Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: Words of Inspiration

What Is Something You Wrote About That You Never Thought You Would?

(Some of this post originally appeared on WOW! Women On Writing in September 2017)

I know everyone who reads this blog is not a writer, but you have had to write in your life for college entrance essays, papers for school, journal entries, or exercises for professional development days. So, have you ever found yourself writing about a topic that you never thought you would? If you are a writer, I bet this has definitely happened to you because as we change and grow as a person, our writing also changes and grows.

When I decided to pursue writing as more than just a hobby, I was set on writing fiction for kids. Short stories, poetry, novels, picture books–whatever a kid, who loved fiction, would read, I wanted to write. I was naive and didn’t understand how the writing world worked–that nonfiction sells better. If you want a paycheck as a writer, you might have to write something else than your dream manuscript.

One thing I did right was find a critique group of writers who did not just write for children, who wrote essays, articles, adult novels, romance, horror, and more. I began to dabble in nonfiction and short stories for adults, and guess what? I was having fun! I didn’t give up my dream of writing fiction for kids, and I did publish 3 fiction books for kids and teens; but I also expanded my portfolio and wrote about some subjects and for some publishers that I never thought I would.

I wonder what some of  you have written about that you never thought you would. I’m curious what your story is, how you got where you are today, what you thought at the beginning of your writing career if you are a writer, and how it turned out in the end–and how you feel about your writing. Maybe you wrote about a painful time. Maybe you wrote something funny. Maybe you wrote an editorial for the newspaper, and it received a lot of attention!

For example, I worked as a stringer for The News-Gazette in Champaign, IL, and I had a Sunday book review column for over five years. I never dreamed that I would do either one. I wrote about a 90+ year old garage sale volunteer, a reindeer ranch and a baby reindeer who survived only because she was bottle fed by the owners, and a beaver dam that was backing up a creek in a little bitty town–but there was nothing the people could do because the beavers were protected. I wrote a villanelle about the Trail of Tears, and it was published, as well as a funny romance short story for adults that won first place and $250 in a magazine contest.

And my point? I am a much better writer because of these experiences.

Even my personal blogging has changed over the years. When I first started a blog, it was called “Read These Books and Use Them”, and it was only about children’s books. Now, I am writing about being a single parent, practical parenting, self-esteem, writing inspiration, and more on “Look to the Western Sky.”

So…what have you written about that you never thought you would? 

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Don’t Let Fear Rule You

I typed this title on this blog post, as if I don’t let FEAR rule me. I know sometimes I do. Actually, I have to make a conscious effort to NOT let fear rule everything I do. I first realized this only a couple years ago when a very good friend quoted Dune and said, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Here’s the entire quote if you haven’t heard it before:

Why do I bring it up today?

I’m the type of person who needs to hear the same advice time and again before it sinks in. And I’m still learning. I’m the type of person who probably needs an entire bedroom mirror full of quotes and tips and things I’ve learned from books, so I don’t forget them. BUT…I bring this up today because recently I heard Andrew McCarthy speak (Oh no, not this again, will she ever stop going on about him? you think) and he talked about Fear. He talked about Fear a lot. He talked about how we have to face Fear right in the face.

Immediately, I became defensive and thought: Who is he to tell us that we are fearful? Well, after listening to him talk from his heart and realizing how hard he tries at everything in his life now: writing, parenting, directing, AND how he is successful, I decided to listen to his message. He told a story to the audience, which he also wrote for National Geographic, about how he was on a 500-mile walking pilgrimage in Spain when he had a meltdown,  where he says, “I literally shook my fists at the heavens and cursed whatever God it was I half-believed in.”

He goes on to say (to read the whole article, please go here):

I became aware of something I’d in some way known all my life. It disclosed itself with the simplicity of the absolute. There wasn’t something lacking in my character; I had an overabundance of something. It had dictated so many of my actions, been behind so many decisions, obscured so much of my judgment. FEAR, I SAW IN THAT MOMENT, had ruled my life. The vulnerability between my shoulders was the space created when the weight of that domineering, life-directing emotion had been temporarily relieved. It was in this experience of fear’s absence that it began to lose its hold on me.

When he said the same thing in his talk at St. Louis County Library Headquarters, I realized that I have allowed FEAR to rule my life also, and most of us do, in spite of friends and the universe reminding us not to. I felt an overwhelming sadness and disappointment in myself at that moment because I wasn’t in control of my own life or my destiny. Fear was. Fear is.

I could give you a bullet point list of my fears, and many of you reading this would probably nod along; but instead of that, I decided that they can all be boiled down to one little sentence:

I fear that I am never doing enough–in my relationships, in my career, at my home, with my child.

And because of this, I spend a lot of time in chaos and worry and listmaking and pacing around my house, where I am not actually accomplishing anything. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s exhausting.

I want to tell you I’m done with it. I can’t do that yet. I can tell you: I want to be done with it. But we all know patterns and habits are hard to change. What I’m trying very hard to do, in this year where I’m also searching for Peace, is to be aware of when I am feeling Fear and figure out why. Then make a decision based on what I want for me life, and not on what Fear wants for my life.

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” ~Soledad O’Brien

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Winners, Andrew McCarthy in St. Louis and Practical Moms Unite Update

Book Giveaway Contest Results

Thank you to everyone who entered the book giveaway contest for Claire Gem’s books. I have 3 winners, whom I am in the process of contacting:

  • Chynna Laird
  • Brenda McCommis
  • Jeanne Felfe

(contest graphic above by Angela Mackintosh from WOW! Women On Writing, a great resource for writers here. )

Andrew McCarthy in St. Louis at the Library

I saw ANDREW MCCARTHY (yes, 80’s heartthrob from Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire) at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters last night, and it was amazing! This is not because he was so charming and I have loved him since the 80’s. But it’s because he was inspiring as an author. Here’s the beginning of my blog post I wrote about him on WOW!: “I Heard Andrew McCarthy Speak at My Local Library” True story. (Doesn’t my blog title sound like one of those titles from a “true story” magazine?) I live in St. Louis, and last night–actor, director, travel writer!, and now YA novelist Andrew McCarthy gave an inspiring talk about being creative. Once I got over the fact that I was in the same room with this man I loved on the silver screen since 1986 as Blaine in Pretty in Pink, who starred in my favorite comedy Weekend at Bernie’s and my favorite guilty pleasure, St. Elmo’s Fire, I listened to what the man had to say, and I was pleasantly surprised.

As writers, we know that we sometimes look at celebrity writers with disdain. It’s true because we know what it takes to slave over a manuscript and try to get an agent and then hope for some kind of book sales if we are lucky enough to get published. Then there’s this celebrity, who already has all the connections, and probably on some whim decided to write a book, and now is living our dream. Writers can be a spiteful bunch. (winks)

But guys, Andrew McCarthy is the real thing! To find out how he is the real thing and the inspiring things he said, go here. 

Practical Moms Unite

I know you are all anxiously waiting for practical mom blog posts, so you can be a practical parent, too. No worries. They are coming–and I am currently working on two of them. If you haven’t signed up to have posts emailed to you when they go up, you should do so RIGHT NOW. 🙂 Look at the sidebar, scroll up just a bit, and fill out the very simple form titled, “Want new blog posts emailed to you?” to make this happen.

 

 

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The Greatest Gift . . . for Writers (Guest Post by Karen Kulinski)

I’ve known Karen many years, through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) , and then I was lucky enough that she submitted her wonderful manuscript, Rescuing Ivy, to me when I was working as an editor for High Hill Press. If you need a book for children ages 9 to 12, Rescuing Ivy is amazing–it’s about two kids who attempt to rescue a circus elephant from near death when she is wrongly accused of killing a man. Here is a guest post from Karen and a little more about her book, along with a link to Amazon, where you can order it. Perfect for kids who love to read or teachers for grades 3 through 6. 

The Greatest Gift . . . for Writers

by

Karen Kulinski

During the holidays, people with writer friends buy them things like books, workshops, maybe even a session with a writing coach.  Fine gifts all, but the best gifts a writer gets, to paraphrase the Grinch, “come without ribbons, packages and tags.”

The best gifts are ideas.

Of course, the above-mentioned books, workshops and writing coaches often help our minds produce these ideas. I know because over the years I’ve been gifted with writing ideas, many involving my new middle-grade novel, Rescuing Ivy. 

While searching for information on cabooses 13 years ago for the railroad museum for which I am curator, I came upon a horrific incident where they hung a circus elephant in a railyard in 1916.  I tried writing about it, but couldn’t. Unbeknownst to me, however, my mind was working on it because five years later, I was gifted with the idea for Ivy, which ends much happier for the elephant.

In the two years I did research for the book, I discovered fascinating information that my mind turned into ideas for the book.  Among them, a couple of plot points, a major human character, and a quirky little chicken named Fayree.

Recently, my mind has been working overtime providing ideas.  In March, I had a book contract canceled the day before I did a school visit.  Needless to say, I was pretty down on writing at that point, but at the end of the first presentation, a student asked what book I was working on now. I wanted to say, “I don’t want to think about writing, let alone try to do some right now.”  Instead, I found myself talking about a ghost book I worked on unsuccessfully for years, and the students got really excited about the story’s premise.  I was asked the same question after the second presentation, and mentioning the ghost book got the same results.

As I drove away from that school, I knew I had to work on that novel again.   A couple of weeks later, I got an idea for a new beginning to the story that made a radical difference in my main character that no one liked before.  My friend and beta read said, “It was like the character had an attitude adjustment.”

This past week — in the midst of all the crazy activities preparing for the holidays — I sat down and wrote a picture book that I’ve been trying to write for two decades.  I had consulted with a writing coach about the book earlier in the month, and told her that I wouldn’t be able to get to revising the story until after Christmas. Obviously, my mind had other ideas.  Really good ideas, it turns out, because my agent loves the book, saying, “It’s terrific.”

So when you’re telling people what you’d like for Christmas or your birthday, be sure to whisper, “Please, mind, I’d love a writing idea or two.”

You never know what will come next!

Bio: Karen Kulinski’s life has been filled with family, trains, and writing. A railroad man’s daughter, she is curator of a railroad museum in Northwest Indiana, and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Karen’s passion for trains and love of history flavors many of her books, including her new middle-grade historical novel, RESCUING IVY, from High Hill Press.  The mother of four sons, Karen lives in Griffith, Indiana, with husband, Alan, and two spoiled dogs.

Rescuing Ivy: Readers will quickly turn the pages of this tautly-plotted, heart-grabbing 1916 adventure story, caught up in young Danna’s plight to save her beloved — and innocent — circus elephant, Ivy, from being hung for killing a man. This book forays into a time when hoboes rode the rails, which add to the action as well as the intrigue. An excellent read-aloud, bolstered by pages of vintage circus photos and an extensive “Author Notes”. You can buy it on Amazon here.

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Share Your Sayings With Me (1st Official New Blog Contest)

Although I haven’t pinpointed exactly what this blog will be about, I know it will be a mixture of humorous and serious posts about being a single mom and a woman, who plans to get herself back in the dating game after having a hysterectomy, and who likes to write. I originally had the idea for this blog when I started writing notes to myself this past year, after separating from my husband and eventually getting a divorce. These notes were often scribbled on a piece of paper, and tacked up on the bulletin board in my bedroom, so  I could revisit them periodically. Here’s one of the first ones I wrote:

advice-to-myself

Why is this life advice on its side?

I’m still working on several of those life lessons above, but one morning while I was drinking coffee, something said: WRITE THESE DOWN, and I’m trying to be aware and work on at least one of these each day.

When I talked about this on my Facebook author/editor page, I received some great responses. So then I asked several people on Facebook to share their advice and/or the sayings they try to live by every day–again, the response was fantastic, and I thought: I should incorporate this into a blog somehow. Here are a few gems from that Facebook post:

  • Don’t wish away your life.
  • Break a big challenge into small steps.
  • Always be the better person.
  • Not my circus, not my monkeys.
  • A wise man learns from his mistakes, an even wiser man learns from another man’s mistakes.

So, to celebrate the debut of my new blog, I thought it would be fun to have a little sayings/celebration of new blog contest with PRIZES. You can enter by doing any of the things in the Rafflecopter form below, and you can enter more than once! ***The main thing I would love for you to do is to write a comment below and share a saying–something you live by, something you’ve seen on FB or Twitter and liked, something your mom/grandma used to say to you, or something you say to your kids. ANYTHING that helps you get through this thing called life. Once you leave a saying in the comments, DON’T FORGET TO CLICK ON THAT BUTTON IN THE RAFFLECOPTER FORM. You are not entered to win a fabulous prize if you DON’T enter on the Rafflecopter form, too.*** 

The person who Rafflecopter randomly chooses first will get their first pick  of one of the prizes below, 2nd person picked will choose 2nd, etc. There are 5 prizes:

  • $10 Amazon or Starbucks gift card
  • 10-page (2500 word) content edit for free
  • One of the books written by me (I have a YA, a middle-grade, or a picture book.)
  • A journal
  • R-E-A-D magnets (4 separate magnets that spell the word READ)

The contest runs until the end of the month–September 30 at 11:59 pm CDT. So let’s have some fun with this. Any questions or you can’t get something to work? Please email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com.

Thanks for playing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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