Not long ago, my nine-year-old granddaughter took my picture with her iPad and made an emoji of me. I loved watching her do it. She was totally adept at navigating her emoji app to pick the hairstyle most like mine, the color of my hair, eyes, and skin, the shape of my face and lips. As you see above, the final product is cartoonlike, but isn’t that what emoji are? And goodness, she makes me look so young. What woman in her right mind would object to that?
I was a pudgy child, or so I saw myself. Others may have called me solid. One boy friend told me I wasn’t fat, just well-packed – like this was what a teenage girl wanted to hear from a guy she wanted to date?
I have been thinking of food all my life. Seriously. I don’t need a shrink to tell me that food fills emotional holes. The first one opened when my mother died, when eating made me feel less alone. I ate at exam time in college, when food filled the confidence hole. I ate when my kids were little, when food filled the frantic, what-do-I-do hole. I ate when I wrote, when food filled in missing words or plot twists.
You wordsmiths, you! Thanks so much for reading last month’s blog and jumping in with your own suggestions. I was thrilled with the words you posted – and dismayed at not having thought of them myself! In an attempt to rectify the latter, I hereby revisit the word revolution issue. Just to refresh your memory, last month I listed words that have taken on new and previously unimagined meanings. This month, it’s your turn. I may be organizing them in a blog, but these evolved words all came from you.
Here’s a fun exercise.
But first, a bit of philosophy. Contrary to many people in the news who use words to destroy, writers use them to create. I love words – love putting them together in a way that paints an action, a sentiment, a hope or a dream. I play with them endlessly when I write, modifying, exchanging, and reordering them until I read them a final time and whisper a blessed, “God, that’s good.”
I also love discovering other authors’ words, ones that I may not know well but should. When those words become part of my writing word-chest, I feel as if I’ve grown.
A dear friend recently celebrated a milestone birthday. After the food was eaten, wine drunk, toasts offered and dessert served, my friend rapped her glass for attention. She had a toast of her own to make, and, in the process, offered a word of wisdom. Follow your dream, she said, and told of something she had wanted to do all her life, that, after many close calls and much persistence, is finally now about to happen.
Follow your dream.
But what happens when you don’t have dreams?
First, disclaimers. (1) I’m new to hashtags; I’ve only used them since I joined Instagram in April. (2) Hashtags have been the hardest part of social media for me to understand. (3) They make me feel old.
So I write this with a built-in bias. Please remember that.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched Google for a meaningful telling of what a hashtag is, what it does, why it does it and when. And still the concept remains amorphous. It’s like a foreign language to me, which is surely a generational thing — though, in fairness, when I ask my sons, they can’t explain them well either.
If I knew the answer to that, I’d save myself a lot of angst. Picking a title is easy. Picking the right one, not necessarily so.
Who picks the title? Sometimes it’s me. From my initial conception, Flirting with Pete was Flirting with Pete. Same with Lake News, Heart of the Night, Not My Daughter, and The Vineyard. My publisher picked other titles, like Coast Road and Family Tree. My agent came up with others, like An Accidental Woman and A Woman’s Place. Any title has to be vetted; while titles cannot be copyrighted, if a title has been recently used on another book, I avoid it. That said, way back when I was writing category romance, my editor called with a title suggestion that I vetoed, to which, undeterred, she said, “Oh, okay, no problem, we’ll use it for another writer.”
“You can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” So wrote Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird. It isn’t a new thought. Variations of it have appeared before and after, but the sentiment is spot on.
Blood connections are a physical reality. Unfortunately, many of us are stuck with relatives we don’t much care for. Arguments, bitterness, estrangement – I’ve heard so many stories of these things I often wonder whether the “dysfunctional family” is more the norm than not.
For my family, it was more about simply going our own way for great periods of time – avoiding confrontation, so to speak.
With Blueprints going on sale in paperback this week, I just reread it to refresh my memory. Does it surprise you that I would need to do that? But consider this. I’ve written and published more than 80 books. No human mind can keep straight all the details of 80 books. Moreover, it’s been two years since I finished writing Blueprints, and since then, I’ve been immersed in writing The Make Up Artist. I’ve often made the analogy that moving from book to book is like cramming for final exams. You jam as much as you possibly can into your mind, take the exam, then push it all out to make room for the next subject.
A reader just wrote that she heard I was retiring. Who said that?
No. I’m not retiring. Let’s be clear about it. I. Am. Not. Retiring.
Not that I haven’t considered it in moments of frustration. Life for a writer has changed. When I started – more than 30 years ago – all I had to do was write. Ha ha. That’s funny. I was a full-time mother of three young sons, a full-time wife, a full-time homemaker. And all I had to do was write.