Archive for May, 2009

I Need Not Fear

I finally realized this afternoon that all my questioning about the direction of my second novel was simply a manifestation of my fear. Fear that I can’t finish a novel again and, certainly now, fear that it will not equal or surpass my first, given that The Reckoning has now garnered honors I never anticipated.

Fortunately, my niece, Catherine, brought to my attention this wonderful talk on creativity by the best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love and it is well worth taking 20 minutes out of your day to watch if you are an artist of any kind:

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I suppose I should have waited (and maybe should still wait) a few more hours to post about the results of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards… because at 1:14 pm I received a new email congratulating me on WINNING the award for Multicultural Fiction.

It’s true that I entered 6 categories, and have won or placed in 3, so there’s still an outside chance that there may be more news to come, but I am perfectly happy right now as it is. Within a couple of weeks they will announce the grand prize winners (which I now have a shot at), but I’m afraid until then it will be hard to concentrate on my writing.

Nevertheless, I will.

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I had a very nice surprise waiting for me in my email this morning. A letter of congratulations!

While it wasn’t a winner, The Reckoning was judged a finalist for the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in 2 categories: General Fiction/Novel… and Current Events/Political.

The awards program is open to all indie book authors and publishers worldwide – including small presses, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors – whose books were written in English.

Click here for the link to their website (though the finalists and winners for 2009 won’t be posted until June).

Maybe now my hometown paper will give me some coverage!

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Synonyms for “inadequacy,” according to the Thesaurus, include the following:

incompetence, incapability, unfitness, ineffectiveness, inefficiency, inefficacy, inexpertness, ineptness, uselessness, impotence, powerlessness, inferiority, and mediocrity.

Yes, that pretty much sums up how I felt when I held my first-born daughter, Allison, in my arms for the first time… and I felt little better when I held my second child, Jason, three years later. I certainly felt incompetent, incapable, unfit, ineffective, and inefficient. Even after three years, I was still inexpert. How did I cope? My own mother swooped in both times to save the day… or, rather, the first 14 days.

And I was grateful, oh so grateful.

But it also tended to confirm my feelings of inferiority and mediocrity. I imagine most, if not all, new mothers share these same feelings. After all, no life experience fully prepares you for motherhood. We all enter into it naive, bumbling, and full of fears. Even now, more than eighteen years later, I feel inadequate as a mother. The challenges have changed as the children have grown, but almost every day, in some small way, I am reminded of my insufficiencies.

Particularly on Mother’s Day. I will go to Church today and listen to the speakers laud their mothers who, like mine, were perfect in every way… loving, nurturing, encouraging, and forgiving homemakers who made our family life a bit of “heaven on earth.” (Now, I know not all children view their mothers that way… a neighbor across the street back in California vowed she “would be a good mother,” unlike her own; but you never hear of those kinds of mothers on Mother’s Day.) And I will come away feeling, again, inadequate.

I am no homemaker. I was never so inclined and, at this late stage, do not feel sufficiently motivated to master such skills. Besides, I was fortunate enough to marry a man who enjoys cooking and cleaning.

My so-called maternal instincts seem set on the back burner… unless my child is hurt and needs protection. Then I rear up like a mother bear, ready to pounce on the offender. But, for the most part, I seem to take too much after my dad: focused inward; always thinking about the world and analyzing its problems; shy about imposing myself on others; happy in my cocoon of self-isolation.

Why can’t I be more like my mother? She would love the whole world if she had time and money enough to travel. Her first instinct is to nourish. As soon as someone crosses their threshold, she asks, “Can I get you anything? Are you hungry or thirsty?” And she continues to amaze me in the kitchen. After all these years, she’s still experimenting with new tastes, spices, etc. More than anything, she gave me the room to grow into the person I am today, and the confidence I would need to be content with myself…

Except on Mother’s Day.

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Ever since I returned from the LDStorymakers Conference and Whitney Awards, I’ve been going back and forth in my mind about my goals in writing. I know I have a gift with the written word, but how should I best use it?

I began with poetry back in high school, then moved on to writing lyrics and songs (but that was years ago and I hope I haven’t neglected that aspect so long that I’ve lost it)… many of which were gospel or Christ-centered. Given my love for drama and theater, I thought I would attempt a play and began one in college focused on Oliver Cowdery. But I never finished it. In the meantime, I graduated from college, worked, married, and had two children. I used all my writing skills during that long period on behalf of my church and family… sketches, monologues, songs, one-act plays, etc.

But what did I want to write? Just for myself? I found I wanted to write something, first, that would draw on my childhood and, once I began typing away at the computer, The Reckoning resulted.

Part of me loved it and part of me felt uncomfortable with it. The part that loved it was the writer in me, for I knew I had created a layered, truthful story with interesting characters and some compelling themes. But the Mormon part of me felt uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure it would add to the building up of the kingdom of God. And, after all, isn’t that what we, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are supposed to use all our time and talents for?

I was thinking about all of this when I went to my Gospel Doctrine class yesterday. I sat down next to one of my favorite people, a spry, 86-year-old, and she asked how the Whitney Awards went. When I told her that I hadn’t won but had a good time anyway, she said, “Well, I liked your book, Tanya. You’re a very good writer, but I just wish it had ended happier. Is your next book going to be happy?” I assured her my next book was certainly going to be a good deal more peaceful, but I wondered inside: Do I need to be writing “happy” books to lift everyone up?

Life, for me, is always a mixture of happy and sad. That’s what makes it real. We’re taught that there needs to be opposition in all things, so certainly there needs to be opposition in a good book. Can a book not have a happy ending and still uplift? I recently finished H.B. Moore’s Abinadi and believe it proves my point. (Of course, Mormon readers know, going in, that the ending will be tragic because of their familiarity with his story in the scriptures. Can they not handle a tragic ending unless they’re prepared for it?)

Anyway, I put my thoughts aside as the lesson got started. But guess what the first words out of our teacher’s mouth were: “What is the difference between a talent, an ability, a spiritual gift, and a spiritual experience?” The lesson was on spiritual gifts and learning to recognize them and use them properly. Naturally, that lesson only got me second guessing myself all over again.

I put it to you, then: What should be the purpose of an LDS writer?

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