The Tassie Story

After my last post, I was asked if my upcoming trip to Tasmania will be for a writers conference, to visit a fellow writer, or what. The short answer: To visit a fellow writer. But that’s not quite accurate. So in this post, I’ll answer a bit more completely.

How many years has it been since I was the contest coordinator for the Novel Rocket blog? I don’t remember, exactly, but that’s where this story starts. I believe it was the third year of Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad contest that we added a nonfiction category, by way of experiment. We didn’t have many entries, and we never included nonfiction again. We only tried it out the one year.

One of the submissions in that category was not as polished as some, but the content was amazing, the sort of thing that makes you literally sit up and take notice, gasping, “Oh, my!” The writer’s story was riveting and had a broad appeal—which makes it marketable. I was one of the two judges, and neither of us had any doubt which of the entries should be the winner.

As contest coordinator, I contacted the contest participants to let them know if they won and to give them the judges’ critiques. When I contacted the winner of our nonfiction category, I told her that both judges thought the book had wonderful potential but was a little rough, and I recommended she try to find an editor or someone knowledgeable who could help her smooth it out.

She responded that she would love to do that, but didn’t really know anyone. However, she particularly liked the critique by one of the contest judges, and she asked if I would inquire if that judge would be interested in working with her.

That judge just happened to be me, and so I answered yes. I’d love to help you with this book!

And speaking of “just happened,” let me tell you about how she “just happened” to enter the contest in the first place:

She is the first to tell you, she is not a writer, but for quite some time, the Lord had been compelling her to write about her experiences. Originally it was all in journal form, but eventually she began to compile some of her journal entries into a book. It was a struggle for her, though, and she sought help along the way.

At one time she had contacted a writer in the US, but nothing had been decided between them as to whether or not, or how, they would work together on the project. She tells me that one evening, feeling compelled to get moving on it, she tried to find this writer’s email address but couldn’t locate it, so she did an online search for her.

Among the search results was an interview this writer had done on the Novel Rocket blog. My friend read the post but didn’t see anything there about how to contact her (which is surprising, because the Novel Rocket guests always provided that kind of information), and was just about to leave the page when the Contest tab at the top caught her eye.

Contest? What kind of contest? She clicked on it. Oh, look, there’s a nonfiction category! Let me see if I qualify. Oh, yes, my book sounds like just what they’re looking for. Now, how do I enter? Hmmm… Oh, my! The submission deadline is midnight tomorrow! So she hurried up and submitted her entry.

And that’s how this dear lady Down Under “just happened” to meet up with little old me on the other side of the planet. In the several years since all that transpired, we’ve been in frequent contact, both through emails and Skype. We’ve often talked about getting together in person, and now at last, everything’s coming together for that to happen.

And, in case you wondered, we’re still working on that book of hers. At a writer’s conference last summer, I spoke with some editors and agents about it, and they all suggested that it might be too short. Why? Because from a publisher’s point of view, it costs as much to produce a short book as it does a long one. You’ve got to pay editors, designers and formatters, etc., and you have all the same overhead as you do for a larger book. Yes, there’s a little less paper and ink in a short book, but overall, the costs amount to almost the same. However, consumers don’t like to pay the same amount for a skinny book as a thicker one. If a publisher prices a short book lower, they’ll lose money even if it sells; but if they price it higher, people won’t buy it. So publishers tend to be leery of contracting for short books.

When I told my friend that, she said she could easily expand it. And that’s what she’s been working on since then. I haven’t seen any of the additions yet, but our plan is get it all put together, polished up, and ready to publish—which I will then undertake to do on her behalf.

But that’s another story. For today, I just wanted to answer the question as to who I’ll be visiting.

So now you know!

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Seasons

We’re nearing the end of summer when the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are cooling just a bit, and the kids are going back to school.

That last item doesn’t affect me personally, as I have no school-age kids. But my oldest daughter is a college instructor, and my second daughter has five young’uns in school. And, of course, this is the time of year to stock up on office/school supplies, because they’re on sale everywhere! I always feel drawn to look at them even though I don’t need anything.

In an e-conversation with said eldest last week, I commented that the smell of fresh asphalt is, to me, the fragrance of the first day of school, as I associate it with the freshly resurfaced playground at my old elementary school. I used to like school in those days. I outgrew it, but early on, the first day of school was fun and exciting, so even today, the scent of fresh blacktop makes me smile.

Living in a temperate region as I do, I enjoy four seasons each year. And when I say “enjoy,” that’s exactly what I mean; all four are my favorites. There are some aspects of each that I love and some parts I’m less thrilled with. But before I’m tired of one season, the next moves in to take its place, so I sometimes say my favorite season of the year is one we’re just moving into.

Grandparenthood is a WONDERFUL season!

Life, too, has various seasons. In a way, these tend to be more of a progression than a cycle, because you only experience one fresh spring in your life, one prime of summer, one lovely autumn, and one final winter. But life offers other seasons too, which do repeat: seasons of challenge, of achievement, of rest, and preparation for the next round of challenges.

I entered a new season earlier this year, but I wasn’t sure what it was at first. Eventually I decided it must be a time of preparation. I don’t know what I’m preparing for, but in the last few months, I’ve felt compelled to spend more time in prayer and Bible study than ever before, so I figure there must be a reason for it.

I’ve also been reading a very interesting book that my friend in Tasmania recommended: Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge. Though I’ve been working my way through it for months now, I’m only halfway through, because I read a chapter and then contemplate it for some time before moving on.

Chapter 17 is “The Secret of Retreats,” and as I contemplated that topic some time back, I decided this season of my life must be a retreat of sorts. Though I’m not totally isolated, I’m home alone a good bit (which I love, by the way!), and being in an apartment, my housework is limited. Most mornings, therefore, I spend a few hours “in retreat” with the Lord, and it’s a delight.

But this time next month, I’ll have begun my season of traveling. First comes the ACFW conference in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20 – 24. Then I’ll leave again on the 30th for a three-week trip to Tasmania. I mentioned all this in my last blog post over a month ago, but the countdown is still ticking—and I’m still trying not to get so excited that I can’t think straight!

I’ll leave here at the beginning of autumn and visit the other side of the world where it will be spring. When I return home, all the leaves will have fallen, and everything will be dreary and brown and cold and damp. I’ll feel like I’ve been on a different planet. Sometimes it’s difficult to adjust to the changing seasons–especially when they change so abruptly.

I plan to post regularly during my travels because I’ll have plenty to talk about! In the meantime, though, I want to get in the habit of posting a little more often, so neither you my readers, nor I, go into shock at the sudden change. In order to do that, though, I’ll have to come up with some topics to write about. Hmm…

I’m not good at thinking. Any suggestions?

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Summer Update

Yesterday afternoon, I fell, gasping, across the finish line of the writing project I began in September of 2015.

My new baby weighs in at a little over 242,000 words, but don’t worry; it’s triplets. I won’t call it a series, because it’s not a series of related stories. It’s one story that takes three volumes to tell, kind of like the Lord of the Rings.

(NOTE: the format is the only comparison between my project and Tolkien’s famous work. Mine does not approach LOTR’s scope or depth or creativity, and no languages or alphabets were created in the making of it. So don’t go telling people I told you it’s like Lord of the Rings. It’s not!)

I intended to publish the first book this spring. But circumstances have led me to believe I shouldn’t be in such a hurry, so I decided hold off for a while. But having the whole thing drafted at last makes me very happy.

Something else I’ve been talking about for a long time but have only recently made firm plans to accomplish: travel to Tasmania! I’ll be gone most of the month of October, which means I’ll have to miss one of my four favorite seasons here in this part of the world. But that’s okay, I’ve seen autumn before. (Quite a few times, in fact!) But I’ve never seen Tasmania before. And since I have an invitation, as well as the time, health, and means to go, it would be foolish of me to not take advantage of this opportunity.

This is a view of Tasmania from space. I won’t see it from this perspective, but it makes for a great photo

It won’t be the first time I’ve been out of the US, but the other times don’t really count. Back in 1975, a friend and I visited her aunt and uncle in San Diego, and while we were in the neighborhood, we popped in to Tijuana, Mexico one evening. I’ve also been to Canada several times, but only in the days before we needed a passport to go there.

This trip will take a lot more preparation than simply packing a suitcase and making sure there’s gas in the car. I’m doing the research and trying to be practical (like, calmly making a to-do list and checking off items as I complete them) and not think too much about how exciting the trip will be! Because if I think about it too much, I’ll be good for nothing.

I’m pretty much good for nothing anyway: it’s taken me a couple hours to draft this post, because I keep looking at things travelers should know about visiting Australia. (Their Department of State has a very useful website for that.)

I’ll keep you updated on the upcoming trip, and also my progress as I move toward publishing my new baby, The Four Lives of Jemma Freeman.

I originally called it The Four Lives of Jemima Freeman, but I realized  the name Jemima Freeman gives the wrong impression. This is a speculative story set on another planet and has nothing whatsoever to do with African Americans, but unfortunately, the name “Jemima Freeman” conjures up an image something like this

when actually, the character in question has nothing in common with this famous fictional lady, other than the first name. Because some of her friends call my character Jemma, I’ve used that nickname in the title of the series to try to avoid confusion.

I do like the name Jemima, though. Too bad it’s stereotyped.

 

I hope to have some publishing news for you before too long. Meanwhile, enjoy your summer! Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case, I wish you a happy winter.

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