Posted by: Kelly Deeny | July 24, 2014

Following My Dreams into an Artistic Career

…once I pinpoint what they are exactly!

BACKSTORY

In all my time as a mentor to teenagers, I spouted the idea of believing in yourself and following your dreams.  That’s wonderful advice which would be even more valuable if I took my own insights to heart.  I have many “dreams” and coordinating skills but have yet to narrow down a career path that’s financially, artistically and spiritually fulfilling.  I flounder.  I grow impatient, restless.  I give all my attention and focus to the job at hand, leaving little energy for my artistic interests.

I’ve refrained from writing about this topic out of fear that potential employers would view me in a negative light.  I pushed the doubts aside and chose to put pen to paper all the issues and questions I’ve faced in my pursuit of an artistic, meaningful career with the hope that my experiences may prompt reflection by others in a similar predicament.

I am a writer who writes up a storm yet only shares her work on a semi-frequent basis.  I write to spur discussion, inspire respectful discourse, and cultivate spiritual reflection. I have a lot to say and care about the way in which I present my thoughts.  So, I take my time – reviewing and editing until the cows come home, which is indefinitely since I don’t live on a farm. Meanwhile, my writing skills are neither earning me an income nor are they reaching readers.

 

CONFLICT

How can I continue pursuing a professional writing career if I’m not sure which “dream” to pursue?

  •  SINGER:  Music was the core of my very being and my first true love. I’d watch television programs that featured singing youngsters or arts-centric schools and sit on my floor next to my cassette player singing every word to every Dolly Parton song.  I loved to sing, but had tremendous stage fright.  An issue I had to overcome when I performed on stage during a college acting showcase many years ago.  That acapella performance was a highlight of my life, singing my favorite musical theatre song to a packed audience.  Recording an album or singing on a Broadway stage is a dream that pops up every now and again, and I’ve accepted the fact that it’s not likely to happen any time soon.
  • TV WRITER:  Around junior high, I proclaimed to friends that one day I’d be a soap opera writer.  I knew the characters, the plot developments, and loved the idea of creating the dialogue while keeping viewers wanting more.  At the time, I believed it to be a viable and realistic career option for me. This passion for television dramas built my writing identity. I had so many storyline ideas and little “scenes” running through my mind on a daily basis, and the only healthy solution was to write them down.  Hence, my “skits” were born. I learned only a few years ago that what I was doing then (taking characters from existing shows and writing new storylines) actually had a name – fan fiction. My face lights up when I discuss a recent TV episode and find someone who knows not only the actors’ names but those of the writers, too. This interest formed when I was young and developed into a potential career option as a teenager. Somewhere in the last twenty-five  years, I pushed this dream aside and moved on to more “safe” options.
  • NOVELIST:  I never imagined that I’d write a book one day, but I have. What started as a writing prompt morphed into a story that wouldn’t let go. Despite many revisions that entailed painful plot and character removals, I am proud of the finished piece and can’t wait to see it on a bookshelf, or better yet…an “Out of Stock” sign on the shelf.  Because I love dialogue and see the action so clearly in my mind’s eye, I gravitated to screenplays and stage plays first. Then, I discovered writing a novel was only a different way of telling the same story.  I could describe the details, the emotions, the internal thoughts and feelings of characters that I would have had to restrain from doing if I wrote it as a screenplay or stage play.  The completed novel is book one in a series and I’m about halfway through writing another novel in a different genre.  I thrive on creating vivid characters and engaging stories and never anticipated that would take form in a novel.

I’ve spent the past few years working as a copywriter, editor, and proofreader.  I took easily to editing and proofreading, primarily because I like mentoring others.  We each have our own writing style, voice, and strengths but it can get lost in the restrictions/guidelines set before us. Writing was then, and is now, my artistic strength.

 

RESOLUTION

Which brings me to my current dilemma – pursuing a career in the entertainment industry that will earn me a livable income and stimulate the creative spirit within.  I do believe in all of the talents and dreams I listed above, and I know that one day each will have its turn to shine. My novel will be published even if I have to do it myself, and I’ll continue singing though only in my car or living room.  The dream that I once believed in more than the rest deserves its place in the spotlight.  Pursuing a career as a writer for dramatic television I don’t imagine to be smooth-sailing or bound to happen in a timely fashion, but if I never pursue this interest, I will look back with regret.

Believing in yourself and following your dreams are as valid and important as I used to proclaim so many years ago.  Now, it’s time for me to practice what I preach!

 

Writers, like their fellow artists, tend to spend a large majority of their time absorbed in the creation of their art. As pivotal as that may be, we also close ourselves in with only a laptop or notebook for companionship. We become immersed in our own stories that we don’t always take the time to interact with characters not on the page.

Joining a writers’ group, going to a seminar, or attending a writers’ conference are just a few ways to add some much-needed perspective, inspiration, and motivation to your craft. Come next June, I highly recommend registering for the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC). It’s well worth your time, money, and artistic development. Plus, whether you go by yourself or with your entire writers’ group, you’ll leave with a plethora of new contacts and writing buddies.

Held June 6-8th in historic Philadelphia, this year’s writers’ conference not only met my expectations but exceeded them. The wide range of courses and topics offered allowed conferees to choose the ones that interested them most. If you found yourself struggling with conflict development in your story, then taking Alma Katsu’s Upping the Ante: Creating and Sustaining Conflict 3-day workshop was a fitting choice.  Austin Camacho’s Creating Characters that Keep Fans Reading course offered an assortment of techniques and insights into creating characters that are unique, fleshed out, and memorable.  In addition to the ones I just mentioned, screenwriting; comic book/graphic novels; memoirs; and poetry were only some of the varying topics offered this year.  Plus, you could also learn about the value of book trailers and audio books, freelancing, or social media. They even held an open mic event on Friday afternoon, which I urge the conference organizers to do again next year.  It was both comforting and exciting to see my fellow writers step out of their comfort zone and share a piece of written work that meant something to them.

I chose a combination that suited my writing interests along with presentations that educated me on the business end of my craft.  After all, we create stories that people want to read, but if you don’t know how to market it, promote it, or sell it….then you’ll be the only one who knows of the amazing finished piece you’ve created.  I enjoyed all of the courses I chose this year, but there are two in particular that inspired me greatly:

  • UPPING THE ANTE: CREATING AND SUSTAINING CONFLICT – Led by author Alma Katsu, this 3-day workshop delved into a topic that authors can find intimidating and frustrating…conflict.  As writers, we focus on creating memorable characters, figuring out what our “voice” is, and even determining our target audience.  All of those elements are important, but including conflict in our story gives us a mechanism to add dimension to our work.  Alma provided a clear explanation of the types of conflict and gave us examples of how they are applied in works already published.  She challenged us to examine our own stories and analyze it.  Do we really know what our character wants?  Do our characters encounter challenges, hurdles, or internal conflict in every scene?  I learned a lot about my own writing and came away comforted to know that while there are areas I need to re-examine/strengthen I am on the “write” track.
  • CREATING CHARACTERS THAT KEEP FANS READING – Austin Camacho’s ability to both engage and educate fellow writers made this course one to remember! With a laid-back demeanor, sense of humor, and ardent appreciation for writing, Austin took us on a journey of character development.  We examined techniques to help us flesh out our characters.  In addition to describing physical attributes, do we also paint a clear picture of the character’s wants and needs?  Where did they grow up?  What are their fears? He kept our attention, prompted us to contemplate our own characters, and gave us innovative examples of where to look for character inspiration.  I wrote down his insights and techniques fervently as he spoke but one quote stuck out most: “Ordinary traits make characters believable; Unique traits make characters memorable”.

Given my positive experience during both of those workshops, I hope the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference organizers consider asking both Ms. Katsu and Mr. Camacho back again next year!  In the meantime, please click on their names above to learn more about these talented authors.

To all the PWC organizers, board members, workshop facilitators, volunteers, and conference attendees: Thank you for making this year’s conference one to remember.  See you again in 2015!!!

The art of verbal storytelling is strong in my family.  With both Irish and Native American ancestors, you’d think I’d have a natural inclination to recite stories with intrigue, precision, and insight.  I do…but only when I write them down.

“How was your day today, Kelly?”  Seems like an easy-enough question, right?  Not for me – when I start telling the events of my day it turns into a rambling mess full of tangents and meandering paths.  I’m frequently told that I’m horrible at telling stories.  I laugh it off and agree with them, but I’ve recently figured out why my verbal story telling skills are lacking where my written ones flourish: care, thoughtfulness, respect for the words I choose.

My love of writing started as a teenager, in a need to express all the struggles and frustrations that came with being a teenager.  A very artistic, spiritual teenager to be more precise.  I’d open my journal and just let my pen float across the page, feverishly extracting all that I found it difficult to say.  Most of the time, I didn’t relay my feelings face to face with people I cared about precisely because I didn’t want to upset anyone.  Plus, I worried that my opinions would be deemed flawed or not as valued as others.  So I kept quiet and vented to a piece of paper instead. There are plenty of people in my life who relish face to face conversation.  Who prefer to lay it out all on the table and talk things out.  That’s never been one of my strongest skill sets.  I tend to ponder, contemplate, and take time to think of what I want to say and how I want to say it.  Most often when faced with an uncomfortable, nerve-wracking, or confrontational situation I sit quietly and come up with insightful responses only after the discussion is complete.  I turn to my notebook and express my opinions/feelings/insights in the safety of my writing.  The only judgments I receive there are of my own psyche – the notebook doesn’t spout back all the reasons I’m wrong or give me disapproving glances.

Since I value respectful communication so highly, I much prefer to take the time to process what I want to say in a manner that values both the writer and the recipient. That being “said” (pun intended), I love singing, acting, and public speaking.  I love using my voice as a catalyst for artistic inspiration, insightful discussion, or educational  motivation.  In all of those instances, I come prepared.  I’m not just “winging” it.  One of my favorite ways to use my voice is reading stories aloud.  I love sitting on the couch with my niece and nephews, infusing the words on the page with lovely vocal tones and lilts.  Making the story and characters come alive – become animated.

So too do I enjoy reading my own written work aloud.  In doing so, I hear phrasing that looked great on paper but don’t roll off the tongue very easily.  I catch typos that my brain automatically saw when reading it silently.  I get a firmer  handle on the characters’ voices.  “Did that make them sound angry when I intended it to be anxious?”  “Are my characters merely rambling on about nothing in particular?”  These are the types of questions I ask myself when I read my work aloud.  It has proven to be an extremely valuable and quite helpful exercise, especially when surrounded by fellow writers.

Today, I’m reading Part One of my novel aloud as I sit at the dining room table.  I wanted to have a clear understanding of what the first part feels like before I continue on editing Part Two.  I’ve already caught areas that needed tweaking, and I still have more to go.  I care about the words I choose and how they are conveyed, whether on the page or face to face.

Posted by: Kelly Deeny | February 26, 2014

The Love of an Aunt Holds No Bounds

Walking his own path

Family in its various forms inspired the creation of my premier novel.  One of the key relationships is the one between my protagonist, Gracie, and her oldest cousin.  More like sisters, the two bonded very early on.  They spent years apart yet they share a connection that could very well help heal their entire family.

I’ve spent a great deal of time forming and developing the relationship between Gracie and her cousin, Rebecca.  A caregiver at heart and an artist in spirit, Rebecca became a character I adored writing.  Then, I realized that I mirrored Rebecca after me.  A young lady full of music,  yet doesn’t know how to best use it to its full potential.  A kind spirit who cares more about the well-being of others that she puts her own dreams to the side.  A woman with a maternal instinct, yet isn’t a mother.

I have no children of my own; however, children gravitate to me, and I them.  I have an abundance of opinions as how to speak with them, nurture them, and guide them along their path.  Unfortunately, I don’t always verbalize those beliefs since I am not a mother.  I am proud to be an aunt.  It is a role I embrace with an open mind and a purity of spirit.  These beautiful, feisty, artistic, inquisitive children own a special place in my heart.  It is with them in mind that I created the following poem:

Sunshine on a rainy day

Beauty in the midst of chaos

Warmth immersed within cold

Complete and utter joy

 

Their smiles melt the deepest wound

Their hugs warm the soul

Their laughter fills the spirit

Their cries pierce the heart

 

Hold them tight yet let them soar

Guide them at every step yet wave from a distance

Remind them they are loved yet encourage self-improvement

Love them with every beat of your heart yet let their beauty grow within you.

 

Whether the relationships are bound through family or friendship, my role as Aunt/Nanny Kelly remains one of the most valued of my life to date.  This level of significance formed Gracie’s love of family, in all its compositions.

My Valentine's Gift

Posted by: Kelly Deeny | February 9, 2014

An Artist’s Dream

“I had interesting dreams last night.” Those words escape my lips at least 3-4 times a week, but I seldom write down the details.  Even now, as I sit at my laptop and draft this blog post, flashes of the dreams slow my typing. I believe very firmly in the power of dreams – not that they can always be taken literally.  If so, our cars would either be spinning out of control, have brakes that don’t work no matter how hard you press them to the floor, or speed in and out of lanes with no consequences.  Oh, wait – some already do the latter!

Though dream interpretation is more figurative than literal, there are some instances when my dreams have meaning, depth, and insight.  Those are the ones that feel so real that when I wake up I’m still envisioning what I saw.  I try desperately to close my eyes and continue but to no avail.  And when I don’t write them down, the intensity fades.  That is, until I lay  my head back on the pillow the following evening and the images form like a moving picture.

View of the Pacific Ocean from Terranea Resort in California. http://www.terranea.com/

Plenty of professionals study dream interpretation and the mind’s amazing inner workings.  I do not claim to be either.  I find dreams to be wholly fascinating and at times immensely spiritual.  As such, I’ve infused this belief into my YA novel.  “Gracie’s” journey is enhanced through her dreams, through visions that guide her, some that puzzle her, and others that feel so real that they can’t be anything but.

As we move through this existence we do so at lightening speed, racing through the day with little time to stop and relax.  To simply be present.  How many of us get to work early, eat lunch at our desk, make phone calls during break because that’s the only time we have, and go home to clean or make dinner?  Plus, if you have kids, there’s the added tasks of bath time, brushing teeth, and getting them to bed again and again and again.  By the time you finally get to relax, it’s 9 o’clock and you need to be up for work by 6.

Vivid dreams inspire creative work, excite interesting conversations, and give you the opportunity to actually ponder life’s hidden meaning.  If you believe there to be one, that is.  I don’t believe meanings are hidden; more so, we don’t give them credence because it could hinder our routine.  I don’t always take my dreams literally, but there are images, emotions, and circumstances when I am inspired.  For instance, I had a dream where I yelled at a priest because I didn’t agree with his tone or message he gave with children present.  I stood up for myself.  I stood up for my beliefs.  I woke up and felt immense strength and a bit of embarrassment that I’d clearly been hanging on to some spiritual resentment.  In my dream state, I felt no fear in voicing my opposing viewpoint in the presence of a religious leader.  It didn’t mean I was going to yell at the next priest I saw in the grocery store, but it gave me confidence and prompted a spiritual awakening.

Those are the instances that drive my character’s development.  Whether imaginative dreaming or something far more real, “Gracie” must find her own strength, her own motives, and her own purpose.  I venture to guess that many of us can say the same!

Posted by: Kelly Deeny | September 15, 2013

Ashes, Ashes, I Won’t Fall Down

Summer started beautifully.  My West Coast family came to visit for a few weeks, trips to amusements and NYC were had and healthy eating was all the rage.  Plus, I was making significant progress in my novel and looked forward to its completion.  Then, it nearly went up in flames – literally!

 

The apartment building that I lived in caught fire, leaving my belongings covered in water, reeking of smoke and starting to mold.  I was fortunate in that I was not home at the time but my belongings were, including my collection of hand-written stories over 20 years time.  When I realized that my laptop, with the most up-to-date version of my book, was sitting on my desk in my apartment the tears slid down and my hands shook.  “No,” I cried.  “Please, not my book!”

 

The days that followed allowed me the opportunity to retrieve some of my belongings, those that could be salvaged.  My laptop was one of those treasured items.  It was wet on top and likely soaked inside, but my father baked it in the oven, on a low temperature, and we were able to use it long enough to get my files off.  It hasn’t been used since as I do not trust that it’s safe to use.  Who knows how damaged it got on the inside, and I’m not taking another chance with my work!!!

 

While the work I’d put in on my novel did not perish, my mind has been focused elsewhere.  On dealing with insurance issues, figuring out where to live next,  and spending time with friends and family.  I don’t know about you, but I live a day-to-day existence.  As a result, I sometimes get lost in the present without looking ahead at what’s possible and being thankful the experiences I’ve already had.    

 

Having nearly lost the work that I’m very proud of, I felt the enormity of the project that remained.  As such, I stalled my progress and left “Gracie” standing alone in the forest once again.  The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and the opportunity is in front of me.  I just need to keep my fingers typing and my character moving.  

Image

*To be continued…

Posted by: Kelly Deeny | June 5, 2013

Third Times a Charm

It’s been a productive few months. In my prior blog entry, I wrote about how I somehow managed to lose the most recent version of Part 2 of my novel. Since then, I had to admit that I’d gone off-course. I got so intrigued by the secondary characters and their subplots that I made my protagonist take a back seat to the story.

I realized my error and re-invested my focus on the young girl who has so much to tell. Coming to that realization helped make it easier to cut what didn’t fit and add what was needed. Diligence, determination, confidence – that kept me working on Part 2 even when I got frustrated that more had to be done.

This weekend I completed Part 2 and eagerly moved on the third, and final, section. I am excited and re-energized with the work I’m creating. As anxious as I may be to have it finished and ready for publication, I won’t rush it. What I will do is give the story, and my main character, all the value so deserved.

All the best,
Kelly

Posted by: Kelly Deeny | March 16, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

Quite literally actually. This is very difficult for me to come to terms with but…I have misplaced the most up-to-date version of Part 2 in my novel. I have a version saved but I know that I made significant changes in story, tense and dialogue. I’ve looked in all the places I would’ve saved a new document and no luck.

As a result, I’m stuck. I became overwhelmed and despondent upon realizing how much I’d lost. I was proud of what I created and now I’ll have to start again. For weeks I’ve focused on other stories, blog posts and jewelry making; anything except dealing with the truth that I need to buckle down and return to Part 2. Because the longer I delay the further down the road the journey will seem.

Here are some of the lessons learned from this experience. Hopefully, they’ll not only help me in the future but all of my fellow writers out there.

  1. Backup multiple times in multiple locations – on your computer, on your USB drive, on a disc, email it to yourself, etc.  Don’t rely on just ONE folder or hard drive.  Your work is important so make sure you have it when needed.
  2. Keep moving – don’t stop when you hit roadblocks.  Maintain momentum when writing a story that way if you do misplace a section you’re more likely to recall what was changed in the version you lost.
  3. Glass Half Full – I know it’s difficult to think that way; especially if you’ve just lost a lot of great work.  But maybe, just maybe, you’ll come up with a result that’s even better than what was lost.
  4. Don’t take your frustration out on the story – You’ve got a great story there so nurture it.  Feed it.  Strengthen it.  It will go nowhere if you stew in your own misery and frustration.  So, get your butt in gear and give the piece the respect it deserves.
  5. Let it go – in more ways than one.  Accept what happened and move forward.  What’s done is done.  What’s passed is past.  As long as you hold  tight to what happened while keeping the story stuck in place you are doing a disservice to not only yourself but the readers who will eventually find great fulfillment from your work.  No one will read it until you FINISH IT!  So let it go.  Let it soar.

All the best,

Kelly

Posted by: Kelly Deeny | February 19, 2013

Character Representations

I visualize my characters as living, breathing manifestations of people I love, those I’ve met and artists who inspire me.  In that vein, because my characters are important to  the world in which the story exists I have certain actors and actresses that I can see portraying them when the novel is made into a film.  Notice the ‘when’, not if!

Some of the character/actor matches were instantaneous while there are still some that just aren’t clear.  And most of those early selections are performers well done and loved in the theatre industry.

Makes sense because of my long-time affinity for musical theatre but also due to the fact that this novel relies heavily on the creative arts and their importance in our personal growth.  Having beloved musical theatre actors/actresses portraying the characters I create would be a fitting and inspiring blend.

I just have to get through the editing, publish the novel and have it be a best-seller!  Hmm…or I could just write the screenplay myself.

Posted by: Kelly Deeny | November 4, 2012

One down, two to go!

Part one of three sections in my YA novel is edited and ready for family and friends to read.  I welcome constructive feedback, yearn for honest criticism and welcome both praise and “eh, it was okay” comments.

 

I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll reiterate it once again…I love, love, love the direction of this story.  I adore the characters, am engaged by the unique setting and remain proud that I’ve created a piece that’s a mixture of fairytale, family, empowerment, ancestry and spirituality all wrapped in one.

 

I look forward to getting responses from those who read the first section!

 

All the best,

Kelly

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