Posted tagged ‘writing’

Last Stool On The Right

June 13, 2018

There are certain habits in our lives that bring comfort and consistency. They are the frame that support the structure of our life. Like the links of chain for a playground swing, habits bring a swaying rhythm to our life.

One of my habits involves a stool, a laptop, and an early morning cup of coffee. Where I write my Words from W.W. blog almost without exception occurs at the Starbucks in Colorado Springs on the corner of Union Boulevard and Briargate Parkway from the last stool on the right, facing out with a view of Pike’s Peak. It is where I ponder, create, and edit, sometimes slowly and other times at a frenzied pace.

Kathy Buchanan, who is one of the writers for the Focus on the family long-time series, Adventures In Odyssey, sits on the last stool on the left with six stools between us. We joke with one another about our ingrained habit for our writing. When someone is in one of OUR spots we give a look of dismay to one another.

“You going to be able to function today?” I’ll ask her. She sighs deeply and replies, “I’ll try!”

MY stool is the launching pad for discovering. It’s even come to a point now where some of my friends know where they’ll be able to find me at 7 A.M. on mornings I’m not substitute teaching. Some days my writing takes a series of breaks for stop-by conversations. My stool, however, draws me back to why I’m there.

I sip the coffee as I search for the right word. A second sip is required when I’m slow in figuring and finding. My third cup means I’m approaching the finish.

Jim Ryun, the famous track and field miler, once said “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going!” My stool is my habit.

A Personal Update

May 26, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                             May 26, 2018

                                   

Permit me to devote my blog post today to my experience at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference I attended last week in Estes Park, Colorado. A number of people have asked me what came out of it so I’ll summarize as best I can.

At the conference each attendee is given the opportunity to meet with several literary agents and editors. Those very quick 15 minute appointments are designed to give the writer a chance to pitch his/her book or idea for a book. If there is interest the agent has the option to tell the person that he can send his first few chapters or the whole manuscript for further inspection…or not! 

I had six appointments and was invited to submit my manuscript by five of the people I met with. That was good news on the bottom line. On the other hand, I didn’t feel comfortable with the perspective of a couple of them about what young adult fiction is. 

The best part of the conference for me was the Fiction Intensive Clinic. Those who applied had to submit the first 12-14 pages of their manuscript and a book synopsis. From the submitted materials six people were accepted to be a part of the clinic. The group met for six hours together, plus a 30 minute one-on-one appointment with our instructor, Tim Shoemaker. He has written about a dozen books. Several of them are young adult fiction. Before the conference he had spent about 4 hours of critiquing of each of our group participants’ submissions. He pointed out little details that occurred in our writing that can be easily corrected, made the point that our writing is already good, but it can be made better. Tim is awesome and I bought his three book series that begins with the novel Code of Silence. 

When I told him a few of the other remarks that had been shared with me about youth and young adult fiction that seemed a little bizarre he told me to discount their importance. He encouraged me to press on, which I am!

Because of Tim I’m doing a book rewrite before I send it to any of the literary agents. Although I believe it’s already good I want it to be great. I want it to be the best it can be. It is a very competitive and tough market, especially if you are an unknown. If I’m going to be turned down I don’t want the refusal to be because it’s not good enough, but rather that it doesn’t fit with what the literary agents and publishers are looking for. 

Writing is risky. Words have the power to stir emotions, but they also have the potential to be written in certain ways that cause the reader to become disinterested, to see them as just words that lie lifeless on a page. I think about that each time I sit down to write. Will I write words that can make a difference? 

I can tell a story, but can I write it even better? Yes!

Report From A Rookie Writer

May 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 18, 2018

                               

Day 3 of the Christian Writer’s Conference is upon me. There are a lot of people here just like me, hoping and praying that some editor or agent likes their manuscript or idea for a book so much that they hand them a business card and say, “Send it to me!”

That happened in my first appointment yesterday, and I could sense the rising up of tears. Not all of my 15 minute appointments ended up like that, but a couple did. I have two more today and one tomorrow.

It was encouraging to hear the leader of our Fiction Intensive Clinic say that there were many more who applied to be in that group who were sent letters saying “Sorry!” He told the six of us that were accepted that although each of us had things to work on there was potential in each of our writings to be taken to the next level. 

The group spends an hour on each of the admissions, which are usually about the first 10-14 pages of the manuscript. My turn comes Saturday morning and then I will have a half hour Saturday afternoon with the instructor.

This conference is about learning- learning to write more effectively, learning that there are other aspects to getting a book published besides pecking out 100,000 words on my AirBook, learning new terminology, and learning many of the little things that raise a writer’s readability level. 

I’m also learning that it’s necessary to risk. Coming here is risky, because you may get trampled on. Years ago, my fiction clinic instructor was ready to walk out of the same conference because he was so discouraged, but the conference coordinator got a hold of him and gave him a word of encouragement. Years later he’s now the fiction class leader, and author of a number of books. 

There are other conference first-timers here, just like me, but the bulk of the attendees have been coming to this conference for years. They know what to do and where to go. There’s been a few times where I’ve looked like a new freshman standing in the hallway of his new highs chool trying to figure out where the Band Room is.

We all come with stories that we think are the best thing since sliced bread. They are our babies that we want to protect. Having someone suggest that a writer might change the story or the wording sometimes feels like another person telling you to change the way you parent your baby.

Through it all, I’ve become more thankful for the God who leads and guides us and the people he brings along the path to walk with us. 

The Value Of Being Told You Aren’t All That

April 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     APRIL 29, 2018

 

In seventeen days I’ll be pulling out of our driveway and heading to Estes Park, Colorado for the Christian Writers Conference. For me it has the feel of a rookie arriving at spring training camp…the anxiety of being the new kid, the uncertainty of what I’ll find out, and the fear of being told my writing sucks the wind!

I received the good news this past week that I was accepted into the Fiction Intensive Clinic, a group limited to six that will spend a number of hours together during the three day conference affirming, questioning, and dissecting the synopsis and first chapter of each other’s book.

In preparation for the conference, a friend of mine arranged a luncheon meeting with him and a man, who works for the same Christian publishing company, to discuss my book and offer me some guidance. At Estes Park I will have the opportunity to meet with several literary agents, but each of those appointments are only 15 minutes long.

We sat munching on our lunch and chit-chatting and then my lunch partner asked me a question: “Tell me what your book is about in one sentence.”

I pondered for a moment between bites and then offered something that didn’t make much sense, and was more than one sentence.

Followup: “Would you say the book is character-based or a plot-based?”

“Well, I think it would be character-based, although there is the building to a climax and…”

A couple of other followup questions and then the bad news.

“If I was a publisher I don’t think I would be interested in pursuing the book.”

Gulp! My sweet beverage suddenly had a sour taste to it.

It was hard to hear, but probably what I needed to hear. Not that the book isn’t good enough to be published, but rather that I need to be clearer on my understanding and presentation about it. A fifteen minute appointment is not a long time and in those brief moments the presenter needs to communicate what the story is about, its audience, and why I wrote it. My critic did me a favor. He showed me that after you write a double-spaced 400 page book you have to do the hard work of being able to present it.

Part of who we are, our DNA personality if you will, is the desire to “be all that”, to think that we have it…the next Hemingway, or Missy Franklin, or Taylor Swift. We want whatever our performance is to be awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping.

Words of reality are needed to bring us back to who we really are and what we need to do. I officiated high school and small college basketball for sixteen years, and I saw my share of officials who never raised their level of performance because they wouldn’t listen to the words of their evaluators. I was only able to raise my level because I listened to people who were willing to tell me where I needed to improve, questioned me about certain whistles I had during games, and quizzed me on “what if’s”.

There is value in being told that you aren’t all that! In Estes Park I’m sure I’ll hear variations of those words a number of times, but there will also be words said in a way that will spur me on towards a desired outcome.

Why I Wrote A Book

November 13, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        November 13, 2017

                            

I’ve enjoyed writing in my spare time, and now especially in my retired life time. I’ve progressed just a bit since I flunked English Composition my first quarter in college back in 1972. And now I’ve written a book!

Before you become too dismayed let me say that it hasn’t been published yet! In fact, two special friends who edited the manuscript for me are helping me figure out what publishers  and literary agents to send it to, and what each of those publishers and agents look for. So…it’s done, and yet it’s a long ways from being done!

The book is about a young man who has moved to a new town in West Virginia with his family. His dad is the new pastor of the First Baptist Church (Yes, that sounds familiar!), and the young man is going into ninth grade. New town, new school, and he has bright red hair. Everyone notices him! This young man is an exceptional basketball player, but also a teenager who has great character and humbleness.

And that’s why I wrote the book! In my twenty plus years of coaching and sixteen years of basketball officiating I’ve witnessed a growing trend: athletes who think the world should stop and pay homage to them for making a three point jump shot. There is the stink of arrogance that has filtered into athletics. I long to find the young athletes who have a firm grasp on the reality of life; that athletics is a form of fun and recreation and there are many other things in this life that are much more important.

That list includes such pursuits as treating everyone with respect, showing compassion to the hurting and grace to the fallen, making responsible decisions, and seeking to serve in various ways.

Young athletes need parents who are well-grounded and lead their sons and daughters towards that healthy understanding of what life is all about. Sometimes warped young people are the direct result of having parents who were already twisted in their priorities !

And so I wrote a fictional story about a kid who understood that making a free throw wasn’t as important as his friendship with the seventh grade neighbor boy who had always been made to feel he wasn’t good enough.

I wrote a book about a young man who held the idea of being a team as being more important, win-or-lose, than being the star of a team.

I wrote a book about a new kid in a place of unwritten traditions and practices who lives a life that has been planted with humility and fertilized with grace. I’m hoping that in the future I will meet that young man often and each day, whether it be a court, a field, a stage, or a track.

Coming Up With A Title

September 12, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 12, 2017

                                     

I enjoy writing. It’s where I drink most of my coffee, while sitting on a stool at Starbucks at 7:30 in the morning…or at one of the lower level tables at our local library. I don’t know if it’s the caffeine that gets the words percolating or the comfortableness of the writing spot. My life is now a mixture of writing, coaching, substitute teaching, Sunday preaching, and grandpa-ing!

I recently completed the manuscript of a book I’ve been compiling for a while. Over the summer I was able to put more time into it and, finally, came to the words “THE END” about three weeks ago. A teaching friend, Marise DeKlerk, and a long-time friend, Diana Stucky, are doing editing of the manuscript for me and offering suggestions. Diana, especially, has given me some great feedback that has helped me to strengthen the characters and storyline.

The only thing is…I can’t figure out what to title the book! Titles make people take notice! I spend a lot of time at my public library looking for a new book to read. I survey the shelves that hold countless titles in numerous categories. The title draws me in…or not! I can only read one book at a time, and here I have a multitude of choices.

The book is about a boy named Randy who has moved to a new town, Fleming, West Virginia, with his family as he is about to enter his freshman year of high school. His father is a Baptist pastor coming Fleming to pastor the First Baptist Church. Randy has bright red hair that makes him stand out. He is a young man of great character and humbleness…who also happens to be a very, very good basketball player. He befriends Ethan, the seventh grader who lives across the street from him, and who is seen as being the weird kid in his class because of his thick eyeglasses and awkwardness. Randy’s basketball talent draws attention to him from around the state, but it never changes who he is…a person of character who understands that basketball is just a game, and there are more important things in life.

I could title the book simply “Randy”, or “Shots from Red”, or “New Kid”, or “New Freshman”, or “Bowman” (his last name!). I could go with location and title it “Fleming”, or “The Flame of Fleming”, do basketball specific titles like “Swish!” or “Roundball!”

None of those, however, really catch my eye! I’m stuck! I’m at a loss! How can I write a great story but be clueless about what to call it?

GoReadMe

December 30, 2016

                                                                                   December 30, 2016

                                          

I’m thinking of a new venture called “GoReadMe.com“. It would be completely self-serving and ego-stroking in a culture that is self-serving and ego-stroking. The purpose would be to increase reader traffic at my “WordsfromWW.com” blog.

I got the idea in my sleep last night. Well, actually it came about the time my senior citizen body took a bathroom break from actually sleeping. I figured that if “gofundme.com” can raise over 3 billion dollars for special causes, perhaps a new “GoReadMe.com” might greatly multiply the viewership of the “Wolfe words” I hammer out.

Sounds crazy, I know, but a “GoFundMe” cause set up to help Betty White survive 2016 has raised almost $7,000 so far! What??? I’m not sure what happens to her on January 1, 2017. Perhaps a new cause will emerge to finance another year of survival for her.

On “GoReadMe” I could develop categories such as “Non-sensical”, “spiritually uplifting”, “for substitute teachers”, “family reminiscing”, and…”other.” Or perhaps, like when we would go to buy a new household appliance or television and then get the warranty pitch from the salesman…”This may have been assembled on a Monday when the workers were still hungover from the weekend. You never know, so you might want to purchase a warranty to protect yourself!” Maybe my categories would be the seven days of the week, because…you never know!

Bottom line…I am totally clueless about how to attract people to read my writings. If you have any ideas, please let me know! In a world that is wordy, getting more readership feels kind of like the owner of a restaurant attracting more customers so he can stay in business.

And please…please…please…I do not want someone to start a “GoFundMe” campaign to help Bill Wolfe survive 2017! I know Betty and I have the same initials and all, but…NO!