Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Joyous Gratitude

There are bloggers (several of whom I enjoy and follow).  Then, like siblings to bloggers, there are authors with blogs.

Which is happily me. 

Because my writing time is primarily spent on my books, my posts are less frequent than on a blogger's blog.  Yet you've been coming!  It astounds me how many people come here every day.  I frequently check the viewer stats in the morning and again at night, and the jumps leave me humbled and mumbling a prayer of gratitude. 

"Joy is the simplest form of gratitude."
-Karl Barth  

You have made me joyous.  Thank you very very much.  

My latest manuscript is still out for consideration, which I take as a good sign.  As you know, I have been conceptualizing my new one.  Bits and pieces, out of order, it has been coming to me.  I've got a plot, the major characters, a setting, back story, an assortment of conflicts.  Yesterday I pitched it to a small group and it got rousing support.  So I am energized and eager.  I read an interview with Jodi Picoult in which she was asked about her research, if she uses an assistant to gather it for her.   She said that it is more fun to do the research herself.  Shyly comparing myself to Jodi Picoult, I feel the same way.  I'm excited to dive further in!  :)  

Before I go, I will paste in a review that I posted on my brand new facebook page about a book I finished recently.  (http://www.facebook.com/MMFinck - Please "Like" my page if you have the inclination and a chance!)

"Just read "The Sweet By and By" by Todd Johnson. It follows a handful of characters who live or work in an assisted living facility. It is not my usual subject matter of choice, but reading it made me a better person. It is very well written, of course. Mr. Johnson is a very talented man. I admit that when I read a book (or watch a movie) I have a running tally in my mind of things I would have done differently. Every writer I know does this.  Same as filmmakers, I would say, based on the few I've known.  We aren't being judgmental as much as we are studying and appreciating our craft and learning from each other. By the time I finished "The Sweet By and By," my list was down to one. After a very involved book club discussion last night, even that one item disappeared. I feel uplifted even, by what I didn't at first understand.  Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for this wonderful, sensitive, intricate story."

Now I am reading "Rise and Shine" by Anna Quindlen.  I believe that she is one of the best fiction writers today.  Her economy with words creates a beautifully dense story.  My laundry sits unfolded for the second night in a row so that I can follow these powerful characters.

Next up, "before women had Wings" by connie may fowler.  

I hope you all are well!  I will speak with you again soon!

-M.M. Finck

Friday, April 13, 2012

Do You Like Psychoanalytics? Right Brain - Left Brain? Introvert - Extravert?

Do you like psychoanalytics?  Right Brain - Left Brain?  Introvert - Extravert?  For as long as I can remember I have loved them.  I don't believe I am alone in this, in that personality quizzes show up on magazine covers from American Girl to Cosmopolitan to US Weekly to Esquire.  Thankfully, the subject matter differs! 

I'm pretty good at understanding people, myself included.  I thought, at one time, that I'd like to be a psychologist.  I like to help people and I'm self-righteous enough to think I know how.  My hypothetical patients are rejoicing right now that something held me back.  Psychologists are supposed to listen, right?  I talk way too much!  Maybe a motivational speaker?  Except that I'm not keen on the spotlight.  I can do it, but I feel like crawling into a cave for awhile afterwards (quiz result: introvert :)).  Thankfully, I found the right job for me, which has the added benefit of leaving no patient dizzy from one of my diatribes.  Writing is perfect for an introverted, word-wielding lover of human psychology. 

I began writing fiction after a friend suggested that I’d be good at it.  I knew I could string words together.  I’ve always appreciated written rhythm and vocabulary.  I was an accomplished technical writer, but to write creative fiction?  Nuts.  To my utter surprise, I finished an entire 300 page novel.  It wasn’t good enough at the time to get published, but it got enough professional praise and encouragement that what began as a lark became a dream. 

As you know, I love quotes.  Quotes about gratitude, love, honor, faith, work, friendship, family, and justice wallpaper the housing of my mind.  Newly, quotes about dreams offered deep meaning for me.  Not one of my personality quizzes resulted in dreamer, yet there I was in pursuit of something completely, terribly unlikely.  That’s a dream, right?  I tell my children, “God has endowed you with many gifts.  You can be anything you want to be.  You just need to work hard enough at it.  Work harder than you ever believed possible.  You will be astounded at all the things you can do.”  Taking my own advice changed me.  A woman who had always been sensitive to criticism was courting it.  I studied the craft of writing, learned about self-editing, learned to receive and weigh criticism, and wrote and wrote and wrote. 

I felt stretched between the top priorities in my life, stretched to the point of breaking sometimes.  My family never stopped believing in me or supporting me, but I saw a change in the way some friends looked at me.  They were bright and excited when I'd finished my first book, but their smiles gradually picked up a bit of condescension.  “Yeah, you’re busy,” I could read in their eyes, “but you don’t really have to be, do you?  I mean, it’s not as though your writing is a real job.”  I didn’t blame them.  I had confronted the same doubt within myself.  I was learning so much and I was in love with it, but, at what cost to myself and my family?  I was so tired.  My house was no longer the well-run machine it once was.

So many times, clarity comes from crisis.  What I realized then was that writing, for me, is not only a dream, but a calling.  I saw it like a glowing breadcrumb path through my life (which is saying something because I had been a finance person!).  My writerly career was largely unsubstantiated at the time, but my calling stood on its own and was validated simply by naming it as such.

One of my favorite people, Darcey Steinke (read her Easter Everywhere when you get the chance), told me that writing is all about faith.  I ask you:  Who can write without it?  She saw it in me, and I decided to claim it.  Faith in myself, faith in my calling.  Anne Lamott said in her book, Bird by Bird, that the writing has to be enough.  By recognizing writing as my calling, the pursuit of the best writing I am capable of became enough. 

I hope that you will be able to read my work – so far, so good.  I’ll let you know.  In the meantime, I’ll be writing.  After I sent my latest book to an agent, I had intended to take a week off.  But I couldn’t!  The next story grabbed a hold of me and refused to wait.  Clearly, it is my progeny.  Impatient has shown up on several of my personality quizzes too.  :)  I'm a new woman though.  Callings have no end date.  Nor do certain dreams, I suspect.

Here is one of my favorite quotes about dreams.  I hope that you like it as much as I do.

Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.
– Anais Nin

I hope you all are well.  I’ll speak with you again soon!  Maybe the next one will be brief?  :)

-         - M.M. Finck

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Wanted To Know More About Her As A Person

Have you read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert?  Most people I know loved Italy.  I agree certainly, but my favorite part was India.  When Elizabeth (note ‘Elizabeth.’  more on that in a second.) was trying to meditate in the prayer garden, but she was hot, her thoughts wouldn’t stop, and the mosquitoes were stinging her, I was right there with her.  I can feel it as I sit here in my air-conditioned house in the woods of Virginia.  When she was able to transcend her itchy, buzzing, sweaty distractions and enter into a peaceful mental place, I was in awe.  

I loved that book.  I wanted to know more about Elizabeth Gilbert as a person.  It turns out that she is very good friends with my husband’s cousin, but I didn’t know that at the time.  I stumbled upon an article on her written by someone who knew her.  He called her ‘Liz,’ and he taunted us, pitiful, unconnected strangers that we are, that he could do that because he was her friend, whereas we are not.

Well, I want to let you in on a secret.  My name is, in fact, M. M. Finck which is why I write under it.  But, I go by ‘Peggy.’  This is my very first blog post.  I cannot imagine who will end up here to read it (probably family and friends who already call me Peggy :).  But whoever you are – you are my torch bearers!   
Wherever my career goes, you will have been with me from the beginning!  YOU may call me Peggy whether we have met yet or not.

So, let me tell you, torch-bearers, a little about myself.  I write fiction, predominantly women’s fiction, with romantic elements and dark underpinnings.  I like characters with strong voices and deeply-felt emotions.  Meaningful themes and character growth are important to me and a plot will not draw me in without opportunities for them.  I love distinct, unique backdrops.  For me, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is nearly the perfect commercial-literary cross novel, bit heavier on commercial.  I adore what I call "book club light" reads (literary but not overly dark plots), but the tension that I hope I've created in my current work is along the lines of Water for Elephants in hopefully an equally interesting setting (an inner city playhouse).  In whatever I write, I aspire to give my readers the same page-turning need that Sara Gruen gave me.

I have never experienced anything, save from true love, that takes me to the nary depths of despair and also to gravity-defying heights of jubilation the way writing does.  When my husband brought home my first book, spiral bound and printed at Kinko’s with nothing but a clear vinyl cover, I had honestly never seen anything so beautiful in my life.  Well, fifth most beautiful.  :)  My children take top honors.  

I can write because I read.  I joined goodreads.com today and am thrilled with the recommendations it has already made for me.  Check it out.  It is a very easy, friendly site.  I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t like it.  Friend/follow me, if you’d like (M. M. Finck).

Thank you for landing here today.  I hope that you come back often.  I will try post something regularly.  Hopefully, not this long.  :)  I hope you are well.