Archive | May, 2013

History Is Real

28 May

One of the challenges of studying or writing about historical figures, real or fiction, is imagining them to be as real as we are. Somehow people of the past lose their reality as flesh and blood, and seem to reside only on the printed page or in the flatness of a photograph.

It takes a leap of imagination to understand that the past is just as real as the present. Only the surface of life has changed. People felt joy, fear, anticipation, sadness just as we do. They worried about the future. The worries may have been different; they were not concerned about global warming, whether someone would hack their email account or if genetically modified foods were safe. But concerns about family never change, and the joy of a celebration and sadness at misfortune are the same century to century.

My book Lydia’s Storyphoto(43) is set partially doing World War II, an era that fascinates me. I think part of the fascination is that my parents were young during that time. They met and married in 1942 and were apart for three years before my dad returned at the end of the war.

I look at their photographs and imagine their feelings. I once asked my mom how they did it, not knowing day to day when they would be together again, when the war would end, who would come home and who would not. She said that all they could do was live day to day, as if everyday was closer to the end, although they didn’t know when the end of the war and separation would come.

The photo of my parents that I am posting today was taken in 1945, after my dad returned home. The joy and hope for the future is clear in their faces — as clear as if it were taken today.

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Seeing a Project Through to the End

19 May

I am currently working on finishing a writing project that I began at least nine years ago. Yes, nine years. It was the project I was working on before my trip to England and the inspiration for The Gate House, my first published novel. After that I wrote Lydia’s Story, a follow-up to The Gate House. But I have always felt that I needed to go back to the first story, tentatively titled Nara of the Islands. This is the Nara who appears in both of my later books. In The Gate House, Nara has recently arrived in England from a fictional Caribbean island called St. Clare, and her boy friend back on St. Clare has stopped calling her.

I thought it was important to finish telling the first part of Nara’s story because it shows who she is and where she came from. Her background is half British and half islander. She never knew her mother. Her father kept secrets from her. Telling the beginning of her story is important to the development of Nara as a character. When I wrote The Gate House, I took the characters from this earlier piece and simply placed them in a new situation. Now is it time to finish the beginning of the story.

And there is something satisfying about finishing a project. I have a knitting project I began in January and hope to finish in another month. And I will finish both of these projects. Completion is difficult — everyone has unfinished projects of one kind or another lying around — but the satisfaction of completion is worth the work.

Believe in Your Work

2 May

I was delighted to find out that my latest book, Lydia’s Story, is one of the top two sellers at my publisher, Sage Words Publishing. This is a small publisher and hardly puts me on the New York Times bestseller lists, but it still tells me that people out there are reading my book, and I hope are enjoying it.

As well as a boost to my ego and a confirmation of my storytelling and writing ability, I also feel an increase in confidence and belief in my work.

Throughout the writing process, from rough draft and idea stage all the way to post-publication promotion, I have to believe in my work. I have to believe that my story of Lydia, the British mother who became a spy, is worth reading, and was worth my time in writing it.

A big reason for giving up, whether as a writer or any other endeavor, is lack of belief in oneself and what one is trying to do. Would-be writers have unfinished stories lying around. Would-be photographers have boxes (or computer files) ofDSCN3216 photos that never see the light of day. People take foreign language courses and then give up when it becomes difficult.

Do you see yourself in France, conversing in French? Do you see your book, poem, or article published? Are your photographs framed and hanging for sale in a local coffee shop? You don’t have to be a star, or make a lot of money, to believe in and appreciate your own talent. You just need to stand tall and have confidence.