I have two sons, Steve and Mike. Or, as I call them, Handsome Boy and Baby Boy. That takes a lot of guts since Steve is 43 and Mike 40. No one else would dare call them either name, but Mom somehow is allowed the honor. We use a lot of nicknames in our family. I'm Bahama Mama, for example.
Steve teaches 7th and 8th grade Language Arts and Social Studies. His title there is Teacher of the Year. As a 5th degree black belt holder in karate, his title in that arena is Master. He told me the other day over a phone call, he's had no behavior problems with his students this year. He's changed the way he teaches--the Socrates method. He also makes up rap songs with grammar rules in them. He plays his guitar, either electric or bass, and the kids sing along. Other teachers complain, but he tells them learning should never be quiet. It should be exciting. For every time, his class scores highest in the state in the tests, Steve tells them he'll get another tattoo. He has twelve so far and his students love that they "made" him get a new one. He also works as a body guard for the Redskin's cheerleaders. No inappropriate touching on his watch.
You can see why I try so hard as a writer. I need to impress my sons. Especially since I don't carry any initials after my name. But I'll confess to being depressed when I took a hard look at my age, the size of my reader base, and my sales numbers. I was never going to have the initials NYT's or USA's Best Seller after my name. I have to be happy with average; something I told my kids was never acceptable. "Anyone can be average. You have to try harder. Be better."
Well. it's not working for Mom. Better than average? Pfffftt.
You see, Mom didn't think about natural abilities. But as a writer, I have to think about mine. For one, I can't decide what sub-genre of romance I want to write. Contemporary? Romantic Suspense? Paranormal? Second, I have my own style and not everyone likes it. Normally I use humor. Then there are times humor doesn't work in a story. Sometimes I want to write suspense. Just simple suspense....and I laugh as I use the word "simple." Suspense means a lot of planning and guess who has never outlined a book?
My writing style isn't improving and that bothers me. My style is changing and that kind of frightens me. Because what if I'm not any better writing in a new way than I've been composing sentences in my old style? Average isn't good enough with the written word. I feel like I'm living outside the box even if I don't know where the box is stored.
Lucky you with a pair of such awesome sons! Ironic that you would mention your various genres in this post because on our Snow Day this week, I pulled out "Tumbleweed Letters." Still my favorite Vonnie read.
Sounds like you have two great sons. Your pride in them certainly shows. I think you're too down on yourself, Vonnie. (I know that feeling.) I know you care about having initials after your name, but initials don't make a good writer. You have a wicked sense of humor. It shows through in your posts here and in your stories. Don't ever lose that. Sure, there are times in a story that humor isn't appropriate. Use that humor afterward to lighten the tension. As far as writing in other genres, go for it. Self-publish if your publisher doesn't want it. Be true to yourself. That's become an axiom because it's true. At our age (I know you're a bit younger than me), if we don't do it now, when?
My girls had a teacher like your son for 5th grade. Mr. Goggin. He taught to the top (my oldest) and pulled the whole class up to a higher level by making them want to do fun extra-credit projects, too. He made learning enjoyable (no homework), and my youngest (who struggles with tests) had her highest standardized test scores ever in his class. The whole class regularly got in a circle and sang Ring of Fire with Johnny Cash (not sure why, but my youngest loved it)! LOL Creative teachers like your son deserve a reward for what they do! As for your writing, it's tempting to write in multiple sub-genres. I used to do it, too. However, I made the conscious decision I wanted to try to move up the food chain, and I knew I had to stick with a single identifiable brand and sub-genre to do that. Doesn't mean that's the right choice for everyone. I doubt I'll have initials after my name, either. I think you have to write in a way that makes you happy. Your pleasure will shine through in your books and make them the best they can be! Don't sweat those initials, Vonnie.
Your sons sound wonderful and you are as proud of them as I am of my one and only. Now...as for your own accomplishments. I am not going to blow smoke up your arse because I am in exactly the same state of mind as you. Although I do know what genre I prefer, romantic suspense, I've decided to add a little mystical into this next series. Wise? Who the heck knows? BUT I doubt I'll ever get those initials either. Depresses the hell out of me. I told my son as he grew that he needed to do what made him happy and if he did it to the best of his ability, money and/or success would follow--at least enough that he would be happy and proud of his accomplishments. For me it hasn't worked that way. I suppose my writing is average, ugh. Do I keep at it? I love to write but I don't like all the stuff that goes with being an author. I don't want to write just for myself. I want to entertain people. Lots of people. Self doubt. Yeah, it gets you every time, Vonnie. I have no solution. If I find one, I'll let you know.
Your sons sound terrific , but so are you, Vonnie. You're not 'average' at all! The box is exactly where you want it to be.
I'm very proud of my daughter, but your sons are awe-inspiring! I understand what you mean about wanting your writing to improve. I'm just finishing my seventh book, and I don't know if it's any better than my first (maybe I should go back and read that one.) Sometimes I stare at my prose and think I'm regressing. Then I'll read a book by a top-tier bestselling author and realize their writing is no better than mine. Maybe they've found a way of tapping into readers' wants and needs I haven't discovered. I don't know. What I do know is a certain group of readers really enjoys my books. Do I wish the group were larger? You bet. But I can't be something I'm not. Neither can you, and we shouldn't try. Many, many readers enjoy your books and your writing. That's what we all hope for.
I actually read this post yesterday --- bwwwwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh! You done good with those sons, Vonnie. We have four kids, all very individual, and all very successful in their own rights. Now the grandkids are starting to shine too. The oldest entering college this fall, going into bio medical research. (Watch out for the proud Grandma posts in the near future!) As far as your writing. I'm right in there with ya, and most of the rest of us. Would love that NYT Best Seller behind my name too. It's so hard to keep turning out the books not very many readers seems to care about. Guess we just need to write the books of our hearts and call it good. 'If you write it, they will come.' Sure hope so. If we keep at it long enough maybe??
I'm joining the "Wish I had those initials, too" group, Vonnie. I think you are (and have been) doing wonderfully, both as a parent and a writer. You've obviously given both your sons the support and encouragement they needed to succeed (and succeed in a big way!). And you've come so far in your writing. It wasn't that long ago that you and I met at a VRW meeting/event when your first book (small press) was just coming out. Since then you've tackled the big five (six?) and are branching out into indie publishing ... because it's what's right for YOU. You have a unique writing voice/style, and that's special in and of itself. Don't doubt your talents. (Believe me, I've read A LOT of books from people who haven't achieved those initials either.)
Thanks, Angela. I did a lot of historical research for that book and loved writing it.
Diane, Shakespeare taught me about comedic relief. In a middle of a tense or violent scene, when he knew theater goers were on the edge of their seats, he'd send in a pair of goofballs or drunken fools to give the audience a break.
Brenda, writers' depression is a bad thing. I fluctuate with it. At times I feel as long as I can write what pleases me. Then at other times, I want more people reading me. ARGH!!!
Jannine, Steve challenges his students in unusual ways. "I'm not teaching you like normal 7th graders because I think you're better." He's talking about going beyond his retirement years just because he enjoys it.
As a former HS principal, I am giddy with happiness to read your stories about your sons. You've helped both of them become innovative leaders...amazing young men. I know they are stunned at what you have accomplished, so no worries there. Here's what I think about your conundrum. First, your voice is your voice...and since I know the stories in your head are anxious to come out...using your voice is the only option. Second, I write suspense and I'm a pantser...can't, won't plan/outline, etc...you can too! Point is Vonnie, you've always been an out-of-the boxer...and it's too late to change. I hope you keep writing the way you love to...it's what your readers want...and if you take a risk in another genre, use the process and voice you're used to. My 2 cents.
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