How Finding Your Place In The World Makes You A Better Writer

How Finding Your Own Peace Makes You a Better Writer

I met a woman recently who personifies everything I want to be when I grow up.

She was effortless. Do you know how hard that is? From her clothes to her hair to her demeanor to her sense of humor, everything she did and said was… effortless. 

Blew. My. Mind.

I mean, I read her, so I know she’s awesome simply through her words, and I will admit, way back when, my debut year, I fan-girled all over her, then gave her my card — why, I’m not sure. Did I think she was going to email me and we’d meet up for drinks? That we’d start exchanging letters or manuscript pages? I have no earthly idea why I did it other than sensing peace emanating from her like a fine perfume, and it attracted me. 

Can we bottle peace as a pheromone? Hmm…

Anyway, as a woman who is now solidly into middle-age, seeing someone so settled within her skin gives me hope. Too often, I still find myself mired in the typical female worries: What will they think of me if I I wear my hair up instead of down; my stomach is bulgy in those pants; oh my God did I actually just SAY that? 

I’m mellowing with age, truly, I am, but I still have a lot of what we now so glumly call social anxiety. Happily, though, I care less about the aspects I have no control over — fitting in, getting people to like me, concern about what people think of me as a person. Obviously I worry about what people think of my work, but not so much about whether they think that I am cool.

My friends think I’m a decent person. My cats think I hung the moon. My husband still digs me. My parents don’t stay up late into the night worrying if I’m going to amount to anything. I have a career I love, a car that’s paid for, and comfortable shoes that look snazzy. I’m not the most stylish creature, but I can pull off a red lip like a champ, and I know what clothes work for my body. I drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep.

Really, can a girl ask for more? 

Well, yes. When you’re settled in who you are, when you have your own point of view of the world, your work will automatically be stronger. Something to aspire to, for sure.  

Have you ever met one of your inspirations? Did you talk to them about how they’ve changed you?

P.S. I apologize for the comment confusion some of you have had. You only have to leave your name to comment. Adding your email address and URL is optional. You can also comment as “Guest.”

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 6.18.17

Hi, chickens, welcome to Sunday. Happy Father's Day to my Daddy, and my friends who are dads, and you, too! If you didn't know, Father's Day originated as a day of remembrance for fathers who were gone. I'm so thankful I have mine to celebrate with.

What a week it has been, a hard one, a sobering one. The attack in Washington, intensive work, and a bevy of life's little things that need my attention have drained me physically and emotionally. Time and again, I have gone back to the words of my friend, Rev. Katie Ladd, who shared how to begin to cope with tragedy and grief, and how we work for a better world after. Her words are still bringing me comfort and love in this hard week. I hope you find some light in them, too.

Here are a few other things that happened on the Internets this week:

BookExpo: Females as Strong as Hell Edition. Thank you, BookRiot, for rounding up the books with strong heroines we need to look for soon. We need more badass heroines, in fiction and real life.

2017 Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year: Nashville Public Library, TN. From sports to books to libraries, Nashville rules. Yay, NPL!

James Michener’s Nomadic Pursuit of Depth. Author of DEEP WORK (one of my favorite books ), Cal Newport, profiles the author's great lengths to pursue his art. "If you want to produce big things, you need to be willing to go big with your work habits." So true.

How Deep Work Can Change Your Life Forever: 3 Strategies to Overcome the Distractions. Speaking of Deep Work, productivity and publishing guru Michael Hyatt is a fan of Cal Newport, too. This is why.

Pain, satin and paper towels: What it takes for ballerinas to dance on their toes. It is amazing to see the lengths people will go, the sacrifices they will make, in pursuit of their art. Ballerinas sacrifice so much. Talk about true grit.

7 Books to Devour on a Plane. A fabulous reading list for your summer travel.

And closer to home:

Review: Lie to Me. I've seen reviews of LIE TO ME begin to trickle in, and I'm so pleased to find readers are enjoying it! I particularly enjoyed this review from Stacy Camp. Thank you, Stacy! (PS click here to read the first three chapters of LIE TO ME!)

That's it from me, y'all. I hope you have a great week, drink plenty of water, pick some flowers for your Dad or a friend, and we'll talk again soon.


I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

I rarely find myself at a loss for words. I am a writer, for heaven’s sake, words are my business. 

But since Saturday, I’ve been utterly speechless. 

I’m sure you’ve seen the posts on my social media feeds that A WORD ON WORDS won an EMMY Saturday night. Yes, a real EMMY, the gorgeous golden statue kind. It’s heavy. I choked up. Everyone involved was thrilled and excited and we all went for tacos afterward. Because #blacktietacos needs to be a thing. 

Truth is, I’m having trouble putting in to words the scope of this honor. My brilliant cohost, Mary Laura Philpott, had no such issue: 

ML's post said it all. My producer, Linda Wei, was eloquent in her acceptance. Our station’s president and CEO, the indomitable Beth Curley, who has more of these than we can count, made my night complete with tales of her past. Matt Emigh and Will Pedigo were more excited for us than themselves. Randy and Amy giggled and took pictures and otherwise made the table merry.

It was, in a word, perfect.

And I nearly missed it, because I almost said no when they asked me to host the show. I had a thousand reasons why—deadlines and commitments at the forefront, but in truth, it was because I was scared. Of the camera. Of the idea of being on television. Of putting myself out there in such a permanent way.

And if I had let my fear get the better of me, if I had stupidly declined, I wouldn’t have had this incredible experience Saturday night.

I think the reason I’m having trouble talking about it is because it’s made me sit back and reevaluate how I approach the world. How I want to interact with the people around me, and the issues we’re all facing.

Saturday, there was a little march you might have heard of. Many, many women that I know and love and respect got out there, and the pictures made me smile. Instead of braving the crowds, I spent the day developing a new character: a super strong, super capable woman who doubts herself, but ultimately becomes the hero we all need. 

You’ll hear about her soon, I hope, but trust me when I say she kicks serious ass, and is a lady whilst doing it. I wrote 4000 words Saturday. I felt her come to life under my fingers and in my mind.

And then I put on a gorgeous dress, did my hair, and went to an awards ceremony. (Yes, this is my life. I am overly blessed, and don’t think I don’t know it.) 

It isn’t lost on me that the Emmy statuette is female. I admit to doing a bit of research Sunday, and was fascinated by its provenance. From the EMMY website:

The statuette of a winged woman holding an atom has since become the symbol of the Television Academy's goal of supporting and uplifting the arts and science of television: The wings represent the muse of art; the atom the electron of science. 

Note the words: The muse of art.

You know how much I believe in the muse. I honor mine in as many ways as I can so she and I can work together regularly, not get on each other’s nerves, and find a lot of common ground even when we don’t agree. Love, and nagging, and nurturing, that’s how we keep each other happy and focused. Supporting, and uplifting.

Interesting, when you think of it. This is very much how my female friends and I interact. 

We all get access to and respect our muse in different ways. Whether through feet and signs, or through words printed on the page, or through a visual medium like television. 

A Word on Words is, to me, the ultimate celebration of the muse. Mary Laura and I are both authors, charged with interviewing incredible authors. To give you some perspective, five of our guests are on this year’s NBCC list. That’s a pretty high caliber of talent. 

But it’s more than that. This show has been on the air in Nashville for more than forty years. John Seigenthaler was its original host, and over the years that man interviewed hundreds, HUNDREDS, of incredible authors. I was beyond honored to be one of the many authors he interviewed (in case you didn’t already know, John was my first interview, ever.

When he passed, it looked like his literary tradition might pass with him, but through the tireless efforts of Beth and Linda, the kind funding of Judy and Steve Turner, and the support of our Nashville Public Television team, the show was reborn. A phoenix from the ashes, we came back to life as what’s called an “Interstitial” which is a short snippet that airs post- or pre- a regularly scheduled show. 

I LOVE this definition I found. 

Interstitial art: any work of art whose basic nature falls between, rather than within, the familiar boundaries of accepted genres or media.

We fall between the boundaries of accepted genres, not within… 

It made me think about the four of us, the two hosts, the producer, the station lead. Women, all.

My cohost is a comedian, an artist, and a brilliant essayist. My producer was already an EMMY-award winner prior to this, known for another Nashville show, ARTS Break, and is wicked smart and very creative. The station President is a reformed English major who is a dynamic leader and tireless believer in the importance of public television. And then there’s me, the thriller author. 

I’d say all four of us fit this interstitial description well, that our talents fall between, not within, the boundaries of our chosen fields, and maybe, that allows us to transcend them a bit. It certainly felt like that on Saturday night, when I was standing on a stage in a gorgeous dress holding a gold statue.

There are so many people who make this show incredible. Matt and Will, who were up on stage with us, are our backbone. Susie and Paul and Jim and Sean, who work tirelessly behind the cameras on the shoots to make everything look so good. Amy, who helps me get to know our authors whom I haven’t read before, which helps the interviews go smoother. Ariel Lawhon, who did a lot behind the scenes to help me when we first started. Our whole NPT family, who loved John’s show and wanted to see it succeed in this format. The viewers, who have embraced us wholeheartedly, and keep asking for more. The authors we’ve had on as guests, who have been patient and kind and willing to laugh, and go on locations which have been creative, to say the least (jail, Margaret Atwood?). The city of Nashville, and all the sites where we’ve filmed, for allowing us to invade their worlds for half a day. Our booksellers and literary community, who have tirelessly worked to help us promote the show. Our sponsors, who sit quietly but powerfully in the background.

We share this celebration of the muse with all of you. 

And now, I really do have to thank the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for their acknowledgement of our efforts. It means a lot to me. 

I have no other words but these: Please, please, keep reading. It makes all the difference.