Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Change - It's good even when it hurts.

Gosh, it's been thirteen months since I've updated my blog. Briefly, it's been one heck of a year. But I'm back on track and anticipate the coming year with the growth, challenges, and surprises it will bring. Our family dynamics have changed with the maturing of our three grandsons, and I am grateful for the love and joy they bring to our lives.

My writing has changed direction a bit, as I am focused on my first novel, as well as a fictional short story for an anthology which will be published sometime next year. But my first love is writing Memoir. Joining a critique group a few months ago has been challenging. It helps me see what I need to work on, throw out, and improve, but the reinforcement, encouragement, and camaraderie is invaluable. If you are a writer, I encourage you to join a writers' support group or critique group that fits your needs. We need to leave our solitary offices and meet regularly with other writers.

Have a wonderful fall and coming winter season  Talk to you soon. I promise. . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Skeletons in the Closet

October brings a dramatic change in the weather; the air chills, trees begin their shift from soft and vibrant greens to yellows, brown, red, and orange, and the sun sets earlier. As an adult I miss the nice warm days, but as a child I was more excited that Halloween was just around the corner. In keeping with the spirit of Halloween, this year I received some information about a deceased relative, news that surprised and saddened me: a true skeleton in the closet.

My mother's cousin is our family historian and genealogy expert. I am the writer of our group and often use her findings for short stories or character types. However, with her recently discovered facts about a loved one, I'm not sure how, when, or where to use it.

Growing up I idolized this person in question, and admired him for his strength, skill at overcoming adversities, and for his myriad accomplishments. I still do, but realize now that he was only human and made some mistakes, not earth shattering ones, but significant ones all the same.

Five years ago, on the ten year anniversary of my Mother's death, I wrote a short story about the days following her passing. It was cathartic, and helped me to understand Mother, myself, and our fractured relationship. In the story, I noted that we had a documented, (and hung) Massachusetts' witch who decorated our family tree. It was appropriate and enhanced the mood of the scene, adding punch to the ghostly elements. By the way, I do believe in the unusual, the supernatural, the unexplained, the things that make your skin crawl and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

So I think I should include our family's weaknesses and unexplainable actions in future short stories, or use them to enhance one of the characters in my novel in progress. Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ode to Fall

Creatures of the Night

As night falls, I hurry home
switch on lights, close doors
to the cold night air
and imagine the Boogey Man
outside, in the dark,
ready to pounce.

Sundown comes
filmy clouds drift
across the blackened canvas
to kiss the star-dappled sky
painted purposefully, perfectly
by One more skilled than any mortal.

On velvet pads
nightlife crawls over wet grasses,
along woody branch,
through their realm
unseen by man
one hundred times as large.

Why fear what is hidden?
Nocturnal life lives in twilight.
Where I stumble, predators are agile.
Cats fleet of foot, owls dive with
unblinking amber eyes opened wide;
they survive another day.

Invisible world could teach me to trust,
to open windows and doors,
tiptoe outside, breathe night air,
creep over damp soil,
look under leafy screens,
meet creatures one thousand times as small.

To appreciate lesser inhabitants
may be contrary to human logic,
but to embrace the universal plan
set in motion purposefully, perfectly
by Him eons ago
is worth the endeavor.






Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ship in a Bottle

The first time I saw a sailing ship sitting in a small glass bottle, I was a child. I couldn't believe my eyes and asked my father to explain it. To the best of his ability, he explained how this feat was done, and I was awed by it. I still am.

Writing is something like building a ship in a bottle; the writer constructs an idea which is transformed into words, sentences, and paragraphs to form a story, poem, or a book. Certain confines and accepted parameters should be followed in order to create a cohesive, readable piece that not only entertains, but instructs the reader as well.

My first book was purely a practice piece and it was long, way too long. I switched to poems and short stories and found I loved the challenge of getting to the point in as few words as possible. My second book which was published as a memoir, was a combination of diary entries, short stories, and the greater story I wanted to tell.

Thinking about a delicate, intricately constructed ship sitting within a solid glass container reminds me of my book, which was carefully crafted, strung together with my heart and soul, and endless hours of creating and editing. When it was finally inserted between the covers of a book, my "ship" was complete and ready to launch.

Think about creating your own ship in a bottle, in whatever form you choose. I assure you that it will be one of the most worthwhile and rewarding things you can do in life.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day, Back to School, New Beginnings

My favorite time of year is here. Even though Labor Day isn't the first day of fall, it feels like it to me. The nighttime temp got down to 45 degrees and the daytime temps will be in the low eighties. For our area, that's just about perfect.

It's time to plant winter pansies, green and burgundy colored kale, yellow mums, and to trim the dried rose blooms off; they are just about done for the year.

It's been a hectic summer here at home and my writers' critique group took a hiatus; thus, my writing projects suffered. Although I did enter four literary contests this season. Results of three are to come in October. When I write to specifications and deadlines, I turn out my best work.

I have had my new computer only two days and already I am at it more, updating my blogs, checking in on others', and I've even cleaned out my office. Fall does that to me. It reminds me of the "Back to School" feeling when I was a youngster: new clothes, new books, new teachers, and the promise of an exciting year.

Happy Labor Day, one and all. Check in on my blogs. I promise to update them more often. To read about my memoir, Through the Tunnel of Love, A Mother's and Daughter's Journey With Anorexia, as well as some of my short stories, poems, and essays go to:  www.authorsden.com/donelleknudsen

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Inspiration Comes From Unexpected Places

To my thinking, writers connecting with writers, either online or face-to-face, is imperative. Writers take on a lonely business, armed only with a pen and blank sheet of paper, or computer screen, and our imaginations. The wonderful thing is that these elements, combined with research and the desire to create, can take us as far as our minds and stamina are able.

So far this year I have attended one writers conference where I gained information and inspiration and submitted five entries to writing contests; however, my critique group is on hiatus, so my impetus to create something new every week has stalled. Add vacations, family time, and a recent surgery, and the result: my weeks have been chopped up into fragments with precious little to show.

One thing I always make time for is reading, and writing ideas down as they come, often at the oddest times. The most recent quote I wrote down is by Frodo Baggins from one of Peter Jackson's films in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien:  "He didn't mean for a lot of things to happen, Sam, but it did." Context: Frodo is speaking to his comrade, Sam, after Gandalf's untimely death in the underground caves. Their future looks bleak, because the leader of the Fellowship of the Ring has seemingly perished, and their grief is so deep that they fear the worst: utter defeat.

Frodo's observation gave me the inspiration to bring out a writing project I had been working on for six months, but put aside because it had become too difficult, too painful to continue. It was inspired by a true life situation that has caused our family much pain and stress over the last year. But from experience, I have learned that those are the best kinds of projects to tackle, because challenges, the hard things in life, are what make us stronger, teach us valuable lessons, and result in inspired writing.

So, thank you, Frodo, for reminding me that life isn't always easy, and to remember that I should never give up and to not admit defeat, no matter how daunting the task that lies ahead.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Writing From Your Heart

When faced with every new writing project, I pray that the words will flow cleanly and that when they reach their final destination and pool in the reservoir of a completed work, the reader will take the time to plunge in.

With my memoir, Through the Tunnel of Love, a Mother's and Daughter's Journey with Anorexia, the initial paragraph, which became part of the prologue, came to me unexpectedly: “Nicole had lost her will to live; she was dying. Our beautiful fifteen year old daughter was killing herself slowly with each passing day. I knew it was calculated and I was unable to change the course of our lives. For the past year our family had been living in a nightmare and I wanted to wake up – NOW.”

The power of our story overwhelmed me at first, but I had to get it down. I wrote a great deal of it in long hand and then transcribed to the computer, editing as I went along.  Tunnel was written over a period of six years. As memories flooded back, some so agonizing that I wrote with tears streaming down my face, I knew I had to finish it; I had to see it through. Parts of the book were derived from my journals and several chapters came directly from my short stories. The bulk of it came from my heart.

The more I wrote, the faster the memories surfaced, especially the painful ones; the ones I thought had been long buried and forgotten. Over the course of the first year, I realized that my raw wounds needed to rise to the surface, in order to begin the healing process. Then I prayed that upon completion of the book, my family could also benefit from my labor of love.

In 2004 I entered the opening chapters of the first draft of Through the Tunnel of Love in Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s literary contest in the memoir category. It was the first writing contest I had entered and to my surprise, I was named a finalist. I attended the July conference with a fluttering heart and stomach. That honor offered me contacts and the necessary confidence to edit, revise, and complete my memoir. The following six years brought me three more honors from PNWA’s literary contest in the memoir category. Eventually two of my winning short stories were included in Through the Tunnel of Love.

I had asked for and was given permission by our daughter to tell our story because I believed that it was an important topic and that our experience could help others in similar circumstances. I wanted them to know what had worked for us and what didn’t, and hoped our story would help them, and above all, to realize they were not alone.

I pitched my book and sent queries to the well-known publishing houses and literary agents; but as encouraging as they were, they said my memoir just didn't fit their criteria at that time. My folder filled with rejection letters, but I was not deterred. In the fall of 2010, I participated as a panelist and a reader in Rivers of Ink writer's workshop in Richland, WA. Through this venue, I was encouraged by panelists and audience members to publish my work. I listened, decided it was time, and looked for a small local press. Over the next three months the editor and I worked together. By January, Through the Tunnel of Love was launched on its journey and was published in April of 2011.

To this day, my daughter has read only the prologue. For Nicole, the reality of her illness at that critical stage was more than she could process. She said she wasn’t ready to relive it and confessed that the worst years, 1997 to 1999, were completely lost to her. Even though Nicole has not read her story, our story, she is my strongest proponent and cheerleader. She realizes how much we loved her and that we didn’t give up, not for a minute.

I have learned many lessons from writing Through the Tunnel of Love. The most valuable ones are: listen to your heart, follow your dream, and if it is to write, then do it. Don’t wait and don’t listen to your twisted muse when it says it can’t be done, or you‘ll never finish, or no one wants to read your book.

Nicole almost died listening to her twisted muse, the VOICE inside her head that told her she was fat; told her she was worthless, and told her she deserved to die. So as a writer, surround yourself with loving, supportive people who believe in you. If you belong to a critique group, think carefully before you employ all of their advice. Sift through their criticism, their ideas, and keep what you believe in, what comes from your heart. Remember this is your story, not theirs.

Anorexia Nervosa remained a part of our lives for eight years. It is an insidious disease and it nearly took our daughter's life. I think that’s why I write primarily memoir. It’s a way of sharing what’s close to my heart: memoires, experiences, and lessons learned. I believe this is a valuable thing to do, especially when others, including yourself, are helped in the process.