Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Blog on Blood

My friend Sue Dent calls her blog Thirsting For Blood...Satiate Your Thirst, well I did just that today.  I "satiated" someone's thirst.  I gave blood.  Twice a year my church has the American Red Cross Blood Mobile come and park outside during services.  It's hard to walk by that red bus and not give.

A couple of weeks ago, the Red Cross put out a plea for blood.  It seems that for the first time since 2003 there is a real shortage of blood.  They've also had to cancel several blood drives due to the winter storms.  And to add to the situation, the need hospitals have for blood is increasing.

I just want to encourage everyone reading this to get out and give.  Someone out there is "thirsty".

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Not Me? (Or You Either For That Matter)

I've been thinking quite a bit about what it takes to be successful, and I've decided it depends on how you define success.  Do you define success by fame?  I think that may be how a lot of us define it.  And I think that may be exactly what stymies us, too.  How can we ever become famous for our (fill in the blank) talent, if no one ever knows who we are?

I've done some musing (was actually up most of the night), and I got to thinking, why not me?  I grew up in Hendersonville, Tennessee, a bedroom community for music stars.  In my first part time jobs I waited on Leon Russell, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Barbara Mandrell and others.  Taylor Swift graduated from my high school (some years after me).  My mama grew up with Buddy Holly, and I'm two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon  None of this name-dropping has anything to do with my writing, but bear with me.  I promise I'm making a point here.

On a more personal note, an old friend of mine, Johnny Talbot is a successful fashion designer (Talbot Runhof).  My friend Chambers Stevens (formerly Steve Chambers) is an actor, married to a producer, and my new friend, Sue Dent, is a writer.  So what does any of this have to do with my success?  Not one dang thing. 

Except for this.  If you look at each of these people, they have a couple of things in common.  First, there is no denying that they are talented at whatever they chose to do.  Second, and probably most important:  they had a dream, and they did not give up on it.  They kept on until they reached their goals.

I was reflecting on the two I grew up with, Johnny and Steve.  Neither of them were voted "Most Likely to Succeed", and if I remember correctly, there was nothing about them that screamed "Future Success".  Talented, yes, but lots of people are talented.  What separated them from the crowd was the fact that they believed in themselves enough to keep going.

It took me a long time to pick up the pen and write.  I spent years looking at all the successful writers thinking that there was no way I'd ever write as good a book as Stephen King or Nora Roberts or John Grisham.  But you know what?  I'll never know unless I try.  My definition of success is not to be a best-selling author.  My definition of success is to write the best book I can, put it out there, and have people read it.

After all, why not me?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Got A Mention in Sue Dent's Blog

Okay, I'm so excited, I can't stand it.  Sue Dent, author of Never Ceese, and I have been emailing back and forth to for the past few days.  I've had so many questions about writing and publishing, and she has much wisdom to offer. 

But I got a mention on her blog today.  Me.  My name.  Fran Veal.

Click here to see: #links

Thanks Sue!  And thanks for spending so much time with me this morning.  You are a treasure!

By the way, if you are an aspiring writer and want some good free advice, check out the other posts in Sue's blog Thirsting For Blood.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gushing Over My New CP

Okay, guys, I've got to tell you:  I have found the absolutely best critique partner in a wonderful young woman, Shannon Hill.  (Props to you girl!)  I had been struggling for the past few weeks trying to self-edit my YA work, Finding My Escape when Shannon sent me an email on Absolute Write, asking if I would consider trading work.  Boy, would I.

A few days ago, I opened the email from Shannon containing her critique of my first twenty pages.  She had to love it, it was great, brilliant writing...or so I thought.  When I opened the email, I was floored!  She'd found some problems with my work.  But that couldn't be.  After all my family loved it. 

Fighting back the tears (if you're reading this Shannon, just keep going), I downloaded the file and began to read the critique.  It turned out that she really thought I had the bones of a good story, I was just leaving out something very important:  description.  (That and I had a little problem of using italics and elipses... every other paragrah.)  My tears dried, and I became excited.  Yes!  Someone was finally being honest with me about my work.

Inspired, I began to make changes.  Then I made a few more, and a few more, until finally, I'd finished re-editing the first 20 pages, which was, by now actually 25.  Excited, and, with a little trepidation, I sent the pages back to her.  About 24 hours later, I got a very animated email back from Shannon.  She'd loved the changes and said so very enthusiastically.  I was relieved to know that I didn't need to give up on writing (whew!), and now feel I have the amunition I need to finish my edit.

So what's the point of all this?  I want to encourage all my fellow writers to please find a few critique partners that aren't connected with you in any way. 

It's just like those early auditions of American Idol where the young hopeful is belting out a hideously off-key version of Proud Mary.  The next scene is the family huddled outside the door.  They think young hopeful is great, positive that inside the room is the next American Idol.  The thing is, family and friends hear and see what they want to from us.  Sometimes they can't even be honest with themselves about our shortcomings, much less with us.  That's why it's vital to find objective critiquers.

Since finding Shannon, not only am I able to look more objectively at my work when I'm editing, my new work reads better, too.  So Shannon, if you're reading this, I just want to publicly say "Thank You!" 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Things Left Unsaid

Mark Manasco was an old friend of mine.  We went to high school together, were both in band, and even had a strictly-platonic "date" or two.  We were part of a close circle of friends that hung out together, had classes together, dreamed together.  What would we be when we grew up?

I lost track of Mark not long after high school.  The last time I saw him was at my friend, Missy's wedding over 25 years ago.  He didn't come to any of the reunions, and for years, there was a rumor circulating that he was dead.  Finally, a couple of years ago, I found him on Facebook and we were able to reconnect again.  Our 30th class reunion is coming up this year and several of us have been emailing back and forth, trying to pull together a reprisal of our senior championship band performance, Mark included.

I was shocked on January 13 to get an email from a mutual friend informing me that Mark had died the day before.  Shocked is probably too mild to describe the sick, kicked-in-the-gut feeling that overwhelmed me for several days.  He'd been in the hospital since before Christmas and not one of my friends knew.  His last post on Facebook was around Thanksgiving.

I'm still having a hard time dealing with the fact that he's gone.  I went to the funeral, met up with some old friends, had the whole "Big Chill" experience with them afterward, but the whole experience was very surreal.  There were things I'd never said to him, but hoped to at the reunion.  Things that will never be said now.

Why do we let people who were at one time, very important to us, just drift out of our lives?  I don't have the answer.