Friday, April 15, 2011

Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead

My earliest memory of writing something besides my name and worksheets for phonics comes from second grade. I had a kind-hearted, older teacher named Mrs. MacDonald. She was so old she had taught my mother, my uncles, and my brother. She expected great things from me.

Once she noticed that I loved to write stories, she encouraged me to writer longer and longer stories. I wrote about the camping trips my family took, the pigeons we kept in a backyard coop, and our other pets. Mrs. MacDonald read every word. She helped me to understand how to develop different feelings and different kinds of narratives.

Being published is a dream come true. When the first proofed copy of my first book arrived, I kissed the cover and looked to the heavens. Though I should have also included Mrs. MacDonald, I said to the clouds, “Thank you, Mama.” I wished I could have shared the book with her.

In third grade, my teacher read to us every day, books such as The Big Wave by Pearl Buck. I became passionate about reading and wondered if I could actually develop into a writer. I wrote letters constantly as a child. But it wasn’t until I had finished my teaching career (34 years in a public high school) that I said to myself, “If not now, when?” I enrolled in UCLA’s Writers’ Program, and off I went.

I definitely get writer’s block. I have the sequel to my first novel sitting in stasis right now because I have written myself into a corner with one of the main characters. Every day I work on a different direction for her. But even while that book simmers, I am writing flash fiction and revising a prior novel. For flash fiction, I find that music scrambles on my MP-3 player or coloring in a coloring book help me to find ideas that have been lying latent in my brain. I am also someone who walks a lot (I have two dogs), and when I walk, I think. One of my favorite things is to look for images in the clouds.

Although my creative writing teachers felt that a long-hand journal frees the soul to write, I write best at my computer in my den. I try to ignore the phone, the Internet, and other distractions for at least two hours of each morning.

I have three latest books. The first is a flash fiction anthology called “Flash Warden and Other Stories.” I have included in the anthology my favorite flash fiction pieces, hint fiction (25 words or fewer) and six categories of six-word memoirs. I am hoping the book will be used by aspiring writers and also by teachers or subs who need to fill some time in classrooms with creative stories and follow-up prompts.

The second book is a rewrite of my first-written (but not published) novel, Stairs of Sand. I have worked on this book for five years. It definitely has benefited from the latest rewrite and should be out later this summer. The story follows two women, a mother and a daughter, each with borderline personality disorder, each with her heart closed against the other. It is a journey told in two voices of the way childhood’s hurts can be overcome. The story carries some autobiographical elements such as the setting, but I guarantee that it is pure fiction and does not represent my family. I wrote it as an exploration of the ability to change and improve family ties at any age or time of life.

Finally, I am working on the sequel to Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead. The next book is called So You, Solimar. It features some of the characters from Some Rivers End, but takes place sixteen years later. This means the setting is 2018. That’s part of my problem with writer’s block. Yes, the world will change by 2018, but in what ways? I don’t want to write a dystopian novel. This book, like Some Rivers End, focuses on family and school and coming-of-age because I think kids need to see others struggle, sometimes in far more dire circumstances, as they grow into their own values.

Any aspiring writer needs to remember that many people say, “Oh, I should write a book,” but few actually do it. If you want to write, then BIC—butt in chair. Sit down and write at the same time every day. Do not make allowances for yourself to skip your writing time or to place it last on your agenda. You will always be too tired and too busy to write if you don’t put your writing into your daily routine. Secondly, be careful about your writing group. Pick people who are not your best friends. You want their honest criticism, kindly and openly offered. You should not be in a writing group that tells you everything you write is wonderful. At the same time, if someone in your writing group has a particular vendetta against you, you don’t need that either. And above all, send your writing out! Why not? You will receive many rejections, but the feeling when someone says “yes” to publishing one of your works is the feeling you have worked for through hours of practicing, polishing, and pain.

Eileen Granfors lives in Santa Clarita, California. A former army brat who was born in New Orleans and lived in Germany, she and her family settled in Imperial Beach, California, where her mother’s love of body surfing turned her into an avid surfer girl. Eileen is a proud UCLA alumna. She has published her first novel, Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead, a coming-of-age multicultural look at the Hispanic tradition of the Day of the Dead. She is working on its sequel, So You, Solimar.

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