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 For me, the fact that I am, as of yet, unpublished, makes calling myself a writer feel so trite, verging on pathetic.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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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…

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! October 4, 2011

I’m ripping up my YA novel and starting over. Well, not completely. The main characters and the main story line (a first love story) will remain intact. At least, that’s the plan for now. The setting, however, is getting a makeover, French Riviera style.

That’s right. France!

The original form of FIRST TIMES AND SECOND CHANCES spilled from my pen when I was thirteen. I spent a couple years working on the story, typing it up on my Grandmother’s word processor and printing it out on her dot matrix printer (yikes – that makes me feel old!). It took place at a summer camp, and I’ve never changed that setting.

Over the past couple years, I’ve reworked this story several times, keeping the bones (which were surprisingly good, I have to say) but updating and maturing the story, adding more plot, more tension, more character development. I kept the original setting because it seemed to work – I needed a place where a bunch of teens who didn’t know each other would be together all hours of the day and night for a stretch of time. Still, the summer camp setting never sat well with me. It targets a younger audience; 15 and 16 year olds just don’t tend to go to summer camp. As much as I love the story, I finally had to admit to myself: the setting is getting in the way of selling this book.

Then, it hit me. I love France. I’ve spent a ton of time there. I’ve enrolled in two language immersion programs. The one I did in Antibes had: (ta da!) a program for teens! Teens, spending the summer together with a bunch of strangers, living together in youth hostels, having activities organized for them, and taking French classes together! THIS IS IT! This works! I know this. I can write this. I can have a fantastic time with this.

So Jenni, grab your French/English dictionary, your bikini, and get a passport. You are going to Antibes, France, on the Cote d’Azur, and we’re going to have some fun!

 

 

Progress Update June 12, 2011

Filed under: Books,Projects,Writing,Writing World,Young Adult — A French American Life @ 10:18 am
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I am SO CLOSE to being ready to send my YA novel out on submission! I’ve learned the hard way not to query too early, so it’s possible I’m being overly cautious now. I’m getting excited though. I feel so differently about this book compared to how I felt about my last novel. I enjoyed CHEATER; I love the idea, the characters were so fun to write, and I had a fabulous time creating that world. Yet with CHEATER, as much affection as I still have for it, there was always a nagging doubt in my mind. I thought it was good, but not great. So about a year ago, I put it away. I hope to revisit it someday; maybe then I’ll know how to fix it.

I don’t regret the time I spent on CHEATER one bit. I learned so much about writing, crafting a novel, the publishing world. It gave me the confidence and skill to try again. I tried something completely different (CHEATER was an urban fantasy) and began a love affair with YA. I discovered Jenni, the main character in FIRST TIMES AND SECOND CHANCES, and I feel like I could write about her forever. I love being in her head, in her world. And this book has something crucial that CHEATER was missing: Voice. A voice I’m proud of. A character who drives the novel. I’ve found my stride with this book, and I feel like my writing is on the right track.

I’ve updated the Bookshelf page with a synopsis of FIRST TIMES AND SECOND CHANCES. Fingers and toes are crossed!

 

 Latest Read:  UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand

Just finished this book. One of the best books I’ve ever read. Ever.