Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Journey as a Writer and Quote of the Week

When I was about eleven, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I took a pad of paper and a pencil and settled myself on the floor under the family room window and prepared to write my first story.

I think I wrote three sentences, got bored, and ran off to play touch football with the neighbors.

The next time I tried to write a fictional story was in my college creative writing course, and then I wasn't writing a story because I wanted to; it was an assignment. I remembered an old story my aunt had written in college at SDSU years before about a flea named Spike, so I wrote a sequel to her story. Not a creative assignment on my part, but it was the best I could do with fiction writing.

Since then, I've written nonfiction and poetry. I've published two books, but both times in an editorial capacity; the first was a collection of scholarly essays I helped to publish in grad school, and the second was a new Book of Common Prayer for the Reformed Episcopal Church. I also started writing poetry in high school, kept writing poetry in college (and was editor of both literary magazines in high school and college), but once I started grad school, the poetry writing tapered off slowly to nothing.

Once I completed graduate school, I was too busy to write; instead, I was researching and designing lesson plans for teaching college courses and the only writing I was doing was in the margins of student essays and exams. Then kids came along, with five pregnancies within eight years resulting in four wonderful children and a difficult and heartbreaking miscarriage. Obviously with a houseful of children and the decision to educate them at home, I had no time to write.

In 2006 I met two amazing women. Smart women. Writing women. Poets, actually: Kitty and Judith. And I was drawn back into the poetic vortex and started composing poems again. I had re-embarked on the writing journey.

In the fall of 2008 I did something that still shocks me. Along with a number of women from a self-education forum, I joined the melee of NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month. The idea of writing a 50,000-word novel in thirty days--the month of November--was daunting enough, but fiction writing? Me? It didn't seem like a promising combination.

But then I remembered something I read from Christian writer Brian McLaren: he turned an autobiographical journey into a fictional novel which because a well-known book, A New Kind of Christian. And I thought that I could do the same. I could chronicle my journey from evangelical to Anglican via a novel. So I made up a character that was part me and part several women I admired greatly, and I went for it. In November of 2008, I wrote those 50,000 words in thirty days, thus drafting the first half of the novel. In 2009 I committed to NaNoWriMo again, this time drafting the second half of the novel. The join between the two is very rough, as is the entire book; if I ever go back to work on it, it will need massive editing and expanding.

But I had done it. I had written fiction. And writing fiction in the carefree drafting mode of NaNoWriMo was strangely freeing. Although fiction writing always seemed like it was outside my skill set as a writer/editor, I found writing from the top of my head, no outline on paper or plan in mind until I wrote scenes into existence, totally invigorating.

I skipped NaNoWriMo in 2010, opting for a poetry challenge instead. But also in November of 2010,  a hair-raising idea grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. I don't know how I got there, but I landed on an unfamiliar website called Wattpad. And there, amongst all of the different writing genres of historical fiction, science fiction, teen fiction, thrillers, horror, poetry, etc., I saw "fan fiction." And in that moment, an idea was born, and I started writing a story under a pen name, publishing one chapter per week on Wattpad; my tale takes place between the first and second books of the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. Obviously, fan fiction based on copyrighted material cannot be published for sale, but I found myself intrigued by the characters and what I could add to those mysterious three months between the books. And slowly other people became interested, too.

Eventually that story became a novel of 140,000 words and 56 chapters. Currently that first fan fiction novel has received over 600,000 "reads" (hits) on Wattpad, and I completed it one week shy of a year after I started it, during NaNoWriMo 2011. A second fan fiction novel, which presents a whole new Twilight story, is even more successful at 40 chapters this week (I'm working on the 41st) and nearly 550,000 reads. I've also written three short stories based directly on the Twilight books, retelling a few incidents from Edward's point of view rather than Bella's (as the original novels are written). On Wattpad alone (I also have posted the stories on I've garnered nearly 1.2 million reads. I spend almost a day after posting a new chapter responding to comments and reviews on the two sites (fan mail, basically). And I also am thrilled to be able to mentor some young writers on Wattpad and as well.

In fact, I'll be teaching a new four-week Fan Fiction Writing class at Brave Writer starting July 9!! It's going to be so much fun leading young people into writing fan fiction about characters from their favorite books, movies, television shows, and even video games and music groups.  Fan fiction is a wonderful way to coax reluctant writers to write, especially in the summer. It's fun, creative, low-pressure, and is very popular among teens...who are most of my readers. :)

So in light of this post on writing, I thought I'd share a quotation that I saw on Twitter only yesterday that inspired me greatly:
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." ~Richard Bach
Isn't that a wonderful thought? I may "only" be writing fan fiction, but I also have hopes of pushing beyond the unpaid writing of fan fiction and write some original fiction as well; time will tell. But until then, I have another chapter to post by tonight, so I'd better get cracking! Fan fiction readers can become quite impatient while waiting for a new chapter; I've instant-messaged with readers who were staying up all night on the East Coast, waiting for my next chapter to be posted at 1:00 AM here in California. (I revise each chapter several times before posting, so it takes a while to get a "finished" chapter ready for publication.) 

Enjoy the journey, my friends~

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nearly There....

Finally, we are in our final week of home education for the 2011-2012 school year. Benjamin has a few math, history, reading, and science lessons to do while Jonathan has only algebra and guitar. Timothy has Algebra II, a US History final, and an online SAT/ACT prep class through Brave Writer to finish. But, really, we're nearly there.

I'm in my final week of my last Brave Writer class this school year, the Shakespeare Family Workshop which has been very quiet. It's a rather self-directed class, and this spring's class is not large, plus many families are dealing with graduations and other year-end activities, so it's been a quiet class. I spent many hours last year totally revamping the class so that each family can take its own approach to each genre of comedies, histories, and tragedies after a two-week introduction covering Shakespeare's life and times and his language and poetry. So families can skim the surface or go really in depth, or any measure in between, as fits their kids' ages and interest levels. So this class has been quite a relief after teaching two totally intense literary analysis classes back-to-back. Whew!! I was often up working until 2:00 in the morning or later. It was wild!

So I will have the rest of June OFF. Yay!!

 Plans? Read, rest, relax! And write. :)

 On July 1, I start working for Brave Writer as a salaried employee rather than freelancing. I'll have additional duties in addition to teaching, so basically I'll be working year-round for Julie, and I've cut back my teaching load for the fall when I'll be needed more. It'll be a win-win: Julie will be able to hand off some of her tremendous work load, and I'll have set hours to work and a steady paycheck each month.

 I'm really looking forward to this kind of work; it's what I do best and enjoy most: investing myself into the detail work to flesh out someone else's brilliant visions. I'm not an idea-person; I'm more of a make-things-work-behind-the-scenes person, so I enjoy taking someone's visions and making them work in a practical sense. I've done it with my poet friend Judith and her many creative enterprises: an arts council for our small town, a monthly writers' workshop meeting at our local library, a community garden for our area, a children's program for her large annual artists' retreat, etc. Now I get to help Julie with the practicalities of her vision for Brave Writer so that she can leave the detail work to me while she keeps dreaming BIG. I'm really excited about helping her make Brave Writer everything she wants it to be.

Julie is a smart businesswoman as well as a brilliant and passionate educator and writer, and it will be a joy to work more closely with her. I'll also be teaching a summer class in writing fan fiction; I'll have the information up on my new website,, in the next week or so. It's a new class, but I think it will be truly amazing!! So as the school year finishes up, I'll be taking a couple of weeks to rest and relax, then I'll get to work at Brave Writer.

 See you all soon!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Quotation of the Week and Trinity Sunday

Rublev: The Trinity (Icon)

This Sunday marks the beginning of Ordinary Time...not because it is ordinary per se, but because we count the Sundays that follow with ordinal numbers: The First Sunday After Trinity, The Second Sunday After Trinity, and so on, all the way to the "New Year" of the Christian Cycle: the First Sunday in Advent. So from now until the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we're in Ordinary Time.

 Trinity Sunday is a Feast Day for me, not just because it's the Sunday after Pentecost, which the Anglicans call "Whitsunday" as it's the day that the catechumens, garbed in white robes, are welcomed into the Church, but because it's the Feast of Title for Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. I don't usually attend Sunday services at Blessed Trinity, but I've been a regular at the Friday morning healing services for almost eight years, even before Blessed Trinity came into existence.

 Today I slipped into church just at ten o'clock, and Alice asked me to read the Epistle, my first time reading the Epistle at a Sunday service. I love reading God's Word aloud, so I gladly read from the Fourth Chapter of The Revelation to Saint John, verses 1-11:
AFTER this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. And the first was like a lion, and the second like a calf, and the third had a face as a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created.
Although we use the Book of Common Prayer 2011 on Friday mornings, on Sundays Blessed Trinity reverts to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, thus the more archaic language (which I love, of course, being the medievalist that I am).

The Collect for Trinity Sunday from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
So for this Trinity Sunday, it seems fitting to choose a verse from the Epistle I read to be my Quotation of the Week:
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created." --Revelation 4:11, 1928 Book of Common Prayer Propers
So as we enter Ordinary Time, may we focus on the worship of our Lord. The liturgical color of Ordinary Time, green, reminds us to be always growing in our faith in Christ and in our love for God and our fellow people. May we shine forth His Divine Love through the power and grace of Our Living God.

Soli Deo Gloria,


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