Why This Writer Strives to be a Weed

aaa1Certain things seem like a great idea. Never again having to mow the lawn, for example. Lay down some landscaping fabric, plant some shrubs and perennials and throw down some river stone and, voila, a low maintenance yard, which is precisely what we wanted when we landscaped.

I like the look. I like not having to mow. However, I’m not really enjoying the weeds that pop up faster than I can pull them. Dandelions are particularly difficult. The tap root tap snaps off when I try to uproot them, they grow in rock-solid clay and with little water. They keep coming back. Over and over and over again. Dandelions will still be here, long after other plants have succumbed to the elements.  aaa8

 Their heartiness has earned my respect.

The hours I spend pulling weeds, has given me plenty of time to reflect and philosophize. I’ve decided that, as a writer, I should strive to be a dandelion. The writer’s life, at least, this writer’s life is no place for delicate tropical flowers that can only bloom under ideal conditions. I need to be hearty and tenacious and annoyingly persistent. I need to bloom in drought and bad soil and when homeowners try to rip me, root and all, from the ground.

Dandelions may not be the loveliest of flowers, but they persist. That’s what I want to be—the one who persists, the one that keeps going despite set-backs, rejections and disappointments. The one gardeners may get irritated with but have to admit—that’s a plant I can respect.aaa7

Summer Reading Blast Tomorrow at The Forks!

summer reading blastMy writers’ group, the Anita Factor, is celebrating eight published books over the past year. If you know the odds of getting published, you’ll know that it’s reason to strap on our party hats and break out the silly string.

On Saturday, July 18, we will head to The Forks in Winnipeg for the Summer Reading Blast, a massive book signing, reading and meet the author opportunity. Find us in the south atrium from 11-7.

Read The Herald interview with fellow author and friend, Deborah Froese, and I. We discuss the event and our writers’ group. Click here.Herald article

For more about the event and the Anita Factor take a listen to this radio interview, click here.Dahlia show

 

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We’ll see you at The Forks!

Can the Ability to Dream Big Be a Curse?

aIn 2008 we built a new house. I say we “built” as though we had picked up hammers and actually worked. I should say, we contracted a builder to build our house. We picked out flooring and counter tops and wrote checks.

During the building process, someone made the comment that it must be fun building my dream house. Dream house? Um, no. Don’t get me wrong, I love my house, but it’s not my dream house. I can dream pretty big. I once had a dream that my husband bought us a house with a water slide in the bathroom. I was pretty upset at him because I felt it a little over the top, upset–until I slid down the thing, and then I realized he was a genius. Needless to say, the house we “built” does not have a water slide in the bathroom.

My daughter inherited this “dream big” gene. When she was four years old, we picked up circus tickets. For weeks, we pumped the event–elephants, clowns, acrobats. She was most thrilled about the acrobats. She talked about them non-stop. Finally, the day of the circus arrived, and I sent her to her room to get dressed. When she emerged from her bedroom, she had on tights and a leotard. Turns out, she misunderstood. She thought she was going to be in the circus, not merely watching it. The whole thing turned out to be a big disappointment for her.

My dream of publishing my book was much the same. I dreamed big, huge, colossal. The reality didn’t quite match. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very pleased to have my book, but sometimes being able to dream big is a bit of a curse. Sometimes there is no way for reality to match dreams–no matter what it is–house, spouse, career, children.

My daughter’s big dreams ruined her time at the circus. Instead, of a fun time, it was a disappointment. My big dreams could have ruined the excitement of setting foot inside my new house for the first time and finally publishing my first book. It’s okay to have big dreams, but I’ve realized the need to keep them in perspective, otherwise life becomes one big disappointment. It’s my choice–view my life with thankfulness or with disappointment. Life can still be exceedingly good even if dreams aren’t realized.

So dream big, but don’t let them ruin your reality. Never forget to be thankful for what’s real.

Potential Ax Murderers, Judgement and a Flock of Teen Girls

Wow, the past two weeks have flown by. I’m tired, but in a good kind of way.

aa1On June 12, I was all packed up and excited for my first writers’ retreat in almost a year.  After a knock at my door, I opened it to find author, Christine Steendam, someone I’d only met on Twitter and Facebook, on the other side. She looked trustworthy, so I grabbed my luggage and hopped into her car along with comic author, Andrew Lorenz. It occurred to me that I was violating every warning I’d given my kids about meeting up with people they met online. I chuckled as I told them, “I hope you’re not ax murders.”

aa2We drove out to the middle of nowhere to this trailer where we’d be staying along with another author, A.P. Fuchs and his wife. Yes, this could be the den of ax murderers and there did happen to be an ax, but it was beside a wood pile. My head remained intact, and I got to know a fabulous group of writers. Oh, yeah, and I got some writing done too. I didn’t quite make my 15,000 word goal, but I was pleased with my 13,000 words. I’ve since finished the novel I worked on at the retreat for a total of eleven completed manuscripts.

aa7At the end of May, I had the privilege of judging my first short story contest. I’d entered plenty of writing competitions, but this was my first time on the other side of the competition. What an enlightening experience! I judged the teen category and let me tell you, the future of writing is bright. The Writers’ Collective Gala was held on June 16, where I had to honor of handing out awards to these very talented young people. I also received my own award–an honorable mention for my short story, Bread for Five.

A few weeks ago, I’d been invited to speak at a teen girls retreat through Living Bible Explorers. This past Friday, I journeyed out to their camp to share during four chapel sessions. I’d chosen the theme The Fault is Not in our Stars–Bible Women with a Powerful Purpose. I spoke on the daughters of Zelophehad, aa3Rahab, Ruth and Esther. The camp is still under construction, so there was no electricity and no plumbing. Nothing like going without those things for the weekend to make me appreciate them when I got home.

aa5It was a huge blessing to get to know the ministry leaders and the girls. I’m told the retreat went well, and I’ve been invited to return in the future.

I have one more event to prepare for this week–my first school visit! The mother of one of my readers contacted me a couple of weeks ago to tell me that her son enjoyed my book so much that he decided to use it for his end of the year language arts project. She also asked if I’d be willing to stop by his class for his presentation and share a little about the book.

So, as I wrap up a busy two weeks, I take a deep breath and reflect on all of it with thankfulness. Writing is my passion, and it’s taking me so many wonderful places. aa4

Inspiration for the Setting of #Enslavement

IMG_0793 IMG_0929 The setting for Enslavement has a special place in my heart. As a young teen, I spent two summers with my aunt and uncle who lived outside of Comfort, Texas. Yes, Comfort is a real place. I returned after I graduated from high school to attend bible school. It’s there that I met my husband. I was 18, he was 19 and we were engaged by spring.

Many of the sights I talk about in the book really exist–the small deer, the narrow roads, the limestone, the dry twisted junipers. Justin tells Rielle a story about a flash flood on the Guadalupe River–that really happened. On July 17, 1987, school bus full of children was swept away by the flood waters. Ten children did not survive.  This is the same type of flood that Rielle got caught in. You can view the story here:

It was wonderful to get to return to this beautiful and sometimes dangerous place, if only in my thoughts. 

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Moms, No Matter How Hard You Try, You Will Never be Dads

I came across this meme on Facebook and it instantly made me hot under the collar. I don’t normally anger easily, so it took me a moment to figure out why it hit a nerve.AA

First, you should know that I am not a single mother, but I was raised by one and that’s the point of view I’m writing from today. As a child of multiple divorces, this meme totally pissed me off. Why? Because no matter how hard moms try, they will never ever be dads.

When my dad exited stage left, my mom gained a ton of new responsibilities that she had to tackle without support. She had to go to work full time and make ends meet when child support cheques were sporadic. She had to find us a place to live and feed us on a tight budget. She had to look after me and ensure I still had a childhood. She had to nurse her broken heart and try to put her life back together. Her job description expanded exponentially. But, she never became my dad. She couldn’t.

Implying that my mother could become mother and father, would have negated my need for a father, negated the gaping hole his absence left in my life. There was a hole. There is a hole. And that hole was impossible for my mom to fill. She was a good mom, but never for a moment did that make up for the fact that my dad left us. I’m glad she didn’t have the outlook conveyed in this meme. I’m glad she recognized that she couldn’t be my dad and that instead she strove to be the best mom she could be.

Dads own a special dynamic within the parent/child relationship. I’ve watched my own children with their dad, like one watches a wildlife documentary, thinking, “So this is how it would have been to have an attentive father.” I could never replace him in their lives.

I have other family members who were raised without their father—they’re all the same, they want to know their dad. They desire a relationship with him no matter how much of a douchebag he’s been. If moms could take the place of dads, no one would feel that way. And yet we do.

Hats off to all you moms out there going it alone. I remember my mother’s tears, her exhaustion, her frustration, her quest to give me the best of everything even though she was suffering. Be a great mom. But, don’t be a dad. That’s something that will just be missing. It always will be missing, even if you don’t want it to be. If you can recognize the loss and stop pretending that everything is a-okay, everyone concerned can heal, learn how to move forward and learn how to live each day without Dad. It hurts. It just does. 

Nobody Wants to Hear About My #Failures, or Do They?

IMG_20150502_162838Over the past few days I’ve had a couple of new, stretching experiences that I count as successes.

On Saturday, I participated in Authors for Indies day, a campaign to support and champion independent bookstores. As a guest salesperson at McNally Robinson Booksellers, it was my job to help connect customers with great books. I was super nervous coming up to it because I’m not much of a salesperson and I do have trouble walking up to people and initiating conversations. IMG_20150504_141632316_HDRStationed in the children’s books section, I had the opportunity to connect with a couple teachers, a librarian and some young readers and their parents. I had a great time and will definitely sign up to do it again next year.

On Monday, I had my first radio interview. I was so nervous coming up to it that I almost ended up in tears. Some stern self-talk kept me from slipping over the edge. The interview was on a Winnipeg radio station, IMG_20150504_135829453680 CJOB on the Dahlia Kurtz show. I came prepared to talk about different aspects of my book from the writing process, the struggle to get published to Enslavement’s theme of dehumanization and how the idea for the book came to me. The interviewer immediately put me at ease and though I could feel my hands shaking, I got through the interview. If you’re curious, click here for a listen: https://soundcloud.com/680cjob/melinda-friesen?in=680cjob/sets/dahlia-kurtz

Both of these opportunities were exciting. I pumped them up on my social media sites. But, yesterday I took a moment to go over my SM posts and it struck me how I’m trumpeting my successes, but silent about my failures. Do people want to hear about my failures? Do they want to hear how I’m struggling through my most recent edit? Will it come off as whining or as me being real with my readers?

Rejection ScreenshotFor the first time in a long time, I opened up an email file called “Queries.” It’s a positive name for a file full of rejections. I didn’t bother counting. There are a lot and I got weary of scrolling through all the rejections I’ve received for my novels and short stories–and that file doesn’t even include old rejections I didn’t transfer to my new computer, hard copies that were mailed instead of emailed and those who just never bothered to get back to me. I suppose I want my readers to know that I trumpet the successes, but behind the scenes there are at least 40 failures for every small victory.

I want to focus on the positive because focusing on the negative would drown me. But, I admit, it makes my life sound idyllic. Look at me living the dream while you suffer failure after failure, which simply is not true. This is a tough road, no, it’s not even a road–it’s a jungle you hack your way through inch by inch.

What do you think? Do you want to hear more about others’ failures? Does hearing about failure make you feel like you’re not alone, or does it make you feel hopeless? Does hearing about the successes make you feel envious or does it give you hope? Where is the balance between the two?