The Crossroads of a Writer, Part II: The Client, the Message, and You

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Are you a member of the Libertarian Party?

Me: No.

Are you a member of the Democratic Party?

Me: No.

Are you a member of the Republican Party?

Me: No.

What is your relationship to God?

Me: We’re good.

(Asked in 2008 and 2009): Do you plan to have children anytime soon?

Me: No.

(Most recently): None of us here have children. That would be different.

“When asked if they would hire these applicants, participants said they would hire 84 percent of the women without children, compared with only 47 percent of the mothers.”Cornell University Study

The Writer

When it comes to who you are, it should not matter. When it comes to who I am, it should not matter. The fact is—if you’re like me and you provide writing services—it does matter to some clients and employees who you are. We cannot change it. We can only produce the quality work within us.

All of the above questions and comments have been stated to me in my professional life. We, as writers, are not here to provide our personal, political and religious opinions except when we share them with other writers on our blogs. It does not matter how many times I’ve been associated with the “liberal media destroying America.” I believe in assisting clients with crafting their message and words.

The Client

Let’s talk about the client or a company for whom you’d like to work or provide writing services. We, the writers, are there to give our talent, skill and opinions about how we craft client’s ideas into quality works of art or intelligence.

It’s like going on a date. You have to show your potential client your strengths and woo them with your personality. It cannot be cut and dry like no salt, broiled chicken. The client might’ve thought about a salad, but you’re about to deliver the steak.

In my professional life, I’ve been blessed to have ongoing working relationships with wonderful clients. I have worked for Democrats, Republicans, a Libertarian, business men and women, a graphic designer, and professional contractors. One of my clients believed he had a spot in a magazine, which I wrote about in the part one.

The Message

Maybe you have something you want to portray in your story. It’s your own belief and that is cool, too. I use that in my creative writing. Think about who is going to read it without sweating over your laptop. Those sweat drops leak and then you must clean the keys. No one wants that.

Whether you’re a professional, creative writer with high hopes, or both; consider the message. I know there are times everything leaks onto the page. My story Grass from the Grave/ We Never Said Hello is an example.

I will post/ publish part one of an assigned article Thursday about the child custody debate in South Carolina. The debate for equal parenting rights, the time and the debate about parental alienation in the case of non-abusive parents goes beyond South Carolina. The state legislature’s original bill, H. 4095, was influenced by a bill from the Dakotas. Illinois, Minnesota, Kids Need 2 Parents in North Carolina, and the American Coalition for Fathers and Children have all worked to find solutions to current laws unchanged since the 1970s.

It is an issue that touches every other person’s life I know, including my husband. I have written a traditional, unbiased article, because I still believe everyone deserves a voice. Despite the fact my husband’s older children have alienated him, I know we, as writers, must deliver the message; our client’s messages. 

(Asked of me) Do you believe in what you’re doing?

Yes.

Standing at the Writer’s Crossroads, Part I

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

“There’s only this. Forget, regret or life is yours to miss. No other road. No other way. No day but today.” ~ Jonathan Larson, Another Day – Rent

Your iPhone says 2 a.m. You have not slept more than three hours since—you can’t remember. Or, maybe you’re the early bird who prefers to write in the morning.

You are a creative writer who has received several rejection letters, and you’re wondering if a particular story you had thought excellent will ever see publication. You could be a business writer who prefers writing about the struggles and challenges of Main Street versus big business or Wall Street. Perhaps you’re a journalist wondering the same: where will my work at this weekly newspaper take me?

You wonder if you’re in the right place, or if you’ve made the right choice as a writer whether it is analytical, A.P., for lyrics, or the pen that writes secrets of souls. The great reason is whether you’re creative or business-oriented, there are so many who feel the way you do.


In the past two weeks, I’ve slid down a landslide of unfortunate events. At such times, my mother finds a way to reopen the suggestion that I enter education.

The point is void when I listen to retired teachers at one of my jobs discuss what more dangerous students have done and the lack of protection they have since some districts, not all, will do anything to avoid a lawsuit from parents. (As a former assistant teacher, I was slapped by a good student who had a bad day.) One of the other stories included a child putting chloride in her teacher’s coffee.

My passion for children still remains. I do not blame the children anymore than I blame my mother for wishing I had an 8 to whenever P.M. life, but I often find myself at a crossroad.

What Happened?

In the past week, I expected the last go ahead on an article I produced for one of my clients. A publication in my home county asked him to write about a piece of legislation in South Carolina that could make custody hearings fairer for both parents. He asked me to write a news article about the legislation.

Two weeks ago, I interviewed everyone who would talk to me. I spoke with many people, and still could not fit everyone in the long article. My client had asked me to write a 600-1200 piece, which I did.

I was paid; not published.

Why?

It’s simple. The article that the Libertarian party leader had asked my client to write was meant to be an editorial or op-ed, which requires a different style. The editor did not want the article. This particular magazine covers the less news and more opinion.

The problem is I did as I was asked by my client, and he also believed that is what the publication wanted. Another mistake in miscommunication. He asked for a news article about the bill. In true journalism fashion, I wrote a unbiased article.

After the news, I prepared to ghostwrite an opinion piece for him until the editor notified the head of the Party that it could not publish any article after all because my client is running for office.

All of the sudden I understand the retired teachers. They felt stuck. I was trapped in a different way, because I would never divorce writing.

I had interviewed lawyers, fathers, mothers, and politicians.
They granted me their time, and what disturbed me the most was the fact I felt I’d let all of those people down. For the most part, everyone offered me their voice, opinions, stories and logic. My former editor reviewed the story and loved it. My client loved it.

It is one of the punches I’ve recently taken. Another is not being offered a job I’d really hoped for, but I kept telling myself You take it on the chin, you spit out the blood, and you keep going. I think that is what writing is all about whether I’m the editorialist, the ghostwriter, the business writer, news woman or the creative writer.

I remember Larson’s words: No other course. No other way. No day but today. Make them yours.

What is a tough punch you’ve had to take as a writer?

Thoughts for Doctor Zhivago


“If I had touched you with so much as the tip of my finger, a spark would have lit up the room and either killed me on the spot or charged me for the whole of my life with magnetic waves of sorrow and longing.”

  • Boris Pasternack, Doctor Zhivago, p. 427

 

 

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Boris Pasternack’s novel, Doctor Zhivago, breaks the heart of the reader as the plot tests the will of its characters.

As a reader, I feel the bittersweet morsels of Zhivago’s desire to live in every word until he gives up toward the end. The book begins with the turmoil of Revolution and ends in World War II. Despite tragedy in a seemingly gray world, autumn still produces colors of leaves. Frost disappears in spring. Life glows in the Pasternack’s powerful descriptions of nature, because it cannot be so in the lives of Zhivago, Lara or their spouses.

Descriptions of place and nature glue Doctor Zhivago together. They are also main characters. Every village features something that separates it from others whether the town has a monastery on a hill, a nearby cave, or everything is burned by the Whites or Reds.

“Here and there the woods were brilliant with ripe berries—bright tassels of lady’s smock, brick-red alderberries, and clusters of viburnum, shimmering from white to purple. Whirring their glassy wings, dragonflies as transparent as the flames and the leaves sailed slowly through the air.” – p. 343


A picture I took in the last part of winter.

The book loses its way when it discusses minor characters and their backgrounds. It is like going to a giant family reunion; you cannot recall how you’re related to Great Aunt Janet’s son-in-law. Trying to connect blood lines will not work for certain.

As a reader, I think where is Zhivago, Lara or Tonya? What has this scene to do with Zhivago?

I enjoyed the characters in the book; their weaknesses, strengths and the wish to find what life means in a time when life has little value.

Last year, I set out to read more classics, except I do not call them classics. I view them as the other books I want to read. I am about finished with Karen Hesse’s YA book Witness. I’ve started The Autobiography of Henry VIII, and I am still reading Charles Lindbergh’s biography.

Blogging Award Nominations and Nominees

I am catching up on a few award nominations. I have not meant for them to sit around. There are now 52 subscribers. I would like to thank everyone for reading and for their encouragement as I am still a new blogger.

First, I want to thank justbenwords for the Kreativ Blogger award nomination. Check out his blog. He writes some awesome poetry. I want to thank Elliot for the Versatile Blogger award nomination. Please visit his awesome blog. Freyamorel writes with a unique and talented insight, and has nominated me for the Sunshine Award.


Rules and Regulations

I don’t mean to sound like a town hall planning guide, but as I’ve written a lot about that sort of thing lately, I had to write something besides rules. I will try to contact all nominations within the week. Here are the rules for the Kreativ Blogger award.

  1. List seven facts about yourself
  2. Pass this award on to seven other bloggers who you think deserve it.
  3. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

I am sorry ahead of time if I do not nominate the number according to each award. There are a lot of great blogs.

Seven Facts about Me:

  1. I have written “books” or in a creative style since the age of six.
  2. I “wrote” a book called Mimi’s Cats, which was nothing but a Kindergartener’s sketch of sticks with whiskers. My grandmother still claims she has my first book.
  3. It takes me at least three months or more to read a longer novel due to projects, an almost two-year-old, and other work.
  4. In the past week, I sang The Wheels on the Bus before I interviewed a state legislator for one of my projects.
  5. I sometimes work as a substitute teacher.
  6. My favorite place is the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains with my husband.
  7. I have hiked to waterfalls.

Nominations

freyamorel

WordPress

Aly Hughes

Pete Denton

Vikki

Memmomuse

Lens and Pens by Sally


  1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post.
  2. Share seven things about yourself.
  3. Pass this award along to fifteen or twenty.
  4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Seven (more) Things About me:

  1. I’m currently reading the 1998 biography of Charles Lindbergh and Dr. Zhivago.
  2. I am completely helpless when it comes to math.
  3. One of my favorite books is gods in Alabama.
  4. I cook a lot, and one of my specialties is chicken parmesan.
  5. I believe Fitzgerald’s writing eats Hemingway’s for breakfast. If it was a physical fist fight, it would be the opposite way around.
  6. My husband is 32-years-older than me.
  7. My little boy’s favorite word is “book,” of which I’m proud.

Some nominees:

 Love, Life, and Relationships
Nick Rolyand
chew your lipstick
bowendiaries
 poemsforkush
Evil Dick’s Blog
A Novel Place


This award is given by bloggers to other bloggers who make them smile. I have to answer 10 questions, and nominate a few wonderful bloggers.

  1. Favorite Color? Red
  2. Favorite animal? I never know the answer for certain. I love dogs and cats.
  3. Favorite Number? 14
  4. Non-alcoholic drink? Diet Coke
  5. Facebook or Twitter? I don’t use Twitter, so Facebook.
  6. Passion? Fishing … no, writing and reading.
  7. Preference to give or receive presents? I like to give, especially when I have time to be creative, and give family and friends something special.
  8. Pattern? Pin-stripes
  9. Favorite day of the week? Saturday
  10. Favorite flower? None. They all die in my care.

A few nominees:

Kathryn Dawson

Finding Gravity

Rewriting Life

Five Reflections

He Turned His Back

It is one of those weeks. I have a deadline tomorrow. Three articles need completion, and interviews and statistics on family court and custody battles are piled on my desk.

Charles has a fever, and I swear I see little red dots in front of my eyes. I cannot decide whether it is the lamp, looking at a computer screen for too long or the light on my new digital recorder.

I want to write some kick ass articles. I also want to finish reading Dr. Zhivago and eventually that Charles Lindbergh biography. Yes, I want to disappear into my imagination and the mountains of snow I’ve never seen in my entire life.

One of the things I learn every time I write a serious article, I realize people can only hide from their realities for so long. Pete Denton wrote a post about flash fiction. Now I have not done any flash fiction, even though I’ve read some great pieces. But I did sit down and write one paragraph the same way I wrote Grass from the Grave, which is about to be published for a second time.

This is a short, very simple nonfiction piece I wrote about a week ago.

He Turned His Back

He turned his back. Twice. Once on the 4th of July, and the other at the annual agricultural fair the town hosts to raise money for the school. My heart burst when the teenager turned his back on the one-year-old; his brother. He would not even look at his face. He did not want to, and I did not want to return to the town again. I told my fiancé—the father of the teenager and my son—I did not want to return to that town ever again. Not a town where brothers turned their backs on brothers.


Thoughts for Today

It Started With ….

John and I went to meet my former boss and co-worker, now our good friend, at a restaurant in North Carolina. As we waited, I noticed a goose sitting in the median next to a small bush, on mulch and tossed out French fries.

Children followed their parents into the parking lot. The van door opened. The children laughed and ran around it. None of the noise deterred the goose from her spot.

I wondered if the goose lost her way; if she did not know where the other geese had gone.


My husband had his little camera. I promise she is real.

A truck took a sharp turn, and the back tire went up on the median. The goose did not move. She stood up for 25 seconds, and nestled herself gently on the ground. John and I guessed she had a nest beneath her.

“Think about it,” he said. “She knows she’ll get food easily because people throw it to her. She is exactly where she wants to be.”

When we approached her, it looked like a nest lay beneath her. She was still in the same spot after our dinner.

I thought about how motherhood and family has influenced me—not only as a person—but as a writer. One of my clients told me in our Friday chat, “You are so lucky to have the family you do.”

My Six Mothers

My parents have been married forever, and filled my brother and me with love and understanding. I have an extensive family unit with my grandmother, aunts, cousins and uncles. Even though I do not see them as often as I did as a child, I know they are there for the good, bad and embarrassing. They are all across the state of South Carolina.

The family unit—particularly my grandmothers, mom and aunts—has influenced me more than I have ever credited any of them in person, except for my Mimi to whom I have always been attached.

Family–like my stories about girls, boys and young men–is the beating heart of many stories and Sons of the Edisto. Nothing has held a more powerful influence in my life than the women I call “My Six Mothers.” I told my mom I’m going to make it a nonfiction book one day.

Every one of them has a story, heart and character to make a comical and touching book. Aunt Sharon tore the ends of the early 1990s printing paper off at work and her house. She saved the paper for me. I needed paper on which I could draw my stories—in the time before I could write sentences. She also made empty booklets for me

Aunt Laura was the fun aunt. She also knew my mom—who knows I love her—knew nothing of fashion and some other important feminine qualities. She tried her best to teach me from any early age. This instruction included not wearing too much make-up, and piercing my ears in the fourth grade.

Aunt Martha is an educated, Southern belle with a unique sense of humor in what she says. She has looked at me as a daughter since she raised two boys. As she has often expressed, she wished to have a little more influence over certain aspects of my childhood, because I was “overly spoiled.” She taught me how to wash and dry my hair. Her nails felt like little pin pricks on my scalp. I still wash my hair the same way minus the nails.

Mom reinforced the values of education. She placed me with the best math teachers in high school, and perhaps poor English teachers—except for two of them. She knew I would make my way through English with flying colors. It was a miracle when I earned a B in math.

I loved all of them just as they looked at me as not just a niece—but as a daughter. They loved, cared and stood up for me as a daughter; each one under different circumstances.

My grandmothers touch a softer spot in my heart. Grandmother Dickinson cut cheese into little tiny squares over the sink, and put them in the grits after it was poured in a bowl. She never sat down at the breakfast nook. I began to believe she did not know how to sit down. My grandfather needed his coffee, fruit and pills. We watched the sun rise over the lake and wooden dock. The geese stood and made their way into the water as the orange ball of sun rose over the lake.

No one has captured my heart more than Mimi. She was born with the same soul as me. We are not quite sure from where our writer spirits come. Mimi and I have always desired to see something beyond our own world. She had a wish to escape small town Florida. I was always looking for the first ticket out of South Carolina.

Mimi and Sharon sat with me at an Italian restaurant in Columbia one Easter morning in 2003. I try to remember most of the details, because I was hung over from my first night of drinking ever. Perhaps not one of my best moments. I recalled the sunlight slipped through the windows. Mimi held my hand. They told me Grandmother Dickinson had died.

I wanted to runaway. I did not want to go to church. My love for my grandparents runs deep because both sides of my family represented best-selling love stories, hope and joy. 

Three years later, Grandmother Dickinson would influence and become an inspiration for Sons of the Edisto character, Aurelia Jean Wilkins.

I always believed through a book I could give my grandparents the immortality they deserved. I could not stand the thought of them becoming just a name on the family tree in later generations. They are not the characters, but they inspired them.

I know I have written a long post for Sunday morning. Thoughts occur, and it had begun with a mother goose sitting over her eggs in a parking lot median.

What in your life influences you?

Our Personal Lenses, Aly Hughes

Aly Hughes, Guest Blogger

Our Personal Lenses

Growing up, I was not only the youngest sibling, but also the only female child, the only short child, and the only white child in a multi-racial family. I like to think all of the teasing I was subject to gave me a jovial and good natured temperament. Instead of turning me bitter, it helped me to find pleasure in the little things in life.

There are times in my life when somebody asks me a question, and I pause to reflect. How did I get to this point in my life? It can be a friend asking if I want to go to the bar. Am I already 21? Or an aunt asking what I’m going to do now that I’m out of college. Has it really been four years? Or even my brother, asking me where my boyfriend and I are going to move after he graduates. When did I get a serious boyfriend?

In my many pensive moods, I also wonder about people who are close to me, and how vastly different our lives are. My eldest brother, now 26, has never experienced living on his own and still lives with my parents. My other brother, 23, moved over 1,000 miles away and spent a year living in a rented living room. Some of my friends are married, others have kids, and some have never had a boyfriend.

We all have different experiences in life. It’s what gives each of us a unique perspective on things.

A favorite professor of mine once described it as looking at life through a personal lens. She put her hands to her head, blocking her peripheral vision, and told us that those were her blinders. Her limited vision was caused by her personal experiences. As blinders on a race horse, they kept her within her own frames. Acting as a colored lens in which she viewed life.

She was raised in a small town in Iowa with less than 2,000 people. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. Her family was conservative, white, and Christian. She had never even seen a non-white person in the flesh until she went to college. When she moved away her lens expanded. Experiences piled on, and widened her vision. But still, the blinders would never fully go away. She would always view the world with a uniquely colored lens, developed by her upbringing, sex/gender, race, etc.

As people, and as writers, our views are limited. A part of us is woven into every theme, character, and story we write, because it’s what we know. The difficult part is writing believably outside of our blinders.

It makes us fret about writing characters of a different sex, sexuality, age, race, culture, or religion. We second guess ourselves on whether they’re too cardboard or stereotyped.

Maybe that’s why intentionally or not, we take experiences and traits from other people to put into our stories. And perhaps it’s why most of us care to be observant. Whether it’s through people watching, striking up conversations with strangers, or just filing other people’s stories away in our minds, we’re generally observant on an interpersonal level. It’s why writers interview their characters, create character profiles, and explore background scenes that will never take place in the actual story. These are our ways of looking beyond our blinders, in an attempt to understand perspectives different from our own.

But before you try to completely escape your field of vision, remember: What limits your perspective, expands another’s.

Do you know what blinders you have on?