scifi allow me to do that.
New Voices of Experience Part II
Deal with the Pain
Øle Ø is a former member (retired 2016) of SAG-AFTRA – the Actors’ union, and have a B. A. in Theatre and a minor in communication from the University of Minnesota, Duluth.(2000). He’s also worked in the construction trades in NYC (carpenter’s union) and many other various jobs in the Mid-West – too numerous to list. He puts memories on paper in humorous, sometimes sad ways.
“I’ve recently started calling my memories: “Bones,” after reading Natalie Goldberg’s book – Writing Down The Bones and when I write, I consider my writing as: “Crushing Bones”.
Think about being worried, in a hospital or going to the doctor “AGAIN.” Dealing with bad times or unexpected times – life issues stopping you cold from that deadline.
Why should I start writing again? I mean, I go from one uncompleted project for three weeks to another, because of my health.
I’ve been on crutches and can’t go to the bathroom without – excruciating pain. Who can write?!
But wait, I can deal with the pain. No one knows the pain I’ve been through. A small virus in my intestines is nothing like having your chest cracked open 3 times since you were 5 years old. OMG. No one knows that pain.
I swear at my parents. I swear at my doctors. I swear at myself. I swear at the gods that did this to me and realize I can’t do a fucking thing about it.
I AM THE PAIN. I LEARN THE PAIN. I DEAL WITH THE PAIN. (then I thank the doctors and nurses for the meds that temporarily stop my pain…)
My leg or arm wasn’t blown off in a bomb attack. I can’t think of that type of pain. Yet, pain is pain. It impedes a good writing session. No argument – hands down.
When I’m healthy, I can work – either with my hands or my head. Things are much easier then. Much simpler. AND, all those teachers and professors since the third grade saying to me: “You Should Write!”
It’s difficult when I can’t feel creative or looking at my heart rate monitor in a hospital and I’m being held hostage for four days because they can’t figure out what the hell is going on with my heart rhythm.
Yet I feel fine. They try to convince me otherwise and I start to wonder if I’m in a Twilight-Zone episode. Everyone in the hospital – especially the administration idiots in pig masks are messing with my head. Most of all, they’re LIARS. I threaten legal action and they take their masks off.
They can’t wait to sign me out.
But I won’t sign a damn thing. I get back at them for messing with my creative writing. Making them pay for their lack of knowledge.
I know my body better than anyone.
I get home and self-doubt enters my consciousness as I worry about my blood pressure rising every time I take it, 5 times in a row, starting to think I should call 911, when I’m trying to write.
But, I stop and rest and think hard.
Yes – I ate 5 pieces of bacon at the Windmill restaurant. They made a mistake with the “small order” of sausage links and brought five delicious, smelly bacon slices and my wife is on a plane to Denver for a week and she won’t know I’m eating them and the waitress swore allegiance to me and won’t tell.
I love her.
Did she know it could kill you? No. Anyway – It’s not her fault. She doesn’t know I’m a writer. Where are the words?
Follow Øle Ø on Twitter: https://twitter.com/doleolesen
New Voices of Experience Part I
Dream When You are Young?
Posted on July 5, 2010
“You say you should have been a ballerina, babe
There are songs I should have sung
But I guess our dreams have come and gone
You’re ‘sposed dream when you are young
And so you and I
We’ll watch our years go by
We’ll watch our sweet dreams fly
Dreams Go By: Harry Chapin
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
Maybe back in the 70s, when Harry Chapin wrote this and I was in my teens, dreams were only for the young. Maybe some people think they still are. But I dreamt of being a writer all my life, and I was 55 when I finally produced a book good enough to be accepted for publication. (I’m 61 now, and working on my fourth.)
Digital presses and the internet have changed the world of publishing. Small indie presses taking advantage of e-book and print-on-demand technologies, and self-publishers doing the same mean there are more books available than ever before. For the digital natives (a term popularized by Marc Prensky in his 2001 book Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, referring to anyone born after 1980, for whom electronic communication was always just there), perhaps adapting to a world where social media can make or break a product or person is easier than for those of us born before 1980, the digital immigrants. Perhaps keeping up with Office’s newest iteration, Photoshop’s changed interface, what the ??? does one do on Reddit, and just what is the purpose of Instagram are easier to comprehend if you’re under 40. But what does this all mean to the older writer? Because there are two overlapping subjects here: the art of writing, and the business of marketing.
In this occasional, on-going series, I and other ‘senior writers’ will be discussing how our age affects (or doesn’t affect) our writing, both its creation and its promotion. For the purpose of this series, we’re all baby boomers: born before 1964. We are traditionally published, indie-press published, self-published and not (yet) published. We write in a wide range of genres. We have commonalities, and we have differences.
If you fit this definition of a ‘senior writer’, and you’d like to contribute a blog post or be interviewed for this series, contact me by commenting on this post on Twitter, FB, or in the blog itself.