Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Risk is Essential

"Risk is essential. It's scary. Every time I sit down and start the first page of a novel I am risking failure...We are encouraged only to do that which we can be successful in. But things are accomplished only by our risk of failure."

Face it. When you put your words on paper or offer them to the world on  your blog, you're taking a risk. Will people like your thoughts? Scoff at you? Close the book or click through without giving you a chance to touch them? That's the risk you must take when you are compelled (and it is a compulsion) to communicate.

Writing is my life, but it is scary. I never know how people will react, but I write from my heart, re-write, trim, add, trim again, and finally, I turn to my fellow writers for their sometimes painful assessment of my work.

I miss my Kiddie Writers group the most when I am in Maine. I wrote about them in my blog posting in January 2010. They are my dear friends, confidantes, and know the best and the worst about what I try to do. 

When my dear friend Stephanie Roth-Sisson (she is a fabulous illustrator) suggested that we video conference the next meeting of Kiddie Writers with Skype, I was ecstatic. So Jeff set up an account (it is FREE), Stephanie included me on her Skype account, and we tested out the method.

On Thursday afternoon, the computer "rang" and I answered to the hellos of the dear writers who paraded past the screen and greeted me.

For the next three hours, we listened to new stories and re-writes, talked about our goals, and celebrated the work of Juddi Morris who is leaving us and moving to Texas. Give-and-take in equal measure.

When the Skype call began, it was day, albeit a stormy, gray one.  When I finally hung up, it was night and I was elated.  Here was the solution to the problem of missing my essential group of writing friends who help critique my work until it is ready to go out to the world and face the big RISK.

Here's a peek into our group. I hope you enjoy the video.

"One of the greatest necessities in America (or anywhere) is to discover creative solitude."
Carl Sandburg

A GREAT give-away for a lucky reader:

I keep this inspirational book by my bed. I read it last thing at night and drop off to sleep with hope and a feeling of camaraderie.

Every week I receive e-mails from writers who want to be published, who are facing a creative "block," or who do not know what to do with their passion for writing. I found some of the answers to those questions recently when I discovered the book The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing: Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way (Sellers Publishing) by author Nava Atlas. 

I copied the title of the book and ordered it from our local Maine Coast Bookshop when we arrived. From the moment I opened the first page, I was enchanted. Here, in personal account after personal account, I found the inspirational and practical words of Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Madelein L'Engle, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anais Nin, George Sand, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf. This book is not only about the creative process, but also matters of business.  I loved every insight, every hurdle the authors faced. I felt this humanized writers in a way I have never experienced. You will love it too, and I am excited to hear what you think of it.

I think this is a MUST read for those of you who want to write. I am happy, thanks to the generosity of Sellers Publishing of South Portland, Maine, to be able to offer one copy in a give-away. For those of you who don't win, you can order it directly from Sellers, your local bookstore, or Amazon. To enter the random drawing, leave a comment on this post before Tuesday, October 4. 

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. Perhaps I will get to meet some of you in person this week (September 30) when I give a talk in Orlando, Florida, at The Landscape Show, the southeast's premier landscape and horticulture conference and trade event, sponsored by the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.

P.P.S. Grimy Hands Girls' Club members. Stay tuned. I will have a give-away especially for you when I return from Florida. The give-away is a new Timber Press book, Planting a Dry Shade Garden by Graham Rice. It is wonderful. I adore his fresh and knowledgeable writing style. 


Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Hi Sharon,
Great post! And I can't get over that charming room that your writing in!
I love Skype! We use to see the newest grandbaby who is in AZ.
Not the same as being there, but it helps!
Would love to win the book too, super give-away!

Leigh @ Toasted said...

Ah - nice to hear published writers face the same dilemmas as us aspiring ones. This is such an honest and inspiring post - thanks. And I would love to win that book

Susan said...

Skype is how I keep up with the grands--Ari in Madrid and Maddie in New Jersey! What did we do before it?? Love your cozy room--much love, Susan

Pondside said...

Skype - how did we get along without it?
I appreciate your honesty in this post so much. I'd love to win the book, but will look for it up here, in any case.

Lady Dorothy said...

Sounds like such an inspirational book. I would love to win it!

Webmaster said...

Hi Sharon,
Something about the title and description of that book speaks to me. Thanks for the recommendation!

Marigold Jam said...

It is good to know that "real" writers feel the same as us bloggers who have the same compulsion to write. I have so often thought "why am I doing this?" and that I would stop but it is a compulsion and I have to write and if not a blog then what?! That book sounds interesting - I'm of to amazon to find out more about it.

Lori said...

Thanks for sharing a part of the writing process. So glad you take the risk!

Cristy said...

I love the quotes you used in this blog post. "Risk is essential." And "Creative solitude". Thanks for offering the book. I'd love to read it!

Ginny said...

I love the two quotes in this post - Madeleine L'Engle has always been such an inspiration for me. How wonderful that there is technology like Skype to keep you connected. We use the Apple version (iChat) to "visit" with our grandchildren.
Would love to win that book!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What an interesting post and nice to see you ladies sharing the writing process.

Enjoy your time in Orlando.

It is still very warm and humid here, so bring warm weather clothes.

Don't count me in this drawing.

Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

Comfrey Cottages said...

Sharon, I don't know how you can ever have a doubt folks will enjoy your writing! :) love and hugs

Robin Larkspur said...

Sharon, you always boost us up!! And you look cozy and happy in your cottage, working and Skype-ing. As always, I would like to enter your giveaway. Maybe someday, you will come to the Syracuse NY area; that would be fabulous! Happy Autumn!!

klk said...

Thank you for reaching out to those of us who want to write. It's thoughtful and nurturing and the reason I like to read your blog.

Rebecca said...

Periodic external motivation is a HUGE encouragement! Thanks for the chance, Sharon!

Write on!

PatsyAnne said...

Oh Sharon, what a wonderful giveaway! I'm retiring on October 14th and one of the things I will be doing is write, write, write - I have been collecting ideas for a series - they have been tumbling around my brain for years - I've characters, settings including street maps, plots, alternate endings - I can hear their individual voices in the dialogue that runs across my mind (no I'm not hearing voices, I'm listening to my characters as they interact)... LOL - I'd love this book!

Maggie said...

Such an inspiring post to all of us who write, whether it be as a published author or a blogger posting her "diary" on line like myself.
I would love to be entered in the giveaway, merci beaucoup!

From the Kitchen said...

I'd love to win this book so as to keep company with some of my favorite lady writers. It's a wonderful give away.

I've been spending some time online looking for rentals in New England. My husband and I would like to spend more time there with our younger son and his wife. I think I've mentioned that our DIL did her undergraduate studies at Bates. She loves Maine! She and our son now live in North Attleboro, Massachusetts but are looking to purchase a home in, or near, Providence. Until they met, we had never been to New England. I've now made five trips (in two years) and my husband has been with me on two. We have very much enjoyed each one.

In the meantime, we are liking Skype.

Best wishes for putting pen to paper again!


Lili said...

We've been enjoying Skype with the grandkids for a couple years, I'm so glad it's still free. It's so wonderful that you can feel the connection with your friends while enjoying life here in Maine. Did I spot tiny starfish tiebacks on your curtains? To me, you are the one that always inspires, so it was fun to see your tips for staying inspired! Hugs dear Sharon, enjoy your Florida trip. xo ~Lili

Larkrise garden girl said...

Risk,I don't know how you do it throwing out your words to the world and waiting for a yea or a nay! I just write my little blog and feel sometimes like what does it matter what I think but then I realize it's enjoyable to write to put on a page a story and collect your thoughts.So Sharon please enter me in your drawing and maybe I'll get some wonderful insight into great writers like you.

Nava Atlas said...

Sharon, my publisher sent me the link to your lovely post and giveaway. It was an amazing privilege to get to know and write about the Literary Ladies presented in this book.Thanks so much for getting the word out to other writers, and thanks to all the commenters so far.

Farmhouse Soaps said...

What a wonderful book for those to keep the inspiration growing and going. Sounds like you have been so busy and jumping into new things all the time (like the Skype). Hope your fall has been wonderful so far!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I enjoyed listening in on your Kiddie Writers session, Sharon, and hearing the constructive criticism you were able to give.

I use SKYPE often, as I use it to keep in touch with my children who live in Colorado and I especially enjoy seeing my two young grandchildren who live there. My husband talks to his aunts and uncles in Italy over SKYPE -- no international long distance charges!

This give away book sounds very interesting, especially as it contains advice from almost all of my favorite authors!


Dear dear Sharon, It was so nice to HEAR your lyrical, friendly voice in this post! Your love of people is so evident and contagious. You were very concise with your critique of your fellow writer's work--lucky gal she is. Oh how I'd love for you to critique my work someday. :)

Your post is timely! Last evening I took a RISK and contacted a small publisher about my memoir. I don't know if I'll here anything but at least I made the effort. Thank you for reminding me and all of your readers that communication to some extent always involves risk and that it's normal to feel apprehension--very timely.

Safe travels to Florida.

Farm Girl said...

I agree, how often have I sat and wrote and then wished I had not written anything so personal and why didn't I keep my heart in my chest where it belonged instead of laying it out for all to read it.
Risk, but don't you think all of life is a risk, every time we turn that first bit of dirt over in the spring we risk bugs, weeds, and all kind of things. I find it so encouraging that you have a fear too.
I thought it was just me.
As always you still inspire me.
Thank you

Sharon Lovejoy said...

I just checked to see if anyone had posted a comment on this blog entry. Lo and behold, Nava Atlas, the author of the book dropped in for a visit.

Isn't the internet world small and awesome?


Vee said...

I'm listening to the Skype session winding down...what a wonderful group of women! What an amazing support group for all these years with criticisms and praise in measured doses.

Tanna said...

Sharon, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your kind comment so that I could find my way here. I can tell I am going to enjoy visiting again and again. Though I am not a writer, I would love to read that book. ;) Thank you again. blessings ~ tanna

Unknown said...

Hi Sharon! First I must answer your question from your comment on my blog... Yes our hardwood trees and some of the brush along our beloved beach road are " burned" from the salty winds of Irene. It will be a surprise as to what our fall color will be here along the south coast this year. Now, for this wonderful and timely post! You've been on my mind to email, but we've been in the midst of transitioning to a new computere. As I write the email settings are still not set...I wanted to ask you how you might advise a small group of women to start a writing group. Is there an outline or meeting proocal we should know about? We are anxious to get started! I just found out my neighbor is writing a novel for heavens sakes! We must get our hands on a copy of that book! Please enter me in your drawing!
I absolutly love how the universe answered your prayers for connecting with your group via the internet...Thank goodness for the world wide web! We have friends we may never have met because of it!Like you!
Sending love and hugs!
Deb,Boz and family!

Vicki Boster said...

Hi Sharon -
You are so right - it is a scary thing to put your thoughts down on paper and then offer them out to the world~~ I cringe every single time I hit the PUBLISH button on my blog.

I am intrigued by the whole skype thing - cant say that I have done it yet - but its coming for me- with grand babies a bit away - it will be in my future I am sure. How wonderful to peek into your little conversations - honestly I think it all looks like great fun.

I LOVE the give away - would love the book - think I could use the inspirations! I am going to check it out for sure! (sometimes more than others - I think I need lots of help with my writings!)

Orlando - oh my and we are going to Florida next month. Our beach home there is 50 miles from Orlando~~

Safe travels my friend~~


Bonnie K said...

The zinnias you sent for the Grimy Hands Girls' Club were on the brink of blooming. I couldn't wait to take a photo. Bam! It froze. Glad I didn't plant them all. I will try again next year. Mother Nature can be fickle.

Teri said...

What a great idea to be able to connect via Skype! We really aren't far away from anyone we love are we! You are so blessed to have such friends to share your writing with and also to have such a wonderful place in Maine and in Calif!!! Lucky you!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Sharon, you have no need to if your words are loved. They are as well as you. When I write it is for family and who ever else finds it interesting. Do not really care if someone finds it interesting but pleases me when others do. If you are ever near Tennessee would love to meet you.
Read in a post about Zennias from the club. I did not receive any.
Should I have :)
Have a wonderful and peace filled day. From the Woods...

Kay Guest said...

So a wonderful writer such as yourself has these doubts too, just the same as a struggling one? Amazing! My whole life I have written notebooks full of my observations and just recently, I started my own blog. IT IS HARD but somehow, it is always something I have had to do...I would love to be entered into the drawing for this lovely book.
Wish I could see you in Florida! But I wish more you could be in Georgia!

Nan said...

What a treat it was to see your wonderful room, and to hear your voice. I'm happy you've found this great way to connect. You've probably seen this site:

And probably the book is a collection from it?

I've got a cookbook by Nava Atlas which I love called American Harvest.

Pat said...

With our son and future daughter-in-law living up in Alaska, Skype is a special way we can stay Mom (86) & Dad (93) are continually amazed with this way of communicating! They get so excited when talking & seeing the kids.

I so agree with you about taking risks - the rewards are beyond measure. I will never regret stepping up and opening my own quilt shop -

Wishing you continuing productive days in that dear creative space you have...looks like a wonderful place for dreaming too.

Jude Walsh said...

I luuuuuve M. L'Engle. Her Circle of Quiet is never far from me and The Summer of the Great Grandmother.... superb! I have not read the book the quote is from but just requested it from my local library.

Skype is indeed amazing and... free, my favorite price! I have a writing partner (we meet and just keep one another company while we work on our very different work) and need a critique group. I've sent my wish into the universe and am patiently waiting.

We had almost thee inches of rain in a recent overnight storm and the ground here is still squishy. I'm taking advantage of that to do some weeding! Thanks for alerting me to your give away book. If I don't win, I'll be sure to check it out another way.

How do these give aways work anyway?

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Judy,

On the last day of the posting week we close the entries and choose the winner. Jeff does this by using a random number generator. I count the entries to determine who the number belongs to.

Re: Fairy Hobmother...they choose the winner of the 50.00 Amazon gift certificate.

All joys to you,


Anonymous said...

I am very new to your blog and sites, having been sent here by Deb at Dandelion House!! I love it and that book looks like just the thing Deb and I could use as we start our brand new writer's group! We had coffee this morning to figure out the best way to get started with our new group. I am in the process of writing a novel and I must confess I am more than a wee bit nervous about my writing process, and my erratic writing schedule. I can't wait to read about how these inspiring women writers carved out their sacred writing time. Thank you for recommending such a gem of a book!!
Amy Piper.

Laguna Dirt said...

as yet another someone kicking around the idea of starting a novel, i am thrilled to learn about this inspiring collection from women authors. even if i never start scratching out my own stories, i bet this is a great read! thanks!

Jude Walsh said...

Thanks Sharon for explaining the selection process. I just took a closer look at your picture. WHAT is that fabulous thing you are riding? I WANT one!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Judy,

The fabulous and vital town of Belfast, Maine, which is about an hour and fifteen minutes north of us, has an ongoing "sculpture" show on the streets of town. Most of the pieces are the fabulous Dragonfly Bike, which you can ride in place. I adore it.



Linda Powers said...

Thank you, Sharon, for your inspiration, your generosity and your witty optimism! xo

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

The vulnerability of writing from the heart is what I struggle with the most--will I offend someone, look like a fool, have nothing interesting to say? I edit so much I find it exhausting at times and wonder if I don't just edit the life out of my post as I rewrite, review, etc. Thanks for the recommendation--I MUST read this book!

kj said...

sharon, so now i desire to write with you some day. i am channeling that lovely thought.

risk?!!! i am knee deep into my second novel and i keep thinking it is so boring and simplistic. and i so hope it is really riveting and complex. ♥

are you still in maine? maybe next year you will want to see provincetown although i know breaking away from the camp might be unthinkable. :^)

ps write with me!!!

Lydia said...

What a FABULOUS post. If writing is a high wire act- this post is the safety net below.

Privet and Holly said...

Oh yes, I breathe deep
and say a small prayer
before I hit the publish
button each and every
time. It's like putting your
child on the bus for the
first time : ). I can only
imagine what it is like to
hand off a manuscript....
It is on my to-do list!
Hope you are enjoying a
fabulous fall. The colors
here are amazing and the
prediction is for the best
show in a decade!
xx Suzanne

Privet and Holly said...

PS: of course, I'd
love to win this book!
How special that the
author came by to leave
a comment.
xx Suzanne

Mim said...

Hi Sharon - I was "sent" over here by KJ and am glad that I listened to her; your words are very truthful and inspiring.
And you live in one of my favorite towns - my brother lives in Cayucos and works in SLO - and boy...I wish there were more jobs for me in the area, it's so beautiful.
Glad to get to know you -

softearthart said...

Risk taking is indeed a challenge.

My ideas for a book have only ever been rejected, but one must keep on ,and send it out into the world. love and light, a great post. cheers Marie

Carol said...

Wonderful quotes Sharon. The risk is always worth taking for the creative process and what may come from it. It is so helpful to have a supportive group of women writers too. Many are grateful that you have taken the risk over and again! A gem of a post . . . a portal into your writing world. Thank you for sharing! I will have to call my library about that book. ;>)

Casa Mariposa said...

A life with no risk is no life at all! Thanks for the book suggestion.

Mozart's Girl said...

Dearest Sharon...waaay out of time for the giveaway, but that's not the purpose of this comment, for me. Loved the peek into your writing circle - I so wish we had something similar here! I feel very isolated, writing-wise...people think I'm a bit mad, lots of condescending virtual pats on the head etc! Anyway...wonderful as ever. Love you xoxo Rachel

Danielle said...

I just put the Literary Ladies book on my wishlist. Looks great!