Carol Callicotte

Author

On Being a Writer* November 18, 2018

Filed under: For Writers,Goals,Uncategorized,Writing,Writing World — A French American Life @ 8:20 pm
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It’s not often that I tell people I write. I never call myself a Writer in my non-writing circles. I think of myself as a writer with an asterisk. A caveat. Yes, I write stuff. But.

 

I devote so much time to writing. I’ve been at this for years. I’m self-aware enough to realize that while I may not be the Next Great American Novelist, I’m not bad at this whole writing thing. Sometimes, I’m even good at it. I’ve come a long way since my first attempts and I’ve devoted much hard work to honing my craft.

 

Still. For me, the fact that I am, as of yet, unpublished, makes calling myself a writer feel so trite, verging on pathetic. I fear the glazed-over eyes and feigned interest from those I venture to tell of my hobby/passion/dream. I dread the questions: “Where can I find your work?” Oh, no, nothing published. Yet. Big vulnerable smile. “I know someone who self-published, can’t you just do that?” No, that’s not the path for me. I hate that it paints me, in moments of total insecurity, as a grown-ass woman with a ridiculous pipe-dream. Most every writer will attest: writing opens up a roller-coaster of highs that could quite possibly be delusions of grandeur, and lows of complete self-doubt. I sometimes fall into the mindset of wondering – is it worth is? All the time and energy I put into this? Will it still be worth it, even if my work is never picked up?

 

A writing teacher recently talked about Process vs. Product. It was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment. Focusing too much on Product can lead to dark places. It was a needed reminder of all the reasons I love the Process of writing: the insight I gain, the creativity I harness, the worlds I get lost in, the catharsis, the intellectual stimulation, the way writing (and reading) changes the way I see the world and improves my ability to empathize. The escape it grants me, and the complete unfettered joy that comes from seeing my words arranged onto a page in a way that I’m proud of.

 

Does being a Writer depend on the Product? No, I don’t think so. Do I permit myself the title of Author only if I am agented and published? I still tend toward “yes” on this. But. In a healthier, less self-flagellating sort of way. So much of publishing is dependent on the being in the right place at the right time. It’s good, too, to have writer friends to give me someone to talk to ad nauseam about all things writing. It helps that I’m married to a guy that will happily let me carry on about writing for hours at a time. Who will read everything I write and give me feedback and encouragement.

 

I still hope to find an agent. To be published. But hanging every hope and dream on that nail takes too much away from the joy I find in writing. And while some people may never understand the time and energy I devote to this, and I may never feel comfortable talking about it to non-writers, I can come to terms with that. Like so many things in life, it boils down to a healthy balance. I’m a big fan of the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of the time spent on craft, 20 percent on pursuing publication/industry stuff. And from now on, none of the time thinking badly of myself because I’m not “legit” by the high standards I’ve been holding myself to. I am a writer. I write. And I freaking love (nearly) every minute of it. Even the minutes I hate, I still love the passion and energy it evokes in me. Begone, asterisk. I’m done trying to qualify and quantify. I am, always have been, and always will be a Writer.

 

 

 

I Finished My Book! July 23, 2018

Filed under: Books,Goals,Projects,Writing,Young Adult — A French American Life @ 6:57 pm
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Yep. I really did.

Well, as finished as it can be for now.

Turns out the “butt in the chair” method actually works. Writing an hour (at least) every day. Making it a priority. Duh. I knew that, but I wasn’t doing that. Until this last year.

And I finished my book. I lost count of the number of drafts between major and minor revisions and slashing 25,000 words. Yes, that many. Apparently I’m wordy.

It’s the second book I’ve completed. The umpteenth I’ve began.

The best part: I’m really proud of it. Really, really proud. I had a great time writing it and I’m excited to share it with people. The feedback I’ve gotten, and not just from my mom, is really encouraging.

So I’m on to the next step: Querying agents. It’s a daunting process full of rejection, but I’m trying.

And I’m starting a new book, too. Totally different one, but same genre: Young Adult.

Fingers crossed.

 

Between Goals and Passions March 16, 2018

Filed under: Goals,Projects,Writing — A French American Life @ 10:32 am

My writing goals have evolved over the years. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. In fourth grade, I won a contest for a story I’d written and I got to join a handful of other kids in the city I grew up in for a day-long symposium on writing.

When I first started writing seriously, and by that I mean writing regularly, attending classes and conferences, devouring books on craft and subscribing to Writer’s Digest, I dreamed of a book deal that would legitimize my dream, validate my pursuit.

That hasn’t happened. Yet. So I exist in this space, in good company with others who write regularly and passionately but remain unpublished, where I hesitate to talk too much about my writing, lest I subject myself to the glazed over look or worse, the eye rolls, that often follow the words, “I write. I’m working on a book.”

For now – I’m working to create a steady writing habit. I write daily, I create stories, I revise, I polish, and I try. But I don’t hang my hopes on the validation of publication. Sure, I would love to be published. I plan to send my work out to agents and maybe even small publishing houses, my short stories to magazines. But the end game for me, now, is to continue to work to perfect my craft. To create the best stories I can create. To enjoy the process. Realistically, I’ve realized, so much is out of my control. But the truth is this: I LOVE writing. I feel ALIVE when I write. Nothing feels real if I don’t write about it. I’ve kept a journal since I was eight. I’ve written stories since I could hold a pen and form words and phrases. I read voraciously and ponder the beauty and profound wisdom and compelling stories that so many great writers have created. I see the written word as an art form, an expression, that is an essential part of being human, and one that is an essential part of me. There was a hole in my life, those years I didn’t write enough.

To not write is, to me, to not fully live. To be writing again is to have awakened a core piece of my soul that was fitfully tossing and turning within me, grumbling to be heard. I’m listening to it now.

 

 

 

 

Been Gone Too Long February 27, 2018

Filed under: Books,French Language,Goals,Projects,Writing,Writing World,Young Adult — A French American Life @ 4:28 pm
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I’ve had years of excuses. Two kids, just shy of twenty months apart. A move from California to Colorado. Buying a home. Renovating. Teaching French. Seeing patients. Laundry. Volunteer work. Cooking meals. Cleaning the house. Laundry … every month or two, those thirty seconds where all the clothes and linens in the house are clean and put away are some of the most liberating moments of my life. And yes, I realize this is pathetic. But I digress….

All these “excuses” are real, important. And all of them result in my writing being put on the back burner. Despite my mind churning over ideas, turns of phrase, dialogue exchanges, beginnings, endings, scenes that I desperately want to put to page but never manage to do.

Enough excuses. My youngest started kindergarten last fall. I suddenly have time, real actual time, on my hands. So last September, I made this commitment: Write. One hour, each day. It seemed unrealistic. Pre-kids, I’d been a writer that needed huge blocks of time to get into it and be productive. One hour wouldn’t cut it. I needed a full day at a coffee shop. A late night sustained by wine and adrenaline. With my new, overly busy life, writing was a luxury that I couldn’t afford.

But I knew I needed to try something different. Because there was a hole in my soul; the soul that desperately needs to put these stories to page.

So I tried. One hour a day. And … it worked for me. The flame of passion was reignited. I became, once again, a productive writer. Sometimes, it was just an hour. An incredibly productive and exhilarating hour. When the day allowed, the hour turned into two or three, four. Despite the depleted energy that momhood and my other duties left me with, I found myself writing after the kids went to bed and long after I usually turned in.

And now – I’ve got a pretty polished draft of my YA novel – First Times and Second Chances.

 

Revising was fun. Revising was exasperating. The bones of this story were exhumed from a story I wrote when I was fourteen. It’s gone through many a metamorphosis over the past eight or so years. I changed the setting – much needed – from a summer camp to a French immersion program. I brought it up to speed with the modern world of technology, social media, and savvy teens. I killed darlings. So many darlings (I’m so sorry, Sophie, I hope to see you again in some other book). Twenty thousand words got hacked out, and the novel is so much better for it.

And now… I love it. I’m proud of this book. Even if it goes nowhere, I think I did something great with it.

 

To NaNoWriMo or to not NaNoWriMo October 29, 2013

Filed under: Goals,Projects — A French American Life @ 11:41 am
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Should I or shouldn’t I? I’m balking at the idea, I’m excited about the idea. I’ve managed to carve out one evening a week that I dedicate to writing, and it’s been a fabulous evening. I’ve struggled for so long to find this time – two new additions to the family (Thing One and Thing Two), a move from California to Colorado, a new blog, and my fiction has been moved to a far back burner. It’s simmering there, I can smell it, almost taste it, yet I can’t seem to find the time to give it the attention it deserves.

My once a week sessions have focused mainly on revising my YA novel, which I still have high hopes for and am enjoying working on. But there’s this other IDEA that’s been banging around in my head for a few years now, and I haven’t had a chance to open up that IDEA and let it flow onto the page. Could NaNoWriMo be the answer? I’ve never attempted National November Writing Month before, and I think I might be  crazy to try it now, a few weeks after a move, in addition to caring for my two little ones while my husband puts in lots of extra hours at his new job. Or maybe I should grab the opportunity while I’m feeling motivated to really step up my writing.

I have two days to decide.

 

 

 

Still at it… trying… April 25, 2013

Filed under: For Writers,Goals,Projects,Writing,Writing World — A French American Life @ 1:32 pm
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All writers, at one time or another, go through a slump. I’m in one of those with my fiction. It’s partly due to the challenge of finding time to write while caring for two young kids. It’s partly that I feel disheartened. It’s partly that I’ve got other irons in the fire, too. But I am still writing. Sometimes it’s only a page a week. But that counts, too. This too shall pass, I tell myself. I will find my passion for writing again. For now, I read, I blog on my other site, I try. Mostly, I try to not flog myself for not having accomplished more with my writing. This last one is my biggest challenge.

 

Goal Setting December 29, 2011

Filed under: For Writers,Goals,Projects,Writing,Writing World — A French American Life @ 10:29 am
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Tis the season… for goal setting! I know there are people out there who find goal setting to be a repression of creativity blah blah blah. I’m not one of those people. I need direction in order to tap into my creative soul.

I’ve written before about the importance of goals yet somehow I’ve gotten away from setting them for myself in my writing. I’ve felt the effect: lack of direction, lack of motivation, frustration, even depression over where I am in my writing career. Of course, my main objective remains the same: write a novel that can be published. But somehow, over the last few months, I forgot to set smaller, attainable goals.

I’m realizing that, in order to keep things fresh, my goals have to change shape. After all, my life has changed dramatically, so shouldn’t my writing goals reflect that? I’ve gone from being single and working two jobs to make ends meet to being married, having a child, and working part time while trying to write during nap times. Late nights and long writing marathons are no longer an option – I’m too busy and tired! I used to think the only way to tap into my creativity was via long, uninterrupted blocks of time. Luckily, this isn’t true.

This time, I’m setting page number goals. If I’ve done that before, it’s been a long time. Given my life as it is today, I think this should work.

Happy New Year to everyone!

 

Speed Bumps November 30, 2011

Serious obstacles in my way these days. Rewriting this novel is turning out to be a much bigger project than I anticipated. I keep encountering speed bumps. I’ll be rolling along just fine then suddenly, something is in the way, I slow down to a crawl, try to ease my way forward, feel it out, but then I get stuck, sometimes even bottoming out, and it is taking me forever plus a sizable self-induced kick in the rear to get going again. Ugh. So frustrating.

I’ll take a cue from a classic I’ve been reading to my daughter: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

 

Name Change April 27, 2011

I spent yesterday morning writing – a 4 hour block, yay! Thank you, my dear babysitter. I’m working on final edits for my YA novel. I use the word “final” loosely – I imagine there will be more edits in the future. I’m just so excited to be nearly ready to send this out! It’s been far too long. The book required more edits than I’d intended – I saw some areas for improvement and it took much more work than I’d originally anticipated. Plus, morning sickness and having a baby have not been conducive to writing. I’m not complaining, I’m just making excuses for why I’m a year behind on completing this book.

Here was a kicker, though. I decided to Google my main character’s name to make sure there wasn’t a prostitute or serial killer with the same name – something we did before naming our daughter. Well, no one notorious had the same name, but a well known woman out there does share it. Probably not a big deal, but it’s not someone I want my character to share a name with. My character’s prenom, Virginia, actually plays an important role in the story, so I can’t change that. Luckily, though, I wasn’t married to her last name. It’s an easy fix. I love the internet for stuff like this! In fifteen minutes, I realized I needed to change the name, found a website with a number of options for last names, chose one that worked well, and fixed it with a find and replace in my manuscript.

Naming characters is no easy task – which is apparent from the number of books and articles on the topic. With this character, she has always been Virginia, ever since she debuted on the page as a self-conscious, sweet, sometimes snarky teen. I never troubled over her name. Not true for other characters. I name them, rename them, research names, try them on for a while, until I find the right fit.

On that note, naming my daughter was one of the most intimidating and important responsibilities I’ve ever had. Someone told me the other day that the name we chose fits my daughter perfectly. I hope she thinks so.

I also renamed my book. The title is now: FIRST TIMES AND SECOND CHANCES.

 

My Writing Schedule March 30, 2009

Filed under: For Writers,Funny stuff,Goals,Projects,Self deprecating humor,Writing — A French American Life @ 2:14 pm
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For my “real” job, I’m a physical therapist. I work part time at the clinic, which I realize is incredibly lucky. So, on my days off from physical therapy, I write, with every intention of making this time worth it.

Here’s the writing schedule I aspire to:

5:45 The alarm goes off. I bounce out of bed, well-rested and eager to begin a brand new day.

6:00 I’m in the “gym” we’ve set up in our garage, where I get a killer work out.

7:00 I shower and get ready for the day, just as I would if I were going to work. I fix my hair, put on makeup, and wear shoes. This is a great psychological method for improving motivation and productivity.

7:45 I eat breakfast and get caught up on the major news, because it’s important to be a good, well informed citizen of the world.

8:15 I meditate to quiet my mind and allow calm and positive thoughts to center me.

8:30 I arrive at my desk and do a writing warm up exercise.

9:00 I work with enthusiasm and energy on my current project.

12:30 I suddenly realize I’m a bit hungry. I’ve been so absorbed in my writing that I don’t even realize it’s lunch time. Lunch is a random assortment of tasteless and uninspired fuel, but that’s okay, because my mind is lost in the world I’ve created, and words are flowing quicker than I can get them all down.

12:37 I’m back to writing.

2:00 I take a walk at this time to stretch my legs and neck, get some fresh air and sun, and give my mind a bit of time to ponder some things. I take a 1 ½ mile loop around our neighborhood, admiring the brightly colored flowers, enjoying the scent of orange blossoms, and feeling a general satisfaction with the writer I am becoming.

2:30 I’m back to writing. I might check some of my favorite industry blogs, or check in with Absolute Write. But mostly, I just write inspired stories of beauty and depth.

6:00 I’ve had a wonderful day and am satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. I pour myself a glass of wine and begin to make dinner. I have a relaxing evening with my husband.

Here’s what a typical day looks like lately:

5:45 The alarm goes off. I reach over to hit the snooze button, and in doing so, knock my watch onto the ground. It breaks. I hit snooze for an hour or so.

7:00 I finally drag myself out of bed and put on my work out clothes. On the way to the garage, I stop in the office to get my laptop so I can watch The Daily Show while I’m on the elliptical. As I sign on, I see that I have email, and realize that another minute cannot go by without me checking to see who has written to me and why. I check my messages. Some of them are notifications from Facebook, so I go to Facebook and end up reading everyone’s updates, seeing who has thrown what animal at me, taking a test to find out what mythical creature I am. Eventually I find myself looking at pictures of people I don’t even know. It’s 8:30.

8:30 I do my workout while watching the Daily Show. When that’s over, I surf the internet between biceps curls and squats.

9:30 I’m frakking starving, so I sit down to eat and read the paper. I get annoyed with the news and turn to Dear Abby and Ask Carolyn. I become saddened by the state of our world. I read Dilbert and get a little laugh. Then I pull out a novel to read while I finish my cereal.

10:15 The morning is half way over and I’ve accomplished nothing. I berate myself and rush to the shower.

10:45 I slip into yoga pants, an old T-shirt, and slippers. My hair begins to dry into a frizzy mess of a mane that would barely be fashionable in 1973.

11:00 I sit down at my desk and realize it’s an absolute disaster zone. I clean my desk. Which means rearranging all the piles into differently sorted piles. I sort my pen container.

11:30 It’s almost lunch time, so I might as well go online and check the industry blogs. I go online and check my email. Then I go to Facebook. Then all the world fades away and I am sucked into an internet vortex of information, bright colors, videos of kittens playing and fat men dancing, advice on the best toenail polish for your skin tone. I come to and realize I’m reading about how Paris Hilton chose the name for her dog. What’s happening to me? Where am I? It’s 1:00.

1:00 I eat quickly, because now I’m really behind. The crap food I eat instantly gives me heartburn.

1:30 I stare at either my computer screen or a blank page for 20 minutes. Then I remember that the ridges on the doorframes have not been dusted in I don’t know how long. It’s horrifyingly unclean, and I must clean them today. I do this.

2:00 I briefly consider going for a walk, but instead I take a nap on the couch.

2:30 I wake up. I decide I need a change of scenery. I walk to the coffee shop 50 yards from my front door. I ask for a mocha – not too chocolately, please! Only one little scoop! The barista glares at me and gives me an extra chocolately mocha. I sit down with my notebook and ponder whether perhaps he doesn’t like me because of my frizzy hair. I drink part of the mocha and throw the rest out. I go home and take a couple of Tums.

2:45 I examine my hair in the mirror. It’s embarrassingly frizzy. I try some product in it, then try pinning it up a few different ways. It ends up in a ponytail. I realize I’m avoiding writing.

3:00 I sit down with a blank notebook, thoroughly disgusted with myself. I manage to write half a page before I decide that my idea blows. I decide I must look up a better word for “strolled,” so I go online. I have more email. And someone on Facebook commented on someone else’s photo.

4:00 I extract myself from the internet and write another half a page, and it’s worse than pulling teeth. It’s pulling out my toenails with my teeth.

4:30 I spend a bit of time coming up with status updates for my Facebook page. I play with the wording a bit.

5:00 I consider quitting, because clearly the day is a bust. But then I decide I must write more. I stare at a blank page for thirty minutes.

5:30 I start on dinner and spend the evening irritable. I resolve to do better next time.