Holly Venable

Change is not an instant's act . . . one writer's progression

A Week of Fridays and a Valentine’s Day Postmortem

February 17th, 2011

For no rational reason, every day this week has felt like a Friday.  Perhaps it is the fickle Dallas weather where one week we are coated in 2 inches of ice, and the next week I am wandering around in my flip-flops while my toes enjoy beautifully sunny air.  We have had gorgeous weather this week, and the downside of having every day “feel” like a Friday is that it’s totally not.  Instead, it’s a rather drab Tuesday or mid-week-gasp-for-air Wednesday.  Yup. Exactly. 

So to combat analyzing why I really felt like it was Friday all week (with the ensuing disappointment when it was not), I will recount a most excellent Valentine’s Day.  This year runs a close second to my all-time favorite Valentine’s Day—wherein I, a simple eighth-grader, came home from school, ate Valentine’s Day candy, and beat the original Super Mario Brothers Nintendo. I totally saved that freaking Princess.

This year, I hung out with two friends as we went in search of an adventure.  We ate barbecue at Red, Hot, and Blue, which has the BEST potato salad that I have ever eaten.  Ever.  Then we went to the dead city of Las Colinas (so nicknamed by my coworkers), where there are larger-than-life statues of mustangs running through a fountain.  The moon was almost full, the breeze was warm, and my friends and I laughed as we whirled around the plaza.  Yup, I was channeling my inner teenager (without the angst to damn the man, and although tempted, I did not climb on the mustangs).  Though we probably interrupted the romantic evening of several spoony couples, I did not mind the fact that I was single on Valentine’s Day.  I really didn’t.  And that was nice.  And I just love the term “Post-Mortem” connected with Valentine’s Day.  It’s kind of fabulous, so shout out to Kristen for using the phrase and me stealing it.


February 6th, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately, and I was struck by how similar building a relationship is to building a story.

Some Aspects of Building Relationships (by no means a definitive list):
1. Initial meeting and spark of interest.
2. A discovery of common interests and values.
3. Keeping your best foot forward, impressing them with your positive attitude, qualities, and behavior.
4. Developing trust with the slow release of information about your quirks and opinions, gauging the waters as you go.
5. Establishing boundaries and working through moments of perceived frustrations, imbalances, or betrayals.
6. Deciding if the relationship is really worth pursuing.
7. Developing a shared history and deeper trust.
8. Delving into intrinsic personal motivations and values.
9. Understanding exactly how they will act or react in any situation.
10. Being a support when they go through difficult times and leaning on them for support in turn.
11. Sticking by them even when they make decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with (or are adamantly against).
12. Devoting time in your life to maintaining the relationship because they ultimately make you a better person.

And then I start thinking about the types of relationships I have. For example, some of my friendships are situational only (work, school, etc.) and don’t progress much. These relationships are necessary, and I learn things from them. However, I think that we crave relationships that connect on a deeply emotional level. These are the best relationships, the ones that last as the years pass. It doesn’t matter how circumstances change or if you go years without hearing from that person—you can reconnect in an instant and pick up exactly where you left off. I imagine this is how Madeleine L’Engle felt with A Wrinkle in Time or Charlotte Bronte with Jane Eyre. This is Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong. This is Ellen Emerson White’s The Road Home and Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terebithia. This is C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I am currently writing a novel, and perhaps I need to ask myself more often how that relationship is developing. I think right now I’m somewhere between stage 2 and 3, which is just fine because it is still new. I don’t want to stop there though. I know that if I keep trying, I will eventually build something that will last. It may be with this novel or it may not (though I will try my best to make it so), but eventually, I will achieve that with one of my novels. So that is what I am aiming for. Isn’t that what we all aim for?

Vegetables and Writing

January 27th, 2011

I have been trying to eat more vegetables, and no, I have not been drizzling them with yummy butter or dousing them in a delicious dipping sauce. I am trying to be a healthier person, and whether I like it or not, vegetables play a big role in that.

I read these articles about people saying they love eating vegetables and crave them. Obviously these people have serious mental imbalances. It’s normal to crave a cheeseburger, but celery? The funny thing is that as I eat more vegetables, I notice that they do, in fact, taste better. Yeah, crazy. Today I ate asparagus with only salt and pepper. Freaking get out of town! I won’t go so far as to say I crave vegetables, but the more I eat them, the more I like them. And that is a positive thing because if I don’t eat my vegetables, I’m going to have a harder time getting healthier for sure.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, sometimes I have to remind myself that I like writing. I know it will be good for me and help me have a positive mental state.:) It’s a million times easier to find a trivial (yet suddenly vital) thing to do rather than write. However, if I don’t write on a consistent basis, my novel will never get finished, and I will never become a better writer.

Don’t you love the parallel?

Getting vegetables into your diet is hard if you don’t plan right. Maybe you would rather just have fruit (aka reading, email, browsing news websites, etc.), but you gots to get your vegetables in! So I plan. I plan. I plan. Sometimes I am successful with the vegetables, and sometimes, like this week, I am not. Same with writing. That doesn’t mean I stop trying to do better though.

So this is what I say . . . eat more vegetables!

Wisdom from Pei Wei

January 20th, 2011

I was in Pei Wei the other day and here was my fortune:

The limit to your abilities is where you place it.

For 6 ½ years I have played at being a writer, and in that time, I have only finished one novel. Every day I think about writing, and every day, I do nothing about it. A lot of my reluctance has to do with the fear of failure, but another part of me just wonders how it will ever be possible to become a published author. Discouragement sets in before I even start. Why am I setting my limit so low?

On a different day, I got another fortune from Pei Wei (what can I say, I love their Dan Dan Noodles):

Luck happens when hard work meets opportunity.

I think the wise fortune writers at Pei Wei (and a higher power) are trying to help nudge an uncertain writer along.

There is no such thing as luck; there is only hard work and making sure you are in the right place at the right time. I once heard a published author say that he had more dedication than talent when it came to writing (and he has published many, many books). At the time, I thought this was a shocking and slightly terrible thing to say about one’s writing, but 6 ½ years later, I start to wonder. He put in the work and created the opportunity. I have the talent, but I have not achieved any of the goals I set 6 ½ years ago. And if I don’t develop the dedication, how can I be ready when the right opportunity arises?

I only have two resolutions for 2011, and the first one is to finish the draft of my new novel by July 31, 2011. Why that date? The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is having a summer conference that starts on Aug. 5, 2011, and I want to bring a new novel. I will set no limits on my writing—I have to believe that I can achieve it.

Counting down to the SCBWI Conference, I have192 days to complete my novel draft. Sound good? I will update you weekly on my progress so that there is some accountability on my end (always needed).

Oh, and if I get any more thoughtful bits of wisdom from the good people at Pei Wei, I’ll pass those along as well.


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