Chicken Soup & My Writer’s Soul

10 Jul

My friend, fellow poet & author, Nakesha Moore is a “spoken word,” contemporary poet. She is not only a poet; she is an artist in the truest sense. She pours out her soul on paper, produces amazing poetry & shares it aloud, which is cathartic. She began writing as a child as a means of dealing with a situation of abuse & has continued to use her poetry, her talent & her craft to deal with the injustices that have been a part of her life. She is amazing.

As she has become locally recognized for her incredible talent, she has been interviewed on occasion by local newspapers. An interviewer asked her, “Why do you write?” One might have expected her answer to involve her life experiences, the catharsis associated with pouring out her heart in her poems & sharing them, but her answer was simple, “Because I am a writer …”  Whether you “write” for your own entertainment, for small publications or for massive public consumption, if it comes from the heart, that statement makes all the sense in the world.

Much like Nakesha, I have been writing poems since I was a child. Because I’ve always been able to make words rhyme, I was surprised when I arrived at elementary school & found out not everybody could do that.

Nakesha & I differ in the kinds of poetry we write. While she is a “spoken word artist,” I am, for the most part, a rhyming poet. She writes from personal experience while I write about all things that influence me; both good & occasionally traumatic. But we share a love of words & the ability to manipulate them into meaningful expression.

In high school I alarmed an English / Literature teacher by writing a fairly graphic poem about death as part of a poetry assignment. She was concerned enough to speak to me privately about it after class. Apparently my explanation about the intent of the poem satisfied her concerns. In today’s world I imagine my parents would have been contacted, an appointment would have been made for me with a psychologist & I might have been put on “suicide watch.” Things are very different now.

Being able to manipulate words meaningfully that rhyme is a gift. I don’t know how I’m able to do it but I don’t dwell on it. I’m afraid that the gift may be fragile & if I question it, I will lose it. So I remain forever grateful that I am blessed with the ability & try not to dissect it.

I don’t just write poetry. I write essays, short stories & attempted to write a science fiction novel once. It took me almost a year to complete because I didn’t rush it. During that “writing time” of my life I learned something truly amazing about writing a novel or attempting to. After a while, the characters take on a life of their own, the piece kind of writes itself & I couldn’t wait to sit down in the afternoons & begin writing where I’d left off. My enthusiasm was primarily because I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. Probably that makes little or no sense unless you happen to be an author who has attempted to write a novel or completed one.

Several friends read my “novel” & gave me tremendous encouragement; enough that I submitted unsolicited sample chapters to Simon & Schuster. In all honesty, I expected those chapters to end up in a “slush pile” along with thousands of other unsolicited chapters & manuscripts.

Surprisingly, Simon & Schuster responded after 3 months asking me to send the entire manuscript, which I did as fast as possible. After another 3 months I received a letter from the publisher (there was no email in those days) telling me they regretted they could not publish it due to “conflicts with Paramount Pictures.” They didn’t say what the conflicts were but I was ecstatic. How wonderful to get that kind of rejection my first time out. To this day I have that rejection slip that both disappointed & excited me. It gave me hope that maybe I had talent.

During the time since that rejected novel, I’ve written a novella; something only two people have read but they gave it glowing reviews. It will never be published because I based it loosely on an actual living person who would possibly be recognized. What is important about that piece, which is taking up only a small amount of room in a computer file, is that it was excellent writing practice & it entertained two very special people; one to tears & the other to believing that parts of that fiction were based on real life experiences of mine. In my mind, that made it a success even though it was a flame that burned hot, but briefly & was seen by only two.

In 2010, after going through my breast cancer experience, a friend asked me if I would correspond with someone she had met on Facebook who had become quite depressed after having gone through his own cancer experience.  I agreed, corresponded with him & we became friends. There’s a special bond between people who have shared the same experience & it seems very strong … & very tough… between those who have cancer as the bond between them.

John is a poet & a published author in New Zealand. In an effort to cheer him up I sent him a couple of my goofy poems. He responded by asking if I had more & later asked me to send him every poem I had. I did that & he replied that I had quite a lot of talent & he believed I should consider putting together a “collection” of my poetry with the possibility of publishing it as a goal. He offered to help me.

For two years John worked with me, teaching me poetry techniques I’d never even heard of & mentoring me. Six months into the project he told me he realized he was no longer depressed.

When I had amassed 30 poems I told John I believed I was ready to see a publisher. He responded, “30 poems do not a collection make,” & told me to keep writing. And so I did …

In late 2012, with John’s blessing & nearly 100 poems, I took my manuscript to a reputable local publisher. Warwick House has all the bells & whistles such as editors, illustrators, printers & lay-out people. The only difference in Warwick House Publishers & the larger publishing houses is that the author pays for the publishing. I didn’t mind self-publishing because I didn’t want to wait while the larger publishing houses decided whether or not to respond to my query letters.

I worked with a wonderful editor for 3 months & in January 2013 my first-ever published book became a reality; a volume of original poetry, prose & essays. I even did all the artwork for the book AND the cover.

In late December 2012 the publisher sent me the “dummy copy” of my book, Reflections of My Life of Rhyme, for my approval. I took it with me everywhere; to the kitchen while I cooked dinner, to bed & to the bathroom. There is nothing that can equal the experience of holding your first real book in your hands; seeing the baby you have labored with for several years actually birthed. If I write 100 books, holding that first book in my hands was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am glad to have had that & hope I never forget the feeling.

Selling the book myself to family & friends has been successful; enough so that I had to report my earnings on our income tax.

Since Reflections I’ve been very busy; hosting a TV talk show, being president of a local club, speaking at breast cancer seminars & coordinating an annual charity auction. My writing has happened sporadically in the form of entries for this blog & a bit of freelancing. I’ve had an article published in a magazine & several articles published in our local newspaper.

In 2014 my friend, Darrell Laurant suggested I submit a story to the Chicken Soup for the Soul people who were putting together a volume called Inspiration for Nurses. He said with my 38 years of Operating Room experience as an RN & my writing experience, a submission might have a chance at being included in the book. He had to nudge me twice but I DID send in three submissions.

In February 2015 the Chicken Soup people sent me an email telling me that one of my submissions was in the finals for being included in the book.  They asked me to sign & return a release form allowing the use of the story in the book if it was selected. In May I received word that out of several thousand submissions, my story would be one of the 101 stories included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses.

Today my head is spinning! I have been working with the Chicken Soup publicist who is sending press releases to all our local media & newspapers. I’m being interviewed on local television about my story in the Chicken Soup book on July 21; the day the book will be in book stores everywhere. A local newspaper is doing an article about my inclusion in the book & I will be doing a book signing at a local book store in September.

I have received several complimentary contributors’ copies of the book from Simon & Schuster. It felt really good when I held one in my hand for the very first time & read my story from its spot on page 79. The week the book is released I will receive a check for use of my story. Life is certainly unexpectedly exciting.

I’ve found out that being paid for writing is just an extra perk. Those of us who love to manipulate words in a manner that have meaning & touch people in an unexpected & special way know that being paid for writing is secondary …unless, of course, we’re depending on our craft for our livelihood. But in the end, it’s the “writing” that matters.

I suppose I’ve gone way around the coop to get to the chickens … or the Chicken Soup, but here’s what I think. If someone asks me why I write, I plan to echo the sentiment of my talented friend, Nakesha, because what she said is true. It is what is in my heart just as it is in hers, “I write because I am a writer ………….”

 

Chicken Soup book cover

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2 Responses to “Chicken Soup & My Writer’s Soul”

  1. Tony July 12, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this.
    Thanks for sharing Linda. : )

    Like

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