Monday, November 2, 2009

Nourish Your Dreams

I'm excited to announce that our giveaway this month is Hot Apple Cider, an anthology that contains Bonnie Grove's short story, The Stuckville Cafe. The title alone makes my mouth water. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.
I recently read Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg, an excellent story by this best-selling author. It deals with the ticklish relationship between a mother and her grown daughter, which is a topic I love to both read and write about.
I'm not a reader who typically marks in the margins of a novel or underlines text. I don't dog-ear the pages, or bend back the spine. I leave as little physical evidence that I've traveled through the pages of a novel as I possibly can. The tracks of the novel journey for me are impressed on my mind, and when it's really good, on my heart. I love to leave a book looking as new as possible when I'm through with it for the next person I pass it on to, or for my library if it's one I choose to keep. And prepare yourself: I'm not a fan of used books stores either. I know, that's sacrilege for an author, but it's newness I love. Give me a Barnes and Noble any day.
But on page 68 of Home Safe there's a little asterisk in blue ink next to the lengthy paragraph in the middle of the page. It's from the point of view of Helen Ames, a woman newly widowed, an author whose career has stalled, and a mother who's depending far too heavily on her grown daughter. In the scene I marked, Helen has just concluded a less-than-stellar presentaton at a local library, a presentation she didn't want to make in the first place. This is how the passage reads, in part: "You know, I wonder if---Maybe I could try again another time." She'll share with them the story about telling her father as a little girl that she was going to be a writer someday and how at first he had laughed but then had said, "I believe you." She'll explain how important it is to have someone believe in you, how important it is to nourish dreams, especially your own."
Those few simple words went straight to my heart. I not only stopped to re-read them a half dozen times, I went looking for a pen and marked the margin.
From my earliest memory, my free time was spent with a pencil and drawing pad sketching faces, always faces. Later I dabbled in oils, but drawing in pencil was what I loved best. I thought if I ever accomplished anything artistically, it would be in that art form. Then I got married, started having babies, and somewhere along the line I forgot how to draw. But like many people, I often thought--secretly of course--I'd love to write a book someday. It never occurred to me that one day I might actually try, let alone do it.
I was a shy person, and even more shy about showing my drawings to anyone, never quite comfortable with praise from my family and friends, because my eye invariably accented the flaws. I was sure theirs did too, and that their praise was false and obligatory. So when I began to write my first novel, I did it in secret, sure that everyone--like Helen Ames' father--would laugh at such a silly idea. I'd written 100 pages over the course of a summer before I revealed to anyone what I was doing. Then one night I handed the pages to my husband, and went to hide while he read them. To my amazement he not only didn't laugh; he praised and encouraged. He nourished my dream. Twenty years later he's still doing that.
There's not a doubt in my mind that his encouragement, and that of our son and daughters, is what helped me stay the course on my long path to publication. Hopes were dashed many times along the way, but always I could hear them say, "I believe in you," and it was enough to make me believe in myself.
I'm remarkably blessed to be in the community of Christian writers, where support and encouragment is the norm, where fellow authors rejoice when you rejoice. And of my friends and colleagues here at NovelMatters I simply have to say, it doesn't get any better than this. We truly are a support group, cheering each other on when good things happen and praying when they don't. I respect and appreciate them more than I can say.
So who has nourished your dreams? And whose dreams are you nourishing? Because we're in this together, you know. Your success lends to our success, which lends to another's success, and on it goes. And where would we be without readers? You too nourish our dreams. More than you know. Thank you and God bless.


Connie Brzowski said...

Oh sister, this one's easy~

My husband thinks I'm really smart and stuff. Silly man refuses to read my writing because it's too girlie, but if he doesn't stop bragging around the guys at work, I'm going to poke him with sticks.

And isn't it our job to see the genius in others and pull that forward? Not just family, but also the family of God. I count it an honor. . . and a responsibility. I'm not sure there's anything more important in this lifetime.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I've stayed really quiet about my novels my entire life. I didn't mind if people read my articles, short stories, support updates, etc., but my books were very personal to me. Still are, actually.

But I've started sharing them with a few trusted friends, most of them writers. Those who aren't, love to read. They've been such a blessing. Most of them I don't see very often, but when I do, they bring the conversation up: "Have you written anything else? When I do I get to read it? When are you going to be published--because I would buy your books for the stories, not just because I know you."

That feels really good! I am so thankful for them. It would be so much more difficult without them cheering me on. Hopefully one day they'll see a finished product on the shelves. They dream with me. It's so much better than dreaming alone.

Unknown said...

Readers are going to get REALLY sick of us saying this, but God answered my decades-long prayers for like-minded peers when He moved our agents Janet and Wendy to put us together. What a nourishing blessing. I can't thank Him enough.

Kathleen Popa said...

Latayne, your comment brings up something I tell up-and-coming writers every chance I get - find writer friends. I tell them to attend writers conferences, and about 20% of the reason is that there they will meet editors and agents. 80% of the reason is that they will make friends with other authors, and without them, writing can so easily become that weird little thing they do that no one understands.

Anonymous said...

What a blessing that your husband and kids were there to support you!
Not a writer so don't have anyone supporting me. I'd rather be there for other people. I spend most of my time encouraging families who are facing horrible diseases. I share Scripture with them and let them know I'm praying for them...but I only touch the very tiniest tip of the iceberg. There are way, WAY too many families out there...

Connie Reece said...

Lovely post! I just returned from a writer's workshop and retreat hosted by the C.S. Lewis Foundation. The theme was The Company They Keep, which is the title of Diana Glyer's book about the Inklings, the writer's community that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, among other luminaries. The book shows how much they influenced each other's work. I can't help but wonder if we would have Narnia or Lord of the Rings if it had not been for the encouragement--and sometimes the challenges--of the Inklings.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful comments. Connie Reece, what fun that conference must be! And I think you might be right about Narnia and Lord of the Rings. Iron truly sharpens iron.

Unknown said...

Writing can be such a delicate journey. How many times have we heard that writers have to have thick skins? And yet, really, we're all just about like that egg in the book cover above. Those of us who are blessed to have wonderful family and friends backing us up every step of the way (even when they don't quite get our writerly craziness) - we're blessed indeed!

Michelle Ule said...

I echo the importance of having someone to encourage you; I can't say that's been true of me. Indeed, I've had far more people inadvertently undermine my writing dreams than encourage. :-(

I mean, how else can you interpret all the times the supremely important task of downloading yet ANOTHER computer game has resulted in somehow losing all MY writing?

Well, there's one reason to be grateful the boys grew up! :-)

But the Lord knows the gifts and the plans he has for those gifts. And every time I've felt driven to give up, I've always gotten some sort of encouragement.

Even if it was just my genius husband resurrecting the files, yet again. :-)

Anonymous said...

Praise God for your genius husband, Michelle. And may I just say, I think you're wonderful, and as you -- and we -- commit our gifts to the Lord, He will use them for his purpose and His glory. I think that's what we all want more than anything.

Anonymous said...


I think what you're doing with your life -- being an encourager to those who need encouragement so desperately -- is a beautiful story being written by the Lord on your behalf. Bless you for all you do.

Anonymous said...

I, too have just finished Home Safe and my copy is full of yellow sticky-notes! Elizabeth Berg has a gift of making a statement and aiming straight for the heart --even the soul (for me anyway!) I am blessed to live in an area near a river and take many walks (sometimes alone). She describes in her story a time when she gets up early early and takes off walking (leaving her sleeping husband who will have to get up soon to go to work). She starts out feeling angry because he wouldn't come on the walk with her but then... "her resentment was replaced with wonder and she understood the specific kind of appreciation that comes to a person witnessing a thing of beauty alone, how the spectacle seems to sit whole inside the soul, undiminished by conversation..." I know I have support of my loved ones, but the real joy for me comes from the new people God brings into my life i.e. a woman I am helping with piano right now, introducing a friend to journaling,encouraging my grandsons to "flourish" in what they love to do (one is creating drawings and masks, one is baseball!) Sharon and other Novel Matters writers are a big inspiration and encouragement to me, too -- whether on the blog or on a personal level. Thank you! Now back to my novel... let's see nourish, flourish, there must be a new idea for the next chapter there!!!