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Are your knuckles turning white?

I’m delighted to welcome fellow writer and GLVWG friend, Kathryn Craft, to my blog today. When she’s not working on fiction, Kathryn is a memoir writer and freelance editor. She’s also a member of the excellent team of editors over at The Blood-Red Pencil.

Are your knuckles turning white? 
Thanks, Jon, for inviting me to be a guest blogger today. I bet you wish you had assigned a topic. I can feel you quaking: What will Kathryn write?
After all, wouldn’t most of us like to live our lives with some semblance of control? To go to sleep each night in a clean, comfortable home with that feeling of accomplishment that comes from ticking items off a full to-do list? Or to eat breakfast from a cupboard stocked with healthy menu choices? Get paid reasonably for regular work so we can stick to budgeted expenditures? Most of all we’d like to see dangers looming ahead—corporate downsizing! hardening arteries! the deer in the road!—so we might steer clear.
If I have described your life, bless your left-brained, white-knuckled self. My life is a bit more of a crapshoot. Maybe yours is, too.
Sooner or later we all realize that life doesn’t unfold according to our plans. One morning an Arizona congresswoman shows up for her first “Congress on the Corner” event, eager to meet with her constituents, then leaves shortly thereafter on a stretcher with a bullet to the brain, fighting for her life. Six around her lie dead. How could this happen?
Always hoping to create order, I am a fan of to-do lists. I’ve even been known to add an item I’ve already completed just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off. Here’s what I had on my planner for October 20, 1997:

  • call the printer to tell them the Arts Council calendar will be 6 pages long (I had a desktop
    publishing business)
  • call a contact at Lehigh Valley Magazine (also a freelance writer)
  • fax a newsletter design to a veterinarian in New Jersey
  • submit Morning Call article on choreographer David Parsons (also a dance critic)
  • run off hunt club newsletter (also a volunteer)
  • meet with new resume client at 5 pm
  • hunt club meeting at 7:30 pm
None of that happened. Because by 8:30 a.m., police had whisked my two sons, my parents, and me from the house as dozens of camo-clad troops invaded our peaceful little farm—and at the end of their full day standoff, my husband lay dead by his own hand.
The Monday I had envisioned ended up playing out like bad reality television show. How could this happen?
How could this happen?—it’s a great question for fiction writers, as it alludes to plot and seeks character motivation. For a memoir writer, it’s a way of creating context and meaning out of the messy, random-seeming chaos of real life.
There’s a book-length arc to my story,
Standoff at Ronnie’s Place, and I’m writing it now. (If you care to read more, the link will take you to the first chapter, published online). I blog about how I use my writing to heal—even now, 13 years beyond the suicide—at my own blog, Healing Through Writing. I invite you to stop by. 
Have you ever had a day that went completely wrong—in a horrific, shocking, or even funny way? How could that happen? If you see a story in it, please share the set-up with us here—then go write the story! 

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at
Writing-Partner.com, a manuscript evaluation and editing service. These days she writes women’s fiction and memoir. In addition to her own blog, she doles out writing advice as a contributing editor at The Blood-Red Pencil, to which Jon often refers in his weekly “best of” lists. Thanks for everything, Jon! 

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 23rd, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for having me, Jon! Thrilled at the date this post is running--it's my Dad's 86th birthday. Looking forward to checking in on any conversation here before and after his mid-day birthday bash.
Jan. 23rd, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday, Kathryn's dad :)
Jan. 23rd, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
Hi Kathryn

As soon as I saw your picture here, I smiled. Great post as usual. I follow you on The Blood-Red Pencil along with Helen.
Jan. 23rd, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Thanks so much. Jon introduced me to the BRP gang... writing is an incestuous world. Wait, a better quotable: "Networking works!"
Jan. 23rd, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
And you're on to something,
although in writing the question isn't
How could this happen?
or How could this happen?
so much as it's How could this happen?
and why?
Jan. 23rd, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
Ah, someone with a keen editorial AND typographical mind! Love it!
Jan. 23rd, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Although it can become tedious when the fine points I raise
begin to look like the teeth on a hacksaw blade...
Jan. 23rd, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
Gadzooks, Kathryn. I remember that horrific day in your life. I was in CT, but I'm a NJ transplant. I know that "healing" is an easy word that describes years and years of so many conflicting emotions that never quite resolve as much as ease into manageable pieces.

In 1985, I woke up, made breakfast for my little family, and planned a day of Christmas shopping with my girl while my husband went for a motorcycle ride with a friend of his. It was a gorgeous, warm November day. By that afternoon, I was a widow at 21, a toddler daughter and an unborn son to now raise on my own. I do know how quickly life changes, how brutally. I know how simple that word HEAL sounds, but how truly difficult it is to achieve.
Jan. 23rd, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
Yes, you know all too well what I'm talking about. This too can be a great story set-up--our characters (or ourselves) can make of their (our) lives a good story. And you know about healing, and why I'm still writing about it 13 years alter!! It's... a process. (Like getting published!)

For some reason our neighborhood sidewalk, this morning, is covered with positive affirmation-type quotes in sidewalk chalk. Maybe a sweet 16 thing, who knows, but I love it! A philosophical walk of love. My fave: "Be patient with all that is unresolved in your heart, and learn to love the questions."

Thanks so much for commenting.
Jan. 23rd, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, my...I love the walk of affirmation notion! It should be part of every milestone in one's life.

The one you include here could very well go on my own walk of affirmation. I never tire of asking, "Why?" I must have driven my parents mad when I was little. As for the first part of that--hey, in situations like ours, it's learn to live with those unresolved things or let them consume you. If I'm going to be consumed by something, I want it to be fun...or at least naughty. ;)
Jan. 23rd, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
I was going to share about waking up on my tenth birthday to see my old gran, smiling down at me with a ten pound note in her hand. "Look what I got for you," she said.

As you might imagine, I was delighted... until I realized she'd sold me :(
Jan. 23rd, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
Jan. 23rd, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
It wasn't as bad as it sounds, I got to come back home at the end of Chimney-cleaning season.
Jan. 24th, 2011 12:15 am (UTC)
Haha--love this, Jon! My grandmother paid me a dollar once. She was babysitting my sisters and me for the evening and she thought she'd solve what my parents couldn't--by bribing me to stop sucking my thumb. A few hours later I woke up with my thumb in my mouth and went downstairs to return it to my grandmother, tearfully.

Turns out honesty was also worth a dollar. ;)
Jan. 24th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
Terri: Another entry from the sidewalk art, which I memorized on the way to the fitness center this morning:

"What I'm looking for isn't out there—it's inside myself."
Jan. 24th, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)

addition to the walk of affirmation indeed! Love it.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



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