When is a piano like a story?

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The grand piano at our church ended up on its side today. I watched with sweaty hands as the two men detached the lyre and a leg, tipped the piano over and removed its brass wheels.

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There’s a good reason for what they were doing. The nearly-700 pound instrument needs to be moved occasionally and its little two-inch brass wheels push the carpet along, causing it to stretch and bulge. There’s also every possibility of a move one day breaking off a piano leg! They aren’t as sturdy as they look.

We decided the solution was to install a “truck dolly” — a heavy spider-like metal device which supports the piano legs. The dolly’s five inch rubber wheels with ball bearings allow the piano to be easily moved with a gentle push. The service techs knew what had to be done and how to do the task without damage to the piano. While I understood that, I still cringed as I watched them wrestle the weighty instrument to the ground.

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I was there to open the church doors, supervise the installation and eventually hand over the necessary cheque, but of course I had also brought my camera along and I took pictures. Tonight as I review the photos I am struck by the similarity of the procedure to my manuscript revisions and rewrites.

We focus on getting our stories written because, after all, how often have we heard, “You can edit anything except a blank page?” We keep writing, and much like Topsy the story keeps growing as we work toward a novel-length word count.

The strange thing is, when we finally reach the end we may be holding a word-weighted tome that isn’t finished at all. It needs help. The plot doesn’t move smoothly. Even if we edit and revise, pushing the words around until the story is in danger of collapse, it often isn’t until someone more knowledgeable — an experienced critique partner or editor — gets hold of it, that a solution is found. Among other things, shoring up the story may mean getting rid of inadequate scenes or reinforcing the plot with stronger characters.

As nervous as I am about letting others get their hands on ‘my baby’, I know the right support will strengthen it.

Do you seek out advice from beta readers and critique buddies? How willing are you to take the advice of those who might suggest major changes in your manuscripts?

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A Writer’s Interdependency

A year ago I posted about support systems. I think we all appreciate a little encouragement from time to time. It’s both comforting and reassuring, but on occasion there’s more to the shoring up than we may realize.

I believe there are times when we can look back and recognize that the help we’ve received is more like a sturdy snake rail fence or a well constructed log building. We’re not just propped up and supported by helpful friends, but are embedded right into a mutually beneficial structure.

Published authors see it all the time. Each person or agency encountered throughout the publication process is integral to the others. There are the writers who craft stories, editors who help improve them, agents who find homes for them, illustrators and printers, publicists, booksellers and readers, all who have a vital role to play, and are interdependent on the others for their success.

Our original Cariboo cabin, circa 1949, as it looks today. (Click to enlarge)

I’ve always admired old Cariboo fences and log cabins. Sound construction principles help them endure. Makes me think our traditional publishing methods probably will, too.

What’s your opinion?

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“He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”
[Luke 6:48 NIV]

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The value of supportive friendships

Last May I blogged about the importance of support in our writing endeavours. (If you missed it you can check it out here.)

Today, on The Pastor’s Wife Speaks blog I’m sharing the dilemma of ministers’ families who need to display impartiality in their relationships and thus often forego the support of close personal friendships.

(I’m still not here, but please click on over and join me there. I’ll be back here on the 29th.)

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The Pastor's Wife Speaks

Feathers and Friends: a Comparison

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Feathery bursts of colour, delicate clouds of white, pink and red, punctuate the mostly green garden beds in our back yard. Whether you call it false spirea, meadowsweet, false goat’s beard or astilbe, this hardy perennial is one of my favourites. The plumes rise above lacy, fern-like leaves and last for several weeks, still attractive even after they’ve faded.

Astilbe plants wave below the evergreens and cozy up to our hostas, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons without the slightest objection to the soil conditions, which I admit are less than ideal. And although the plants appear fragile, the stalks are sturdy and not easily knocked over by our dog when he happens to romp through the garden bed, as he frequently does.

They resemble some of my friends – beautiful, uncomplaining, sometimes appearing fragile, but strong and enduring despite adversity, because their faith is well rooted. Overshadowed by towering challenges or concealed amid the mundane, they continue to offer what they have — living out the fruits of the spirit — wherever they are planted.

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For those of you called to cope with challenging obstacles today (Marcia, Joel, Jennifer and Billy), my prayer is that the strength of the Lord will help you endure and overcome.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:6-7]

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What or who supports you in your writing?

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An eagle dips and soars in the ocean breeze, his white head tinged amber in the sunset rays. He brings to mind a cyberfriend, now gone – a friend I never met in person, whose exquisite photography often featured his beloved eagles.

Jim Dubois, “Garnite”, died last week. Thanks to a lung transplant three years ago he enjoyed bonus years, but couldn’t conquer this latest lung infection. I first encountered Jim on his Flickr photo pages, where he shared his love of nature in wonderful photos and words filled with wisdom. At the time of his transplant there was a massive show of support from the Flickr community, with prayers, good wishes, and healing thoughts sent his way. Those friends were there again for him during his recent battle.

This week as I stood on the very beach where so many of Jim’s photos were taken, I was acutely aware of the value of supportive friends.

We say our writing is a lonely pursuit… not lonely in the sense that we’re lonesome, but we are alone with our words, dredging them from inner places. No one else can transfer those specific thoughts onto the page except us. There are “writing hermits” among us – people who can’t or don’t share their writing challenges or their work – but many of us benefit from supportive associations.

  • Family and Special Friends
  • Writing Buddies (online and offline)
  • Critique Partners (individual or multiple within a writers’ group)
  • Class and Workshop Instructors
  • Online Forums
  • Mentoring Authors
  • Agents and Editors

A support system provides stability during difficult times. I’m not one who enjoys the sway of suspension bridges. It’s easier to go the distance when the structure beneath my feet is held firmly in place. Like Jim, I have appreciated encouragement during my journey, in the stormy times of life and writing.

What’s your most valued form of support?

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