Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's day, a day for "Dad's"

This Father's day is rather special for me. You see, my "Dad" is driving down to visit. It's a 8 hour drive, which isn't much for most people, but for a man who's just been through a battle with colon cancer, it's more than a lot. It's huge.

I know why he's doing it. He's coming for his kids, to prove to us that he's o.k., to show us, in the flesh, that he's still here for us. To make up for the few times when he wasn't.

I put "Dad" in quotes, because that's what I've always done. It's a way of separating (in my mind) the man who raised me from the man who fathered me. They are very different people, yet they have always had one thing in common, their love for me.

Looking back over my life, it saddens me to think that I couldn't love them both equally, but time and circumstance wouldn't allow it. I was with him until I was six, but my "father" is, and will always be, only that. My father.

Passing years have helped me to understand and even appreciate the role he played in my life. He did, after all, give me gifts. My life and my passion for art. A kind heart and a degree of patience my mother was never capable of. A love of teaching, and a need to be in the limelight. Because of my "Father", I see the world differently than most...through rose colored glasses, or so I've frequently been told.

I never thought of my "Dad" as a stepfather, although that was what strangers said he was. He was the man who took me everywhere and didn't seem to mind. He was the man my grandfather trusted with my life, so who was I to question? As far as I was concerned, my grandfather made the world I lived in and he knew everything there was to know!

Daddy was the person who paid attention to me, who treated me the same as my brothers and taught me how to throw a baseball. He didn't worry that I wouldn't be "girly" enough...he knew how easily my feelings were hurt.

He went fishing with us in Grand-daddy's boat, and long after my grandfather had passed away, Daddy made sure I still got to go, to help ease my "missin'" heart. He'd bait my hook, and never complain about my reluctance to handle worms or squirmy shrimp. I'm sure he thought is was funny how a little girl who wouldn't bait a hook, had no trouble gutting and scaling a bucket full of smelly fish.

Daddy stood between my mother and me, pleading my case on many occasions. I know for sure she'd have yanked my head bald many a time if he hadn't! I've often wondered how many trips to the store were made just so that I wouldn't see her at her worst. But even Dad couldn't save me from that in the end.

My Dad's always remembered my birthday as though he'd been there for the actual event. Christmas was always the best. I never knew we couldn't afford it, it just came none-the-less. He played games with us 'till late at night, yet got up every morning and went to work. He taught me to play the guitar, and then puffed up with pride every time he heard me play. He cheered from the bleachers as I graduated, and cried because it meant I was no longer his little girl. Together, we had learned. He learned how to be my dad, and I learned how to be his daughter.

Almost twenty years has passed since my Daddy walked me down the isle. He knows I'm hoping for at least twenty more. I hope to show my appreciation to the man who taught me the meaning of the word "Dad", and the reason for the special day.

It's true what they say, any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a "Dad".

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dear Frustrated Newbie...a letter of encouragement.

Dear Frustrated Newbie,

Rest assured, every writer has doubts and set-backs when they first start out. The reason is that we are bombarded with rules that most were not aware existed! They are a test of our dedication to the craft and a meter for our degree of passion.

If you are passionate about learning how to create stories that will flood a child's memory and instill in them a life-long thirst for well written literature, then you will survive the rough beginning.

Remember, if it were easy, everyone would be a "published" professional...lord knows, everyone with a computer has tried it. Just ask the editors who are buried underneath mountains of slush!

In my opinion, it's the exceptional people who become successful writers. Those who are ever mindful of the impact of their words, because they feel it themselves. They have a different level of dedication, driven by a longing to be heard above the noise of a deafening world.

Like anything else, you must learn to be a good writer. Only a handful of people in history of man were born with the talent to sit down and scrawl out perfection. The rest of us have to study hard, and keep studying! You are among friends who understand your frustration. We all deal with it.

As an easy comparison, think of writing in the same way as raising a child. Almost any woman can be a mother, but she must learn how to be a good one. I'm sure that in honing your mothering skills, there were ups and downs, failures and triumphs.
I'm sure there were days when, BECAUSE you loved your child so dearly, you thought maybe someone else could do a better job. I'm sure there were many times that you were ready to turn tail and run, but love and the knowledge of your responsibility to your commitment made you stay and stick it out! You knew that the rewards would greatly exceed the complications and loses. Writing is exactly like that!

A writer must have that same level of dedication and passion, because in many ways,

our stories are our children.
In the same way that you raised your child, and reluctantly pushed her from nest to find her own life, we writers nurture our written thoughts. We hone them and love them, until they are strong enough to make it on their own. Then, we reluctantly set them free. Just like children, they often return home, needing more from us! But eventually, with tender care and coaxing, they shine.

Often, when a manuscript is kicking my butt (as trying teenagers can do) I will lock it in the closet until it's ready to behave. I know you've silently wished you could do that to your kid now and then, ha! The truth is, we are often too close to our own writing to see it objectively. By locking it away for a while, and moving on to something new, we can come back later with a fresh perspective. I have found that when I do this, I usually return armed with new writing skills that I didn't have when I first sat down to write. When I pull out the old manuscript, the problem I didn't see before, is now staring me in the face!

"Ah-ha!" I yell, "There you are!!!!"
Nine times out of ten, my newest manuscript taught me just what I needed to know to fix the old one.

Well, I hope that helps to lift your spirits. I remember all too well how it feels to be where you are. I have been struggling to write a winning Picture Book for years! It isn't something you learn over-night. We live in an instant-gratification world, where we have grown to expect instant results. Writing teaches humility and patience above all else.

Best of luck! Lisa