The writing life is a terrain of buckling and folding trails as exciting to follow as those cut into the shale of Montana’s Cabinet Mountains by the hooves of bighorn sheep. It is appropriate that the Cabinet Mountains end at my doorstep. Seriously, from my kitchen window, I can see the very last bump of the mountain range squatting across the road from my northern Idaho home. So, you might say, the paths beckon from where I write.
Unlike the surefooted bighorns, I often falter. Yesterday, I was to post for a Blog Hop, an invitation from an author friend, Silvia Gravrock, who has published the exciting novel Alive in the Storm. And yesterday, I must have fallen off the shale slope or turned an ankle. Whatever was going on in my writing life ascent, I forgot to post. Following the example of Abraham Lincoln after he failed to win the 1858 Illinois Senate seat, I will proclaim, “It was a slip, not a fall.”
After all, yesterday I was writing my final scene for a novel in progress, Miracle of Ducks. Progress has been, well, progressing since I first got the idea in 2008. In 2010 I work-shopped my fledgling idea into a beginning of a hero’s journey. The retreat workshop was held at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in Lacrosse and the crucial opening scene was born, followed by a meandering trail of words. By the way, if you are a writer interested in themes of spirituality, check out the FSC’s blog Reflections from the Center and contact Emily Strickler at firstname.lastname@example.org for writer’s guidelines.
After leaving my 11-year position as marketing communications manager for Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville, MN I wandered through Bayfield, WI the setting for Miracle of Ducks. In fact, this blog is dedicated to exploration of that container. You can expect future blog posts to focus on excerpts, details and their inspiration from the real Bayfield area. And I am still connected to my former co-op as editor of their publication, This is Living Naturally. Naturally, a writer needs to live while writing.
While wandering, a trail led to the Madeline Island School of Arts, known as MISA (pronounced like the name Lisa). There I discovered new writer friends, the “W” storyboard process and an incredible instructor, Mary Carroll Moore. Want to write a book? Take a MCM workshop! I learned more from her in five days than I did in four years at Carroll College, earning a writing degree. Not to knock my degree; the writing program at CC is stellar, but it is academic whereas MCM is like a compass to a writer following the book development trail.
My muddled pages took on meaning as I learned to shape the hero’s journey as a “W.” Until the MISA workshop, I had always seen the hero’s journey portrayed in a circle diagram. As a writer, it’s a struggle to writing in a circle! The “W” is a different format for the same model, but brilliant in terms of writing. In a future post, I will describe this process as I applied it to Miracle of Ducks. Suffice to say, it works.
Next, I wandered from Bayfield County all the way to northern Idaho. After searching for a home (I was a homeless writer from April-October, living in temporary situations after loosing my Minnesota house to mortgage fraud) my husband, two dogs and I found a beautiful, rural ranch home north of Sandpoint, ID. The best part (besides living so close to the Cabinet Mountains that stretch from here into Montana) is that I have a huge writing office upstairs with a view of the pastures and the Selkirk Mountain range that pushes into Canada. It is the perfect setting for small workshops, something I would like to do in the future to support other emerging writers.
In November, I decided to jump-start my writing after completing my “W” storyboard and identifying all the gaps (missing scenes). It was National Novel Writing Month and it was perfect timing for me where I was at in my process. I rediscovered the pure joy of free writing and realized that it had a profound impact on the story development of Miracle of Ducks. Everything I wrote for NaNoWriMo was new and raw. Sharing excerpts daily on FaceBook created that dynamic writer-reader experience that every novelist dreams of, not to mention it helped me understand what readers enjoyed. By November 30 I wrote over 50,000 new words. When I added previous scenes to the new ones, I had over 70,000 words and only three gaps left. Yesterday, I finished my SFD. January 2, I will mail out a revised Beta Manuscript to a select group of readers and by May 1, 2013 I will have a manuscript to shop around to publishers and agents. It’s a steep trail, but worth the climb.
Questions? I think I was to answer question, but once again, I meandered down a different path. As Silvia Gravlock wrote in her blog hop, “I’ve been called a scofflaw more often than I care to think.” I’ll stop scofflawing, and answer a few:
Ten Interview Questions for Miracle of Ducks:
What is the working title of your book?
Miracle of Ducks (it’s about dogs, though).
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea emerged from a painful loss of a young dog named Bubbie. At first I thought about writing him eternally, but I realized that the true story had to do with transformation. Once I decided to place the story in Bayfield, the characters walked into my mind and they began informing me of the story as I wrote. It is fiction, but truths we all face.
What genre does your book fall under?
Mainstream literary fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I need to ask one of my readers! She told me that she was imagining who would play the characters. I need a strong female lead for Ann Gordon, someone like Lisa Edelstein and a believable 40-something weekend warrior for Ike. Adam Beach would definitely play the role of Michael Robineaux. Of course there would have to be some great German Short-haired Pointer leads!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Miracle of Ducks is about the wife of an unexpected Iraq soldier who signs up as a contractor, leaving her to care for his trio of hunting dogs despite her reluctance to do so, and in keeping the dogs her life is turned upside down.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
At this time I am exploring agency options.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
3 years and 30 days.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Marley & Me; The Art of Racing in the Rain; The Yearling; You Know When the Men are Gone
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Bubbie, the German Short-haired pup who helped me cope with an empty nest only to leave me to soon. The experience was a spiritual awakening.
I leave you with one last scofflaw: check back for the next set of writers to blog hop with!