Life as I know It

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Oldest Profession?

Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House
My first novel (middle grade, ages 9 to 13) is due out November 11, 2014
I still can't believe it!

Sneak preview of the back cover. This will be out in hardcover.

Do I look dazed? Well, I am. I can't believe that my new book is a work of fiction.

Dear Friends,

Ok, I know what you're thinking after reading the title of this posting, but you're wrong. I believe that the oldest profession is storytelling and that storytelling is how our culture, our very lives, have been saved, embroidered, and carried on to future generations. Storytelling, a simple word that goes back to your earliest memories, and usually those are GOOD memories. Storytelling is what grabs a reader or an audience (notice how Steve Jobs always did storytelling when talking to his enthralled audiences) and holds them captive.

Here is an article by Paul Zak that explains the how and why stories are important to us in so many ways and "shape our brains." Stories that are compelling and exciting, poignant and/or joyful engage more of our brains and are better remembered than facts. Please let me know what you think of this.

"Where are you, Sharon?"

This was a question from a worried friend. I've been out of touch for way too long, but please forgive me. I am trying to finish my newest book, which is about some children who live on an island in Maine (hmmm, wonder where that idea came from?). I've been cocooned with my computer and just working, working, working in between welcoming house guests, celebrating my grandson's 7th birthday, getting over bronchitis and an eye infection, speaking in Illinois, and doing lots of cooking.

Of course, I always try to make time for my Cambria Writers' Workshop and Kiddie Writers, which are both invaluable to me. They are my critics, and without their constant input, my book would literally be at a standstill.

Fueling your precious brain:

Every day before work, I try to read something that will refuel my brain. For me the first course is always poetry. It is amazing how just one or two lines can color the way you head into your day. I read classics (right now I'm reading a 1923 translation of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus To Himself) and relevant articles in magazines and newspapers, not to mention the best in arts from NPR. Our brains are precious vessels that always need filling.

Since I posted the photo of my new book on Facebook, I've received hundreds of e-mails filled with relevant questions about publishing. Although I would love to answer every one of those questions personally, I just don't have enough hours in the day. 

Let me share some hints to fuel YOUR brain:

Listen to everything going on around you. 

Watch everything, and that means social interactions, nature, etc.. All that watching is somewhat like dropping coins into a bank. You never know when something magical or writing-worthy will occur, and you can bank the words and cash them in later.

A little aside: Jeff has often asked me if he should move to the table next to us in a restaurant so that I will hear what he is saying. It's true, I am an eavesdropper, but wow, what great lines I've heard while doing that.

Read, read, read. I laughed recently when a man asked me about publishing, and I advised that he read as much as possible. He said, "I don't have time to read, I am a WRITER." Good, be a writer, but you darned well better also be a reader to improve vocabulary, plotting skills, character development, and more.

Write every day. Even ten minutes a day will add up. Ten quiet minutes of jotting down your thoughts, a proposed chapter, beginning of a book, or poems.  My friend Eve Neuhaus wrote something that really piqued my interest. She said that she took a class that advised her to write herself a letter every day. A letter. A good, old fashioned means of communication. I love this idea and am using lovely notecards to write to myself.

Recently a want-to-be-writer told me that he can't write every day because he is waiting for his creative muse. Well, that is like sitting in a train terminal and hoping to go on a journey, but instead of catching the train, you're all tied up in watching arrivals. The trains keep leaving, but you're never on them. You're waiting for the creative muse to tell you what to do. YOU are the one in charge, not your "muse." CATCH THE TRAIN!

Join a writing group! Find a critique circle that will help you build your writing skills. It is important that they help you grow as a writer, but if they are quick to jump in and criticize without helping to build your skills, well, they're not doing you any favors. Our brains literally shut down and whirl around negative criticisms. That happened to me when I wrote Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots. Whenever I got side-swiped with criticism from a woman who was helping my beloved editor,  I would lose hours of work. Finally, Jeff said, "You're not talking to that woman again. She is poisoning your writing." So, I didn't speak with her again and worked and worked until Roots was finished.

How nasty criticisms can hurt your creative process:

I loved learning this weekend about the how and why our brains process good and bad experiences. Here is a snippet from an interview with Rick Hanson, Ph.D., who is a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (Harmony Books), wrote about ways to get past our built-in urge to think the worst. The trouble is, he said, "We've got a brain that's really good at learning from bad experiences. And it's relatively bad at learning from good experiences. That's why I say that the brain is like Velcro for the bad, but Teflon for the good."

Writing isn't easy:

It isn't. It is difficult, painful, sometimes joyful, sometimes exciting, sometimes heartbreaking, but we are humans and part of the beauty of humans is their creativity. Make yourself work, revise, revise again, and don't be afraid to read to others. You must share your work and get feedback. 

Once I confessed to my friend Janet Brownell, who is an accomplished and successful screen writer, that I was afraid to read my work to people. Janet laughed and said, "You can write and write and be a writer, but you need others to read your work before you're an author." 

So now, my friends, I am going back to work so that I have two finished chapters to read to my writing group this Wednesday. This is a short posting, but it is for YOU so you can follow the path to your dreams. That path is rocky and filled with potholes, but it is your path and if you have tenacity and courage, you can make your dreams come true.

I am happy to offer a reader drawing (in a few weeks) for a signed, hardbound copy of Running Out of Night (not due until November) and a copy of Trowel and Error. Please leave a comment on this posting for eligibility in the drawing. Also, if you don't have a blog or address, you'll need to look for the winner so we can contact you for a mailing address.

All joys,


P.S. I was overjoyed this week to get this notice about Trowel & Error's 11th printing. Dreams do come true.


Kristina said...

Eeeeekkk!!! How exciting for you to have your novel published! I can't wait to read it! The artwork on the cover is beautiful and the premise of the story is fascinating. I think your words are so wise as to follow your dreams and keep working for them. We so often give up after our first failure. Keep trying! Congratulations, Sharon!


Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to reading your new book and gifting it to my 10 year old grandson. I was recently in Cambria(I visit twice a year) and was so sad to see the Heart's Ease garden looking neglected. I wish I could spend a few days to clean it up and rework it.

zacher.bay said...

Sharon, Let me be one of the first to say Congratulations on this novel. The synopsis is riveting and I would love to read the book when it comes out. Interesting advise on writing. I often find that just the slightest occurrence can spur my imagination and plant the seed for a story,. I always carry a small notebook in my bag and fill it with drawings, and ideas and words. I collect words that I love, and always find a proper place for them in my stories. And I agree, write something, anything, every day!

Julie Marie said...

Oh dear cousin Sharon... how exciting for you!... and for all of us!... I can hardly wait to order a copy of your new book... you look just beautiful sitting there holding it up, I am sure you are in Seventh Heaven!... love all of the wonderful advice you have in this post... I love to write... besides my blog, I write in all of my journals, (Nature, gardening and just journal journal) every day... it is my therapy... plus I am a list maker and have lists all over the house!... I love your words about writing down "good memories"... and how fun it would be to listen to you telling your memories and stories... I know I would be totally captivated!... so happy for you!... and I do hope you are over all of your bronchitis and eye infections... oooh, and just this morning, I was thinking about sweet little Audrey and wondering if she is venturing out of her little cozy nest yet looking for signs of Spring?... sending much love, hello Jeff!... xoxo Julie Marie

Terra said...

Jeff is obviously the right companion for you, as he acknowledges your eavesdropping and offers to move to another table!
Yes, please enter me.
Writing a book about an island in Maine, however did you think of that location, ha ha.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Sharon, that book sounds wonderful! I would love to enter my name in your drawing. I was captivated from reading the synopsis on the cover. Wow! And I love the fact that you address how there are other forms of slavery. Brilliant!

And while my thumb is a bit brown, I would love to read your gardening book, too!

There is SO much in this post. It is full of gifts! I need to go back and unwrap them all and savor them, one by one.

I hope and pray your eye and other malady are better soon.

Warm hugs, tender thoughts...



kj said...

honey honey honey, how welcomed your words are. i'll bet you will hold that novel in your hands and read it a hundred times in a hundred places. i know that joy (full disclosure: on a way smaller scale) and there is nothing like it.

i listen to others as an art form :^) plus i've been blessed to be in a profession where people share their lives and feelings.

go forth, my friend. oh, and save a hot summer day for me. :^)


Lori said...

Hello Sharon! So excited to see your post and I can hardly wait for your new book. I love your advice and I think the quote about the brain being Teflon or Velcro is going up in my classroom. :)

cheris said...

I'm so proud of you! :)

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

This is such wonderful news! I'm so happy for you and would be thrilled to have a copy! thanks! Sweet hugs, Diane

Miz Gala said...

November!! When it comes it will seem like no time at all, I suppose. I can't wait!

peg said...

Such wise words, Sharon! Thank you for sharing them with all of us. My mother and my mother-in-law repeatedly used to say, "Peg, you need to write a book." I have always loved to write...but a book? My son, my husband, my blog & FB friends also encourage me to take that step. That putting pen to paper (well, now keystroke to document...!) hasn't happened...yet. I've oodles of notes, ideas, and photos. I'm not sure why I let the little details of life distract me. My little blog has been neglected since before Christmas. Thank you for the gentle 'push' to get back at it. xo peg


Congratulations and a big hug, Sharon. What a tremendous accomplishment. I'm thrilled for you.

It's true that while we're in writing mode we tend to shut out the world. At least this is how I do it.

I love what Rick Hanson says. This is so true, isn't it? We really do have to work at rewiring our brain to learn from the good experiences too. Bravo for Jeff. He had your back, didn't he?

I also like what Janet Brownell says about the differences between a writer and an author.

Ah yes, the writing muse. Absolutely. We need to get on the train and channel Nike and just do it! The muse doesn't appear. It develops.

Great stuff, my friend.

Darla said...

Such good news and can't wait for November!

Nellie said...

What a wonderful post, Sharon! Such valuable suggestions to encourage each of us to begin writing!

Your book will definitely go in my gift drawer for our grandson.

Trowel and Error - the story of our gardening.:-) The calendar says spring is on the way. Hopefully the weather will begin to believe that.:-)

It was such a pleasure to read this today.

xo Nellie

Pom Pom said...

Oh, the November book looks wonderful. Aw, I don't want to wait that long!
Good work and good words, Sharon!

Sue Girard said...

love your books!

Barbee' said...

What a gift this post is to your readers. Thank you.

Lorrie said...

Congratulations, Sharon. You've worked hard and succeeded. Hooray, Hooray!

Thea said...

Sharon, you are hot stuff! and everything you wrote above I shall take to heart. Love you! thea

Rachel Lucas said...

Wonderful, wise post Sharon...woven through with your well-deserved joy at your forthcoming publication! I owe you an email...thanks for yours, dear friend. And many many congratulations! Xx

AnaGF said...

Congratulations! I've always admired fiction writers, I think that is something I would never be able to do! The book looks awesome and the cover is beautiful!

Beth said...

Hi, Sharon,

I didn't know about your Trowel and Error book, and can't wait to read your new book in November. It was interesting to read your advice. You are so prolific and it is fun to have a glimpse of your process. I think the daily writing idea is very good. I used to have different books for lists, visual ideas, and writing, and recently decided to integrate them all in to one book, The Golden Notebook, (in homage to Doris Lessing's book by that name.) Her book is about how fragmented the different parts of women's lives can be. I want to bring these different interests and talents and parts of my life together and recognize that they are all a part of what inspires me. My visual art and writing in particular feed one another. So far my golden notebook is working out very well for me.


Lori said...

Hello Sharon! I celebrate with you on your new book.I can hardly wait. The quote about the brain being Teflon or Velcro is going up in my classroom.

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon-- I think I can speak for all of your friends-- we are all just so very proud of you. To be able to live your dreams is truly one of life's greatest blessings. You are so kind to share your advice with everyone-- I'm sure there are many who will benefit from your experience.

I've already preordered my copy--looking forward to holding your lifelong dream in my own two hands--

Much love

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Sharon, what an amazing post! I am new to the professional writing world (retired from nursing at 54 in order to write my first novel) and I just learned so much from this one post. I often return to your blog because it just makes me feel good about being alive and now today you've helped me feel good about being a write who is alive and can tell about it. Many thanks.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Wonderful post!

I can't get over that someone who says they are a writer doesn't understand how much reading can help them.

My writing is so much better after spending some time reading a great author.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Wow, your comments and e-mails have made me so happy. Thank you!

Beth, love the Golden Notebook and I think that whatever works for you is the key.

Oh, and I don't feel prolific. It all takes so much time. I drove the 35 miles up to my workshop yesterday and read and got my critiques. That took most of a day. And today I'll work through all the written comments and revise (for the 6th time) this final section of the climax of the book. Without all those viewpoints, well, the book wouldn't have much dimension.

Keep writing! Are you in Switzerland?


Dee Dee Osborne said...

Sharon, I was going to order your new book for my granddaughter for Christmas. Now, I will try to win it! Also, the Trowel and Error book which I checked out from our local library. I am sure this new book will be very popular. Loved your joke about the oldest profession! Glad your hard January is over and there is rain for your garden. Love, Dee Dee Osborne

jerilanders said...

OOPs! I signed in on my husbands account, 3rd comment down, zacher.bay. But it's really me Sharon... Jeri

LisaVi said...

Congratulations on your new book! I would love to have a copy for my sons. Plus Trowel and Error book. I have all your other books and love doing the activities with my boys.

jms.prtlnd said...

“Remember on this one thing, said Badger. The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other's memories. This is how people care for themselves. ”

― Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel

Sharon Lovejoy said...

WOW! jms.prtlnd, LOVE THAT! Thank you.


jerilanders said...

Sharon, Hey, just got my "This old HOuse" in the mailbox and wow, there you are! Great, great kitchen, but I have always loved that sink of yours. is that your courtyard on the magazine front as well?

Linda Lehmusvirta said...

As always, you know just the right words to encourage, inspire, make us laugh and make us think!

Anonymous said...

congratulations on your novel, such an inspiration you are, its me Laurie from I love a cloudy day, I didn't think I would ever be able to blog again but a new program for the visually impaired has brought me back to blogging, a new blog and new start, I have missed you!

camp and cottage living said...

Thank you for sharing your writing tips! I often thought I would like to get back into writing and your advice is encouraging.
I can't wait for your new book to come out. I will be purchasing it and sharing it with the g'children. Congrats on your reprint!

Gigi said...

Yay for you! I'm looking forward to the release of your new book. I'm a grandmother, but I still love children's books as much (or more ;) than those written for we 'grown ups'. I'm currently reading "Where the Lilies Bloom" -- a lovely little book about a family living in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina -- where I live. And I'm going to hop over to Amazon right now to look for the book on happiness - I do believe we can train ourselves to focus more on the positive than the negative, so I'm always happy to find more info in that area.

Vee said...


Warm congrats to you! Your new book sounds wonderful and like a Christmas gift this year. Very cool.

Thank you for the writing tips. Very sound and sensible ones they are.

Candice Suter.....Sweetstuff said...

I am soooo happy for you! Congratulations! And the 11th printing of Trowel & Error is amazing. Thank you so much for the great advice. I am going to read this again and again.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Laurie M,

Welcome back to this wonderful world of blogging.

Sending all of my best thoughts your way!


Sharon Lovejoy said...

Laurie M,

Welcome back to this wonderful world of blogging.

Sending all of my best thoughts your way!


dc said...

Congratulations! and thanks for the chance to win.

Unknown said...

Can't wait to read the new book! So multi-talented you are! Love everything you do!!

Judi Young said...

Ooooh, I didn't hear about this novel the other night. I must get it for Joey when it's available. Congrat's on your new venture and thank you for continuing to write and create, to our benefit.

Anonymous said...

eavesdropper!!! so funny.
I already have Trowel & Error but it would be a great gift. I would love to read your first fictional book. Happy for you!
Jennie Brooks

Debbie said...

Sharon I have all your books and this one looks wonderful. I have a 10yr old granddaughter that I think would love it! Enjoy your blogs so much.

Unknown said...

I am so excited for your new book! I can't wait to share it with my daughters. Congratulations!

Carol Jane Opstad said...

I love the idea of writing letters to yourself and reading poetry to color your day! Congratulations on your book of fiction! I am excited to read it this fall. Thank you!

Susan said...

Congratulations dear friend--I'm looking forward to reading this--I'm still young at heart! XOXO

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Sharon!
Thank you for such an inspiring post and I look forward to reading your new book.
Barbara Stillman

Paula said...

Congrats! I have written two chapters (although they are longish - almost novella type stories). I dream of being published but haven't the slightest idea how to go about it!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Paula dear,

The only way to do it is to do it! Many, many sites have publishing information, and I hope that my blog answered some of your questions.

Sending a warm breeze your way,


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

You are amazing.
Take care of you.
I always have this thought
when I read your sharing...
Who knows maybe I will be the winner :)

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Very excited for you Sharon. Congrats...greta post

Kat White said...

I'm so excited for you and your first (hopefully one of many) fiction books. I can't wait to see it.
I'm also glad to know I'm not the only one who loves to listen to the conversations of others. You can't make up the stuff you hear sometimes.

sapphire said...

Thank you for giving us a chance to win your new novel. It really sounds interesting so I will purchase even if I don't win a copy.
Diana of Ohio

Mary Anne Helms said...

Many congratulations on the novel. I know the perfect young lady to give it to!! I have no ambition to write a novel but am always writing non-fiction snippets which I have on my laptop. I started writing the story of my life so that it could be passed down. Things change so quickly these days that I think it will be interesting for the future generations to know what life was like without all the current technology (and whatever comes down the pike in coming years). I can remember as a child when there were still horse-drawn wagons and three cent stamps!! And the changes in opportunities for women will be an eyeopener.And I am not that old. I think all of us could start writing down these memories. So I would love to win your books as I have a very green thumb. My best wishes to you.

AmyOuchley said...

I love the cover of the full moon and the title of your book. Your blog is full of good advice. Thanks for taking time to write to all of us. Also, if I don't win I'm gonna buy it anyway.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your first novel Sharon! Maine is one state I have always wanted to did you happen to become a "bicoastal" homeowner? Would love to win the books.....need all the gardening help I can get! Helen

Hill Country Hippie said...

Oh my, I would love to get my hands on a copy of your new novel before it hits the shelves. Seems like I've been reading more teen books than anything else lately!

Unknown said...

I love the cover, Sharon and so look forward to reading your labor of love!

Teri said...

What great advice you offer here Sharon. I often make up too many excuses and what you say really resonates with me...I am in charge!! I also love the titles you come up with. So creative with a play on words. And, I too am an eavesdropper. I love to listen to what other people are talking about or listening to (in the case of being next to an auto at the stop sign). Shall I say "good luck to me"?? Crossing my fingers AND my toes.!

Pam's English Garden said...

I love this posting, Sharon. As a would-be writer I often feel guilty spending time reading when I think I should be writing -- your words take away my guilt. I enjoy all your work and can't wait to read your new book -- Congratulations! P. x

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

I'm so delighted for you! And the book looks and sounds wonderful. Can't wait to read it! And thank you for the good advice!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I want to be entered in the drawing! I have several of your books. I picked up Hollyhock Days from Heart's Ease when I used to visit Cambria on a regular basis when I live in CA. Love your books. Thanks, Bonnie