Fan Mail Friday

September 26th, 2014

I recently returned from a writing retreat (more on that another time) to find a mountain of mail waiting for me. Snail mail! Email! Packages and parcels! Whee!

I love hearing from all of you, and I promise you will hear back from me, but it will have to wait until I finish the first draft of MDBC #7….

There is one bit of mail I need to respond to right away, though, and publicly. It’s from Cassie in Canada. Cassie is an aspiring writer, and an extremely talented one. I got a sneak peek at her future greatness thanks to an incredible piece of fan fiction that she sent to me.  Here it is:

HVF with Cassie's book

If you click on the picture, it should enlarge enough so you can read the title:  “Gatsbing at Surprises”

Can you guess what she’s chosen for the mother-daughter book club to read in her story?  Yep. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. An excellent choice, and one of my favorite classic novels!

As I opened this beautifully bound volume, I discovered the first surprise–she dedicated it to me!  I got tears in my eyes as I read the inscription:

For Heather Vogel Frederick, who is my inspiration and whose delightful series
was the inspiration behind this book.

But wait! There’s more! She also included a note:

“Dear Heather,

The only thing better than writing this book would be seeing your face when you opened it!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy your own series! Happy Reading.  🙂 

Love, Cassie”

WOW!

Here I am, tears in my eyes and all:

HVF with Cassie's inscription
On the right-hand page, you can also see the first quote she chose from The Great Gatsby:

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

Is that perfect or what? Don’t you just want to dive in?  I sure did.

Cassie, you are a WONDER!  You absolutely made my day, my week, my month, and more. I can’t thank you enough for this dear, heartfelt, amazing gift. Reading your story has been my treat to myself these past few evenings, after I finish my writing for the day. It’s ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, DARLING! (as Wolfgang would say). Oh, And I love love LOVE the “Author’s Note.”

She ends it with:  “Since this is the author’s note, I guess it means my book is finished. It’s not great, it’s not even that good but in the words of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, ‘tomorrow I will run faster, stretch out my arms farther…’ Practice makes perfect and who knows, maybe books by Cassandra [last name deleted for privacy] will start appearing on your library shelves someday!”

I have absolutely no doubt they will.  Here’s why:  Those three words, “practice makes perfect.”

This is the heart and soul of writing–of any art, and any endeavor in life. Cassie obviously gets that. We have to work at the things we love, to become good at them, and then great.

Here’s what one of my literary heroes, Ann Patchett, has to say on the subject:

“Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story.”  This is from her superb essay “The Getaway Car,” which as far as I am concerned is required reading for every single aspiring writer on the planet. It can be found in her book of collected essays, “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” and also purchased as a single essay here and here and here.

Practice makes perfect.

When I was Cassie’s age, I aspired not only to be a writer, but also a flutist. My hero was Jean-Pierre Rampal. I listened to his recordings endlessly, by turn inspired (because he was so phenomenal) and discouraged (because he was so phenomenal). I heard him twice in person, and swooned at his skill. I tried to echo his phrasing when I played the pieces he played, tried to mimic his tone and his passion for music. While I always fell short of his perfection (seriously, the man was superhuman), my technique greatly improved under this regimen. He gave me something to aspire to, and although I never became a professional flutist (my love of writing eclipsed my love of music at some point in college), I was a better musician for it.

It’s the same with fan fiction, and with the practice novels and practice stories we produce, and all the writing we do in fits and starts when we’re first beginning. Keep working at it, keep aspiring, keep practicing.

Practice makes perfect.

 

 

Writing with friends

July 31st, 2014

Greetings from deadline exile! I’m barely coming up for air at the moment, but I thought you might like to take a peek at one of the few fun things I’m allowing myself to do these days, other than write.  Wait, what am I saying? This one actually involves writing!

But it’s still fun.

Coffee Shop writing group July 2014

Every week, I meet three of my author friends at a nearby coffee shop to write. From left to right, that’s Susan Fletcher, Rosanne Parry, and Susan Blackaby.

And yes, we actually do write!  Together. Well, separately, but together. You know what I mean. And yes, I’ll admit it, we do chat a bit as well…

Writing can be very solitary work. It’s good to have friends you can chat with.

This particular coffee shop happens to be in a lovely location, and on a glorious summer day, it’s not exactly a hardship to sit and work on their lakeside patio!

Badge of honor

May 21st, 2014

I recently did my last school presentation of the year at Whitworth Elementary here in Oregon. I love their mascot, their school spirit, and their school wolf “HOWL”:

Whitworth

Excellent words to live by.

It was a fabulous day, with loads of great questions for me from the smart and lively students (and all the students were definitely smart and lively!). School visits are so energizing for us writers, who spend most of our time alone, spinning words into what we hope is gold for our readers…

Speaking of spinning words, Whitworth’s delightful librarian Deanne Harms prodded me to share a picture of my keyboard. “That’s the keyboard of a working writer,” she said when she spotted it, and it’s true. I wear out keyboards faster than I wear out computers. Check it out:

HVF Laptop

This is my MacBook Air. I have the 11″ model and I am truly, madly, deeply in love with it. It’s embarrassing how much I adore this amazing little machine! It’s light as a feather, slips neatly into my purse/backpack/carry-on, is able to leap tall buildings at a single bound–no wait, it can’t do that. But I bet it could if it tried! Best of all, it’s still going strong at nearly four years old.

Back to the keyboard. I think you need a closer look. Click on the picture below to enlarge it:

HVF Keyboard

Funny, huh? Good thing I know how to touch type! When you spend all day every day writing — which for me means typing on my laptop — this is what happens. It’s just a hazard of the job. And a badge of honor as well. Wearing out the keys on my keyboard means I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing: writing books for YOU!

And sometimes it means goofing off writing a blog post…  😉

 

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