It’s probably not wise to admit this while I’m trying to sell books, but I’m often embarrassed when I think about my early writing. Reflecting on my first book, I’ve sometimes felt that it isn’t “deep” enough – that because it’s not classic-type literature, it isn’t worthwhile. But watching You’ve Got Mail tonight – a simple romantic comedy that I’ve watched countless times – I realized that it’s not always the “deep” that touches us most. I go back to You’ve Got Mail again and again, not because it’s profound, but because it makes me feel as if I’m spending time with dear friends. The books that touch us most may not be the ones that are the most profound, but the ones that strike a familiar chord in our hearts and make us feel as if we’re truly among friends.
This picture of our huge pine tree was taken last winter during the holidays. This tree all lit up instantly takes me back to my childhood and the wonder I felt when I got up before anyone else was awake and sat in the dark, staring at the lights on our Christmas tree. Those times evoked a feeling of warmth and safety. Gazing at the lights on our pine tree takes me back to that place. It’s instantaneous nostalgia. So much of writing is born from a place of nostalgia. We give the times we long for a second birth so that others can share in the wonder of our wonder years. I can’t imagine what the world of literature would be without nostalgia. This is the privilege of writers – to take readers back to the times and places they long for with words that bring their yesteryear to life once again.
In April of this year, my husband and I went to Punta Cana with dear friends. During that trip, I went parasailing for the very first time. In this picture, I’m front and center, hands lifted high. Parasailing was one of the most peaceful and yet exhilarating experiences of my life. Floating sixty feet above beautiful blue water, the wind blowing softly, the silence and wonder surrounding me – it was a moment I’ll never forget. I’m typically a very cautious person and many of my friends were shocked to hear that I’d gone parasailing. Oddly enough, I wasn’t afraid. I was eager to do it. And I’d do it again a thousand times. That experience made me realize that to write well, we often have to push ourselves into new experiences. Experiences give us new words, new feelings, new places to draw from as we write. Though I’ll probably never stop being a cautious person, I’ve realized that the exhilaration of new experiences – be they small or great – is something I need to pursue in order to deepen the quality of my writing. For now, though, I’m just going to rake the leaves. 🙂
Write what you want to read. I read that line today on an Instagram post written by a Young Adult author – and it really resonated with me. I love the “olden days.” I love touring historical homes, the floor-length dresses, the manners, the slower pace – I love everything to do with that bygone era that seems somehow gentler than our modern time. I wrote my In Time series out of that love for the past. I wrote about all the things that I would have wanted to read in grade school about the wonder of traveling back in time to the olden days. So, let’s keep writing what we want to read – because in all likelihood, a kindred spirit is out there searching for the exact same thing!
Beauty. It’s one of the things that draws us to create. Wherever we find beauty – in nature, in music, in art, in writing – it magnetically draws us in and compels us to create so that others may taste the intangible joy we’ve experienced by beholding beauty. Artists create beauty out of a multitude of mediums, musicians in notes passionately and well-played – and writers out of well-woven words. When those times happen that I’m able to write something beautiful, I’m truly grateful to the God who is Beauty for the ability to touch souls with words.
In October of 2018, my husband and I sat in a restaurant across the street from this idyllic Bed and Breakfast in Bar Harbor, Maine. I fell in love with this ivy covered home and the lure of its history. My mind instantly raced with questions. Who had lived in the home when it was first built? Had it been a happily married couple? Or a wealthy, lonely bachelor? What joys and sorrows had filled the lives of the people who’d crossed its threshold through the years? Whose light was on in the upper right window? What is the love story of the couple walking up the sidewalk? Who is the man talking to them and why is he in Bar Harbor at this point in time? I realized in that moment that this is how stories are born…we have to get to the bottom of our questions. We have to know. And that quest to know unfolds into a story which must be told. What a privilege it is to unearth those stories and to weave them into words so that the untold can finally be told!
Inspiration. We all need it in order to create. We can find inspiration in a person. We can find it in a favorite author. We can find it in a place. And one of those places for me is a beautiful cemetery in my hometown of Canal Fulton, Ohio. There’s a gravestone in that cemetery made into a bench. The name Myers is engraved into the stone. I have to believe that the Myers buried there believed in inspiration simply because they had their gravestone made into a bench. No one devoid of imagination could do something quite so wonderful. I spent many hours in this beautiful place as a teenager – pondering God, life and love and was inspired to write as a result of my time spent there. Inspiration is a gift. Let’s treasure that gift in all the wonderful and unlikely forms it may take!
“Come sit with me – In the garden of my past – We can tell each other – Of trees and grass – It is scented and perfumed – Of rain and life – Its warm and cool – With shade and sunlight – And birds will join us – Singing their thoughts – Of fields and flowers and – Memories breezes have brought.” ~Geoffrey Fafard
This charming setting is the the Anne of Green Gables homestead in Prince Edward Island, Canada. After years of dreaming about visiting the land of my fictional kindred spirit, my husband and I finally made it there for our 30th anniversary in October of 2018. It’s hard to put into words exactly what that experience meant to me. It was like going home…into the loving arms of a best friend. As a child, the character of Anne Shirley was as real to me as any real-life friend, and her influence on me is felt to this day. Anne taught me that a well-written character is a character who comes alive in the heart of a reader. A comfort you go back to time and again. Because of Anne Shirley, I aspire to create characters who truly come alive in the hearts of my readers. Kindred spirits. Are there any two words more sweet?
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ~Anne Shirley
We can all remember the joy we felt when we read our first book and were wonderfully, magically, transported to a whole new world! Having tasted that joy, writers write so that others can have the extraordinary experience of going to worlds other than their own by merely opening the pages of a book. When we open the pages of a book, we meet people we would never have met otherwise. We experience things we would never have experienced otherwise. We acquire knowledge we would never have possessed otherwise. In those pages, we gain empathy and compassion we might never have gained otherwise. And so we write – that others may enter into that magical, transcendent mystery that is a book!
Favorite characters. Every writer has a character they’ve created who is special to them. One of my favorites is Celia Petrov from The Boundary. She’s an elderly dynamo who lives life with absolute gusto! She may not be strong on self-awareness, but she’s strong on loyalty, love, compassion and curiosity about life. She didn’t burn out and fade as she got older, her light only burned brighter. There are many Celia Petrov’s around us…of all ages. Let’s celebrate and cheer them on as they bring joy to our lives and the lives of others!