Why I Joined a Writer’s Group



Capital City Writers Association

typewriter keys

You would think, at the ripe old age of 976 that I would have acquired all the information I’d need to swim the deep waters of publishing fiction. I’m a writer. I have been for years. After all, my byline has sat prominently in print many times and a whole lot of people have seen the ads, heard the commercials and even read the essays that came up out of my head.  

I have found that a vastly different set of writing muscles is required to park yourself in a chair for hours on end to crank out sixty thousand words of make believe that engages and enthralls a reader. I figured out I might need some guidance after first trying to do it all on my own-since that’s how I’ve always done things. Five minutes after he had carefully attached the newly purchased training wheels onto my baby blue Schwinn, I asked my dad to remove them. One minute after that I was riding down the block like a pro. So, given my knack for quick study, wouldn’t the transition from contracted writing to fiction writing be just as easy for me? It was not. 

There were considerations of dialog and plot, pacing and setting in the marathon that is novel writing that require specific training not needed in the short sprint writing of a five hundred word article. After slogging through the process of putting the story down on paper I became painfully aware that a whole other obstacle course awaited me in the form of professional editors, literary agents, publishers, marketing, intellectual property protection and the list goes on.  

Two years ago, I stumbled across an ad for the Write on The Red Cedar conference taking place less than a mile from my home. Workshops! Craft lectures! Answers! Other writers! I bought my ticket that same day.  

Writers tend to put their nose to the keyboard and forget that there is a world out there beyond the one they are creating on paper. Writing can be a lonely business. Hours of research and development happen in solitude. Unless Homeland Security has been spying on your browsing history for your fiction novel. Then you might have unexpected “company.”

Joining a group like CCWA puts you in touch with other writers both novice and published who are ready and willing to sit down and pound your manuscript into a shape worthy of a reader’s time. You’ll do the same for them because these people will become your friends, your co-conspirators navigating the ever changing waters of writing and publishing. They will have answers or they will point you in the direction of where to find what you need at whatever stage your project is currently in. 

That’s why I joined the Capital City Writers Association here in Michigan. CCWA; the people, the gathered wisdom, the community of writers that together can help each other take the next big step as an author. Czech writer, Vaclav Havel, said so eloquently, “It’s not enough to stare up the steps. We must also step up the stairs.” 

CCWA is the next step for serious writers in Michigan and I for one, am very glad I took it. With great programs like Finish The Damn Book- a year round series of workshops and special events, you’ll be doing instead of just dreaming about it.

Write On The Red Cedar conference January 22 & 23, 2016 with keynote speaker, New York Times Bestseller- BOB MAYER! Are you kidding me? He’s amazing. Meet him. Learn from him. Buy his books:   http://www.bobmayer.org/




Golden Time-Moments in the Middle

Oak in the yard November 08 2013

While raking leaves this morning, I noticed the big oak’s leaves had turned their final brittle brown. Forty-eight hours ago, I stood underneath it and took pictures of their blazing golden glory. Seventy-two hours ago they were mostly green edged in yellow.

Andy Warhol. That’s who I thought of while taking a break at the picnic table. He said everyone has their five minutes of fame. Apparently, so do trees. They stand around all summer in their green dresses looking all Southern Belle, swaying with the vapors over every sultry summer full moon and we notice them but we don’t stop in our tracks to take in their youthful beauty.

Come fall, they start to warn us that time is running out and if we are lucky enough, we might be there to witness their precious few hours of screaming glory as they morph through a color spectrum with their final breaths. Imagine that. Three hundred and sixty-four days and for less than twenty-four hours, they get to be at the most glorious perfection that they will ever be. Golden Time. I wonder if elves and sprites hear their song as music. Does it sound like this…

Which, of course, made me think of Baryshnikov. Yeah. That’s how my mind works. This man practiced in private for countless hours so that a few times a year, the world got to see how his body could fly across the boards. Just a couple of hours! If we were lucky enough to have been there to see it in person, the minutes he was on that stage burned their way into our memory. If we are still lucky enough to happen upon a recorded performance, we can relive it over and over, but it will not be the same intravenous jolt you would have gotten sitting in the darkness and feeling a drop of his sweat fly off a fingertip to smack you on the forehead.

The Samurai had a beautiful ritual of writing a brief poem on their death bed to tie a bow around their lives when they drew their final breath. Those who remember us will carry some blazing moment they witnessed with us; perhaps only a few seconds long, that occurred somewhere in the thousands of days we were alive.

Maybe it will be the sound of our voice or the touch of our hands, but one singular thing will comprise that glorious memory for them when they invoke our spirit.  I hope that mine are like those leaves caught on my camera the moment their perfect song was sung. I hope that I can blaze like that, at the least a few times a year witnessed by others, or not. Like my beautiful old oak, give me five minutes of golden, glorious splendor and one witness who holds the moment in a loving embrace.

Zen Monk’s Death Poem-

Empty-handed I entered
the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.
Like dew drops
on a lotus leaf
I vanish.

(Shinsui, died September 9, 1769, at 49 years of age)

Mikael Baryshnikov practicing jumps-. Wow. Just wow.

Poetry Day: Waiting for Judgement- Submission


There is this terrifying place:
between the creation of a thing
it’s inevitable arrival
in the real world.

Falling from the sky
stomach in mouth
trying to track your twisting mind towards a water landing,
hoping no sharks wait to greet your soft offering.
Nothing to be done now;
it is out
and delivered
on a silver platter
offered to
knee bent
head bowed

stomach in mouth
hurtling down
the timeless distance

Toast, Fried, ZiZZZZZZ.


I’ve typed the words, THE END, onto the last page of The Grove. Well, the end of Book One of The Awakened Trilogy, that is. See? There it is. Just above this blog post. It’s REAL. That, is nearly five years of thinking about it, researching it, toying with the concept and then six months of writing, almost every day. It’s a good feeling to type, the end. I’ve hard edited several times and handed it off to beta readers who I’ve asked to read and rip before I start the extra, super fun process of peddling my soul to the highest bidder.

My brain is now fried, toasted and making that zizzing noise it makes when you are done with one thing and trying to clear the debris of creation to get ready for the next big thing.

For creative sorts, like myself, here is where fantasy slams head-on into reality. This isn’t the Renaissance and families like the Medici’s don’t go around adopting wayward artists anymore; letting them create in a studio they’ve provided just because they love art in all its forms. Now, that would be the ticket, would it not? To have someone love what you do so much, that they sponsor you and take on the pimp role of selling your symbolic flesh and blood to interested parties while you get to stay in your studio and crank stuff out. Imagine that!

There are rooms in houses, basements, garages and attics filled with glorious art, photography, writing, sculpture, pottery and other feats of wonder that no one will ever see because the people who create these things are not marketing/sales/agents/promoters/pushers or pimps. They are creative souls.

We fantasize about waking in a place where all the tools we need are within reach and the day and night stretch out before us, eager to be filled with whatever we haul up from the nothing, to play with and shape and make into our art. Our dream is that one day, there will be a knock on our door. We’ll answer it with paint in our hair or a crazed seventeen hour writing buzz blazing in our eyes and there will be an angel knocking, wanting to bring our things out for the world to see. They’ll tell us they could feel the wave of creation pouring from this place and they just had to come and see what was here.

We do not want to write query letters and spend the last of our money printing and mailing and waiting for some kid, two years out of college, to reject our work because they, personally, don’t like Sci Fi-anything. We don’t want to have to sit down, after writing 105,317 words (The Grove word-count), and force ourselves to write some clever tag line or Book Blurb that becomes the only thing that grabs or bores a potential “customer” into buying or not buying our books.

Self promotion is a lot like doing your own dental work. Sure, I could get a mirror and some drills and shit, but I will probably just make a big, bloody mess because I can’t see what’s inside my own head like an outside observer can.

Hire someone, you say! Just for shits and grins, take a little saunter through the websites that list literary agents and see if you can find someone that WILL read a Sci-Fi Fantasy Adventure manuscript. One that has adult language, some sex, some violence and humor and its all wrapped around humans who are changed in order to save the planet from other humans who are wrecking it. Go ahead. I double dog dare you.

For every legitimate literary agent, editor and publishing company out there, there are two who have hung a shingle and know as much about book pimping as I do, and probably have the same amount of influence approaching the big dogs with my manuscript.

“You could have just written a Young Adult Romance novel because those sell like hot cakes and it doesn’t require the research or rewrites you did on your last one”, you might say.

Well, I did not. I did not because that is not what was pushing its way out of my head. This book, The Grove, is what was asking to be born, this time. I wrote it because I could not not write it. I have four other projects right behind this one, plus two more books to write in The Awakened Trilogy. Put on the coffee…

So here I am, big ole manuscript in hand, checking the M’s in the phone book for “Medici”, to see if they have any American cousins who might want to adopt me, so I can be their in-house source of wonder.

In the end, I’ll write the fricking blurb and the damn query letters. I’ll do all the things I will have to do to launch this project out into the world. If for no other reason than the fact that it would be epically pathetic to actually be living in Paris Hilton’s pool house.