Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘finding time to write’ Category

Write-A-Thon Presents Fresh Approach to the Familiar

As mentioned in earlier posts, I’m proceeding with Write-A-Thon–Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander. I’m trying out this method to jump-start my nonfiction project on the subjects of mastectomy and reconstruction. The first part of the book involves “training” and includes lots of reading (underlining and highlighting), writing exercises (consolidated in the recommended dedicated journal), and preliminary organization (I’m not there yet). The second half of the book launches the 26-day write-a-thon and guides the writer through the entire process. My goal is to be at that launch point by November 1.

So far, the training portion has been more compelling than I expected. For example, one of the early writing exercises sounds familiar, on the surface, to all of us: “Write down where you envision yourself being in five years?” How many times have we heard this technique throughout high school, college, technical training classes, job interviews, etc., almost to the point of being a cliche? So, at first, I wasn’t too impressed, nor was I eager to answer the question yet again (especially given the fact that I’m currently going through chemo and am focused, at the moment, at much earlier target dates, such as losing my hair this week and my final chemo treatment next February). As I read further, however, my attitude began to change, largely due to the imaginative twist Melander applied to the question, making the exercise specifically relative to writers:

“Imagine yourself five years from now. Everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your writing goals. Write about your accomplishments–what degrees you have earned, what articles and books you have written, what talk shows you have appeared on, the awards you have won. Write about your daily writing practice. What does it look like? Where and when do you write? How much are you able to accomplish each day? Envision your writing community–who do you connect with, who buys your books, who reviews them, who is interested in the ideas you are sharing and the stories you are telling? Write about anything else that is relevant: where you live, what other work you do, or how your day unfolds in addition to the writing. Use as much sensory detail as possible.”

WellI really liked the part about everything going “as well as it possibly could” over the five-year period. 🙂 Sort of started me off in an exceptionally happy mood. But the big surprise showed up when I started answering all of the individual sub-questions. Apparently, my subconscious must have been working on some of this stuff during the years I’ve spent writing and publishing two novels because I had no problem identifying immediately where I would be in five years, complete with all of the surrounding details. According to me, by then I will have written three additional novels plus three nonfiction books. Some of them will have been self-published and some will have been picked up by mainstream houses. My talk show appearances, which I was totally making up in my imagination, were of particular interest to me. Surprisingly, I did not have myself on Oprah but instead logged appearances on all of the national morning shows, in addition to local affiliates. And, with five novels and four nonfiction books under my belt at that point, I wrote that my very first novel–The Truth about Cinnamon–was “the one garnering the most attention” five years out. Interesting

Keep in mind that my writing in the prescribed journal just poured out of me, without the slightest hesitation or pause to think things over. And, as I wrote, I didn’t feel as if I were projecting into the future. Instead, the words felt more like reality being captured, making the exercise fascinating on one hand and hysterically funny on the other.

The instructions recommend repeating the journal entries a total of four times over a week’s period of time, with each round focusing on a slightly different visual of the situation in five years. Three examples of the variances include:

  • Write book jacket copy about yourself.
  • Write an acceptance speech for a major literary award.
  • Write an introduction for yourself and tell what sort of an event it is for.

I haven’t completed all four entries yet. But one thing I have learned is that my speaking engagements will have become a really big deal and a major source of revenue for me by then. That will certainly be something to look forward to! 🙂

Even if you’re not interested in trying to write a book in 26 days, I highly recommend going through this exercise for every aspiring author (or even authors who’ve already experienced some level of publishing success). All of the details–and I mean down to the tiniest morsel–of what I want to do, where I want to be, and what I want my life to look like in five years are now being captured in this unique journal. And since I believe in the maxim that “luck is where preparation meets opportunity,” I’ll be all set in the preparation category, if I accomplish even half of what I’ve written down! So, when the opportunity shows up, the journal will be transformed into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yay!

Meanwhile … back to reality … the launch of my 26-day write-a-thon (for the third of nine books I’m supposed to have written in five years) is now only seven days away. Guess I’d been get my head out of that journal and the future, and back to work instead! Will definitely keep you posted on my progress.

Chemo/Hair Update

Last Saturday, I managed to attend a wedding with all of my own hair. There wasn’t even a large of amount of thinning evident at that point, and I was beginning to imagine that I would be the lone exception out of millions who would get through this process without becoming bald. However … I was told that the hair loss would happen during the first cycle–and now that I’m on day 13 (of 21) in that cycle, the thinning is increasing on a dramatic scale each day. My suspicion is that I will be calling my hair salon for the buzz cut appointment before this week is over.

Although I realize that I’m at the front end of this chemotherapy process–with plenty of side effect surprises undoubtedly ahead of me between now and February 2012–I’m doing remarkably well to-date. There was a sunburn-like flush on my chest, neck, and face from days 2-4, and I experienced a lot of dizziness (no blonde jokes, please) and fatigue for about a week. But other than that, I’ve been surprised by the absence of issues. The one exception to that has been the unrelenting trauma associated with the prospect of losing my hair. And I’m honestly beginning to believe that, once the hair is gone (and I’m able to open my eyes when looking in a mirror), I will be over the biggest hump of this whole eighteen-week thing. Anticipating the “event” is consuming an unbelievable amount of energy and focus, an irritating distraction that may very well accelerate my decision about when to finally face the music.

As I told you in an earlier post, I had originally scheduled myself to have my hair buzzed off on Saturday, October 15. But I chickened out and opted instead to just have my two new wigs cut and styled. Now I’m really glad that I was such a wimp, and I’m hoping this confession will be helpful to any women who might be a little earlier in the process than I am when they stumble upon this blog. Lots of people will suggest that you take a proactive approach and have your hair taken off before the follicles starting withering away and the strands start coming out in your hands as you brush or in the shower. Others will suggest that you wait, letting the process unfold gradually. One way or another–if you’re on a drug protocol that results in hair loss–your hair will be gone within three weeks of your first treatment anyway. So, how you decide to handle the difficult situation will depend on lots of personal variables.

For me, waiting has proven to be the right decision. So was the decision to get those wigs in advance and have them cut and styled to match me. As I brushed my hair this morning (I have a lot of long and thick but fine hair), watching my scalp become increasingly visible, I was comforted as I looked at those wigs on my vanity. I realize now that I’m going to look a lot better once I start wearing them than I’m going to by tomorrow (probably), as my disappearing hair makes me look older and less vibrant each day. With a wig on–one that’s been chosen to make me look like myself–I will, in fact, look just like myself. What a concept! So … to other women in the same situation … decide on whichever approach feels most comfortable to you (recognizing that no approach will really feel comfortable as you anticipate your first view of yourself with a bald head)–but do have other hair options ready to go right at the beginning of your chemo. I have the two wigs, and I have also ordered two items called “halos,” which are hair pieces on sort of headbands that stick out when you wear hats, softening your face and the unmistakable look of no hair, regardless of what kind of hat you’re wearing. Knowing that those hair options are there for me is going to make the trip to my salon this week a lot easier–although I’m guessing that won’t be the best day of my life, no matter what I do to prepare.

Attached is a photo I took of myself yesterday. You won’t notice the thinning, but that was the day the loss first became really obvious to me. So, I decided to capture the moment. You probably won’t ever see my bald head (although maybe I’ll become more courageous as time goes on). But I will definitely post a picture of me in my new hair on whichever upcoming day turns out to be Buzz-Day for me.

In the interim, as I said earlier in this post, I need to get back to work! Hope you’re all having a great week!

Cheri's Lingering Hair on October 24, 2011

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

First let me tell you that I’m writing this post on my iPad, one of my least favorite things to do on this otherwise magical box. But when I returned home at eight o’clock tonight from this first marathon chemo day, there wasn’t any Internet connectivity in my apartment. My wireless connection is working fine, but I can’t get online. Too tired to try further diagnostics, especially after experiencing connections problems today at Sloan-Kettering in the “Chemotherapy Suite,” I decided to use the iPad.

The reasons I don’t like to do blog posts on my iPad begin with the popup keyboard, which is not designed for any sort of power typing. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who learned touch typing in school and who now feels a bit grumpy at being forced to use two fingers on the iPad keyboard. But this isn’t the only problem for me with respect to my blog posts. I like to put phrases in Bold to help blog readers skim the key elements of the post, and I also like to use Italics for emphasis. I’m sure there’s some way to do those things with the iPad, but I don’t know how yet because I assiduously avoid using the iPad for blogging–except on days like today when I promised a post and have no other equipment choice. (Thank goodness for 3G!)

At any rate … Today was long but incredibly uneventful. And given the history of the past seventeen months, “uneventful” was a happy surprise. My daughter and I arrived at Sloan-Kettering a little before eleven o’clock this morning (Thursday the 13th), and she brought me home at 8:00 tonight. The first three hours involved a mixture of tasks–vital signs, a lengthy consultation with my oncologist, then the IV insertion, which took place after Melissa and I had been led into my “private room,” an upscale and well-appointed version of a room in an ER.

The first thing that was delivered through the IV was a 15-minute infusion of Benadryl. This was on top of the five steroid pills I had to take on Wednesday night and the other five I took at 11:15 this morning. This is all designed to avoid, as much as possible, any chance of an allergic reaction to the chemo drugs.

The next infusion was a 45-minute bag of an anti-nausea drug, which was on top of the anti-nausea pill I took at 9:30 this morning. The purpose for all of that is self-explanatory and also deeply appreciated!

Bags of saline were periodically dripping through a separate tube throughout this whole preparatory process.

Once the preliminary infusions were complete, the first chemo drug (called carboplatin) was started. This is the drug that attacks and obliterates the DNA in any lingering cancer cells, and the infusion is very slow, over almost four hours. For the first hour of that drip, I was still a bit stupid and slurry from the Benadryl. But as those effects wore off, I was able to enjoy the lunch that Melissa and I ordered for delivery. We didn’t eat until almost four o’clock, and now we know that, in the future, we need to order when we first get into the chemo suite. (Novelists learn lessons similar to this as well when they do things like introduce a new character well into the story, only to realize that the rest of the entire book–and possibly some of the earlier chapters as well–needs to be reworked or even rewritten to accommodate the new character.)

Finally, about six o’clock, the carboplatin bag was empty. But before I could start the second chemo drug called taxol, which basically destroys the tubular structures within each lingering cancer cell–a structure that facilitates the cells’ uncontrollable, unchecked division and reproduction–I had to take three more steroid pills that guard further against allergic reactions. The taxol renders the cancer cells’ internal structure totally broken, destroyed, and useless–forever. And the infusion is very fast–six times faster than the carboplatin! The entire bag was empty in half an hour.

Then one nurse gave me a bunch of instructions for stuff to do at home, along with filled prescriptions for additional nausea pills. This nausea thing used to be a really big problem for chemo patients, so the medical community has worked incredibly hard to come up with solutions. And, so far, I feel great. But I also know what to do if I feel something unpleasant start up. Well, here’s the surprise lesson for the day: This is not a nausea caused by a flu bug or something, when eating is the last thing you’d want to do. Chemo nausea is caused by drugs. Consequently, eating a small amount of anything is supposed to make you feel better right away. If you don’t, you have pills at hand to help making riding the wave tolerable. This appears to be one of the greatest advances that helps chemo patients sustain their normal quality of life as much as possible during treatment. And, so far, I’m feeling great.

Another nurse then removed my IV (which had been inserted almost painlessly, by the way, by yet a different nurse at the start of the process), and Melissa and I were free to leave, with our five bags full of electronics equipment, reading material, my 26-day Write-A-Thon project, scarves, coats, etc. (Honestly, we looked like we were planning to stay until Sunday!) We walked the five short New York City blocks to the parking garage, and thanks to a small volume of fast-moving traffic, we were across the bridge at my place in New Jersey within half an hour.

Not much work was accomplished, I’m afraid, on my 26-day book project, although I think I remember trying to open the instruction book and operate a yellow push-button highlighter during my several goofy Benadryl hours. But now that I know the drill, I’ll be able to plan more effectively for the time that’s actually available during the five remaining 7+hour chemo stays.

AOver the next three weeks, I will learn how the cycle of the two chemo drugs will work on my body (and mind), and how I’m going to feel at the different stages within the three following the initial infusion. For example, there could be some leg aches and pains during days 4-6. Or there could be nothing. But if there is something, I have pills for that too. Then, in three weeks, I’ll return to Sloan on Thursday, November 3, for the second of six iinfusion marathon days.

By then, most of the unknowns that can be so scary will have be revealed. My current hair will be gon,e and the new variety will be rotated on my head, depending on my mood. Finally, the official start of my 26-Write-A-Thon will be at least three days behind me–and I’d sure better be hard at work.

Once again, the publishing and writing journeys are merging here, and all things imaginable remain possible. Writers and cancer patients must never stop believing in that imagination! We’ve all heard the saying paraphrased here, which invites us to believe that, if we can vividly visualize something happening, we can actually make that something happen. Plenty of hard work is required, though, because dreaming is the easy part.

Ah, but how sweet and magical are those dreams that inspire us, that light the fires beneath our passions, that carry us forward over and over again to publishing success–to cancer survival! And I’m here to report to new cancer patients, who might be a few steps behind me in the process, that I believe you’ll find the first chemo day not to be anywhere near as frightening as you’ve imagined, while you watch as many of those scary unknowns begin to fall away! I’m also here to tell new writers, who are circling around the start of their first books, that once you plant yourselves in a chair, I believe that the words will indeed begin to flow out of you. And different sorts of unknowns will begin to reveal themselves at an ever-increasing level of enjoyment for each of you.

In my next post, I’ll fill you in on one of the writing exercises in my Write-A-Thon’s “training period.” The exercise was obviously designed for writers. But today, as I was hooked up to infusion tubes for almost five hours, I saw how valuable the steps would be for cancer patients as well. So, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful fall weekend!

Read Full Post »

Hi! Well, Saturday I had my big surgery at Sloan-Kettering for endometrial cancer–my third primary cancer in sixteen months. (Nope. No idea why this phenomenon is happening yet, but you can be sure this is going to turn into another book!)

At any rate, the surgery (a modified radical hysterectomy) was performed laproscopically using robots, and I was literally upside down for the entire six hours. My face, needless to say, was sort of swollen afterward, but I’m pretty much back to normal now. The technology and skill they used defies description!

Late this afternoon I’ll be going home already, and then I’ll start preparing for the chemotherapy portion of this journey. Much of my energy will be focused on my writing during that time, so there shouldn’t be any excuses for my not finishing a couple of books by spring.

Just wanted to keep you updated, as promised. More when I’m back in my home base.

All the best to each of you.

Cheri

Read Full Post »

Topics in This Post:

  • Separation of Faith Places Again!
  • Book Club Update
  • Book Club Promotion to Come Soon!
  • Long-Awaited Promotional Trip to Kettle Falls Just Three Weeks Away!
  • Fascinating and Helpful Tips from Bestselling Author Harlan Coben
  • Photo Gallery of Happy Bookers Book Club Meeting in Atlanta on April 19, 2011

Separation of Faith Places Again!

Yesterday I learned that Separation of Faith has placed in yet another contest! Yay! This time the award is an Honorable Mention in the San Francisco Book Festival competition! Last month the novel was runner up to the grand prize winner in the Los Angeles DIY Book Festival and, shortly before that, the novel made the first cut in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award.

There are definitely elements of Separation of Faith that make the book/story contest-worthy (one of those elements being the extraordinary editorial quality, thanks to the amazing professional editors who worked so hard with me toward that important objective). Still, a first place contest award continues to elude the novel. Nonetheless, I remain both grateful for the wonderful things that are happening and unendingly hopeful about what I believe awaits on the path ahead. There are ten (I think) contests still in process, and I will, of course, post updates as soon as they come in.

Meanwhile, I’m giving myself permission to celebrate for a minute or two. 🙂

Book Club Update

At the end of this post is a complete photo album that captures the incredible visit I had with the Happy Bookers Book Club in Atlanta three weeks ago. The memories of that trip remain tantalizing for me as they linger. In addition to viewing the photo album, you are invited to read the comments posted by those amazing women following our meeting and my subsequent post on April 19 (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/atlanta-book-club-event-was-today/.

In preparation for that book club event, I shipped to Atlanta a box full of material collected and developed during my research for Separation of Faith. The items included photos taken while I was in Kettle Falls, Washington (a primary location in the novel), as well as my notes, outlines, sketches of period fashions in the 1940s, and so forth. These are the sorts of things that have become interesting to readers who have finished the book, because I don’t have to worry about giving away any of the story’s secrets and surprises.

The photos that show all of us gathered around the table looking at “stuff” are capturing the moments after our wonderful lunch. Book club members were seeing the research material for the first time. Many thanks to Lynn Henderson, her great camera and photography skills, and other book club members who picked up the camera to make sure Lynn was in some of the pictures!

Book Club Promotion to Come Soon!

As we speak, I’m in the process of moving (house and office). Although I’ve said this many times before, I’m fully committed to never relocating again … ever! The move will be competed by this time next week. In fact, one week from today, I will wake up in my new place. Hurray!

One of the top priorities when I start working in my new home office on May 21 will be the announcement of my book club promotion! Details are still being finalized, but in short, the promotion will offer the opportunity for book club members and me to actually meet one another, as we did in Atlanta. So, if you belong to a book club, I will have news for you very soon!

In advance, I encourage you to read the Happy Bookers’ comments following our April 19 meeting and my blog post that night (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/atlanta-book-club-event-was-today/). I will be happy to arrange a connection between your book club and theirs, if you’re interested in learning more about their reactions to Separation of Faith. You’re welcome to email me directly at claser58@gmail.com.

Long-Awaited Promotional Trip to Kettle Falls Just Three Weeks Away!

As mentioned previously in this and earlier blog posts, Kettle Falls, Washington is a primary setting in Separation of Faith. (How that came to be, since I live in New Jersey, is a great book club story!) 🙂 In addition, the novel has been endorsed by a former Miss America (Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1992), an amazing and incredibly impressive woman who grew up in Kettle Falls.

Each year (for the past 75 years), Kettle Falls hosts a huge festival during the first weekend in June called “Town & Country Days.” The event draws people from the widespread Spokane area and is a great source of pride for the residents of Kettle Falls. Sothis year the festival will feature a book for the very first time (to the best of local historians’ recollections)–and that book is Separation of Faith!

My dearest friend Elaine (since my 41-year-old daughter was a 2-year-old toddler) will fly up from San Francisco on June 1 and meet me in Spokane (after I fly in from New Jersey). We will rent a car and make the 90-minute drive to Kettle Falls. June 2 will be a touring-around day that will include visits to independent booksellers, and then the festival will run from June 3-5.

Elaine and I–and 200 copies of Separation of Faith, along with T-shirts, book bags, etc.–will be in a booth that is already being featured in the Kettle Falls local area press coverage. And on Saturday afternoon (the 4th), Separation of Faith (and I) will be on the entertainment program that follows the parade.

All of the festival’s committee members, as well as the local reporters, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of speaking, sound as excited as I am that this too-fun-for-words event is actually coming together. I will be blogging live from the day Elaine and I arrive in Kettle Falls (on June 1) until the festival is over on June 5. Photos, and hopefully video, will be part of the posts.

So … stay tuned for a little slice of the dream to be realized!

Fascinating and Helpful Tips from Bestselling Author Harlan Coben

On April 26, Jessica Strawser, of Writer’s Digest, published an article about, and an interview with, bestselling author Harlan Coben. Mr. Coben has become a contemporary master of the hook-and-twist novel, and his latest work–Live Wire–became available yesterday (May 12).

Since my novels always contain a plot twist that no one sees coming, I was immediately drawn to Strawser’s article and interview (http://www.writersdigest.com/article/harlan-coben-shares-novel-twist-tips/), especially since I’m currently trying to figure out what that twist will be in my third novel. After reading Coben’s answers, this moved to the top of the pile of things I want to share with you.

Highlight points that really hit home for me (as I struggle along with each of you to travel the path to the Dream) include:

Coben: ” … Writing is one of the few activities where quantity will inevitably make quality. The more you write, the better you’re going to get at it.” (Me: This sort of dovetails into a quote I saw recently from thriller writer Barry Eisler–“The highest profit margin activity an author can engage in is writing.” If you’re someone like me who’s trying to promote a book, or books, while also writing another one, both the Coben and Eisler comments certainly help with priorities. Every time I find myself asking “what’s more important today?” I now fall back on these answers.)

Coben: “… it’s much more important that the character’s real than likable. Likable is not really as important as real.” (Me: This was a point made repeatedly by members of the Happy Bookers Book Club. They told me that the characters all became real to them, and they expressed very strong emotions about each “person” in the story, even those who were despicable because their “despicableness” came through as being highly believable.)

Coben: “… So there is usually a theme, and you do need that character that people care about … Otherwise, I could give you the greatest [plot] twist in the world, but if you don’t care about the characters, you’re not going to follow it.”

Coben: “… There are a lot of writers who would love to take my place. And I know that the only way that good things continue to happen for me is to write, to get your butt in the chair and to write.”

Coben: “… You can skip the TV show you’re watching, you can wake up an hour earlier, you can write during lunch–you always have time to write. If your life is so full of other things that you don’t have time to write, then writing isn’t a priority and you’re not a writer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but face that fact. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to write.”

Me: Got it! Guess I’d better get busy! 🙂

Please check out Jessica Strawser’s entire article for more of Coben’s fascinating perspective: (http://www.writersdigest.com/article/harlan-coben-shares-novel-twist-tips/)

Hope you’ve found something helpful and/or of interest in this post! And please take a moment to look at the Happy Bookers Book Club photos! Also, have an absolutely wonderful weekend! See you soon!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: