Sunday, October 28, 2012

Precious Hands

Navajo Weaver, by ellenm1
October is my natal month. As I've done for a few years now, this October I've treated myself to a new rug made by a Navajo elder, through the Adopt-A-Native-Elder program.

Some years ago, while googling the cast of Into The West, a TNT historical miniseries about several generations of two families, one Lakota and one white, I came upon actor Jay Tavare's* website and that's how I discovered the Adopt-A-Native-Elder program, and their online rug catalog.

My heart was tugged. I bought a rug.

All proceeds from these beautiful rugs go directly to the elder who created them. My first two rugs were accompanied by a photo of the weaver.

Alice's hands

Mary's hands

My newest rug, made by weaver Sally Yazzie

*Jay Tavare is a spokesperson for this non-profit program that helps support Navajo elders in Utah and Arizona who choose to live traditionally.

Visit the Adopt a Native Elder site

Check out the online rug catalog

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A debut first: Macro Edits

Also known as content edits, macro edits are the point in the editing process where big story changes are made, those in plot or character. In my case, for this debut novel, it's a merging of two characters (not main characters) into one to tighten and focus the story. I've never done a macro edit before (or a character merge for that matter), but here's how it seemed to me best to go about getting the "big picture" of what needed to change, and how:
1. Write a sentence or two or three describing each scene, or a couple of scenes, onto an index card.
2. Note whose POV each scene is written in.
3. Arrange them on the kitchen table in order.
4. Put on a good story-weaving CD (I chose the soundtrack to Ken Burns' Lewis & Clark).
5. Stare down those cards, one at a time, think, and pray.
6. Make notes on a bright sticky pad on what needs to change in each scene in regards to that macro editing challenge, where applicable.
7. Stick the notes for the changes on the corresponding scene card (having left some blank space on each card for room to do so).
8. Repeat until the cards, or that plot thread, run out.
Supplies needed: index cards. Sticky notes. A pen and a prayer.

It proved far easier than the days I spent trying to rework this story element in my head, with all those scenes buried in the computer, out of sight and out of mind. Or if not out of mind, then blurred and jumbled in mind.

Think I'll leave them out for a day or so (and find somewhere else for meals), to be sure I've hit upon the best ideas for these needed changes. Often the first ideas aren't the best, just the most obvious.

But it's a start.

Do you (if you're a writer) approach macro or content edits in this way? Or is there another method or trick that works better for you? I really (really!) would love it if you shared it in the comments.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Writer's Retreat (in Pictures)

A distant destination....

 A delicious greeting....

A perfect roommate....

Me & Judy Gann

A soul-soothing view....

The bay at Cannery Row

A bit of luxury....

 A rich decor....

A dramatic fountain....

 Even more so at night....

An agent, artfully lit.....

Me & Agent Wendy

A visit from a chatty John Steinbeck (this was Cannery Row, after all).... 

photo by Suzanne Tietjen

Three weary travelers at the end of a very long drive.....

Karen Barnett, Judy Gann. Great traveling companions
Not pictured but present... incredible food, encouragement, career building education and discussion, bocce ball, scavenger hunts, more food, otters, real dolphins, seagulls, bay waves crashing, a thunder storm, God, coffee, kayaks, amazing coincidences (like sitting at a table with a writer who was born in the same hospital I was (we'd never met until that meal) and another writer who used to work at that same hospital (we'd never met until that meal)), and the fellowship of like-minded souls.

Thanks to the fabulous Books & Such team, Wendy, Janet, Michelle, Mary, Rachelle, and Rachel (and Keith for the lovely cups!)

Sunday, October 07, 2012


Where do you go when you're faced with a challenge and you feel a little overwhelmed? Or when you have some deep thinking to do? Or you need to be away from the day to day and connect more closely with the God and Creator of your being? When you need a retreat?

Here's where I went yesterday.

Today will have a very different landscape, though the goal of "retreating" is the same. I'm joining fellow Northwest writers, Judy Gann and Karen Barnett, and hitting the road for our agency retreat. But I go with much to think about. My editor was kind enough to hold back the main editing notes for Willa until next week, leaving me these next few days to focus on agency stuff and writerly fellowship. But she did send me a cliff notes version, highlighting the main issues in Willa that could be strengthened, for a better, more focused story.

I sense God's hand in the timing. While I was willing to spend every free moment at this retreat sequestered in my hotel room with a laptop, doing the rewrites on Willa, instead (since I know the main story issues that need attention, and because the answers to solving a few of them aren't readily apparent), I'll have these days to let it all stew, to brainstorm on paper, to think and pray it all through. God willing, by the time the retreat ends and I come home to the full edit notes from my editor, I'll be on the same page with her, and ready to dig into the work.

Have a blessed week everyone! I may be a little scarce on the blog for the next few weeks as I embark upon an aspect of writing I've never encountered before, but one that's necessary for growing stronger stories. Content edits!