Friday, July 17, 2009

Baby steps on the Write Path~Pepper Basham

I’ve been telling stories since I was eight years old…and some of them were true. All those imaginary friends I kept tucked away in my closet, under my bed, or inside my light fixtures came out at the oddest times and created the most amazing stories that no one believed except me. Of course, as I grew up, I modified the stories a bit, the imaginary friends developed into more three dimensional beings, and finally weaseled their ways into novels.

When I was 19 I finished my first novel and knew it was brilliant (of course, to most 19 year olds, everything they accomplish is brilliant). The only other people who read that brilliant book were my two best friends, and they did it out sisterly compassion. Ten years later I would add the ‘craft’ of writing to my passion for it. Now, as a professional, pastor’s wife, and mom of five, I wonder how on earth I’ll fulfill the dream to create memorable stories. Fortunately, God reminds me that everyday I’m living them.

Recently, in the middle of one of those chaotic ‘why-am-I-here’ moments, I asked God what He wanted me to do with my writing. I have five unpublished novels on my computer, a growing pile of rejections, and an increasing awareness of how much I still have to learn about the art of writing. Fumbling through the five books I’m currently reading, I picked up The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas and reread the Introduction (yes, I actually read those – I know, I’m a geek). Though the book isn’t written from a Christian world-view, he makes a poignant implication.

There are two types of authors: status seekers and storytellers.In short, status seekers are authors whose bottom line is publication, publicity, and payment. What can I get from this book? Storytellers are concerned with consistently telling a good story. They look to themselves to make the story fantastic instead of others to make it saleable.
Why do you write? Why do I? To be honest, most people think I’m close to insane because I write novels in what little spare time I etch into my life, but I can’t help it. I have stories to tell. It’s the itch I can’t scratch unless I get it on paper…into words.

If God has given us a story to write, then we must write it; and because we are called by His name, anything we do should be a reflection of Him. Donald Maas’ question carries more gravity for the Christian writer, because we bring the only true Hope to the world through our stories. It’s writing with an amazing mission.
Storytelling has been going on for thousands of years and the greatest Storyteller of all shared truth through stories. He’s our mentor, example, and inspiration. He is where I find my encouragement, when I’m looking at another email which politely rejects my novel forged through blood, tears, and peanut-butter & jelly sandwiches. Knowing God has placed this specific desire and calling on my life, gives me strength when I have to write dialogue on a dinner napkin at the restaurant because it’s the only chance I’ll have to write that day. Trusting in His timing, I keep sneaking writing books into my ‘private room’ while five kids beat on or slip notes under the door until I emerge.

So, I must write. There are stories I have to tell, characters readers need to meet, and lessons about God people have to learn…and someday, the hard work, wondering, daydreaming, and late nights might end in publication. Even if they don’t, I’ll still tell stories. I just can’t leave my poor imaginary friends wandering about my fictional dream on their own. And in the meantime, between this unpublished dream and the possibilities, I’ll take baby steps toward learning more about the craft and art of writing.
As my agent reminds me, “Becoming a published author is a marathon not a sprint,” so I’m going to enjoy the scenery along the way and pick up a few more imaginary friends…maybe even some real ones. God’s plans and timing are perfect. The desires and stories He places on our hearts serve a purpose, and whether that purpose is to bless thousands or just ourselves, it provides exactly what it was supposed to…and (to quote an old Keith Green song) “Jesus takes care of the rest.”
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As an aspiring author, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and pastor's wife, my life stays pretty chaotic. It's good to know that God holds me in His very capable hands. He must have a good sense of humor too.
Pepper Basham
"Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you..."

35 comments :

  1. I think you are exactly right. Whatever God has put into us to write, that is what we write. Hopefully someday we will find a way to connect that writing to readers. In the meantime, just being obediant to what He has called us to do helps us to grow and learn to be more of the kind of person He intends for us to be (and better writers). Who knows just what He may be preparing us for in the future.New doors are opening all the time.

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  2. Good news. I put the coffee on.

    Pepper, it has been such a treat getting to know you in Seekerville.

    You have a great sense of humor--which of course is necessary to survival here.

    Great post. I write because I cannot NOT write.

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  3. Thanks, Lee & Tina. Stories are always being created in my head - sometimes inspired by those everyday things that happen in the whirlwind of my life. :-) I love chiming in around here because everyone is so encouraging...and funny. So, I'm adding some southern charm to offers this morning - buttery grits. Who's up for the challenge

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  4. Ugh. I had grits once. In the Army. More for you..pass the cinnamon rolls.

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  5. I'm passing on the grits. Still can't figure that one out and it's probably why God didn't drop me in Mississippi or Kentucky. I mean, really, why wouldn't you eat ANYTHING else???

    And Scrapple is why I wasn't born in Pennsylvania Dutch country, but that's another story.

    Pepper. My little spice girl. You take me back (I refuse to say how many years!!!) with that little tribe of kids and napkin-writing scenario. LOL, this is the stuff that dreams are made of.

    And good books.

    Love your humor and your presence here. And we're okay with occasional PB&J sandwiches. We all understand busy.

    BUT....

    In a great little diner last Saturday I had a slice of Graham Cracker Cream pie...

    Oh mylanta.

    So I had to perfect my own edition of it before I start my next series of books since this pie will act as a character in one or the other. Dig in. Tell me what you think.

    And Pepper, I added just enough spice in honor of your post today.

    :)

    Ruthy

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  6. No grits? Hmmm, how about apple fritters? with vanilla ice cream?

    I have a conversation starter - how do you guys manage your time with writing and life?

    It's tough for me. I work at a university, am a pastor's wife, have a little crew, and write. What do you guys do to manage time?

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  7. Wow, Pepper, that was so inspiring to me! I think I need to read this every few months, to make sure I remember why I'm doing this silly writing thing! You said it very well. :-)

    BTW, just curious, but how old are your kids? I'm assuming those three in the picture are yours. You must be a very energetic person!

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  8. Hi Melanie,
    I have five kids - didn't quite make it up to Ruthy's number ;-) My oldest is 11, then 9, 7, 4, 2 - with a little missing person between the 7 & 4 year old who I'll get to meet in Heaven someday. Busy...yes, but I kind of do better with busy, than not. There are times when I'd like to have a day or two of quiet every year or so, but God's placed me in this moment right now and I absolutely LOVE being a mom.

    My 'other' kids are the ones I work with at East Tennessee State University and most of them are on the Autism Spectrum. I know I found my niche with these kids because I like to think outside the box - and so do they ;-)

    Writing is my escape and opportunity to slow down into another time and place. My biggest frustration is finding the time/energy to get as much writing done as I'd like, but again, God is always faithful to give me spurts of inspiration when I DO have the time to write, so I'm blessed.

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  9. Pepper, where do you live? I'm in Alabama and we love grits here. At least my husband and kids do. I like them only if they have lots of butter and a little salt.

    As for managing my time ... I'm not very good at that. It's frustrating. I have two kids, but I don't work, and it seems I feel like I have to say yes to everything people ask me to do, and my days get full before I realize it and then I have no brain cells, time or energy left for writing. Then, if I have all day to write, sometimes I spend so much time on email, or get writer's block, or get discouraged because of rejections, that I can't write. Sometimes having more time doesn't help! But when I'm focused, I write as hard as I can first thing in the morning, and whenever I have half an hour or more, for the rest of the day. But I quit at 3:00 when the kids get home. My house is always a mess.

    I think WE should be asking YOU how you manage your time!

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  10. East Tennessee State, eh? Hubby went to Middle Tennessee State. It's a wide state. :-)

    Will you be at the conference in Denver this year?

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  11. The only way I'll be at the conference in Denver (though I'd LOVE to go) is if money falls from trees and a babysitter from the sky. I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference this year because it's close - but someday I'd enjoy going to Denver. I've never been past Tennessee and I've always wanted to see what REAL mountains look like ;-)

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  12. Let me add this - Mary & Ruthy are inspirations to me (did I just hear Tina gasp- sorry Tina). Mary's website (with her path-to-publication story) encourages me to keep doing what I'm doing. Ruthy's writing life as a mom of a bigger family, gives me courage to keep moving forward - even if it feels insane and looks confusing from the outside.

    Like Tina said, "I cannot NOT write". I completely understand. There's no escaping those stray thoughts that jump into your head at the most unlikely times and places. And...I LOVE it!

    Okay - now I have to start my online Research inservice for work (yes, Julie - I said research, and definitely NOT the fun kind). I'll be in and out throughout the day. But I'd REALLY like to hear about others writing schedules.

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  13. Hi Pepper (great name btw!)

    You are truly inspiring. Just the thought of so many little ones makes me cringe. I knew that 2 was my limit!

    And Melanie, thank you for making me feel better. I work part-time and have 2 teenagers - but still the laundry piles up and the cat fur blows around the floor! Seems I'm always putting the kids wants first (esp. now that it's summer).

    When inspiration strikes I do find time to write, usually right after supper. Lately I'm having a huge dry spell though. Hope the inspiration returns soon!

    Thanks for sharing with us, Pepper! And good luck with your writing. I'm sure it will happen as it is supposed to.

    Cheers,

    Sue
    PS. Never had grits, being from up North in Canada. I'm with Tina on the cinnamon rolls!

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  14. My path to publication story inspired you?

    Well, sweet.

    My schedule. It's like juggling firecrackers some days.

    Especially when a new book is launching.

    Blog interviews and revisions on the soon to be released books and always, ALWAYS trying to grow the WIP, no excuses! Everyday.

    When things get really hectic I:
    Buckle Down
    Work Harder
    Work Longer
    Make Lists
    Prioritize

    The thing that seems to especially make me fret is the drawings for all the books on all the blogs. I'm always so scared I'll forget to send out a book. I try really hard to never let the sun set before the book goes out, just because I'm afraid I'll lose my focus.

    I also print out address labels for the book needing mailing so that address lays there, glaring at me, reminding me.

    Then throw in an event like ICRS which kept me away from home and routine for five days and I'm really scrambling.

    My heart is pounding hard right now talking about it all.

    It's so good for me though, to get OUT FROM BEHIND THIS DESK and actually LIVE.

    I swear if I didn't have my seeker buddies and all the great people I've met through Seekerville and Petticoats & Pistols, I'd just take to sucking my thumb full time.

    Which actually sounds pretty good right now.


    Better than GRITS, Pepper. :)

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  15. Thank you for the inspiring words this morning. I've been thinking a lot lately about how if God has called me to do something, all that's required of me is to do it. To do the best I can with it. To take it as far as I can, and then trust him for the rest.
    To paraphrase Joyce Meyer, God delights in doing the impossible. When we've exhausted the possible, when we've done all we can do, then he can step in and do the impossible. Do your best, do all you can, and then leave the rest to God. If he's called you to something, he will bring it to pass!

    Happy Friday,
    Jennifer

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  16. Oh Snap!

    I'm an inspiration, huh??? Pepper, raise your standards, darling!!!!

    And Mary???? Are ya' kiddin' me? Since you've obviously never met us, let me assure you, aim higher!!!!!!!!

    :)

    Apple fritters work. And the ice cream. And the graham cracker cream pie. Seriously. Try some...

    Pepper, in truth I love the idea of 'mother' mentors. I had several who taught me great things as we raised our crew, and one of the biggest things was not to sweat the small stuff. Life hands plenty of big stuff along the way. You've been there already.

    I think learning from other moms is a great way to avoid some of the same mistakes. God knows we'll make plenty of others, but that's what keeps Oprah and Dr. Phil in business, right?

    ;)

    Ruthy

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  17. Susan,
    Laundry? Ahhh! The bane of my existence. I usually attack Mount Washmore Friday-Sunday on my days off of university work, but it's as endless as my 11 year olds stomach :-)

    Dry spells? Yep, I had an episode of 3 years while my hubby was in seminary that I NEVER had an opportunity to write. I worked to help pay for his schooling, kept having babies every 2 years...and well, I guess I didn't manage time as well as I do now (wow, I dont' think I've ever realized that. I CAN be taught) :-) Besides being frustrating, there were times I felt sad - like something was missing, so I feel your pain and I'll pray that God opens up your heart and mind to inspiration :-) It's easy to get discouraged, but placing oneself with a group like the Seekerville team is helpful because you're not alone...I'm not alone. For those of us still on unpubbed island, there are others with us to help with sunscreen and barbecues.
    And for those who are off the island...well, their stories inspire us with the knowledge that someday...our ship will come in ;-)

    Mary,
    Even if Tina thinks you've brainwashed me or something, I still think you're sweet...and inspiring. Your schedule sounds chaotic and remembering to do all of those things...I have this sinking feeling about that ;-)

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  18. Jennifer,
    Thanks for the reminder again. It's always important to remember that what God starts in us, he is faithful to complete. Whew, I'm so glad He's in charge of that, because sometimes from the inside out, things look impossible. But...He masters in the impossible, right? ;-)

    Ruthy,
    LOL - you are hilarious. Isn't there something in the Bible about younger women learning from the older/experienced ones? I think that might mean in writing too ;-) Besides, what fun to spend time with you guys. Insanity enjoys company you know...and I'll be glad to have a slice of pie.

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  19. Pepper! It's so good to get to know you better through this post. Mary's story inspired me too!

    I love the title of your post too. :) On The Write Path is the name of my blog.

    I've always told stories in my head since I was a little kid. It was almost a relief when I started putting them on paper and getting them all out of my head. :)

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  20. Btw, the last picture on my post is a picture of home - where most of my characters originate. lovely spot, isn't it? Even if grits (which MUST be served the RIGHT way to be enjoyed)is on the menu for breakfast along with biscuits and sausage gravy. ;-)

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  21. "The itch I can’t scratch unless I get it on paper…into words."

    Gosh, and I thought all the itching I've had over the years was from an allergy ... :)

    Good morning, Pepper, and it's SO great to read your wonderful blog today -- it spoke to me in so many ways!

    For instance, I totally agree that there are two types of authors: status seekers and storytellers. And it's pretty clear you are a "storyteller" because your blog comes alive with the essence of you and your passion for writing. I have no doubt that you will be published some day, and I hope God's timing is sooner rather than later.

    I like to think I'm a storyteller, too, although I think my husband would rather I have a bit more of the "saleable" tendency. "Julie, if you would just write shorter books and tone down the passion a bit, you would sell a lot more." Yeah, probably. But you are SO right when you say, "If God has given us a story to write, then we must write it." And I think that's what Christian storytellers particularly do -- merge their passion for God with their passion for writing. And what an unbeatable combination,whether the audience is the general public, only a few or even just ourselves and God -- blessings will flow!

    Can't wait to see what He does with you, my friend ... gotta feeling it's gonna be reallll good!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  22. I tell frustrated writers ALL THE TIME, if you CAN quit, do it.

    I just can't quit.

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  23. Erica,
    Your website is great...and what a great title for it :-) Congrats on the mountain of books your writing - what a job! what fun!

    Julie,
    I almost got teary-eyed over your post. How encouraging!! I hope, I hope, but I also know that once timelines are placed on me...well, that's going to up the anty for my crazy life. God knows what I can handle right now, so I'll just have to wait and see what he decides.
    Btw, when I'm in the middle of writing an emotionally intense romantic scene, I open up one of your books to 'feel' the tension before I write mine. That may sound weird, but it gets me in the right mood - and it's fun too.
    Jamie Carie has that similar intensity too.

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  24. You guys do know grits is just corn, right? Don't let the name "grits" fool you. Although, what they do to the corn to turn it into grits ... is probably better left unsaid.

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  25. Yeah? Well, I got teary-eyed, too, when you said you open up one of my romantically tense scenes to get in the mood to write yours -- WOW, what a compliment!!! Thank you SO much!

    And I think Jamie Carie is great too -- loved Snow Angel!!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  26. WOW you are a busy lady


    mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

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  27. Julie, darling, I open your books too, but it's not to help my writing.

    Anonymous...

    :)

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  28. That anonymous person's picture looked a whole lot like Ruthy. Hmmm, weird ;-)

    Since we're talking about inspiration - Do you have a good story about the inspiration for your WIP?

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  29. That question was meant for anyone and everyone, btw :-)

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  30. google ate my post! And I had said some very intelligent things, too.

    Bummer. Oh well.

    Brilliant thoughts are often lost to the world : )

    Hi Pepper! Thanks for joining us today!

    I love your post. Funny how we approach our writing differently when we consider it a calling.

    Humor? You made me laugh : )

    Thanks for the shot in the arm, Pepper!

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  31. BTW Pepper, neat trick you do hiding behind the kiddies..but be warned. Eventually they grow up and you are the short one in all the pictures and they PAT YOU ON THE HEAD like a nice golden retriever. It's humiliating.

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  32. Tina,
    But don't I look so much thinner when I'm behind them ;-)
    Btw, since you're starting an Austen blog, you'll have to check out my England pics from Chatsworth (Pemberley in the Keira Knightly version) I even got my pic taken with Mr. Darcy (swoon) :-)


    Audra,
    I'm so glad I could make you laugh...at or with me is fine ;-) Laughter is good medicine, you know, so the more the better.

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  33. Ooohh, Pepper. I am so thrilled to read your post today! I was just thinking I'd love to hear about the motivations and inspirations to write from all of us here at Seekersville.

    And the reason you mentioned--because it's a passion burning inside us regardless of whether we publish or not, that's the way God made us special. (Okay, weird maybe, but loved!) And it's the unique ministry He's given us to impact lives (even if it's just a few faithful friends at first).

    And what you said 'it's a marathon', that realization is my staying point. Bless you for reminding all of us that the journey is to be enjoyed and is needed, maybe even more than the goal, to instill in us the wisdom, creativity, and passion to write fantastic novels.

    I can't wait to read your first book when it gets published! I'll be praying for that wonderful first door to open! Thanks again for an awesome blog, infusing us with continued hope and passion for our writing and for Him!

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  34. I'm gonna sign off here shortly and wanted to thank everyone from Seekerville for letting me post here today. What a joy and encouragement!

    As a thanks, if you need some late night reading, I'd like to introduce you to one of my imaginary friends by posting the first 2 pages of my current novel. I'm afraid I'm about the same on paper as I am in posts....wordy :-)

    Many blessings to all of you and thanks again.
    Now for "It Had to Be You"

    He looked at me like I was a piece of prime rib! Ugh! Eisley Barrett’s fury consumed every part of her body. Tears pricked her eyes, pushing against her best efforts to remain in control, but self-discipline had never been one of her strongest attributes. She sucked in a noisy breath and scanned the rows of seats, searching the unknown faces for a quiet place to disappear and fume. The pungent scent of sweat and rubber tickled her throat and sent her stomach teetering on the edge with thoughts of two-week old milk and sour eggs. City buses.

    Knees wobbling and head exploding from the dull ache of anger, she collapsed into the nearest seat.

    “Men!” She hissed through clenched teeth. Why was she always running into idiots?
    “Are you well?” Two gray-blue eyes with a tuft of silver brow angled upward peered over a newspaper at her.
    That’s all the invitation she needed. She slapped her thighs and stabbed the man with her gaze.
    “Gracious sakes, what is it with you people?” A tremor went from her voice through her body and finally ended with a threatening-tear tingle in her nose. Why couldn’t she have eloquent anger?
    “The male species! Why can’t a person just be a nice person? I don’t understand this ego-maniac-male…” Her voice droned off as she drew her purse into her lap. “Why do men automatically think that because I’m friendly…” She rammed her hand down into her purse and shuffled around. “That I’m interested… or worse…easy?”
    She rummaged around a few more seconds and retrieved a small package of gum. “Doesn’t anybody else in this entire city smile at strangers?”
    The older gentleman’s glasses slid to the edge of his nose. He lowered his newspaper to reveal a set of lips pursed into a frown, but a contrary look in his eyes almost distracted her.
    “I’m sorry,” Eisley said and sighed out most of her anger. “Do you ever have one of those frustrating moments? You’re standing in the middle of your life and…boom… this horrible situation unfolds right in front of you? If I was Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock, I’d probably have the perfect line, but I just stand there…like…like…” She moaned and her shoulders suddenly felt heavy. “See, I can’t even think of a good example. I never know what to say when those moments happen.”
    He blinked. One corner of his lips twitched, but he gave no answer.
    “I knew what he was going to do! That’s the weirdest part of it. I think, I couldn’t respond because I was so shocked! Who would have thought an editor!” She tilted her chin and lowered her voice in imitation. “How about you and I enjoy a nice dinner tonight? I’ve always wanted to get to know a southern girl. Afterwards we could go back to my place and you can share a little bit of your southern charm.” She released a low growl. “I’ll show him southern charm right between the eyes. Jerk!”
    Her bus neighbor made an unusual sound. Was that a chuckle or a groan? She eyed him for a moment, and then shrugged away her curiosity. After crinkling open the wrapper in her hands, Eisley popped the gum into her mouth. Peppermint. “Gum?”

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  35. LOL, cute excerpt.

    Thanks for being with us, Pepper.

    Off to check out your photos.

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