"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

7 Surprises in Joining the Group (by newbie, Ben)

Being the new guy in this group, I'm still trying to figure out what the heck a dangling participle is. And I'm wondering if I can start a sentence with the word "And." In other words, I'm not about to blog about how to improve your writing. Instead, as we all find ourselves in the age of Top Ten Lists, Bullet Points, and Bottom Lines, let me just mention the seven most surprising things about participating in this group--from one newbie's perspective:

Members are accomplished. Not sure why this surprised me. I guess I just think of spuds, snowmobiling, hunting, and site engineers--but not published writers--when I think of East Idaho.

Members are down to earth. Another mistake on my part: I imagined a bunch of Grammarians looking down their noses at one another trying to one-up each other with their technical knowledge and expansive vocabulary. Instead, I found all the members to be very warm, welcoming, and totally human.

Focus is on art over science. It seems the content--the story and the readers experience-- comes first! All the grammatical rules are important but secondary to the writer's creativity.

Writing process is messy--and that's OK! I'd always imagined great writers sitting down and just cranking something out. Turns out, even GREAT authors just get stuff out on paper first. Then write, re-write, and re-write again. I'm learning to just be ok with it being a little messy to start with. It's like writing is more of a process than an event.

Honesty is everything. It has been a great surprise to see how open and honest all the members are with each other, and with themselves. It's almost like every member sets their egos, fears, and assumptions aside when it's time to critique each other's work. I haven't heard even one "Yeah, but..." Everyone is so open to the opinions of others. It seems everyone is focused on helping each other write--and write well!

Members have diverse interests: Thrillers, Romance, Historical Fiction, Non-Fiction, Westerns, etc. The surprising thing is that by reading/critiquing different genres outside of what might normally interest a writer, his own writing improves.

The hard work gets done! It seems participating in a writers group like this helps break up the hard work into more manageable bites (so to speak). Each member wants to make progress before the next month's meeting. Before joining the group, every time I'd try to write, I'd write a couple of chapters and get stuck. Now, I'm always pushing to the next chapter!

Before I sign out, let me just mention one more surprise; it's FUN! I imagine this is because the people in the group are just plain cool. It seems everyone has a good sense of humor and it shows.

Well, next time I blog on this site, I hope to be able to report back on what the heck a dangling participle is. But more than that, I'm excited about the possibility of actually having created something that gives a reader a great experience. If I can pull something like that off, I'll owe it--in no small part--to the great members of the Blue Sage Writers group. You all ROCK! Happy Writing.

--Ben Page

Ben's life has been one full of adventure. He's traveled the globe and immersed himself in other languages and cultures. He's been a farm laborer, dish washer, ski bum, clerk, missionary, econ and philosophy major, resident staff for troubled teens, and a salesman. He's started several companies, one of which has received national attention for its success. Now, when he's not working on his business, serving other small business owners, or spending time with his family - he's writing articles, blogging, or working on his current project; a book on how to really market to the U.S.'s Spanish Speaking demographic.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reflections from the Big Island

We all know the successful writer must appeal to the senses, using words as weapons, luring readers into imaginary worlds they cannot easily leave. It happens ever so often that the writer himself is drawn into some strange and exotic landscape that bombards him with sounds, smells, textures, tastes and colors never before experienced. Such a thing just happened to me. Hawaii, the Big Island.

What started out as a simple visit to my daughter’s new home opened doors in my mind I thought nonexistent. I can’t get the Island out of my thoughts.

Hawaii is the spawn of five volcanoes that rose from the sea floor millions of years ago and merged into a land with incredible diversity of climates and ecosystems. The volcanoes are still grumbling. During our travels around the island, we sniffed acrid sulfur dioxide pouring from giant, steaming calderas. At five one morning, on a rugged moonscape only a few days old, our shoes heated up as we walked atop thin, hot shells of fissured rock, separated from glowing, molten lava by mere inches. Constant popping from the shifting surface raised the specter of plunging feet first into the eerie orange light visible in the cracks, turning one into an instant French fry. It has happened we were told.

Hawaii is surrounded by an ocean of many colors. While snorkeling in the turquoise shallows, I was swarmed by a million small fish in breathtaking displays of color. Giant sea turtles swam by and sunned on the beaches. Further offshore, the shallows give way in stages of color gradation to the deep blue where we saw pods of whales breaching and energetic Spinning Dolphins performing amazing acrobatics.

Emily and Johnny live in a rain forest near Hilo. In our tiny guest cabin we slept like dead rocks every night, lulled to sleep by the voices of a thousand Coqui Frogs and awakened by the mournful calls of Rock Doves welcoming the sunrise. Somewhere in between we became vaguely aware of the soothing drum of tropical rain on the tin roof.

Once in a while we were awakened by the grunting of wild pigs foraging for fruit and macadamia nuts in the jungle outside.

The nights were incredibly dark. The night sky display of stars was like nothing I’d seen before, the milky way laid out like a giant swatch of cream across the heavens. One night we sat on a remote beach, the pounding surf lit only by starlight. I could picture ancient Polynesian navigators using these same stars to find this paradise.

Emily promised we would not believe their tropical fruits. Have you ever heard of rambutan, lilikoi, longon? Neither had I. Their appearance ranged from smooth, yellow shells, to red, sea urchin-looking spiky surfaces. All tasted exotic, forbidden, unforgettable.

There is so much more I could tell, but suffice to say, for a writer, The Big Island is an inspiration. I came away awestruck, yet rejuvenated. I could imagine myself roughing it in the tiny blue cabin, cranking out one novel after another, living off nature’s bounty. But alas, reality struck. It was time to leave, to return to the Idaho winter, where my snow shovel awaited. In mere hours, the jet age transitioned us from a comforting 75 degrees to fifteen below. It was a truly gruesome transition, but someday, I will return to that far away paradise. In the meantime, my creative juices are flowing like Kilauea’s lava. It was a great trip.

--Richard Rice

Richard grew up in Southern California and received his BS and MS degrees in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. In an exciting three-decade technical career, he was involved in NASA’s space program and in nuclear energy and novel energy production research for the Energy Department. He traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, presenting the results of his work and collaborating with other research institutions. Richard began writing as a teenager, covering high school sports for the local newspaper. He continued writing throughout his career, producing a number of technical papers, articles and reports. He recently decided to end his engineering career and write full time. Since then, he has produced two novels and has started his third. He has also written several short stories, two of which were accepted by the Idaho Magazine. Richard lives with his family on the Snake River in Southeastern Idaho.