#14 Dear Beta Readers

03/10/2017

First of all, thank you for participating in this pre-publication First Read, and helping me to write the best book I can. Some of you have known me at some period in my life. It’s going to be a task for you to step back from that, and read the stories as abstractly as possible, as a group of characters you’ve never met. That’s the way you can help me most, in the writing process.

As you read, or after a chapter, just notice things like “what was my impression of this chapter? What stood out for me? What seems strong? Weak? Too fast or slow? Confusing? Unrealistic? Vivid?.” Was there enough of __(fill in the blank)__ or too much? Those are the things I need to know, that if spotted and corrected, will make the book clearer and better at saying what I really want to say, in a way that is understandable, not phony, not preachy, not fancy, and as genuinely as I can.

In writing the stories, I found it enormously helpful to think of the protagonist/ storyteller as simply a character in a book. Not me. That changed both my perspective and my perception surprisingly. When I stepped back and looked at this funny little girl from a distance, as someone I was observing like a character in a movie, I saw things about her that I never could have seen when I was her.

So if you are one of my friends, don’t take Victoria with you into chapter one, dump her at the gate and leave her out of it. She is someone else, who came much later. The first time you meet Vickie, see her as somebody you have never met before. And in your comments and suggestions, please refer to this character as “the little girl” or “the storyteller.” That will really help you keep a fresh unbiased perspective. For example, write “she was…” Not “you were…” Other than that, just enjoy a free book.

Congratulations, you are now a Developmental Editor. Professional ones make big bucks for this. So please know how much I value and appreciate your participation in my creative process. This will surely bring you lovely Karma. I’ll be blogging more here about the beta reader experience, so y’all come back.

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#13 Beta Readers = Fresh Eyes

03/08/2017

A beta reader is someone who reads an unpublished manuscript at an early development stage and gives feedback to the writer. Beta readers provide a second perspective (or third, or fourth) which can often spot fixable flaws or shortfalls in the manuscript that the writers didn’t see, because we are too close to it.

How does the process work? Choose the way that’ easiest for you:

1. Read the chapters on the web and give feedback on the Beta Readers Comments page.
2. Download chapters as PDFs to read later, then email me your response in a note.
3. PDFs can also be exported as Word.docs and marked-up using the “Review” system.
4. Can be sent to you by Email, you read at your leisure and return your notes.=
5. The old-fashioned way (that most editors like) Chapters can be sent to you by snail-mail, as hard-copy print-outs , to be read, ”marked-up” and sent back with your comments scribbled right on the actual pages. Organic!
On the web, the works and the comments are both  password-protected; they can’t be seen by search engines or anyone else except you and me.

I’m seeking two or three readers who might be:
(1) fellow-writers, but don’t know me personally, and
(2) non-writers, people with life-experiences who like to read.
(3) people with backgrounds in EMS, Fire Service would be especially helpful.

The book is Victory Is My Name, A Memoir. If you are interested in reading and being a contributor to my creative nonfiction book, please go to this page, request a password, and tell me about yourself. http://w2w.victoriachames.com/workslogin.html


#12 Trust The Inner Voice

01/03/2017

I have learned to trust my intuition and the lines that come to me in the middle of the night, I get up and write them down. So many times, this is a stream from an unseen source, but it very often, very surprisingly, tells me truths I don’t even know yet. The book I’m writing was intended as a memoir but has become more like an epistle of faith. Looking

The book I’m writing was intended as a memoir but has become more like an epistle of faith. Looking across my history and the history of my family from the  outside-in, I can see patterns and meanings I didn’t see when I was looking from the inside-out. It is being written like a letter not from my persona’s usual view, but more as if spoken from some inner voice, seen by inner eyes, uncontrived and unplanned. Whatever comes to me from this source, I write it down. If it has value, if it that rings true and real, it will stay. If it should turn out to be unimportant, it will discard itself along the way–these things take care of themselves. All of my poetry came this way – as  gifts of grace, never as the product of conscious endeavor, craft, or intention. I trust the soundless voice that speaks much more than I trust my own limited and conflicted intellect.

When I was in my twenties, an artist and a fledgling poet, I said to God “Make me your instrument.” Maybe God will finally do that, or maybe that’s the One who placed the desire there to begin  with. Either way, the prayer has not really changed much, for I have learned and relearned that by myself I can do little of real importance or significance. But when I’m driven to the page by that unnamed voice, something clear and clean and beautiful emerges into the light of ordinary day. In that moment, the ordinariness, the stories, the simple truths of life become what they have always been, but unseen: they become sacred. My response to this can only be awe, wonder, and gratefulness.


#9 Seeing

11/05/2016

This morning when I looked out my window at the huge old oak tree that I see every morning, again I marveled at the loveliness of it in the glittering morning sun, and a thought came to me:

I am grateful that I have eyes that see beauty. So many of us here on earth at this time don’t notice. Don’t see what I see. The beauty I have seen always, since I was a child, sustains me. Beauty has brought solace to me even in my darkest hours. The beauty of the Mississippi Riverbank in snow, the winter sky at night, ink-black and gleaming with tiny stars, each one securely set in that vast silent infinity.

Beauty brings a little bit of joy into anything. There is some kind of beauty almost everywhere if you look for it. And even when I’m surrounded by everything else that’s not beautiful, there is still an immense supply of remembered beauty inside of me, that never leaves me; I carry it with me. Autumn days, beautiful songs I have heard and felt, the thrill of the first warm day of spring, when the fine green needles of first-grass are pushing up through an ocean of mud. I have seen beauty in 10 million ways, and all of it is still mine, soaked into my soul.

That my eyes can see what only they see, has made me an artist and a poet. I didn’t choose these things, they chose me, because this soul could see. And this morning, more than ever, I am grateful.

The book: Unintentionally I am writing the last chapter. Even though the Hunger Years and the Fire Years chapters are not finished yet, the last chapter is pushing to get out. More parts of it are coming forward, and I’m willing to let them, happy to receive them. There is more to the ending now, and it is more complete. It closes the far-reaching wandering circle of the story, and quietly speaks the keywords to it all. This is a wonderful book.

I continue to be astonished that I am the one to whom this book is given, amazed that I am the one somehow chosen to make the marks on paper. I am humbled, and grateful, and scared. It’s an assignment that’s bigger than I am. But I’ve been scared before, and so, hoping that somehow that I can be enough, I’m committed to giving it the best I have.


#8 Rainy Day Scribbling

11/01/2016

I’m still trying to break my stubborn habit of sleeping late and missing too much of the morning, my best time to write. I worry that this might be a symptom of my too-frequent moods of melancholy and depression. But today I got up early, 7:30, and saw the sunrise gradually lighten the dark sky. Everything is silent now. Nothing is moving except the tops of the trees, heaving in the wind, then settling again. Rain is coming.

I love to write, love to have a pen in my hand, just to make marks on paper. When I write in my journal, sometimes I have nothing to say. I write anyway. Sometimes surprising things come. If there’s nothing to say, I write fiddle-faddle, just because I need to be writing something. I’ve had this urge to write ever since I was six years old and learned how. I never got over the wonder of it, making marks on paper, clean and sharp, that said things, that could draw the pictures that were in my mind, and tell stories.

My book is going slowly. I’m impatient. This is hard; it’s not flowing. It’s like cross-country skiing through wet cement. And yet, I marvel at how lucky I am, to be warm indoors, waiting for the rain. Hot coffee, cozy room, silvery sky and the sweet promise of the rain.

It begins now, very faint and misty, hardly more than a whisp of fog, and settling almost invisibly onto everything, refreshing the green living things and making them tremble with wetness and expectation.

I’m grateful for the life I have, even though it’s not all I want. Outside my window the trees sway gently in the winds– first harbingers of good hard rains to come, that trouble the branches of the little lemon tree and ruffle the trumpet-vine on the fence. The trumpet-vine would have bright red-orange flowers, but it does not bloom. Underneath the big oak tree, there is never enough sunlight on it, even on the brightest days. But it is beautiful still. It is being as beautiful as it can, where it is. It cannot move out of the shadows. But I can.


#7 Why I’m Writing The Book

10/28/2016

Today I got up late, made coffee, and worked on the book all day till about 3 o’clock, and then ate lunch for breakfast.

I talk about it in the preface, but have never talked about it here, the reasons that made me scrape up the due diligence to write this book.

I had two reasons. The first one was a sense of duty and decency, to tell my birthmother’s story which had never been told, and never would have been, because of the pain and shame and regret that I think we all felt, but helplessly could not change.

Mary Karr said, somewhere in her Best-Seller memoir, The Liars Club:

“kids in distressed families are great repositories of silence, and carry in their bodies whole Arctic wastelands of words not to be spoken, stories not to be told.” (as well as)“ … a grave sense of personal fault, for failing to rescue those beloveds lost or doomed.

My deepest impulse for writing the book is my own need to understand and forgive and finally let myself be forgiven. My hope is that when the book is done and all of our stories are told, the past will finally be completed, and then can be released.


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