Tuesday, November 25, 2014

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS

Hello Seekerville and Happy Thanksgiving week.

Are you all like me, preparing for the big day?

Are you having fun with visiting family members? My family has been enjoying the beautiful Southwest Desert weather. We have been hiking the Superstition Mountains, swimming every day and playing pickleball. Yep, we have some family hooked on it also.  And yesterday we had a fun picnic at Saguaro Lake.

Sandra hiking Hieroglyphic Trail 


Today I’d like to talk about how writing what you know can bring about surprising results. I have put out a big pot of chocolate velvet coffee and I have been baking pies. There are pumpkin, pecan, apple and cherry pies so help yourself.  Oh yes, there is tea and hot chocolate for those non-coffee drinkers.

Last month I talked about the Seven Reasons to Keep on Writing. The main reason I was motivated when I started writing was to escape a stressful job as a kindergarten teacher. I loved the little darlings, so they weren’t the cause of my stress. The cause stemmed from my school’s involvement in a revolutionary (at the time) paradigm shift in methodology that was proving quite successful.

We saw ancient petroglyphs on the trail



Our inner city bilingual students were achieving quite well and the Arizona State University professors that were helping us wanted to promote the methodology so our classrooms became showcases. This of course upped the student success ratio because who won’t perform for an admiring audience? (We’re talking five year olds-chuckle) And this led to more observation, which btw, included the governor of Arizona, teachers from all over the United States and even teachers from other countries. Our success was amazing, but so was the stress level.


Siphon Draw Trail in Superstition Mountains with a coyote sundial in foreground


The key element of this holistic approach to teaching was the writing process. Before we started using this method, the professors told us we needed to write so we could teach writing. When we asked what we were supposed to write, they told us to write what you love to read.  Hello.  I devoured romance novels at the time. I started my first novel (which still gathers dust) and fell in love with writing. I discovered writing romance is more fun than reading romance.

It took about five years before Harlequin Temptation offered me my first contract. And by then, I was so exhausted from the madhouse of our popularity that I took sabbatical leave and wrote full time. This was in the eighties. And since we are naturally going to write what we know, I wrote my second Harlequin Temptation about Angela, a teacher who was defending her revolutionary teaching method.

Ricardo, the hero and big-time news reporter in Phoenix, had made it out of the barrio. His goal was to help others out of the barrio so he became a school board member. He hears about Angela’s radical changes within the system and decides he better check this out.

Balance Rock at top. Teddy bear cholla look fuzzy but they are SHARP




If any of you have ever been in a whole language classroom, you know that it looks like chaos if you don’t know what you are looking at. Ricardo is immediately attracted to Angela, but is horrified with her teaching methods. Angela must defend and prove her methodology to the attractive board member.

Pickleball at Prospect Park


WHAT HAPPENED?

Now I did not write this book to promote the whole language methodology. I wrote it to make money as a romance writer so I could quit my day job and write. But here is what happened. Several University professors used this book in their methodology classes to show what the whole language classroom should look like. Is that hysterical or what? My Harlequin Romance became required reading.

The problem with this scenario is that at that time, before e-book and print-on-demand publishing, those books were only out there for about six weeks. Then they were unattainable.  Because the professors wanted to use them, I obtained the rights back and printed them in a vanity press.

Picnic at Saguaro Lake


During this sabbatical, I had my epiphany and thankfully renewed my relationship with the Lord. Therefore, when I reprinted A Flower For Angela, I changed the title and took out all the graphic sex. Now I have to admit, one of the professors was not happy about that. I think he would read from the book and “accidentally” quote a sex scene instead of a scene with the methodology and of course would get him the laughs and attention. But I am forever thankful that I now have a sweet romance with my name on it. And I am forever thankful that I wrote my Harlequin Temptations with a pseudonym.  And I’m not telling. Smile

Another point of interest about this book is the cover art. At that time, all covers were made from a painting. Publishers hired artists to paint the cover, so it would have the quality to photograph and print. My dad was a painter and I asked him to paint the cover. Roses play a big part in this story so I asked Dad to paint roses on a black background. He did a beautiful job, but informed me afterwards, that roses are the most difficult flower to paint and couldn’t I have used another flower?  I love this cover. In fact, I have the original painting hanging in my office.




So that is the story of my debut into writing and also the story behind this “new” release on Amazon. A Flower For Angela hasn’t been used by universities in years as the professors moved on to other methodology, but I thought since it was written, I should put it back out there as it was originally intended—a sweet romance.


WHAT I LEARNED AND CAN SHARE FOR YOUR USE NOW

I thought I was supposed to write. I wanted to write. I was highly motivated to write. I did write and get published, but as it turned out, I was still working in my profession. I thought since I’d had my epiphany, that God would let me write about Him. He would take me out of the classroom. Wrong. I learned to never assume what God’s plan is for you.  You will follow His plan whether you want to or not. Smile

As it turned out, my writing skills came in handy. I went back to teaching but changed grades. (I couldn’t bend down and tie shoes anymore. LOL) I finished my last years teaching Language Arts in Junior High. My students won writing awards and did publish their own books.

But I had some serious questions. You would think that this was all about the methodology. By the time I went back to teaching, a new methodology was getting attention. I asked God and He did not fail in answering. And this is the verse He brought to mind. Mark 11:23  “Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.”

I said out loud that those students would succeed. I believed those students would succeed. I had no doubts and they did succeed. In fact, it really didn’t matter what methodology I was using, it was my belief that they would succeed that encouraged them to do well.

This is a lesson that applies to our writing as well. Say out loud “I will succeed as an author.” Do not doubt in your heart and do believe that what you say will happen. Or you can say, “I will be a best selling author.”   Or “I will be a full time writer.”  The secret is to believe in your heart and do not doubt. These words and beliefs will be your motivation and your inspiration to write.

Those of you finishing up your month of Na No Wr Mo and those of you like me, who are lucky to eek out a few minutes to write with all the holiday family gathering, lets use that verse from Mark and lay claim to our success as writers.

Say it.

Do not doubt.

Believe it.

A Flower For Angela is once again available on Amazon. I would be happy to send a free copy to anyone who will write a review for Amazon. Please remember that writing a review does not mean to write a book report. It simply means giving the book stars (hopefully 4 or 5) and then writing a couple of sentences or more about why you like the book.

If you would like to have a copy, please email me via the Seekerville addie and I will gladly send you a free copy to review.

As Debby mentioned yesterday.  Keep Seeker books in mind for Christmas gifts.






And look at all the others.  Woo hooo




57 comments:

Elizabeth Van Tassel said...

Thank you for this nice writeup about using your background for writing. I'm a gem specialist and am putting that knowledge into gem mysteries for tweens, and also into my speaking and coaching to spice it up. It's fun to remember working with the jewels when I'm usually just at the computer now! One of my gem stories got picked up in a contest right now which is fun, too.

Natalie Monk said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Sandra! I grew up a preacher's daughter, so the hero in my NaNo historical is a preacher. :) I could have a lot of fun with this. Right now I'm focusing on the romance and sort of driving through the plot, but in the revisions stage, I can't wait to weave in personal experiences and the little fun incidents I've always wanted to write about.

Thank you for this encouraging post!!! I really needed it today. I'm behind on NaNoWriMo, but after reading this post, I think I might can make it. :) I'm going to try at least.

Amber Stokes said...

This is a wonderful article, Sandra, and so fun to learn about the story behind this project that I didn't know much about! It's bittersweet, as I miss working with you, my friend. But I'm so excited that you got another book back out there! And given my dad's interest in teaching, I'm wondering if he might also enjoy it, after his interest in Love's Miracles. :)

I had a lot of fun writing what I know for How a Star Falls, in terms of setting the story in my home county and then exploring the questions and frustrations new adults face after college. :) It certainly makes the scenes flow, to write what you know!

By the way, I love your pictures in this post! Makes me want to come out and visit you. Maybe I should road trip to Arizona someday? :) My mom's already mentioned Sunriver for next summer, and it would be wonderful to meet up again!

~Amber

Sandra Leesmith said...

Congratulations Elizabeth, My sister in law used to work with gems and has made some gorgeous jewelry. I can imagine it would give you some great info for writing a story.

And best wishes on the contests. Way to go.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Natalie, I'm so proud of you to be writing in the Na No Wr Mo. My hats off to you and how wonderful that you are using the fun incidents from your childhood.

Hang in there. Less than a week to go.

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI Amber, You made me smile to see you there this morning. Yes, yes, you must come to Arizona on a road trip. Do it in the winter though as it is the best weather. And it will give you a break from the rain.

And yay. I would love to see you again in SunRiver.

How A Star Falls sounds like a wonderful story. Since hubby and I went to Humboldt State University, I bet I would recognize all the settings. I better get to Amazon and buy this now.

Love the cover btw

Jackie said...

Sandra, what an amazing story. Thanks for sharing.

Congratulations, Elizabeth.

I usually set my stories on Kentucky, where I live or the NC, where I love to vacation. I especially love writing NC stories, because if all of our family wasn't in KY, I'd move there. God first, family second, and "I am third."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI Jackie, I can understand why you prefer the NC location. When you write, it brings back all the fun memories.

That is what happened when I wrote the Christmas novella set in Spain. It reminded me of my fun time there.

Happy writing and Happy Thanksgiving to you also.

Cara Lynn James said...

Wonderful pictures, Sandra!

Thanks for telling us your story. Teaching school would certainly give you a lot to use in your books.

You sound like you're having so much fun now! Happy Thanksgiving.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you also, Cara. I am always thankful for you and the other Seekers. smile

Hugs

Audra Harders said...

Great words of wisdom, Sandra! How many times do we hear "write what you know" and just shrug it off saying "that's what I'm doing?" Sometimes we forget how deep you have to dig into your bliefs to write that story of your experiences. You've offered us a wonderful example of life in action.

Good for you!!

Ummm, pecan pie for breakfast! Hey if the teacher says it's required eating, who am I to argue?? LOL!

Mary Hicks said...

I enjoyed the journey with you, Sandra, thanks for sharing!
It's fun knowing the background and circumstances of how a writer gets started writing and the motivation to keep you producing more stories.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Audra, Help yourself to that pie. My favorite time to eat pie is in the morning. I'm too full after dinner. LOL

I can tell from your books that you write from your "out west" experiences. Loved Second Chance Ranch

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Mary, What is amazing is how different each story is even though there are elements of the same information.

Happy Thanksgiving Mary.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Part of why I refuse to quit my day job and write full time is because I find interaction with lots of people... young, old, children, adults.... helps to keep my brain ignited with story fodder.

Each family and their extended families and even their comments are things that cause my brain to say "what if?"....

And then I can use it for contemporary or historical purposes.

Sandra and I have had some interesting discussions over teaching practices, LOL! I'm an old-fashioned girl and tucked my kids into a school strong on basics... and they excelled. So I would take Sandra's whole language experience and I'd play with it, turning it inside out, with a current-time teacher fighting to get her students back to basics in a system that's jumped on another bandwagon... and heaven knows there've been plenty of those in the last couple of decades. By doing that, we can take out-dated info and turn it into today's news... and who isn't HAPPY that butter and red meat are beloved foods again????

I tend to be an expert "skeptic", the kind of writer who muses and mulls and then throws a stick of dynamite into the status quo.

Just to check reaction time!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ha ha Ruthy, I can just picture that story. And guess what? The methodology rocks back and forth like a rocking chair. Phonics, basics, holistic. That is why I questioned God because I taught using all of those over the thirty years and had same results. It is the belief that they will succeed that makes it work.

If you go around saying those kids don't know English, they won't make it. Well guess what? They won't. But if you go around saying, "Wow these kids are smart. They know two languages. They are going to do great." Guess what? They do.

You certainly know this to be true. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey Ruthy, You are right about sticking to a busy life. You get more done that way. And it makes a big difference if you have fodder to feed the brain for ideas.

Piper Huguley said...

Thanks for the great post Sandra. And shame on those professors who wanted the "naughty bits" back in! That was not the point of the story!

I'm with Ruthy. No, it is not my aim to be a full-time writer at this point. I need the social engagement and I feel that my job helps to shape my schedule. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like a sabbatical at some point....:) Loving the coffee, Sandra!

Marianne Barkman said...

Hi Sandra, I know you have company in for
Thanksgiving, but after that we'd love to meet with you for lunch or tea! And yes, I'd love to read and write a review. Where is

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Piper, I agree about that professor. I was rather floored when he told me he was disappointed I had taken them out.

Glad you are enjoying the coffee.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Mary Connealy said...

on first reading I thought you said Superstation Mountains and I thought.............a mountain range named after a really high powered radio station? Very odd, interesting too.
A recently named range I'm guessing....

But then I realized it said Superstition and relaxed.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Marianne, Are you here in Arizona now? Yay.

As I recall you prefer paper copy, correct?

Thank you for offering to write a review. That means a lot and I know when you say you will do it, you do write a review. We really appreciate that.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good grief Mary, I thought maybe I had misspelled Superstition. You would love the history in these mountains. Lots of legends and mystery, murder and suspense.

And they are spectacular and gorgeous to hike in. They are a Wilderness Area so protected.

Mary Connealy said...

I love the name. I'm reading more about them right now!

Chill N said...

Neat pictures! Just think, those petroglyphs are somebody's form of story-telling from long ago, and they've been 'on the shelf' for quite a while :-)

Wishing you a great Thanksgiving, Sandra!

Nancy C

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh boy, Mary. I know a new story is percolating. chuckle

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good point Nancy. The petroglyphs do tell a story. What I'm wondering is how the trail got named Hieroglyphic Trail when its petroglyphs we are hiking to see. chuckle Now there's a story.

Happy Thanksgiving to you also.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandra, totally agree! That belief in them is the huge differential...

WE ARE AGREED, MY FRIEND!!!!!

Happy dancing!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandra said I was right.

Sandra said I was right.

SANDRA SAID I WAS RIGHT!!!!!


Happy dancing even more! :)

LAUGHING!!!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Piper, YES!!!!! I know different strokes for different folks, but my brain needs the challenge of being flooded with info....

And from different aspects of life.

And it's weird how amazingly those aspects show up at the perfect time to add depth to a story. Is that God or is that my being more open to listening and application????

I think GOD! Oh, that Holy Spirit... Go, Him! But then taking the thoughts and applying them, even if it means re-doing chapters/plots, etc.

Because the work then goes deeper.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ruthy, You crack me up.



Sandra Leesmith said...

I am so blessed to know you, Ruthy, my friend.

Even though you do make me laugh.

Especially because you do make me laugh.

Tina Radcliffe said...

So many things I didn't know about Sandra and several of the Villagers.

I love that Elizabeth is a gem specialist. How cool is that????

Myra Johnson said...

Loved the post AND the pix, Sandra! It's true, we can't predict what direction God will take us in our writing. I certainly NEVER thought I'd be writing historical romance. Seriously? Me--do that much research??? Turns out it's actually fun!

Loved the pickleball photo, too! Just got back from playing at the JCC (indoor courts, no weather issues--YAY!). It was definitely one of my better days (and believe me, that ISN'T saying much!). A good day is when my partner and I don't get skunked--LOL!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Natalie needs to write a story about a piano teacher and Jackie Layton about a female marathon runner. :)

DebH said...

this is such a cool post! very inspirational for me. i love hearing the "rest of the story" behind a writer's book. i definitely went the "write what you know" route with my first book, writing about scuba diving and information i learned on more than a few dive trips. those were the easy parts - it was upping the suspense/relationship arc that i need to work on.

as for little peeps learning... i'm remembering the "you can do it" message for my five year old. i keep telling him God gave him a good brain, so, of course, nothing is too hard for him if he asks Jesus to help him with the hard parts.

love the pix! i learn something new everyday here!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Tina, I love hearing about our villagers. We have some talented folks around. smile

Happy Thanksgiving

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

I’ve been having a lot of fun with this post as I take a NaNo break. My characters are giving me a hint of how this story finally ends! It might get done in 75,000 words.

I just found out that my villain has tied his human author, who did him wrong, to a railroad track to kill her. The hero arrives and accuses the villain of being a cliché. They get in an argument over this as the train can be seen approaching in the distance.

“She’s a nineteenth century historical author. She turned me from being a hero into being a villain. Well, if that is how she is going to treat me, that’s how I am going to act. You get what you expect! Getting run over by a train is genre-appropriate for that woman.”

“But those are nylon ties! You could have at least used a real rope!”

“We’re not back in the old west! I couldn’t find a rope.”

“Rope or no rope, I’m the hero. I’m going to rescue her!”

“You think? Well now that you’re a real human being yourself, if you rescue her, you have to marry her! And here you are with both a heroine and a wife back in Fictiondom! How in the world did you get to be the hero!”

Myra: This is what you get when you 100% pantser a book!

Sandra wrote:
“I discovered writing romance is more fun than reading romance.”

If you pantser, writing is reading. You have to read it to find out what you wrote.

MARY, I’m sure Louis L’Amour wrote a story about the Superstition Mountains…it might be about the Dutchman’s Gold Mine. It's a great story with a very clever ending.

Wisdom

As I look at those beautiful Superstition Mountains, I wonder who would want to toss them into the sea?

It’s a good thing those would-be mountain tossers don’t have that much faith. : )

Towards a little more Affirmation:

RUTH: “Fodder in, fodder out!”
Vince: “Nutrients in, nutrients out!”

***

“What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Say it.
Believe it.
Do it.


***

A poster all over the Heath Zone in Tulsa.

I Relish Pickleball!

Oh, yes, there is a pickle pictured saying those words. Pickleball is big in Tulsa. Myra can return!

***

Now I have to go back to pantsering. I probably have three to four thousands words to go.

Vince

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI Myra, Glad you can still play even in weather. Here in the desert they play indoors in the summer. lol

Yes, I love it when we chase away Pepe Le Peu.

And I'm glad you are writing historicals because your historicals are wonderful.

Happy Thanksgiving

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey Natalie and Jackie, we've learned to pay attention to Tina. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Deb H. Good to know you are an expert with diving. A great resource in case I want to go diving. smile

I'm glad your five year old loves to learn. Writing is setting a great example for him btw.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Vince, I can't stop laughing. I love your scene at the tracks. Good grief. You must love this panstering.

Yay for Tulsa. Glad they love pickleball. Have you tried it?

Great going with 75,000 words. I'm so proud of you.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your lovely wife.

Myra Johnson said...

Sorry, VINCE, those Tulsa winters were just too brutal for me! The summers weren't much kinder.

Mark Abel said...

Hi Sandra,

What a great story, thanks for sharing it with us! If I were to make a guess I would say one of your spiritual gifts must be encouragement. I know you have encouraged me and many others. What a blessing you are to so many! Keep up the good work!

Oh and by the way - Can I get a peek at the steamier rendition of 'A Flower for Angela'??? Just kidding, or, maybe not... :)

Thanks again and take care

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince.

BACK AWAY FROM THE PICKLEBALL CRAZE!!!!

Oy. Oy. Oy.

Mark Abel.... You're funny. Steamier Angela.... Oy, again.

I'm such a prude that I'm ridiculous, but I love the emotional grip of a story. Sex???? Bah.

I want emotional attachment and detachment. And long, slow, looks....

But see, I'm not writing for guys and guys are so different.

A big sign for pickleball and relishing pickles and pickleballs and oh mylanta.

I need coffee, I think.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Mark, Thank you for the nice compliment. All those Bible studies with your wife must have had some good results. chuckle. I really miss those btw.

You and Cheri have been encouraging as well.

Now for that steamier version. hmmmm. I don't think you two need that. smile




Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Ruthy, I didn't catch the pickle relish connection until reading your comment. How hysterical.

Janet Dean said...

Sandra, I loved learning more about your writing and teaching careers. Great example of writing what you know.

I substitute taught in the elementary grades and kindergarten is hard on the back.

I'm awed that your dad painted that cover. He was very talented!

Thanks for the wonderful pictures!

Janet

Lyndee H said...

Hi Sandra! Really interesting story. And I adore that your Father painted your roses.

I grew up in an area steeped in history. Some might slough that off, local lore always mesmerized me. And my Daddy was a weekend archeologist for Carnegie Melon University, so I grew up digging for bones! History spoke to me back then and still does. I have a hard time narrowing my research. Like my then-ten year old son once told me, "Mom, you know too much!" I have to watch that when I write.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Janet, Its amazing how God uses us, isn't it?

I have some really outstanding paintings in my house that Dad painted. Makes me feel close to him. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ah Lyndee, That is so sweet. Your son sounds like a wise young man. And I would have loved hanging with you and your dad. I love archeology. Your mind just reels with possible stories as you try to piece their lives together. smile

Have fun putting all that knowledge into your stories.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tanya Agler said...

Sandra, Thank you for your post. Apple pie's my favorite and thanks for remembering us non-coffee drinkers.

Thanks for sharing your story of how you integrated what you know into your books.

I'm still in NaNo, but will be writing a lot Friday and Saturday to make up for Monday and Tuesday.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Tanya, I'll be baking apple pies tomorrow for real. Yum. One of my favorites. Glad you like them also.

Congrats on working on the NaNoWrMo. Whew! I would love to be able to do that. I'm so proud of you.

Happy writing and Happy Thanksgiving.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good night everyone. Have a great holiday. Don't eat too much. Get lots of rest and exercise and have a wonderful time with your friends and family.

Sandy Smith said...

Sandra, I enjoyed your post. Teaching certainly can provide good material. I'm thinking how I can use my job as a substitute teacher in my writing!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Sandy, I'm sure you will be able to find lots of fun things to write about. You get some unusual circumstances when substitute teaching.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Julie Lessman said...

SANDRA!!! I canNOT believe I'm a day late (and WAY more than a dollar short!), so please forgive me. I am having 30 people for Thxgiving and out-of-town company, so it's been a wee bit busy here.

But, WOW, I am soooo glad I did not miss your post because this is INCREDIBLE, my friend!!

YOU SAID: "Before we started using this method, the professors told us we needed to write so we could teach writing. When we asked what we were supposed to write, they told us to write what you love to read."

HOLY COW, I had NO idea you got your writing start that way, but what a story!! And I grinned ear to ear about the professors using A Flower for Angela as a teach tool -- TOO CUTE!! Hope you've made some bucks off of that, my friend!

I totally agree that we need to write what we know, and since I am a drama queen who KNOWs and LOVES drama and angst (and produces a fair amount in my own life), I naturally gravitated to love stories with lots of drama and angst, which is not only therapeutic, but FUN!!

Great post, Sandra, and I am soooooo glad you started writing!!

Hugs,
Julie