Open Mic Blog


Posted on July 3, 2012 at 6:55 AM


If you are a writer or an aspiring writer, I thought it would be beneficial for us to read about one of your writing regrets, a little known writing success, and something that keeps you going when the writing life throws you a major curve or just seems impossible/hopeless.


I think we could learn something from each of you. Who's going to jump in the water first?! 

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Reply Colleen Anderson
4:32 PM on July 3, 2012 
Over the course of years, I wrote a children's book. Publishers seemed uninterested, but what kept me going was CHILDREN. Friends shared the book with their youngsters, and I got letters, phone calls, and e-mail messages telling me that kids liked my book enough to want to read or hear it more than once. Missing: Mrs. Cornblossom has finally been published, and I'm so grateful to all the kids who gave me encouragement and energy when I needed it most.
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
6:24 PM on July 3, 2012 
Wonderful story, Colleen! I'm so glad that children gave you the encouragement to persist and prevail. I'm going to order a copy of your book. Love the cover, too.

Here's Colleen's website for those who would like to learn more:
Reply Melanie Brown Sabol
9:09 PM on July 3, 2012 
I haven't been in touch with my muse for quite some time now (we aren't always on the best of terms). I recently met with some old writer friends (and some new ones) and was SO inspired by them. The fact that they remembered me and expressed confidence in my work and my ability to produce writing again was so important to me. I guess what keeps me going is reconnecting with writers who know me and my work and offer encouragement when I stand in my own way.
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
8:55 AM on July 4, 2012 
Welcome, Melanie. I agree. Having loyal friends who stand by you in good times and bad is the very best. We all doubt our writing ability at one time or another and even sabotage our own progress or as you so perfectly put it, "When I stand in my own way." I'm glad that your friends inspired you to keep writing.
Reply SG Redling
12:19 PM on July 4, 2012 
-It might be optimism or stupidity but I avoid regrets, choosing instead to take the old "99 ways to not make a lightbulb" path. I could regret taking so long to get serious about the business of writing but who knows if I would have been mature enough to grasp it a decade ago?
-As for the hidden successes, I think only writers will get this. When I heard that a publisher made an offer on my work, I was thrilled. Over the moon. Flabbergasted and overjoyed. And then I started writing another book. My (non-writing) friends were confused when I became completely enrapt in the new project. "How can you focus on that when FLOWERTOWN is going to happen?" It was then I really understood that what matters to me most is the writing. Everything else is just gravy - delicious and exciting gravy, but gravy still. I write because I love writing. If I can make a living at it? Excellent. If I can't? I can still do what I love. True success.
-And what keeps me going? The memory of former heinous jobs! Kidding (sort of.) I keep writing journals for every book. Each time I start a new book and relive the horror of believing that I'm suddenly incapable of writing my name much less a book, I review old journals. I see the old doubts, the old terrors and I know that every time fear plunges its knife in me, it makes me a better writer. It makes me try harder. And it lets me know I'm never going to be as good a writer as I want to be but I can always be a better one than I was - but only if I keep writing.
Reply Eliot Parker
1:35 PM on July 4, 2012 
I've had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Homer Hickam on several occasions. He gave me the best piece of advice on writing: "Write the story you want to tell, to the best of your ability, and do not worry about if people will read it/like it. If you have a good story to tell, the story will tell itself." Sometimes, when I get frustrated with writers block, or the always-consuming self-doubt creeps into my mind when I'm writing, then I think about Hickam's quote. It really helps me stay focused and gives me the momentum to keep writing. :)
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
3:54 PM on July 4, 2012 
I have a couple of writing-related regrets. Because of false promises made to me over a decade ago, I no longer announce forthcoming books until they are published and dancing in my sweaty little hands. In direct contrast, I regret not celebrating and proclaiming to the world that I had acquired an agent. Sure, I told a few close friends, but for fear of sounding boastful and worrying about the sensibilities of others, I mainly kept it to myself and shared very little of my joy. As far as little-known successes, I received five gallons of Tide once when I won a jingle contest! What keeps me going? Nervous energy, good coffee, a mountain retreat, cheap wine, all the people who believe in me, and passion. Especially passion."Passion is everything." I know that I am happiest when I'm writing. When thrown a curve, I give myself plenty of time to heal, read a lot, regroup, and then find my way back to what I love---writing. It's what I do =)
Reply Sharon
4:42 PM on July 4, 2012 
My biggest disappointment by far was joining the West Virginia Writers, Inc. facebook page and requesting critiques, only to be told, basically, that "this site is for known writers to be able to communicate with one another" and being left to feel very rejected! Thanks Diane!
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
6:37 AM on July 5, 2012 
Tell me a bit more about your journals, Sheila. I'm just about ready to go out and buy a new one. Do you write in them every day while you're creating a novel? Will you have to burn them one day?!
Reply Carter Seaton
10:35 AM on July 5, 2012 
I'd never thought about what keeps me going until now, for I'm the kind who just does it. But as I'd tell people why I wrote my first novel, what drove me to write the second, and what inspired me to write my just finished non-fiction work, one word came out of my mouth - Allison. She was my dear friend, my muse, my mentor. A gifted watercolorist, she approached life with a no-holds barred, I can do it attitude that kept her walking to the top of Machu Pichu when she was terminally ill with lung cancer. With her as my muse, how can I do less?
Reply SG Redling
11:52 AM on July 5, 2012 
laura7 says...
Tell me a bit more about your journals, Sheila. I'm just about ready to go out and buy a new one. Do you write in them every day while you're creating a novel? Will you have to burn them one day?!

You mean my crazy books? I found myself writing notes to myself constantly when I first got serious about writing - plot ideas, pep talks, rants - and decided to put them in one place. I go very low tech. Basic composition books and ball point pens. I do very little actual fiction writing in them but they have become invaluable to me to work out that chatter that floods my mind when I'm trying to create. Plus my friends don't have to wear that glassy-eyed stare when I'm rambling about the process. Eveyrone wins. :) The best part is that I have hard, written proof that every single book and project I write starts with the same doubts, the same dreams, the uncertainty. It's really gone a long way toward boosting my confidence. Important: NOBODY looks in them. Ever. Period. I made my best friend swear she would burn them if I die before her. This way my brain can work uncensored. Not that anyone could read my writing anyway...
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
2:22 PM on July 5, 2012 
Carter Seaton says...
I'd never thought about what keeps me going until now, for I'm the kind who just does it. But as I'd tell people why I wrote my first novel, what drove me to write the second, and what inspired me to write my just finished non-fiction work, one word came out of my mouth - Allison. She was my dear friend, my muse, my mentor. A gifted watercolorist, she approached life with a no-holds barred, I can do it attitude that kept her walking to the top of Machu Pichu when she was terminally ill with lung cancer. With her as my muse, how can I do less?

Great story! And, inspiration.
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
2:38 PM on July 5, 2012 
Advice to live by, no less. Thanks, Eliot.
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
2:39 PM on July 5, 2012 
Off to buy a "crazy book" like Sheila's with a lock and key =)
Reply Elizabeth Grace Barrows
12:55 PM on July 7, 2012 
First, let me say that reading all of these comments has been so inspiring! So much positivity.

Second, I'm not sure about regrets. I try not to focus on that so much. I tend to believe that everywhere you've been has led to where you are, and I'm not so unhappy with where I am, at least in most ways. If anything, my regret would be letting writing fall by the wayside for so long -- for not trying harder, working harder at it, sticking with it more consistently. The love and want for it is always there; I just have a very hard time fitting it into my life sometimes.

What keeps me going? Well, as I mentioned, these posts are one example! Other writers, really, would be the larger answer -- readers, too. I attended a few semester-long workshops at Carlow University called Madwomen in the Attic, and it put me back in touch with that writerly part of myself I had feared I had lost. I hadn't lost her, or at least not for good. Finding her again and letting her breathe and live felt great! And it was great to get feedback from other writers, to read what they were doing (some amazing stuff!), and to occasionally feel, as insecure as I am, that, "Hey, I might actually hold my own in this company from time to time."

My family has been incredibly supportive of my writing, as well, and I am so thankful for that. My parents, my grandmothers, cousins, several good friends, and now my husband all support me. They've never told me that writing is a waste of time, not a good way to make money (even if it isn't), etc. They ask, "What have you written lately?"

Sometimes looking into the past helps me feel better, and sometimes it makes me feel worse. The "worse" part is, of course, letting writing, which was once such a daily, if not hourly, part of my life get away from me. The "better" part is realizing that some people from high school remember me as a writer. (I have a few poems -- not good ones, really -- published in my senior yearbook; someone had asked me to write them for that purpose.) I won a Humanities Award at UPJ the same year as my classmate "Poetry God" eric t. cressley. I don't say this to brag; I say it in amazement that I was in such good company. But if I was in such good company, maybe I should try harder and not give up. Also, when I was a senior in high school, I won a Scholastic Writing Gold key on a national level -- for fiction! My poet self was shocked by this! Erma Bombeck judged my story. Sometimes it's sad to think that perhaps my greatest writing achievement happened when I was 17, but it's still pretty cool to remember that. Again, I don't say this in a boastful way; it's just something I think about when I wonder, "Why should I even try?"

This entry is way too long by now, but I wanted to say thanks to all of you for sharing your thoughts and for having the courage to keep at it, whatever that means to you.
Reply Cat
10:21 PM on July 7, 2012 
From the bottom to the top to the middle. I guess that's what I can say about an experience with almost publishing my memoir. You try, you send it out, yes? Then you experience and then you learn. My book landed with an editor at a university press. "Excellent writer," she said. Then added, "You should print a few copies and give this to your family. Thanks for letting me read." Ahhh. The ultimate rejection--doesn't get any worse--for a memoir. After a few days of being severely depressed, I gradually began to see that she was flat out wrong. It was not a pep talk; it was the truth. The book deserved and still deserves a wider audience because it is a piece of art, a damn good story. A couple, three years go by with working, taking care of whatever, noodling with the book. Then I go to a conference where part of the fee is a one on one session with an editor or agent with the big houses in NY. I drew a young editor with HarperCollins. I said to her, "I'm not quite ready to put my book out there because I'm going back in and making it even better, but I thought this would be good to do as practice (I'd been reading and had embraced logic, reason, and practicality). She visibly relaxed and agreed I was being smart. I'd memorized my 3 minute pitch. The more I said the closer she leaned toward me. At the end she asked, "Do you have chapter samples and contact info?" Yes, I did. Two months went by. I receive an email from her requesting the remainder of the manuscript. I promised to tidy and send via snail mail. No, she said, send it via email. Now. I did. She got it on Friday, and on the following Monday she wrote: I want to publish this book. Yeehaw! Right? As the next two/three weeks went by we corresponded. Lovely notes. She said it did not need much editing and she was excited about working with me. Then. Then. Then. She wrote to say she was giving it to another editor to read and for some reason I knew what would happen next. I was right. I didn't hear from her. For weeks. I wrote. Waited two weeks. Wrote again. Nothing again. Wrote again. Then finally she answered. Money. I live in an area where book sales are not strong. I was not a "known" person. Thanks, but no thanks. Moral of story? Well, those are only two of the many kinds of responses you might very well get. So what? I've learned to say that: so what. The best advice I was ever given was, "All you have to do, Cat, is find that one editor who loves your work and who will make it happen." And he is right. That was before POD and ebooks and such. But I learned to shrug, to go on, because I know what my memoir is: a piece of art, a damn good read, and it matters. I'll bide my time, I'll continue to write and to perfect, to believe, because there is no reason not to.
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
10:33 PM on July 9, 2012 
Okay, everything I just wrote got erased. So basically what I was trying to say was if writing is your passion, make time for it in your busy lives. Schedule it in on the calendar, stay up late at night, or get up early before everyone else. As life gets more and more complicated with full-time jobs, raising families, taking care of others, sometimes we put our needs last. Don't do that! Make time to write. Sometimes it comes down to two choices: you give up on writing or you don't. I hope you always choose the latter.

Elizabeth, what a support system you have and I love that you are one of the mad women in the attic. Keep going. You've just begun!

And, Cat, you've come so close, so that should be major incentive to try again. You definitely have been through the mill, and I'm angry about what the editor told you about sales in our area and that you have to be a known person. Those are just weak excuses. If your work is "a piece of art and a damn good read," never give up until it's in print.
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
8:57 AM on July 12, 2012 
"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art."

~ Andy Warhol
1:50 PM on August 5, 2012 
Barnes and Nobel in Mgt has them.
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
2:10 PM on August 5, 2012 says...
Barnes and Nobel in Mgt has them.

Which book does Barnes & Noble in Morgantown carry, Phyllis?