Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Helping Hands

I must dedicate a space on this page to some helping hands I've found along the path to finding my writing niche and the pursuit of my dream. The following books have steered me, steadied me, and inspired me to keep walking down this rocky path to publication:

The Lively Art of Writing by Lucille Vaughan Payne
My 11th grade A.P. English teacher made each of her students buy this small, dated book. It was written in the '60s so some of the grammatical advisories might be a little antiquated, but this handy, happy-yellow paperback aided me in the very early days of my writing. I can still hear the voice of Ms. Payne scolding me whenever I make this error: "Do not use the word 'there'--ever!" Yikes.

Writing My Life: The Step by Step Autobiography by Alison Bing
A dear friend gave me this as a birthday gift two years ago. On the inside cover, she wrote: "Never stop writing and dreaming (b/c they keep coming true)." I don't intend to write an auto-bio. It would likely be the most boring book known to mankind. I've filled out half the book with memories prompted by questions such as "Did you have nightmares often?" When I read it, I suddenly remembered this terrible, recurring dream I had all through my early childhood. I remembered it all in vivid, frightening detail and wrote it down. By doing this, I seemed to open up a hidden pocket of sensory devices. It gave me a huge, creative boost! So whenever I'm really stumped, I pick up this little baby, pick a question, and allow the memories to fill me up! (Thanks, Jess!)

Love Letters
Writing romance for extended periods of time can be a bit wearing. When this happens, it helps to remember why I write romance, why I love it so much. For me, there is no better way than to read real love letters. There are thousands of books dedicated to love letters. My all-time favorite is The Hours After: Letters of Love and Longing in War's Aftermath by Gerda Weissman Klein and Kurt Klein. I was doing Holocaust research when I came across Gerda Weissman Klein's memoirs entitled All But My Life. I was so touched by the love story in the end that I had to buy the sequel she wrote with her husband, Kurt Klein. I cannot begin to tell you how beautiful this collection is. If you are a fan of love letters, I strongly encourage you to read it! Another book of love letters I love to read is I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan. It's amazing for me to see how deeply Reagan loved his wife. These letters are so heartwarming and witty, and Nancy's tribute to him is so very touching. I began research on women on the home front during World War II and ordered a book entitled: Since You Went Away: World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front. This book by Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith shows why women on the home front were so vital to those fighting overseas. In the Foreword, the authors note: "We offer [this books] as a testimonial to the indomitable spirit of those who fought [the war], both at home and away." Lastly, the collection of love letters edited by David H. Lowenherz called The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time. The Fitzgeralds, Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Henry VIII, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Hemingway, Beethoven, Napoleon and Josephine, Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw, Frank Lloyd Wright, Elizabeth I, Oscar Wilde... It seems behind every great person there is a great love. What better inspiration?

Love Stories of World War II compiled by Larry King
I came across the book while researching my first novel. As I mentioned above, there is no greater inspiration for me to write love stories than remarkable real-life love stories. This book is above all the others the most moving. People magazine describes it as, "The greatest generation's most tender moments...poignant...disarming."

The Diary of Anne Frank
This book was required reading in 8th grade Literature. It had such a profound impact on me in so many ways. Above all, it inspired me to start my own diary, my earliest writings. Instead of writing to "Kitty", I wrote to "Anne" and still do to this very day.

Other Writers
My greatest inspiration comes from the words of other writers. The advice I've gathered from my writer's group has a special place in my heart. Their words are looped across index cards which I collage around my office walls. Many published authors have memoirs and how-to books. One of the most notable for me is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I would quote something from this definitive book, but every word is helpful. I recommend it to any writer! The guide in an author's own words that had the most impact on me was given to me by a family friend: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamont. I will be forever grateful to the person who helped me discover this book. I read it in four hours and go back to it whenever I need a sure morale boost. The Seattle Times says about it, "A gift to all of us mortals who write or ever wanted to write...sidesplittingly funny, patiently wise and alternately cranky and kind--a reveille to get off our duffs and start writing now, while we still can." When I just can't take another moment of rejection and I'm on the verge of quitting for good this time, I turn to The Official Nora Roberts Companion edited by Denise Little and Laura Hayden. Nora herself chips in with her editors, agents, and even Julie Garwood to give an account of her remarkable career. For Nora fans especially, this is a MUST-HAVE! Evan Marshall's how-to book The Marshall Planner for Getting Your Novel Published gently breaks down the submission process. I owe him many thanks for requests for more material thanks to his query etiquette and instuctions. Finally, I must go back to Christmas 2003 when I opened a gift from my aunt and uncle: The Corporate Veil by R. Scott Ricks. It is Ricks' first novel so I'd never read him before, never heard of him. He's from Alabama and went to Auburn (my family is chock-full of Auburn alumni and I myself am the most obnoxious Auburn fan you will ever meet!). Ricks did a signing somewhere and my aunt and uncle went to meet him and apparently told him about my eager writing aspirations. I opened the cover to find writing on the first page: a note from the author himself. It is the most precious piece of advice anyone has ever given me:

"To Amber:
No flame is stronger than that which is fueled by imagination. Keep writing and War Eagle. From now on only you decide what is possible!
Your friend,
R. Scott Ricks"


Laura Hayden said...

Nora keeps me going, too. Thanks for the good words. Laura Hayden, co-author of The Official Nora Roberts Companion. Oh yeah...ROLL TIDE!

Jennifer Linforth said...

Your mention of love letters was so timely for me, as I will be doing a post for Unusual Historicals on love letters this Sunday

But this post reminded me of a book called Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. I have no idea who the author was, but I read it in high school and ever forgot the power of those letters.

A great book I suggest for all writers: Write Tight: How to Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused and Concise by William Brohaugh.

Jennifer (Mav)