If you answered "Yes!" to any of those questions, I can help you get motivated.
With 6-8 weeks of intensive help through my classes, we'll organize your creative ideas and get results. Click on "email me" in the left column to express your interest.
"So you want to be a novelist" - Beginning/Intermediate
"Surviving the publishing industry" - Advanced
All classes are limited in size and begin in April. Cost: $350.
Dear potential students of novel-writing: My first 8-week class has been such a great experience, I'm offering a repeat...and adding two more!
Starting in March 2010, I'll offer the beginning version of "So you want to be a novelist" and a new intermediate extension. In the beginning class, we'll fill up 8 weeks getting started--often the hardest part in a 60,000-word endeavor. At the intermediate level, we'll work together for 6 weeks on editing--often the grueling part once you think the chapter is finished.
For advanced students--those who have completed and edited a manuscript--I'm introducing "Surviving the publishing industry." During this 6-week class, we'll work on promoting--developing a proposal, writing loglines, exploring public relations and materials, finding an agent, and self-publishing. This interactive class will feature guest speakers.
All classes are limited in size and cost $350. Just click on the "email me" link to the left to let me know you're interested. And let's make that book happen!
Due to holiday overload, I'm postponing the start date of the novel-writing class to Sunday, January 3rd. There's still time and space to register for this intensive 8-week class!
Do you have a New Year's Resolution about writing down that novel playing out in your head? Would you like to give the gift of writing to a creative friend or family member this Christmas? A $50 deposit holds the registration until class begins!
Just click on "email me" in the left column...and we'll get started on that writing dream in 2010.
Friends! I want to alert you that I'll be teaching an 8-week class @ Borders on West End in Nashville.
Starting Sunday, November 29th, 4:00-7:00 PM, I'll meet with registered novelists-in-the-making for a beginners class called "So, you want to be a novelist." My novel-writing experience began at this very Borders location...and yours can, too!
Over eight weeks, we'll work together to get started--often the hardest part in a 60,000-word endeavor. We'll cover topics like genres, titles, book-jacket summaries, story outlines, character development, opening lines, dialogue, emotions...always making room for subjects you'd like to explore with your classmates. This will be an interactive class with Q&A's, networking, on-the-spot exercises and homework assignments. And there will always be laughing.
Do you have an idea you think could be a novel? Do you know someone who's started a manuscript and gotten stuck in the first chapter? Would you like to give an early gift of a novel-writing class to a loved one for Christmas? Email me to register now and let's jumpstart your creativity!
"So you want to be a novelist." Sundays, Nov 29-Jan 24, 4-7:00 PM @ Borders, West End, Nashville. Cost: $350
As some of you, dear readers, may have read in past interviews and biographical sketches, the Music of the Heart series began as dramas, then morphed into teleplays, before becoming novels—or what I like to call “fauxographies.” And with the October 2005 release of Finding Anna, then last July’s The Longing Season, it has become ever clearer to me that I need to return to my dream of making these stories into movies.
I have always been a reluctant novelist in telling these hymn stories. At first, I didn’t think I’d have enough to tell—certainly not 60,000 words worth! But the advice seemed sound: developing the stories into novels and winning over an audience would make a movie deal more promising. I believe that was good advice, and I’m glad I researched and traveled and outlined and dithered over dialogue for a year to make each book you now own worthwhile.
However, the publishing path is very rocky and, lately, impassable. So I have ended my relationship with Bethany House to pursue screenwriting and other writing opportunities. Book #3 is canceled, but I do not believe the hymnstory project is dead…too many stories still need to be told.
I have so enjoyed hearing from readers around the world. Finding Anna and The Longing Season have been translated into Dutch and German, gone hardcover with Crossings book club, and large print for my seeing-impaired fans. I’ve visited and called into book clubs to answer your burning questions, filled out online Q&As, done live and taped radio and television interviews, and had a photo shoot at my home for a magazine cover story. It has been an interesting adventure—and I’m always up for those.
Please continue to write to me and check back here for life updates. I imagine many readers will discover my books from your recommendations, and I’ll be only happy to chat with them. CS
I was visiting a Methodist library of old and rare materials when I came across a tiny hymnbook from the early-1800s. And I do mean tiny—it was no more than 2.5 x 4.5 inches, and I could hold it in the palm of my hand. I carefully opened it and revealed to my host that early hymnbooks were actually collections of poetry…no accompanying music or even music suggestions.
You see, for the longest time hymns were chanted, rather like today’s rap. They were composed for three similar meters, the most popular being “ballad meter”—stanzas of four iambic lines (da-DUM chuck-chuck, da-DUM chuck-chuck). Dickinson and Wordsworth used this style regularly in their poems.
And it’s still popular today. Remember the TV show “Gilligan’s Island”? The show’s theme song, “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle,” is written in ballad meter. Sing along with it:
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip.
That started from this tropic port,
aboard this tiny ship.
Now let’s try something…ridiculous. Let’s take the Gilligan song and apply these words:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Surprisingly fun, isn’t it? If you’re aghast at this exercise, you’ll understand exactly what Martin Luther was up against when he started setting hymns to established folk tunes. Yeah…just another item on the Pope’s long list of reasons to excommunicate him. But, man, did the public love Luther for it. They sang loudly and lustily, memorizing long poems of praise, adoration and contemplation—poems many congregants couldn’t even read.
During a recent radio interview, the host asked me what I thought of today’s musicians “reinventing” hymns with different styles and melodies. I said, “I think it’s great!” And I meant it. Dozens of different tunes accompanied Newton’s iconic hymn before the now-famous melody, “New Britain,” was adopted in 1835—and even that has been tweaked into our modern version. Anything a musician can do to reintroduce such poignant words to a hungering public is worthwhile, in my way of thinking.
Now go find yourself some iambic lines and hum them. Neither Luther nor Gilligan would mind.
I’ve been speaking to a lot of writing students lately on storytelling, career paths, and writing as a profession. I’ve walked a rather, shall we say, convoluted path since getting kicked out of college with a B.A. in Mass Communications. So I’m never certain what I’m saying to these students is impressionable.
But then I got this bit of feedback from a student at my alma mater, Anderson University:
At last! Someone gets it! Now, I don’t actually come out and say, “If you don’t cut your own throat after a book or two, the publisher will cut it for you.” No, that would be too…brutally honest. And we all know that college is about living a blissfully surreal life—that’s what makes it so great.
But just about everyone outside publishing has a perception that novelists are living lives of unsupervised bliss—earning wads of money for basically sitting around in our pajamas, drinking endless cups of coffee (or something more “Hemingway”), rattling off brilliant bits of dialogue and sentences at will, throwing intense dinner parties for other, intense authors to engage in intense conversation.
None of that is true. Well okay…the pajama part might be true. And maybe the coffee. But the only people making wads of money are the publishers and your occasional John Grisham. And that sentence/paragraph you liked so much in my last novel probably took days to perfect. And I have yet to invite another author to a dinner party—although I would, if he was a comedy writer. No room for intensity at my dinner table.
I consciously try not to talk people out of becoming novelists. It’s their dream, so they should go for it. But I do try to clear up some of these fallacies before they get sucked into a business that is not designed to celebrate the author. Brutal? Yes. So now I’m off to Starbucks to commiserate over…coffee.
If you’re looking for some weekend entertainment for the whole family, head to your multiplex and see Walden Media’s movie “Amazing Grace.”
Now, this is not a movie based on Newton or his iconic hymn. Rather, it’s an historical perspective on Englishman William Wilberforce and his parliamentary fight against Britain’s commercial slavery. The elder Newton, played by the great Albert Finney, is featured in about twenty minutes of footage.
I’ve seen the pre-release twice now, and continue to marvel at how beautifully the scenes are acted and shot. It’s as if the History Channel swept in, filmed, removed all the voice-over, and said, “Let us educate and move you at the same time.”
I am not an authority on Wilberforce, so I have to assume the scenes depicting his protracted struggle are mostly accurate—his Parliamentary tactics, his core group of abolitionists, his faith, his personal relationships. I am, however, an authority on Newton, so I was a little disappointed that the filmmakers portrayed him as a rough and ragged priest, mopping his church floors in sackcloth. In truth, Newton was rather refined…but this is Hollywood taking their usual liberties.
If you read my book, The Longing Season—the story behind the young Newton and how that period of his life helped shape his hymn “Amazing Grace”—you’ll notice some inconsistencies between the film and the truth. Example: Early in the plot, Wilberforce stands on a pub table and announces he’ll sing a hymn by his old friend, the priest who was a slave ship captain for twenty years. It is well documented in Newton’s autobiography and subsequent biographies that Newton captained a slave ship for less than five years, then retired from the sea for health reasons. Likewise, the famous melody “New Britain” that we and Wilberforce sing was not attached to the lyrics until 1835—well after both he and Newton were dead.
So. I’ve now had my say. But don’t let any of these inconsistencies stop you from seeing such a wonderful and timely film. Think of The Longing Season as a primer and the “Amazing Grace” movie as a complement. My book introduces the conflicted young man who becomes one of many powerful voices for humanity decades later. The subjects of slavery and redemption are still weighty and poignant today, and there’s nothing like a good read and an afternoon in a darkened theatre to explore one’s mind and soul.
Have you seen the movie “Romancing the Stone” lately? I caught it tonight on a cable channel and was struck by how much detail I’d forgotten. For instance, it slipped my mind that Kathleen Turner’s character is a…romance novelist! Who lives a lonely existence in an upstairs apartment with a…cat! And spends all day in her pajamas, writing her books on a…typewriter!
My, how far we novelists have come since 1984. OK…maybe not.
I will confess to waking up with a really great idea and plugging away at it, never discarding the pajamas. And then around 3:00 pm the UPS guy knocks on the door and, while he doesn’t actually shriek, his expression says, Lady…not a good look for you. What he says out loud is, “sign here”…and I sign, trying not to breathe on him because I can’t remember if I’ve brushed my teeth yet.
And, yes—the life of a novelist can get pretty isolated. It’s a solitary career by design, but as playwright and painter Lorraine Hansberry once said: “The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.” Lorraine says nothing about the cat requirement, so I’ll pass on that one.
But…a typewriter? It’s the classic scene where novelist Kathleen types “THE END,” rips the paper out of the machine, adds it to the tall stack, boxes it up, then goes downtown to hand-deliver the entire book in typed, paginated order to her editor over drinks in a restaurant. And it’s with a bit of nostalgic sadness that I tell you this: it doesn’t happen that way anymore.
I’ve never even met my editor. I don’t type “THE END,” and I’ve never had an unmarked copy of the manuscript. When it’s ready for submission, I attach it to an email, hit the “send” button and…poof! It’s gone. A little later, my editor confirms via email that she received it, and I don’t hear another word until the content edit.
Yeah…I think a lot of the procedural romance is gone. We’ve become pretty efficient, but at what cost? *sigh* There’s a cat at my door. I’m gonna see if he needs a job.