My Writing Journey

Shattered Dreams

Posted by on Oct 29, 2016 in Life in General | 0 comments

Shattered Dreams

“9-1-1-: What’s your emergency?”

“There’s been a really big accident. Please help! My best friend’s not moving and there’s all this blood. Please send help!”

“Okay, what’s your location?”

“I’m outside of the school…”


Even though I know the above conversation is staged, my throat clenches as I listen to the mock emergency call broadcasting over my school’s loudspeaker. The student I’m hearing is one of my juniors, and the terror in her voice sounds real.

After the call ends, I shepherd my class outside, as instructed at that morning’s staff meeting. We sit on bleachers temporarily erected a safe but short distance away from the highway that parallels our campus. It’s a busy road, and I am surprised and impressed to see that authorities have all four lanes blocked. Average people who may not know what’s going on are stopped en route to wherever they were going, delayed without an alternative while we experience the simulation. Apparently, some of them posted about the big, seemingly fatal accident outside the private school on social media and expressed concern for the students involved.

It’s not hard to understand how onlookers could think the accident scene was real. A legitimate-looking two-car crash spills across two lanes of the highway, two totaled SUVs sprawled among automobile debris. Each one holds a student of mine, trapped, bleeding, and either unconscious or semi-conscious. A third student, injured but mobile, wanders along the edge of the scene in a shocked state of confusion and disbelief. A fourth sprawls across the shoulder of the road, dead the moment her head collided with and scraped across the rough asphalt. Her beautiful face, now embedded with shards of glass and scraped raw, reminds me of ground meat. Blood runs from her in three places, puddling in the grass on the side of the road.

I struggle to display the right balance of emotion. I know the scene is not real, but I want to model how my students should react to what they are seeing with the respect and reverence an actual accident of this magnitude deserves. At the same time, I am working hard to keep from crying. I am a writer, after all. I have a vivid imagination, and I love my students dearly. It’s too easy to envision the tragedy depicted a few yards in front of me as something very real, and I have to breathe deeply several times in order to ease the clenching of my lungs.

This entire scene is staged as part of the Shattered Dreams program, a two day accident and funeral simulation designed to increase awareness of the possible effects of distracted driving among teens. It is a powerful program, but I’m not going to outline it here because a lot of the impact is lost when everyone in the audience knows what is going to happen next. I will, however, share a few details about why this program is so important. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015:

  • 35,092 people died in car crashes
  • 10,265 of those were alcohol-related fatalities
  • An estimated 2.44 million people were injured
  • 6.3 million police-reported crashes occurred

 

Distraction.gov, the official US Government website for Distracted Driving, reports:

  • In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of driv­ers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.
  • The percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipu­lating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014. Since 2007, young drivers (age 16 to 24) have been observed manipulating electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers.

 

These statistics are sobering, which is why our school participated in the Shattered Dreams program. We care for our students and don’t want to see their lives ended before they have a chance to begin.

This year, as students participate in Red Ribbon Week activities across America, please take a moment to really let the magnitude of this situation sink in. It only takes five seconds to cross a football field at 55 miles per hour. Looking down for even a moment can potentially end a life. Please don’t let it be yours.

For more information, check out the following link:

 

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On Book Signings and Meeting Readers

Posted by on Jun 12, 2016 in My Writing Journey | 0 comments

On Book Signings and Meeting Readers

I met my second fan at a book signing yesterday (see the dedication in The Healer’s Rune to discover why second and not first). His first name is Phillip; his last name I withhold to maintain his privacy.

I was running late (my GPS had originally marked my destination as an empty field), and I was distracted by setting up my books while signing them (I have Lupus, and the exertion of carrying in and setting up my table and books left me winded). Fanning myself with a few of my bookmarks, I saw him standing off to the side, a copy of my book in his hands. Still a titch breathless, I politely remarked that he could purchase my book from me because it was not stocked by the bookstore. Phillip just as politely told me he had already bought the book and enjoyed it.

That’s when I realized he was not there to buy the book but to meet me. He had already read my story and enjoyed it so much that, when he learned I was coming to a bookstore near him, he was motivated to come and connect with me.

The moment suddenly became profound, and I did my best to honor it as such. Still fanning myself, still slightly breathless, I engaged Phillip in a conversation about the only common ground we had: my book. Imagining how I would feel to see Tad Williams or Neil Gaiman, or any of the other authors I admire (had I the access and the courage), I talked with Phillip unill I ran out of ideas and then asked if I could sign his copy of the book.

He said yes. With sweat beading down my neck, I wrote a personal note on the title page in purple Sharpie, signed it, and thanked Phillip for coming.

As I reflected upon this event last night, I realized that I should have asked him to take a picture with me, and I wished I had found a way to make the moment longer, to honor it more for what it was.

My debut novel is not quite six months old, yet it has touched someone deeply enough that he came to meet me. It is, for a writer, a moment of remarkable profundity. It is why I write–to give back to one of the most influential forces in my life by touching readers the way other authors have touched me.

Thank you, Phillip, for coming to see me yesterday. If you don’t mind, will you please send a picture of you with my book to my email address at Lauricia.Matuska@gmail.com? I’ll put it with this post.

To the rest of you who have enjoyed / are enjoying The Healer’s Rune, I hope to meet you someday, as well. Remind me to take a picture!

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Goals

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Life in General, My Writing Journey, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Goals

“Keep a diary, but don’t just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and an end—as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel. It’s great practice. Do this while figuring out what you want to write a book about. The book may even emerge from within this running diary” (John Berendt at Writer’s Write <www.writerswrite.co.za>).

I’ve tried writing every day many times, but each time I stop for two reasons: because my writing time is VERY limited, so I want to make very word count, and because these attempts consistently felt like the daily list mentioned above. However, I firmly believe that writing is like mining—you have to dig through a lot of dirt to find anything of value. I need a way to practice writing without consequence in order to mine the nuggets worthy of public notice, so I’m resolving to try again with practice on the level of the above quote. (Thank you John Berendt.)

With that in mind, I sat down to write about today and realized that I had no vignette, brief or otherwise. May 14, 2015 was just like every other day of walking half-asleep through my usual routine. I had no way of differentiating this day from most others.

Ruminating about how to approach this deficit of significance let me to thinking about writing scenes. Conventional wisdom states that each scene has to have a goal. If it doesn’t, how will you know what should happen or when the scene is over? If I’m going to write my day as a vignette, then shouldn’t I identify my goal first?

This question flowed into an examination of how I spent my day, which boiled down to proctoring finals for my high school literature classes. During the other 179 days of the school year, however, I am teaching. In order to plan what to teach, I have to begin by considering my objectives, or goals: What do I want students to learn or master in each particular lesson, and how will I know if my goal was achieved? My thoughts circled back on themselves at this point (a frustratingly common occurrence) to ask again what my goal for the day was.

That’s when I realized that I’ve lived each day mostly goal-less. I have overarching life-goals, of course: to live a peaceful life; to have a happy marriage; to be a good mom, a good writer, a good teacher. But what does that look like on a daily basis? If I don’t have small, micro-goals to achieve each day, then how do I know when I’ve attained my life-goals?

Henry David Thoreau wrote that he wished to live deliberately “and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived” (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods). This has been one of my driving desires since my high school years, but how will I know if I’ve achieved it. I’m beginning to think the answer lies in setting small goals.

What about you? Do you think that setting and keeping track of daily goals is important? Why or why not? If you do, what goals do you aspire to on a regular basis?

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/98943100@N00/3082163605″>e1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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Oh, Happy Day!

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in My Writing Journey, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Oh, Happy Day!

Today I signed a contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas to publish The Healer of Ennicy, the first novel in my Kirin Roh trilogy. Sooo excited!

You can view Lighthouse’s web page at this address: <http://lighthousepublishingofthecarolinas.com/>

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Should I self-publish?

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in My Writing Journey, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Should I self-publish?

One of the questions I receive a lot is: Why not self-publish?  Why subject myself to the rejections of editors who decline to publish my story on the mere basis that they didn’t “love” it?  After all, writing is subjective, and what doesn’t appeal to one may appeal to another, so why not take my destiny into my own hands and publish my own story?

This is a fantastic question, and I have asked myself the same thing many times.  My answer is this:  Because that’s not what I want for my writing.

Allow me to explain…

I love to write, and I desire more than anything else to write WELL.  This means I am constantly looking for ways to grow in my writing ability, and I have found that this is very hard to do alone.  Possible, yes, but hard.  I want a mentor, and I believe that an editor fills this position nicely.  That’s also why I chose to be represented by an agent:  with an agent AND an editor, I will have two mentors who believe in me and my stories enough to pour the kind of quality time and effort into my work that I will need to get better in my writing.

But, what has that got to do with you?

That depends on what you want from your writing, which is also my answer to the question of self-publishing.  You are obviously devoted enough to your story that you believe the world needs to see it, and you’re right.  The world needs more stories.  How you go about getting your story to the world is as subjective as any agent’s decision to represent or editor’s choice to publish it: it all depends on what appeals to you.

Take the time to decide what you want from your writing.  Commit to fully researching both self-publishing and traditional publishing, and find out exactly what each entails.  Then make the decision that best gets you where you want to go.

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasrousing/6897064987/”>Thomas Rousing</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

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An Agented Novelist!

Posted by on Oct 7, 2012 in My Writing Journey, Uncategorized | 0 comments

An Agented Novelist!

I did it!  I signed a contract to work with Sally Apokedek, of the Leslie Stobbe Literary Agency today.  I still continue to have a sense of peace about chosing this option over the other, and am excited an looking forward to working with Sally for a long time.

Sally’s vision for our partnership involves three steps: first she will read and critique the manuscript, then I will make edits based on her critique and, when that is finished, we will give it one final polish and send it out to find a home.

I am so very excited.

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwerfeldein/2879955156/”>Martin Gommel</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

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