Monday, November 12, 2012

"The Community of Writers," Guest Blog by Julie Steele

Polarization. Red versus Blue. Rich versus poor. Gender wars. Liberal versus Conservative. Christian versus atheist. The media is full of articles on our divided nation. Is it really? On some levels, yes, but often we find commonality in spite of differences.

I have a wide array of friends and some people seem shocked by the diversity. I spent the turbulent week post- election pondering what so many people from all ends of the political and religious spectrums have in common – besides friending me, of course. Freelance writer. Creative non-fiction writer. Romance-in-all-its- many-forms writer. Fortune cookie fortune writer. Politically, spiritually, economically, they run the gamut. What is the common denominator for so many of them?

Words. They love words, putting fingers to keyboard or pen to paper. There is something about the craft of writing, combining words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, that creates a community out of people who write for a living or who must carve out minutes in the middle of the night to write.

Creativity. Those who write are not just good writers. They are creative souls in other ways. Many of the writers I know use their hands to knit, paint, garden, cook, upcycle, build furniture or take pictures. Maybe all the words set fire to the artistic side of our brain. Maybe we need to make something three-dimensional because we throw out our words and never hear how they have affected readers. Whatever the reason, writers are blessed with an abundance of imagination and the need to produce things of beauty.

Generosity. Writers are givers. They share tips with others who may be writing a similar book, not fearing their ideas will be stolen. Their time is spent paying forward as well as paying backward in honor of those who have helped them.

Books. We all have heard it takes books to make a writer. Not books on the craft of writing but reading books, period. The love of reading is as powerful as the need to write. The best book clubs are those whose members don’t always agree on a book but they all find time to turn the page or turn on the Kindle.

Story. Leo Rosten wrote, “A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood.” I would add “the need to understand.” When life throws writers a curve, what do they do? They write it into their book (hence of the most popular memes on FB about ending up in someone’s book if they don’t treat the writer right!). Writers experience pain, suffering, and unexpected life challenges. They use words to reach the reader and heal themselves.

The love of words and joy in writing them down is a powerful thing, helping us to see another side, find new friends and new outlets for our craft. Think about your writing community. Are there other things, besides those I have listed, you share? Do you need a little more diversity in your writing contacts, creative outlets or reading to get the pump primed in your own writing?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pictures from balloon ride

Up in a hot-air balloon fulfilled a long-time wish

I don't know if it was the influence of "Around the World in 80 Days" or the more recent "Up," but I became enamored with the idea of floating above the trees in a hot-air balloon. I likened the experience to being free so creative ideas for future novels could flow through my veins as the balloon floated through the air.

The opportunity to fulfill this desire appeared in October when we went to my nephew’s wedding in New Mexico. We landed in Albuquerque, the city of the International Balloon Fiesta, a week after the festival ended. Residents and visitors alike talked about the 600 or so balloons and million people who had attended the event. Despite the commitment to wedding activities, I was able to reserve a spot and go up in a balloon the morning we were scheduled to return to North Carolina.

I thought I’d just hop in the gondola and be off! Not so. The massive balloon was first removed from what looked like a very large pillow case and lay crumpled on the ground. Then electric fans were put on that began blowing up the balloon. The pilot stepped inside and untangled the multiple ropes attached to it. When he finished that job, he righted the gondola from its side and tested the propane tanks. The procedure took about an hour before the eight riders climbed in.

What impressed me the most was how quiet it was as we glided 1,600 feet in the air. We could make out homes, buildings and cars below, but we couldn’t hear any of the congestion or commotion.

The hour ride provided memories that will last a lifetime. I remember the other riders: the couple who used sign language because the woman was deaf, the young married couple who didn’t have plane reservations back to D.C., the man who reminded his teen son to be polite to the others even though he was behaving himself, the 20-something lady who stayed by herself but took endless pictures with her high-powered camera, and the serious experienced pilot who had the safety of his riders as his primary concern.

I don’t know how I’ll fit these people or the experience in stories, but my mind is spinning possibilities as I write this.