Ernest Hemingway in his younger years.
"BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME; WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ME?"
That old joke comes to mind when I think about one of an author’s many duties: writing a bio.
After all you’ve gone through, writing blurbs, synopses and query letters, it seems this should be just about the easiest item on your to-do list, but looks can be deceiving.
You’ll need several bios: short, super-short, long and super-long.
Start with the super-long and prune from there. The super-long is more or less a resume, not only listing where you’re from, but how you got there. Include education, work experience, writing experience, and knowledge of what you write about. Include any life-altering experiences that made you what you are today. Include awards. Be thorough. You may want to consult this if you are fortunate enough to be interviewed.
The long bio is a condensed version of the above. It’s what you’ll probably send your publisher.
The short bio is just that. Hit the high spots, no more than a couple of paragraphs. Answer the question: why would we want to read a book by you? This is the bio that will probably be featured on the back pages of your book.
And finally, there’s the super-short bio. Condense your life down into one or two sentences; easier said than done.
Bios are more important than you might think. They’re used in advertising, of course, and as ways of introducing yourself to people under all sorts of circumstances.
Be careful what you put in your bio.
Some authors like to call themselves “award-winning,” but this is a slippery term. I won an award in the ‘90’s from the Abilene, TX, Writer’s Guild for a Christmas poem, but I look on this as long-ago and irrelevant. Make sure you really have won something, at least, and preferably recently.
Unless your book is politically-oriented, don’t include your participation in groups with names like “Drill, Baby, Drill,” or “Stop Fracking Now.”
Family details are heart-warming for some genres, but not everybody wants to know about your kids or spouse, unless it’s relevant to your book. “Mary is the wife of Chicago mayor Fred Sneeze,” for a book about the history of that city. Or “Mary’s daughter, Cicily Sneeze, won the first gold medal in Women’s Boxing at the 2014 Olympics,” for a book about sports. I confess to mentioning my grandchildren in my bio, but it’s a cozy mystery, and seems appropriate.
Don’t give your street address. You might mention the area you live in, but for safety’s sake, keep it vague. Do give your commercial email address and website address (you have these, don’t you?) I live in North Carolina, and that’s enough info for anybody.
Remember the genre. If you’re writing a bio that will be at the end of a hard-boiled mystery, don’t mention that you like to crochet. If you’re the author of a biography of a Civil War general, by all means, do put down that you have an MA in history.
Don’t use in-jokes or expect people to understand your sense of humor. In an early bio, I wrote that our two daughters were “blessings to society.” I thought I was being cute. Nobody else did.
Don’t expect people to care about other personal things. I proudly mentioned in a bio introduction for a mystery conference that my husband was the inventor of the “One-Bolt,” but since nobody outside the waterworks industry knew what it was, the announcement fell rather flat. (It’s a system for joining water pipe.)
Generally, bios are written in third person, in the present tense, unless you are deceased.
If you’re still stumped about how to put together your own bio, take a look at the bios in the books on your own bookshelf. Observe the style, what’s included and whether it is interesting to you.
Let me give you a final illustration:
SUPER SHORT: “Ernest Hemingway is the author of ten novels and many short stories. He likes to hunt and fish. He makes his home in Florida. His website is www.sixtoedcat.com.”
Me, age 9, fully recovered from the mumps.
Recently, one of my Facebook friends asked what particular books were important in the lives of her fellow writers. It got me to remembering how my addiction started…
My mother was a minister’s daughter who grew up during the Great Depression and her family could only afford to give her one birthday party in her childhood. Because of this, she made sure we, her three children, had sumptuous parties that she enjoyed as much as we did. The year I turned eight, she had planned a “Sugaring-Off Party,” which involved a hayride and making maple candy with hot sap and snow. All the arrangements were made when I came down with mumps. Undeterred, my parents threw the party anyway. I stayed at home with a babysitter and my gifts were collected and deposited at the house before the group left on their party adventures. I felt thoroughly sorry for myself as I opened my presents until I opened the present from my best friend, Lois. It was The Secret of the Old Clock, featuring Nancy Drew. It was love at first read. I forgot my sore throat and read every word before I fell asleep. I never realized that Nancy Drew books are gateway drugs and that I was beginning an addiction that would last my entire life.
It was at our marvelously-stocked school library that I discovered The Magician’s Nephew, another story of wonder and thrilling unlikeliness. I identified so much with the children carried to another world by magic rings, I fretted about them getting back. The author, the brilliant Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, was kind to his readers and rendered a happy ending, for which I was grateful. For a while, I was all about fantasy.
Another memory: My mother had worked hard to prepare a Labor Day picnic, baking brownies, preparing her famous Army potato salad (my favorite), arranging ham slices on a plate, bagging up rolls, and sending my dad for ice to put in the cooler where Coca Cola was kept chilled. She’d bought a colorful oilcloth table cover and plastic silverware for all. She had invited the Austins, the family from around the block, to join us. All was ready for joyous memory-making.
Normally, I would have been a big help and support. At age twelve, I was capable of eating three times the amount I can now, and even after all this time, the thought of her menu makes my mouth water. But that week, I had met Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester and they captured my complete attention. “In a minute,” I answered when she called. Grudgingly, I joined my brother and sister in the back seat of the car. Once we got to the state park, everybody piled out of the car, carrying something and chattering excitedly; everyone but me.
I regret to confess that I spent the major portion of that afternoon and early evening stretched out reading in the back seat of our family car. I even filled a plate and brought it back with me, where I ate in splendid solitary silence and read. I’d never come across anything so thrilling! Who was the mysterious creature who walked the nocturnal halls of Thornfield? Would Mr. Rochester ever realize that Jane was the woman for him?
The combination of mystery and romance was captivating. I felt as though I’d found a dark, intriguing new world, filled with mystery and romance.
But then, a few years later, I picked up a book in the Jr. High School library called Mrs. McGinty’s Dead. It was an older book, much thumbed, but from the first scene where Hercule Poirot contemplates the wonderful meal he has just consumed to the truly amazing intellectual gymnastics at the end, I was enthralled with anything written by Agatha Christie. It helped to have parents who encouraged the mystery addiction. There was a big variety drugstore downtown that carried Nancy Drews that were only a dollar apiece. And paperback Agatha Christies were even cheaper, 35 to 50 cents!
One other book has had the most major influence on my life. I was twenty-two before I actually started reading it in earnest, but once I did, it spoke to me over and over. Each time I read it now, I find new wisdom. Different translations reveal new interpretations. Right now, I am reading the New International Version, and learning something each day. I’ve only read it all the way through once and am on a second reading, about a third of the way through.
The hero dies in the middle of the story, but it has a truly happy ending.
My sister, Louise, in college.
I was seven when my baby sister was born, and was overjoyed. Here was a real-live doll for me to play with who actually could burp, wet a diaper and say “Mama.” What a treat it was to show this new little person the ropes. I taught her all the best children’s songs, read her my favorite books and together we came up with a cartoon character named Chubby Chick (two circles, a dot for an eye and straight lines for his legs) that we used for our notes to each other. She, for her part, became the president of my fan club and seemed to think everything I said was the ultimate wisdom, carved in stone.
When she was around four years old, my sister contracted a strange illness with a high fever. Her personality actually seemed to change from a sunny child to a cranky, snarling brat. We were terribly worried about her, especially when my parents had to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital. I vividly remember pressing my face against the window screen as I watched the ambulance pull away from the curb.
It was nighttime and the stars were out. I was eleven, and it was the first real, earnest prayer I remember praying, and I didn't pull any punches:
God, don’t you DARE take my baby sister away from me!
And somehow, I knew that He heard me, and didn't take offense.
It was touch and go, but eventually my little sister made a complete recovery. Later, I learned that the illness that sent her to the hospital was the dangerous condition now known as Reye’s Syndrome. For many years, none of us realized what a narrow escape she’d had. Except God.
Fast forward many years and my sister—all grown up and married with a law degree and a beautiful daughter--was hospitalized, battling cancer for a second time. The night before her surgery, I all at once remembered that long-ago night in the window. My prayer was more respectful this time, but nonetheless urgent:
Dearest Lord, please let us keep her! We need all her!
Once again, I felt assured that He had things under control. The doctors told her that they have no way of knowing what the prognosis would be, because they’d never seen a condition quite like it. They were not optimistic, but I was, because the Lord had again put an assurance in my heart that there would be no more cancer, ever again. And it has proved to be right. It’s been over ten years, and there has been no recurrence.
My sister has become a great prayer warrior and Bible teacher. She lives far away, but we speak on the telephone frequently and still laugh about Chubby Chick. I am profoundly grateful to God for giving me back my little sister and best friend. After all, fan club presidents are had to come by!
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. Psalm 30:2
“What’s the use?” said one of the students in my class on mysteries and mystery writing at the Cary Senior Center. “I go into a bookstore and look around, and there are about a million books all around me, and I think, what’s the use of my writing another one? Who will care? Who will want to read it?”
The man speaking had retired from a fascinating career and had many, many interesting experiences to relate, but he was experiencing what I daresay every writer feels at one time or another. Every artist, too.
“It’s all been done,” says the grandson of the famous artist Seurat to his muse, the ghost of Seurat’s mistress, in the musical, Sundays in the Park with George. The young man has just experienced a huge career setback. “It’s been done before, time and time again,” he moans.
The ghost leans tenderly over the boy (who is her grandson) and says, “But not by you, my love; not by you.”
Which gets to the essence. Uniqueness is built into every person. If you are a parent with more than one child you may have noticed how different each child—from the same parents, living in the same home—is from the other. Each one of your offspring is unique.
And what each person produces is unique, too, if there isn’t a definite effort to imitate. There are several books out—best sellers—that list the rejection notes of people who went on to rise above the discouragement and excel. It would have been a shame if everyone agreed with the casting director’s comments on a young Fred Astaire: “Can't act... Can't sing... Balding... Can dance a little."
It’s a fact of life: there are always people who won’t “get it.” There were dozens—even hundreds--of thrillers written about the Russians vs. the Americans during the Cold War, but Tom Clancy found a way to tell the story again, underwater, in The Hunt for Red October. Nobody was interested in the story until the U.S. Naval Institute Press was willing to publish it as their first fictional work, ever. When President Reagan was spotted carrying the book, it became a long-lasting best seller, and later, a film. Madeleine L"Engle's classic YA science fiction novel, A Wrinkle in Time, was turned down 29 times. The fictional biography of van Gogh, Lust for Life by Irving Stone, was rejected 16 times, but finally found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies. One of the comments? “A long, dull novel about an artist.’ (The website “Rotten Rejections” is full of such misguided non-wisdom.)
Writing can be hard. I want to tell fledgling writers that there will be days when “What’s the use?” will spring to your lips unbidden. There will be days when the material you are turning out looks like total drivel. Then, on another day, as you re-read, you’ll find yourself saying, “This is brilliant!” It’s a very common occurrence. What’s needed is perseverance. I remember a young woman asking me to read her thriller novel and comment. To tell you the truth, I thought the plot was great, but the actual writing was clumsy and hard to read. I gave her a tactful critique, and I’m glad I did, because now she’s doing very, very well as a published author. I can only assume she took some courses and learned the basics, because she had some great ideas in her
My mother used to say that discouragement is a tool of the devil, and I’ve learned from experience that she was right. It’s intended to squash any joy from all our efforts on planet Earth and make us feel insignificant. Nobody is insignificant in God’s plan.
If you are meant to be an author, and you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it will happen. Keep trying. Learn, work, ask questions. And remember Fred Astaire.
Your great-grandmother Edwards wouldn’t have liked me to use that term, kids, (“Kids are baby goats,” she’d say) but by the time you read this, you’ll be much older, and that word works these days for most people under, say, thirty.
Right now, the five of you are all seven and under, and this document would probably mean little to you. You guys don’t like talky things, like movies, even some Disney ones. As time goes by, though, I think you’ll appreciate words more and then this piece might mean something.
I wish you could know what your eager shout, “It’s Grandma!” or “Grandmother!” does for my heart. I want to shout back, “It’s my darling grandchild!” (Sometimes, I do!) I love hearing what you think, what you’ve learned and what you want to do. I love watching you play, using your imagination and your young intellect. You are each so beautiful, so perfect. I know this childlike wonder you have will fade some with the years, but know that each of you is here for a very important purpose. For instance, you’ve already made your grandfather and me young again.
There are so many things I’d like to communicate to you each in the relatively few years I have to know and love you. So many things I’ve learned. Sometimes I wish I’d known these things when I was your age, and that’s why I’m writing them down for you. Maybe you’ll take some of them to heart, and benefit from them. Some may seem obvious, but bear with me, please. (By the way, this is just a partial list. Watch for more in the future.)
Please and thank you are extremely valuable words. You all have already been taught to use them, but as you grow older, you may drop them. Don’t. You’d be amazed at how many doors these magic words will open for you.
I’m sorry, when used properly, is also a fine expression. Don’t make a habit of saying it all the time, but when you are truly wrong and you know it, use it. You will be the bigger person for it.
These days, the term gentleman and lady have come into much misuse. To me, a gentleman (or lady) is a person who conducts himself with dignity, kindness and discretion. Currently, even some criminals are referred to as gentlemen. This is a shame.
Treat people with respect, no matter what their station. There is no excuse for condescension towards anyone. People who think they need to flaunt their position or wealth lack character. A waiter or janitor can be as good a friend as a senator. You can never have too many friends.
Scrupulous honesty is important. (That’s not to say you have to blurt out everything that pops into your head—that’s indiscretion.) But if people can count on you to do what you say you’ll do, and mean what you say, that’s worth more than gold.
A fact I learned once I got out into the world of work is that some grownups aren’t always mature. They can be as petty and selfish as any bully on the playground. They can be manipulative and dishonest. Recognizing this can help you immensely. Avoid these people. Don’t deal with them. Don’t trust their promises. And don’t get into arguments with them. Simply fade out of their lives gently, without commitment.
Don’t try to impress your friends. It won’t work, anyway. Just be you. Everybody is the star of their own mental movie. Remember that when people don’t make the effort to understand and appreciate you, they aren’t necessarily evil. It’s just that most people are self-centered.
You know what’s right in most cases. Just do it. There are countless temptations that will come your way. Resist the ones you know to be wrong. Nobody should have to tell you this, but when they are sad or lonely or hurting, sometimes a person does foolish things that can resonate in their lives for years to come. Believe me, you will be glad if you don’t succumb.
Life isn’t fair. That’s not a popular idea right now, but it’s undeniably true. Some people are going to have lots more than you do. "You don’t always get what you want," the song says. Don’t let this frustrating fact ruin your life. There are many treasures out there to be discovered. They don’t have to be covered in gold or glory. They just need to be good and honorable. Another song says, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again."
Obtain for yourself a working knowledge of the Bible. It’s a long book, but no longer than one of the Harry Potter books (which are so popular right now) and there are so many valuable nuggets of wisdom there. Get a list that enables you to read it through in a certain period of time—one year, two years. (I have a two-year Bible, and I’m on my second reading of it.) When I did read the Bible all the way through, I found a lot of puzzling things, I admit, but there were so many more wonderful things that really helped me.
Most important of all, allow Jesus to introduce Himself into your life. He says, “…I stand at the door and knock.” He’s willing to become friends, if you are. What does it look like to be a Christian? Essentially, it’s someone who recognizes that he/she will never make it to Heaven without accepting that he/she is a sinner and needs to acknowledge the sacrifice that Jesus made as the only way. Once you do this, that big black book with the gold edges will start to make a whole lot more sense.
And for that matter, so will life.
(I’ll end this letter now, but there may be more.)
I love you all more than I can ever express,
We grabbed the conference room.
“Tell me everything you know. I have five minutes.”
This about sums up my efforts at teaching a 4-week class on mystery writing at the Cary Senior Center recently. It was called “Whodunnit? Mysteries and Mystery Writers.”
At the first class, I gave my usual speech about how I came to write a mystery (I was so tired of bad ones, I decided to produce something I myself would enjoy). That was pretty good, as far as it went, but my voice gave out by the end of the hour and these nice people paid some money to hear me teach them something; they deserved better. I did suggest they try looking for writing ideas on the back page of the USA Today newspaper—you know, those little newsy paragraphs, one for each state?
By the second lesson, it was clear that they didn’t come just to be entertained; they came to learn and share. We were a small group, only seven, but each “student” was a gem. A couple of them were experienced writers, two were retired police officers, one a retired engineer. Two of them already belonged to mystery writing organizations and one lady took it upon herself to write a complete short story whose premise came from a USA Today paragraph. It was based on a news item about a pair of human eyeballs found on top of a trash can. Her story blew me away: it was concise, filled with emotion, slyly wicked—but not gross--and had a fantastic ending. Clearly, these folks didn’t really need me; they just needed to focus on what they enjoyed doing: writing.
I was able to answer questions about how to promote your work. I shared my tales of woe and also of success. (Mostly woe.) I told them things I wish I’d known when I started this writing journey. I counseled a little. Writing can be a lonely, discouraging business. Yes, there are zillions of books out there, but you never know when what you write may prove to be valuable or interesting to somebody.
What if your experiences aren’t all that dramatic? asked one student. I was happy to answer this one. The wonder of writing fiction is that you can take your area of expertise and add danger and drama to it! His character might be an investigator for the IRS, mine is a high school English teacher. Neither profession screams drama, yet a good story can be made of how they caught Al Capone—on tax evasion charges. A mundane charge, but the defendant was anything but ordinary. I like the way Hitchcock in his early movies (his later ones creep me out!) would take an ordinary person and put them in extraordinary circumstances.
[Here’s an example: Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt is about an ordinary, loving family. The scenes of the children and the parents are right out of Our Town: warm, funny, nostalgic. Yet there’s a cancer on the family. It’s Mama’s younger brother, Charlie, who pops in and out from time to time and is always welcomed. When Charlie’s namesake, his niece Charlotte (also nicknamed Charlie), discovers that he is a wanted man, her life means nothing to her uncle, and we are on the edge of our seats wondering whether the girl will escape the clutches of pure evil. (Incidentally, the script was co-written by Thornton Wilder, who wrote Our Town, and it shows.)]
I knew some stuff from experience, and I was happy to share it with the class. But by the third class, it was more an exchange of ideas than a lecture from me. I did spend quite a while printing up handout material that might be helpful at a later date. We encouraged each other and suggested ideas for one another. I nagged the lady with the short story to send it to a mystery magazine. (She declined, she said, because she didn’t want her first published work to be about eyeballs!) We all became friends.
It’s been said that to teach is to learn. This was certainly proven true in my class. Whodunnit? Well, I did, and they did, too.
Charlie was known as the "Merry Widow" killer.
The unknown soldiers who fight life's battles God's way.
I have a question: just how many award shows are there, really? Recently, I saw promos for the Academy of Country Music Awards (which, I assume, were separate and apart from the plain ol’ CMA Awards). Then there’s the Grammy, the Emmy and of course, the Oscar. There’s the Nobel Peace Prize for a host of achievements and the Pulitzer Prize, too. All around us, we can see people being awarded for something they’ve done. Good for them. Being recognized is a gratifying experience.
Also all around us are people who don’t get recognized for what they’re doing. They’re nobodies. They’re everyday people. But what makes them truly special is that they are living life and doing heroic deeds under the radar, every day, rain or shine. They’re hard-working; they’re honest; they’re honorable; they don’t shirk their duty. They may feel what they’re doing is not important by the world’s standards. And they’re right.
Maybe they’re a daughter, nursing a parent dying of cancer. Or a grocery clerk who is working hard to support his family and being honest doing it. The neighbor who mows the lawn of the elderly person next door without ever saying a word. The bank patron who returns the extra twenty accidentally given them by the teller. Maybe it’s a man on a business trip who withstands temptation and watches “America’s Funniest Home Videos” instead of porn on the motel TV. These people are everywhere, living out the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments on a daily basis. Some of them are having a difficult time, financially, emotionally, physically. But they plug on, seldom recognized for the amazing way they live their lives: God’s way.
Quite a few years ago David Meece, a Christian singer, recorded a song called “The Unknown Soldier.” It’s primarily about a college student steadfastly living as a Christian, but the concept could be applied to the people I’ve described. These are “Unknown Soldiers,” unrecognized and even occasionally disrespected. It would seem that nobody sees what they are doing, but that’s not true: God sees.
So if you feel that nobody knows how hard you’re trying to do right, be encouraged. As they say at the beginning of the TV show, Person of Interest, “You are being watched.” Maybe not by somebody who will give you an earthly prize, but your Audience is important, nonetheless. He Himself has said that he is “closer than a brother,” and he feels everything we do. He “knows our frame” and hears our prayers.
Someday, even if nobody ever pats you on the back for anything, there will be a divine Arm that will reach around your shoulders and pull you close, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And it will have been worth it all.
If you know a writer...
Don’t be surprised if you see a writer reading. For hours. He’s not necessarily being lazy. He’s probably reloading his brain; refreshing, if you will, his muse.
Don’t be surprised if you spot a writer crawling under a car. Chances are, he’s seeing for himself whether someone could attach a bomb to it without being observed. (The answer is no.)
Don’t be surprised if a writer stays in his pajamas for several days at a time. He’s probably on a deadline.
Don’t be surprised if a writer’s computer is full of odd, random files: “Viking foods,” “The WitSec Program,” “The origins of Nursery Rhymes,” etc. It’s research.
Don’t be surprised if you find little notes all over the house with terse messages: “C-4,” “Gunny Sack,” “To get to the other side,” etc. They are reminders of little plot “aha” moments that he doesn’t want to forget.
Don’t be surprised if a writer has to borrow lunch money from you.
Don’t be surprised if receipt of a slender envelope causes a negative, emotional response:
anger, or even tears.
Don’t be surprised if a writer has to borrow money for postage from you.
Don’t be surprised if a writer stares into space for hours on end, usually while sitting at a computer keyboard.
Don’t be surprised if the ice cream in your freezer keeps disappearing overnight.
Don’t be surprised if a writer keeps late hours, even staying up all night.
Don’t be surprised if a writer spends at least a half-hour in the stationery section of your local superstore, choosing pens.
Don’t be surprised to find sheets of paper covered in the writer’s signature.
Don’t be surprised when UPS delivers a huge, heavy carton and you find the writer doing the
Gangnam dance around it.
Don’t be surprised at receiving a copy of the writer’s book, lovingly endorsed.
*(A generation ago, this disclaimer wouldn’t have been necessary, but here goes: when I say, “he,” I mean humankind, that is to say “he or she.”)
Sometimes my husband and I go for a walk in the mornings. It’s a time for us to think, plan, share, admire the neighbors’ landscaping or just enjoy a companionable silence as we get a little exercise.
In my memory, important milestones seemed to be marked during of these walks. It was on a morning walk in Texas that we discussed the percentage he was going to ask for one of his inventions. Standard rate was 4%, but he was being offered less than 1%. I remember being so angry about the situation that hot tears filled my eyes. He was calmer about it, and more practical. He negotiated and the royalties paid not only for our move to North Carolina, but for a new house and a new office. It wasn’t 4%, but it was more than enough. God provided wonderfully.
In North Carolina, we were now self-employed and, in some ways, naïve and trusting. We formed a new alliance for a new product, and, in doing so, found the other royalty summarily cut off. Our source of income was precarious, at best, and the new situation wasn’t producing the promised result. We were now living on our savings, and the numbers were dropping fast. In addition, my husband’s mother was on her deathbed, and thousands of dollars were needed monthly to maintain round-the-clock nursing for her. We had one daughter still in college. Our house payments were huge.
On our morning walks, we discussed the ways we could manage. My husband was talking to other companies about licensing his products. I remember feeling a vague sense of panic as we realized that we would soon be at the end of our financial rope. We were falling, in a sense, but where, we didn’t know. The future was uncertain
Somewhere in here, God spoke to me. Perhaps when I was writing in my prayer diary or as we walked along one morning, I don’t remember, but somehow, a phrase began to float into my consciousness and stayed there, offering incredible comfort:
Don’t look down.
How perfectly God knows His children! He knew that I am deathly afraid of heights, always have been. (On our honeymoon, my groom wanted to go hiking down a steep hill, and learned quickly from my panicky reaction that a change of plan was in order.
The phrase recalled a word picture our pastor in Texas, had painted: a tightrope walker going over Niagara Falls, pushing a wheelbarrow. “Faith,” he had said, “is getting into that wheelbarrow and riding it across the Falls. When God is pushing it, you can trust Him to get you across safely.”
Don’t look down.
I whispered it to myself as we began to work our way through the financial minefield.
Don’t look down.
The Holy Spirit whispered it to me as my husband was checked into the hospital for colon problems. An amazing calm overtook me. I relaxed by his bedside during the day, knitting, reading, doing crossword puzzles in tandem—I wielding the pencil and calling out the clues while he provided the answers. I didn’t worry. God wouldn’t let me.
Don’t look down.
It could have been serious. It wasn’t. And meanwhile, I didn’t develop an ulcer worrying about it. That should have taught me a lesson. It didn’t, of course. Like the Children of Israel, I have an amazingly short memory. I always thought that I would have trusted God after having seen all those plagues, the pillar of fire and the parting of the Red Sea. The Israelites still whined. Come to think of it, I probably would have, too. Walk a mile in their sandals, etc.
There’s lots of scary stuff in this life, but, as my son-in-law pointed out to me one day, God is the safety net under the tightrope. I just need to keep remembering:
Don’t look down.
"For thou hast delivered my soul from death, Mine eyes from tears, And my feet from falling." Psalm 116:8
Did I come away from vacation with an inspiration? Maybe...
Okay, it’s time for me to write again and guess what? I’m stymied, stuck, blank, clueless, empty, and without any cogent idea whatsoever. Usually, I get the idea for the weekly article in the morning bath, but today, nada, nothing, zilch. Just nice, hot water.
So I’m “coming clean.” (Pun intended.) I am demonstrating an attack of the dreaded Writer’s Block before your very eyes.
Usually, when I need a subject, I look around at my own life and see if there’s any thought, any memory, any insight that can be gleaned from it. We are just back from a vacation trip, and I should be chock full of ideas.
Let me see: lessons learned? Well, I learned that I should be more willing to bargain in foreign markets. (I realize now that I paid way too much for the little straw hat we got for our granddaughter. I bought it in Jamaica, but turns out it was made in China.)
Okay, another lesson learned was to not get cocky just because I have an olive tinge to my skin and don’t easily sunburn. If you go without sun block with your face toward the ocean while you chat with some new friends, you will get a sunburned chest. The sun reflects off the water or something and voila, a tell-tale redness, framed by swimsuit straps. I wasn’t the only Burned One in the dining room that evening, but that was my only solace.
Did you ever notice that a house that has stood empty has a smell? Not a bad smell, just a kind of un-lived-in smell. Maybe we get used to our own home’s smell over time, but I always notice a curiously still scent when we return from a trip. Makes me want to bake spice cookies.
Okay, here’s another lesson learned: My husband and I aren’t half bad-looking in the continuum of the rest of humanity on a beach. Of course, we aren’t “tall and tan and young and lovely,” either, but when we looked around us, well…
I like it that many British films aren’t as persnickety about perfection as American films. Case in point: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Okay, granted, there was also a beautiful young East Indian couple and the boy’s mother was a knockout, but the main characters in the story were walking wrinkle festivals.
My friend Nancy and I spent some time on our trip kicking around a mystery plot set on a cruise ship in which a character carries off a robbery on board in the middle of the ocean. Talk about a locked-room mystery.
I must admit, some of the details are challenging. Who is the robber? What is the motive? How do they go undetected? How is he/she finally caught? My tendency is to just plunge in and start writing, coming up with ingenious solutions as needed. Risky, but it has worked for me. The true meaning of the UDJ clue (in Irregardless of Murder) came clear to me as I was winding up the book, writing the last chapters. “Of course,” I thought, “it couldn’t be anyone else!” The fact that it all came together so neatly was definitely a God thing. My subconscious just isn’t that clever.
Thinking about this trip has made me aware of a paradox: as the vacation came to a close, I really didn’t want it to end. But as we neared our hometown, I really wanted to get home. My heart lifted as I spotted our street. Now, I’m actually enjoying unpacking. It’s really good to be home, even though we had a really nice time on our trip. Why is that? Probably another God thing.
One important thing to remember is that a writer’s block seldom lasts. Eventually, a thought will become important as you write and you’ll be off again.
If you’ll excuse me, I just thought of a way somebody could commit a robbery on a ship…