Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Dreamed a Dream

By Keith N Fisher

In the Broadway production of Les Misérables, the character, Fantine, sings a song that always touched my heart. Life has not been kind to her, and things go from bad to worse. In I Dreamed a Dream she remembers a time before things got so crazy. I can relate to that. Many of us remember our childhood and high school, with fondness. They were better times—the good old days.

I’m not an opera fan, but in Les Misérables, there is hope. I believe that if more people caught the author’s message of the golden rule, and caring for our fellow man, there would be peace. Suffering will have ended and all our dreams could be fulfilled.

A few years ago, I dreamed a dream of the future. I had finished one book and started another when I lost my job. I tried to imagine life from that point forward, but I couldn’t find any path to follow. My options seemed limited, nonexistent, in fact. I used my severance and paid off the car loan setting our finances in order.

I hit the streets and the Internet, with a vengeance, but nothing turned up. When I took my problem to God, I got a response, but it didn’t make sense. Finish the book. I argued that writing in the LDS market would never support my family, but still, I felt I should finish the book.

While looking for work, I rewrote the manuscript I’d been working on and submitted. Yes, it was rejected, and I was devastated. I doubted my answers to prayer, and I tossed the manuscript against the wall. Soon after that, in a last ditch effort, I began to attend writer’s conferences.

I’ve told portions of my “How I became a writer” story, before. So, I won’t bore you with all the facts, but with the help of a great critique group, I’m a better writer than I used to be. I still wonder about the council to finish the book, but through it all, I dreamed a dream.

I’ve been paid for articles and blogs, but I haven’t made a living at my avocation. My “day job” has changed, but writing has become part of me. When, as it does for all of us, my world came crashing down around my ankles again, I had a story to work on. Writing has kept me relatively sane, and I dreamed a dream.

In my wild imaginings, I saw my book in the hands of a reader. The story was compelling and the characters were lovable. My years of late night typing and enduring discouraging remarks culminated in the reader’s comment that they loved the story.

Recently, I sent a manuscript to some dear friends and asked them to be brutally honest. I needed fresh eyes to proofread, The Hillside, before I submit. The gratifying comments I’ve received are a partial realization of my dream. The rest of it will come when a stranger approaches me and tells me how much they loved my book.

On that day, I will know what I’ve always suspected. Finishing that book and those I’ve written since then, has been an act of claiming a blessing of love that’s been waiting for me.

Hold onto your dreams. Believe in them. Concentrate on them. It might be a long time before they are realized, but I know it will happen for me, and it will happen for you, too.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Are You Going?

By Keith N Fisher

In my critique group this week, we spent the first little while chatting about personal things and the subject turned to our characters. We talked about how they won’t leave us alone. They keep revealing parts of the story, driving us crazy with suggestions.

As this kind of conversation usually does, it sounded like an encounter group of patients talking about the voices in their heads. Sitting across the room, the husband of one of our partner’s, listened with great joy and mentioned our neurosis.

Then, he added how interesting it was that we all knew who each other was talking about. We have an intimate knowledge of the people in each other’s heads.

The experience got me thinking about the number of characters we’ve discussed over time in our group. We lived with them, we laughed with them, and we cried with them. Sometimes, we’ve died with them. Over the course of it, I’ve learned a lot from the way my partners write, and the ways they relate to the voices in their head. Moreover, I’ve grown close to my partners as I draw strength from them.

Recently I wrote about the need we all have for interaction with other writers. If for nothing else, then to discover a connection with other people who are like us.

Last year, I received an invitation to attend The Book Academy. It’s a writer’s conference sponsored by Utah Valley University and it’ll be held on Sept 30 this year. In critique group, I discovered none of them could make it. I’ll be alone. So, if you see me, stop by and say hi. I’ll be absorbing the atmosphere, the camaraderie of other people with voices in their head.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Finding Joy

By Keith N Fisher

A lot has happened during the past week. I wanted to write about the disaster of a wildfire that happened near my home, but I found another subject. Well, I’ll get back to that in a second, but first, yes, the National Guard started it. Yes, they should be responsible, but those houses border wild land.

Its tragic to lose your memories and your property to fire. I join in mourning for the loss, but I want to express something not mentioned on the local news.

Most of us only dream of owning a home where we could step outside our back door and be in wild spaces. The homes that burned down were like that. When your property borders public land you run a risk. Wild fires are bound to happen, especially in an arid state. You can’t make me believe the possibility never crossed the minds of those homeowners.

The story of a wildfire coming over the hill, and threatening a whole town, is spectacular news. Our media sources are going to talk about it, and they are bound to search for different angles to tell the story. We can let ourselves be sucked into the junk or not. Our government has admitted responsibility. It’s time to move on.

As for the homeowners let me offer my condolences, but please remember you had to know there was a danger. I live on top of an earthquake fault. My friends live in a flood plain. Others live next to dangerous roads. We take the risks, but if our homes are destroyed by a natural disaster, who are we going to sue, God?

I know it sounds harsh in light of the loss of personal possessions, but if that fire was the result of a lightening strike . . . well, you get the picture. It is a tragedy for which, you have my sympathy.

On another subject, I found a brief moment of joy this week that I can’t talk about. It’s personal for me and for those who shared it with me. I had been feeling down, and I stepped out of my comfort zone to help another human. As promised in the scriptures that they would be, the results were a blessing to me.

Later, I pulled into a parking lot and noticed two guys tipping a motorcycle back up onto its wheels. A small truck stood by with the tailgate open. I felt the urge to offer help.

With a huge puddle of oil on the ground it was obvious that bike wasn’t going anywhere under its own power so I offered to help them get it into the truck. I found out one the guys had been in a bike wreck earlier that day, so I helped the other guy lift the bike into the truck.

I felt great and I reaped the rewards of being of service. I walked back to my truck with a warm feeling in my heart, and looked around. There were dozens of unhappy people looking on, hanging on the fringe of helpfulness. I felt sorry for them.

Many of us muddle through our lives, wishing for this or that, mostly complaining about the cards we were dealt. We tend to watch our fellow beings with a blind eye, oblivious to the opportunities for true joy and happiness. The chances to help others are all around us, and I, for one, need to stop fretting about misfortune and take the opportunity.

In teaching the parable of the Sheep and Goats, Jesus said, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. I learned many lessons this week. Now, if only I can remember to apply them.

God, please, grant me the serenity to accept the one I cannot change.
Courage the change the one I can,
and wisdom, always, to know it's me.

I wish you, Joy and Peace.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I'm a Flake

By Keith N Fisher

I didn't have time to edit. Please forgive my mistakes.

I need a personal secretary. This person would be someone who keeps track of my life little compensation, besides my gratitude. I would never forget a commitment again.

One of those commitments was a wedding, and it was last night. I remembered there was something about the date, but in my rush through life, I couldn’t recall what it was. I woke up at three am and it hit me. My mind remembered I had a wedding to attend so I began to make plans for leaving work and driving out there, tonight.

Suddenly, to my horror, I realized it was last night. Now, I sit with egg on my face. I’ve committed a social crime of epic proportions and there is nothing left to do but slither off into my hole, never to surface again.
My friend, Debbie, was blessed with a kind heart toward animals. I think she preferred them to humans. When I met her, she had several dogs, a horse, and other friends. They became her therapists as she told them about her problems. Her love was reflected in the loyalty those animals showed to her.

She called me one day to tell me one of her dogs had died and she couldn’t bring herself to bury it. She asked if I would take care of it. It was an honor to be trusted enough to show the kindness required for her best friend.

With all of life’s twists and turns, I lost contact with Debbie, until I discovered her on Facebook one day. She told me some of what she’d been up to and how proud she was of her kids. It was like opening a closet door and finding memories, shut away, and long forgotten. I realized I had a life before the life I have now.

When Debbie found out I am a writer, she told me to write about the old days. I considered it and realized, I already do. Every scene is a conglomeration of my life events. Every character is a composite of everyone I ever met or observed.

Now, my friend got married, and I missed it. God bless you, Debbie. I hope you’ve found the happiness you’ve been looking for all these years.

As for you, my writing friends, the blog I intended to post today, will be better by next week. Maybe I’ll have my secretary edit and polish it.

Anyway, good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In the Hallowed Halls

By Keith N Fisher

I’m sorry I missed posting something last week. I was in the middle of studying for a test, but now, I’mmm baaaack.

I grew up in a college town. Well, to be technical, it is the town next to the college town. When I was young, We had several opportunities to use some of the facilities at the university. I worked on my swimming and lifesaving merit badges at the university swimming pool, bowled in the campus lanes, and did family history research at the university library.

After high school, I had no desire to attend college. I went out in the world of making a living with very little idea of what I would do with my life, I went to work in the construction industry because the money was good, and I liked the work.

As time wore on I went to college, (not the university). I studied to be an architect. Prior commitments (an LDS mission and a marriage) changed my plans, and I never finished my degree.

Now, I joke about being fifty-two years old and I still don’t know what I want to be, when I grow up. Through it all I found writing. It provides a release for me, but everyday, my lack of education looms over my success, and makes me wish I had taken a different tack.

I visited the University again this week. I had to take a government test and I think I did very well, but I arrived early and while waiting for test time, I discovered something I never knew.

Those of you who earned an MFA or took writing classes will probably laugh but I discovered the building where the writing courses are taught. There was the writing fellows group, the writing honors classes, and the university press, to mention a few.

There were old style park benches under shade trees outside. I was able to sit, write, and absorb the academic air. I like that building. It was built in a time before architects started cutting back to meet budget restraints. There is a grand staircase in the main hall made of hardwoods, delighting my soul.

Okay I was impressed, but I lamented my life. I began to imagine spending my time in that building earning my MFA, if I had discovered my passion for writing during high school.

So, I solute those children who attend courses in that building. Yours, is a great opportunity to roam those hallowed halls, networking with fellow students who will someday be your contemporaries in publishing. Look at them and realize you might be sitting next to a future bestseller.

Don’t be surprised if you see an old man in the morning, with his laptop sitting outside, trying to write a perfect sentence. It’s only me absorbing the ambiance, playing catch up in my chosen occupation. Take pity on me, though, as I rush back to the visitor’s parking trying to get to my other job on time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Art of Learning

By Keith N Fisher

I had to take a big test this week. Hoping to get it right, I’ve been studying hard for a while. I missed posting my other two blogs because I was concentrating on my studies. Now, the test is over, and I’m left with that hollow feeling, I get, After cramming thousands of thoughts and ideas into my brain, only to regurgitate them onto the test paper, never thinking of them again.

Well, the test might not be over, since I’m still waiting for one of my scores to come out, and I might have to take that part of the test again.

Have you ever wondered why church leaders tend to repeat the lesson’s they teach? Do they think we’re so dense, we need constant reminders in order to remember the lesson?
After taking my test, and relearning things I committed to memory years ago, I think that might be true, for me. :)

Seriously, though, Why do we go back, every Sunday, wearing our guilt like a badge of surrender, only to be reminded of what we are not doing? I think one reason is God’s children have been given the opportunity to follow or not, and we need a reminder to apply the concepts in our lives in order to be saved.

Also, I was reminded this week about writer’s conferences. Some of us have been perennial attendees at many of them. Why do we go and listen to the same concepts again, and again?

Here, at the LDS Writer’s Blogck, many of us labor, trying to write something that will help our readers in their quest to be successful. I’ve noticed that we tend to repeat concepts, why do you read?

I don’t think it’s the learning, because many of the lessons are something we’ve learned before.

While pondering these questions, I recalled a conversation, when someone mentioned the reason they attend the conferences was for the networking with other writers. That’s when it hit me. We cram for a test in hopes of recalling the facts. We go to church, attend conferences, and read the Blogck, in an effort to be recharged.

Everybody, eventually, experiences a drain in their resolution batteries, and it helps to know there are others who struggle, too. We do those things to strengthen our resolve. To get a charge that will carry us through, over the mountain of discouragement.

I hope to see you all at the next conference, but in the meantime, keep reading our blog. We will try and provide the right current so you can recharge your batteries. At least, we can give you hope in realization that we are all in the same boat.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Did I sign up for this?

By Keith N Fisher

About thirty years ago, I was into backpacking. I used to traipse around the mountains in my area at a time before there were so many people out there. It was my way of getting off by myself to think and renew my soul.

One particular day, I was blazing my own trail with a full pack, in an area I’d never been, and I started climbing a steep hill. With every step, I could feel my ancient backpack straining against my shoulders. I’d used that old backpack in the High Uintas primitive area when I was a boy-scout and it had become pretty thread bare by then.

It was a long climb and I was inches from the top when suddenly, both shoulder straps broke and my pack slid back down the hill. I stood there at the top, watching my backpack go all the way to the bottom. I sat down, feeling like giving up and going home. How could I carry a backpack with no straps?

After a while I climbed back down and examined the damage. I don’t remember how I jury-rigged the straps, but I started back up the hill leaning farther forward this time. I camped at the top of the hill and went home the next morning. Finding new straps led me to shop for backpacks. Eventually, I purchased the top of the line backpack from the time period.

The new backpack was like a good friend. Now it hangs on the wall in my basement and hasn’t been used in years. It’s a dinosaur, but I will never part with it.

I was with some of my successful writer friends this week. We chatted about everything from writing, to baking bread. After a while a non-writer came in and was being introduced to us all. He turned to one of more successful friends and said. Well, I don’t remember the words, but the jest of it, for me, was, so, as I understand it, you are the one who is a real writer since you’ve got all those books published.

The conversation went to a listing of publishing credits for everybody. None of which were mine. I sat there looking at my writing career in much the same way that I did my old backpack.

There are forces at work, all the time, trying to destroy each one of us. Our belief system is under attack and that includes belief in our self. Most of us believe our life is a big test. We agreed to have the trials we face in hopes of gaining greater glory in eternity. I think everyone of us has stood back with an eye toward eternity, and wondered if we really agreed to what we are going through. With all the reversals and trials I’ve had to endure for the past two years, being introduced as a nobody was like loosing my backpack at the top of a hill.

While sitting and looking at my backpack, I considered leaving it there. After all, it left me didn’t it? I couldn’t do it though, It had been a good friend and it contained some of my newer gear. While examining my writing career, I did the natural thing and thought about abandoning it. I ran through the list of reasons for my lack of success, not the least of which are the time conflicts placed in my path.

Finally, I realized it’s in my blood. I’ve written through all the trials, and it has become second nature for me. I went back down the proverbial hill and jury-rigged my career. I think we all have those moments, whether we are published or not. It helps to have a support system and all of you are. Thank you for reading this blog. I know there are some of you with much greater trials than mine. I hope I can do something to help you along the way.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.