The pursuit of success
Bucking tradition, I don't set New Year's resolutions. I give several reasons for this, but the main one is that I don't want to.
I've always been defiant like that. I dance to a different drummer, oftentimes to music only I can hear. Of course, my children have long since noticed that, with the youngest relishing the information that authors tend to suffer a higher incidence of mental illness that the rest of the population.
Who said I suffered?
So, no resolutions at the frigid, dreary beginning of the year to set myself up for failure. I wait until spring.
But life during this short season moving from Christmas to Ordinary Time to Lent demands more than hibernation to pass the time until spring. So, I'll buckle down and write. And read. And ponder the wisdom of going my own way, writing mainly to please myself, and insisting upon retaining my voice and creativity in my own work.
Therein lies the struggle of most authors, especially fiction authors: the market influence. Writing for commercial success might actually result in commercial success, but it also lends itself to commonplace, mediocre prose forgotten as soon as the reader turns that last page. It's good for a momentary amusement, a distraction. It offers neither sustenance nor inspiration to the reader's mind.
I write fiction. My work offers entertainment, an escape from the humdrum drudgery of daily life for those who read it. I hope it is not forgotten.
I do not write for commercial success, although I certainly won't spurn it should it come my way. Indeed, commercial success serves as universal, socially acceptable validation. I write because, if I don't, my mind will explode. The expansion of the idea swells until it must find release.
My stories don't pursue commercial success; they pursue good storytelling. I want the memories of those stories to linger in readers' minds.
So, read my stories and let me know what you think.
Finding your place
I have long been a fan of child psychologist John Rosemond who espouse child-rearing advice based on "Grandma's" wisdom from before 1955. In recent years, that admiration has extended to Mike Rowe, a no-nonsense American actor whose very public support of the trades recognizes that not everyone is suited to a college education--and that society needs people in the trades as much (if not more) than white collar workers. I also read Jesse Martin, a professor who writes about the science of learning and his frequent assertions that university education is failing students. While you may not care about the overwhelming emphasis on sending kids to college, I have some thoughts on the matter.
Not all that long ago, my younger son struggled in school. He's a bright young man, but school just wasn't his "thing." When he was about 14, we had a frank discussion about expectations and his assumption that we, his parents, required him to go to college. I think we cleared that up, although I did emphasize that some post-high school education would be necessary regardless of what career he chose. He remained moody, volatile, and often and blatantly disrespectful.
Then he enlisted. When we traveled to San Antonio for his graduation from military basic training, the change in our boy astounded me. Who are you and what have you done with my son, because I like this version so much better. The boy who had stomped through the house filled with anger and resentment became respectful and steady. That volatile moodiness was nowhere to be seen.
I don't think our kinder, gentler military beat the insolence from him, but I do think they imposed the discipline he needed. He now has purpose. In speaking to him a few days ago, I sensed that he'd found his place in the world. This angry boy who couldn't figure where he fit in had found his place. And, no, he's not bound for college. He's training for a career in aircraft maintenance and finding that it's something that interests him. Not only that, it's a trade that can transfer to the civilian world if and when he discharges or retires from military service.
Rosemond and Rowe would approve, I'm sure. Martin probably would, too, because he seems to recognize that a university education doesn't suit everyone.
Bringing this full circle is Rosemond's weekly article in which a mother writes of her disappointment that her academically disinclined son had decided to pursue a career as a diesel mechanic. "All in all, I think your son has made a good decision," Rosemond writes. "Let's face it, college is not for everyone--a fact that seems to escape many parents and high school counselors. The world is always going to need plumbers, electricians, mechanics, carpenters, brick-masons, tailors, and so on."
Brian has found his place and I'm utterly grateful. Our older son, Matthew, fits the desired student mold those high school counselors love to hold up as examples: he's a university student and doing quite well.
They're both smart young men, but intelligence expresses itself in more than one way. Matt will be a mechanical engineer. Brian will be an aircraft mechanic. And I'm still trying to find my way.
Some of us are destined to wander.
It’s the lot of women to suffer the stupidity of men.
I looked out the window of the grand carriage painted and gilded with the king’s family crest as it carried me from the hovel of my home to the castle where I somehow had to make good on my father’s nonsensical boast that I could spin straw into gold. Had my father not soaked his brain in cheap ale to bolster his courage, he would have realized that, if his boast were true, our family would not live in a hovel and dress in rags. The king, who looked at me with watery eyes gleaming with greed, should have figured out that little logical truth, too.
He leaned across the seats, corset creaking as it struggled to contain the bulge of a belly swollen with too much fine, rich food and wine, and patted my knee in an overly familiar gesture that made my skin crawl.
“You’re a pretty lass,” he complimented me and licked his already wet lips.
Being a humble miller’s daughter—a peasant—I could hardly rebuff the king, but I did sidle away from his lecherous touch and protest, “Your majesty, you mustn’t. I’m not worthy.”
MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU!
SKEINS OF GOLD: Rumpelstiltskin Retold
Caught by her father's lie and the king's greed, the miller's daughter faces an impossible task: spinning straw into gold. An imp accepts her paltry trade to save her life, but what are his motives? What's a poor peasant woman to do?
This retelling of the ancient fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin addresses some questions left unanswered by the traditional versions and is told from the perspective of the miller's daughter.