Carol Callicotte

Author

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 So I exist in this space, in good company with others who write regularly and passionately but remain unpublished, where I hesitate to talk too much about my writing, lest I subject myself to the glazed over look or worse, the eye rolls, that often follow the words, “I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.

 

 

 

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Update on First Times and Second Chances March 9, 2018

Filed under: Books,Writing,Young Adult — A French American Life @ 3:30 pm
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Major reconstruction: completed.

First Times and Second Chances began as a novel about a fifteen–year-old girl who goes to a summer camp. I first wrote it when I was 14 or 15. It was, in some ways, my fantasy of a summer of freedom and a gorgeous boy who found me irresistible. The camp I created was devoid of structure or adult supervision and was completely unrealistic. Still the bones were good.

About nine years ago I began rewriting it as an adventure camp for teens: more structure, more realistic – but still, it didn’t work. The setting was too … blah. The execution too… pedestrian.

Seven years ago I had an epiphany: I love France. I know France. I speak French. I have a unique skill set and the experience of attending not one but two French immersion programs in France. Why not change the setting? Et voila, I decided to send Jenni to Antibes.

Thus began a third major overhaul of this book. One that involved killing so many darlings. Beloved characters – excised. Plot developments, dialogue exchanges, and scenes I once was once married to ending in divorce. I tore apart my book. Scene by scene. Paragraph by paragraph. Word by word. The essence and the main plot line remained, but everything else was reborn as something new.

I’ve been buried in my latest draft since September, when I committed to writing at least an hour each day. I threw myself, heart and soul, into finding Jenni’s story. I needed it, too. These last few years, I’ve desperately needed an escape; a beach read that allowed me to escape reality.

I wrote. I rewrote. I analyzed on a macro-level: Does each scene move the plot forward? Does my main character change? Does she have a goal in each scene? Does the tension rise? Does it all make sense? I analyzed on a micro-level: searching for words and phrases I tend to use as crutches or that might be my own idiosyncrasies that would annoy my readers.

And now – I have a book. A book I’m excited about. A book an agent might be (fingers and toes crossed) excited about.

Next steps: Probably another revision – hopefully not a huge one. Then – let the agent search begin!

 

 

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!