UCDSAN (Unrealized Characters Demanding Story Adventure Now)!

Idled story characters at the beach in Finland

Idled story characters at the beach in Finland

Some time ago, a boss was comparing me with my coworker as the three of us met in the boss’s office. Specifically, this boss was reacting to a complaint my coworker made about a work problem that the boss had not taken care of.

At the time, I thought that maybe my coworker had the right idea. That it was better to be the squeaky wheel. That even my boss, who was quite the squeaky wheel herself, would find me lacking in the gumption department. In fact, this particular boss had an energy for squeakiness that I found admirable, though wearing. She was a tiny spitfire of a woman with glinting eyes who had an admirable grasp of office politics and hidden powers of influence.

She could also be quite scary when things weren’t going her way.

“You need to be more like Susan,” the boss said to my coworker. “She does her research, presents me with the issue, then waits, patiently.” She smiled at me and my coworker slumped back in her chair, scolded. I know she meant this as a compliment. She was saying that in due time the issue would be dispatched, but trying to get things done faster, on one’s particular schedule, punctuated with much nagging, simply doesn’t help one’s case. She even may have suggested that she herself would be better off with a bit more of my patience.

I don’t know.

One of my best friends from high school signed my yearbook “To the calmest person I know.” I learned what this meant years later, long after we’d lost touch and then met for lunch near our workplaces. By then, she was a scary thin chain smoker, a not much recovered drug addict. She was quivering as if her body was a dragonfly wing, barely settled, as if even the most innocuous comment would send her flitting away. A calm personality might have saved her from some of her troubles, and when she looked at me, perhaps she saw in me what she lacked.

I don’t know. Here’s how impatience lives in this writer, who appears to be all patient and calm on the exterior.

 There are all of the little stories huddled inside of me, bored children demanding their next adventure. “What are we doing next?” they whine, these unborn characters from tales I have yet to tell.

“Hush,” I say. “Be patient.”

“Why?” They chorus.

“Any number of reasons. Isn’t it obvious?” (The dog is impatiently barking for attention, the sink is full of dirty dishes, and I’m getting over a recurrent bug, and, by the way, I have a day job? etc.).

And so they settle down, my little unborn story children and other story people who have been paused, mid-story, sometimes for several years.

Their patience with me will be rewarded at some point down the line, I say, just like my boss said, years back. But that was more for her own benefit, right? And my friend who wished she was someone other than who she was? They were both reflecting on what they saw as their own failings, dreaming in my character a strength they wished they possessed.

I don’t know.

I may be far too patient for my own good, writing-wise. Too accommodating to the demands of the real world.

I’m secretly hoping that a squeaky wheel amongst those hibernating story characters might stand up for all of us and make a fuss that it isn’t right for them to be lying about, un-imagined. Un-realized.

Maybe they will organize and spill themselves out of there and onto the page, an unstoppable force that no amount of real life or so-called patience can deny.

One, Two, Three – On The Way

 

Click the elephant. I dare you.

Now that life has settled down a bit from the whirlwind that was college selection, graduation, open house, and extremely overwhelming work days (nights, weekends, dreams, etc.), I wanted to tell you about a few, exciting, upcoming bookish things.

Not zero, not one, not even two, but YES, THREE  stories are being published this September:

(1) “Everlasting Light,” Talking Stick 23 (Jackpine Writers Bloc, 2014) – September 2014
(2) “Gift Wrapped,” 2015 Saint Paul Almanac – September 2014
(3) “Iced,” Festival of Crime Anthology, Nodin Press – September 2014

Unknown-1Here’s the cool cover for #3.  This well-crafted anthology has great advance praise.  The collection will be launched at our famous local bookstore, Once Upon a Crime, on Thursday, September 11 at 7 P.M. It will be available where fine mysteries are sold, but I hope local folks can make it over to OUAC where I’ll be signing along with the other story authors. Foreword by the ever fabulous, Erin Hart.

#2 events are yet to be scheduled, but I will totally be there for the launch party late summer, and plan on reading at one or more of their events.

#1 will be launched in Northern Minnesota. Not sure yet whether I will make that party, but the Jackpine Writers are known for throwing a great event and crafting a wonderful collection of writing by Minnesota writers.

While you are all eagerly anticipating these stories, go ahead and click on the elephant above, and read my story that appeared in a previous Saint Paul Almanac. Another appearance in the works for the Minnesota State Fair. I’ll get my events page updated soon!

 

What If Everyone Acted As If You Didn’t Exist?

tonerfacewebThat’s the premise of my novel-in-progress, Naming the Stars.

In Naming the Stars, 16-year-old Mary-Louise comes home from swimming lessons one day to find she is absent from family photographs, her bedroom has turned into a linen closet, and all of her possessions have disappeared. More troubling, her family goes on as if she never existed. The only person in town who can actually see her is a boy she calls Fish, a YMCA swimming instructor, but Fish is hiding from a troubled past and the person he sees is entirely different from who she thought she was.

What if everyone acted as if you didn’t exist?

With dreamlike realism and with a dash of cosmology, this coming-of-age story explores the important and often fragile connection between the roles we play in others’ lives—as siblings, children, friends, and partners—and the unique identity we must find in ourselves.

Coming someday soon (I HOPE!) to book places everywhere.

The Great Disconnect

IMG_1359This morning, I head off for one week of solitude at an inn with no television, no cell service, and no in-room telephone. This rare luxury coincides with the last week of my year as a McKnight Artist Fellow, and I’ll use it to revise the novel I wrote late last summer in San Francisco.

I’m grateful for the support of the McKnight Foundation in making this happen, but also to my husband who is going to be soloing at home (though he is also probably going to enjoy the rare luxury of time to devote to one of his hobbies – drumming), the coworkers who will pick up some duties at my full-time job, and to the company that provides me with vacation time, all of which allows me to basically do what the picture at right symbolizes.

My storyteller’s brain sees those bare tree branches stretching skyward and thinks they’re dreaming of buds, blossoms and leaves-the as yet unrealized possibility of spring.

In the north, where this winter is the longest we’ve had in ages, a day like yesterday (70’s, sunny, mild) isn’t taken for granted. It’s best to spend every moment you can outdoors, drinking up the sunshine and the fresh air. As it was Easter Sunday and this involved conversation and a meal with the extended family, it meant that time was spend indoors cooking and gathered round the table, and at a certain age, one is expected to behave like a mature adult and linger at the table, chatting, while the younger ones escape outdoors to play frisbee or flop on the grass.

So I felt a little awkward and guilty when I slipped away, and flopped down on the grass outside, a reasonable distance from the family teens,  who wouldn’t have liked their over 50 auntie/mom-type to bust in on their conversation.  I wouldn’t have minded if some of the older folks joined me out there, but they felt more comfortable inside.

I felt a little out of place, out there on the lawn by myself, but maybe it was that writer’s brain of mine at work-that took the risk of feeling guilty and out of place for the reward of  a few quiet moments to imagine what the bare tree branches might be dreaming about.

Now’s The Time

ImageHelp. Please. I’ve often been too shy to ask for your help in helping my own career as an author grow. But now I’m going to. Perhaps I should have asked more before. Well. I’m asking now. Here’s what has spurred me on.

It’s been a tough year for small businesses that are all about the book. I’ve seen two favorite local bookstores close in the past year. Another looks like it may be on its last legs. Yes, there are some bright spots, a few new stores opening, but they face an uphill battle.

Worst of all now, my publisher is facing hard times, having laid off most of the staff (including family members). A skeleton crew is keeping things running for now, but who knows what the future holds. If the worst happens, my books might go out of print.

Here’s my call to action.

If you’ve thought about buying local bookish things, consider a North Star book. Plenty are available from the company’s website, but they aren’t shy about you ordering or buying from wherever you like to get your book fix.

If you like mysteries and like Minnesota, then why not give one (or all) of my books a try. Like to keep your local bookstore thriving? Ask them to order my books for you. Prefer the big online websites? Go for it! Already have my books and like them? Buy some for gifts. Can’t afford to buy and prefer to get books from your library? Ask your library to buy the books. Prefer ebooks? Go for it, they count!

I thank you.  North Star thanks you.

Guest Post: Susan Koefod

Susan Koefod:

It’s ok to just walk away from your writing. In fact, more than ok!

Originally posted on Mysteristas:

Giving It a Rest

One of the hardest parts about being a writer, at least for me, is not the actual process of getting down to the business of writing. Though of course much can get in the way of writing. For me, those obstacles include a full-time job, children, a husband –- you know –- real life!

I’ve been blessed with a supportive husband who patiently lets me hide out and write when I like. My kids are in their late teens and creating on their own. And my job, well, that continues but I’m thankful I have it.

And I’ve been fortunate enough to never have writer’s block. I can pretty much always come up with something –- flash fiction, poetry, a piece of a novel –- when I set out to do some writing. In fact, I can put out a lot of words. During a two-week…

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Zelda, F.Scott, and me

IMG_0153F. Scott Fitzgerald  and his wife, Zelda, frequented the University Club in St. Paul in the early days of their marriage, and I’m delighted to get to channel their roaring 20’s literary spirit by being one of the guest mystery authors at the October 15 “Reading by Writers” event, sponsored by Public Art Saint Paul/Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk and hosted by Saint Paul’s first poet laureate, Carol Connolly.

I’ve often attended the monthly readings, which “officially” begin at 7:30 P.M., though they “unofficially” kick off at the wonderful University Club bar, where a person can hang out with other famous (you know who you are!) local writers and notable attendees before the readings begin.

I’m so honored to have been invited by Carol Connolly to read, and hope to see friends there too! Other events – readings and signings – are found on my Events page, which is regularly updated.