Friday, December 30, 2011

Welcoming 2012

My bouquet of GRANDchildren.
Do you begin each New Year with a list of resolutions? It seems almost required ... right along with those "the best of" lists that abound regarding the year we've just come through. The more "mature" I become, the less inclined I am to make exhausting lists of things I intend to change in coming months. However, one resolution I know I'll keep regarding my personal life is the one that involves spending more time enjoying the little people pictured to the right. 

When it comes to my writing life, I'm also going to spend more time learning about CRAFT this next year. Other than an English minor in college, a correspondence course in journalism, and a community college class in writing, I'm mostly self-taught when it comes to writing. So in 2012 I'm challenging myself to teach myself more ... a book a month on the nuts and bolts of my job. With the help of some writers I admire, I've compiled a list (given here in alphabetical order by author):

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Characters Make Your Story by Maren Elwood
The Key by James Fry
Plot Vs. Character by Jeff Gerke
How to Write Best Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas
Story by Robert McKee
Fiction is Folks by Robert Peck
Fiction Writing Demystified by Tom Sawyer
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
The Moral Premise by Dr. Stanley Williams

If you're counting, that's FOURTEEN titles. We shall see. 

In my educational life, this year in May I'll do the walk in the funny hat to receive my Masters' Degree in history. I'll post a photo of the funny hat, and even though I'll turn sixty before graduating, I'm honestly thinking of dancing down that aisle, because this is the fulfillment of a dream I've had since earning my B.A. in 1975. Perhaps there's a message in there ... never give up and you're never too old!

Lest I leave this blog without actually saying something history-related, let me share one of many fascinating things I'm gleaning from David McCullough's book The Greater Journey about Americans in Paris. First, I'm astonished by the number of "great Americans" who spent time studying in Paris. I'm not even half-way through the book, and already I've met Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Fenimore Cooper (did you know he WROTE The Prairie while in Paris?!), Samuel F.B. Morse (did you know he was a painter before inventing the telegraph?), Emma Willard (gotta learn more about her), Elizabeth Blackwell (first female physician in America), William Wells Brown (African-American abolitionist), George Catlin, Ioway Indians, P.T. Barnum, Charles Sumner, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Goodness! My mind races with amazement and joy as I devour this book. 

"Hatty" Stowe, "gazing upward within Notre-Dame, felt a 'sublimity' she found impossible to analyze or express." I relate to that. I've been there and felt that. At the Louvre, Stowe began to compare painters to her favorite writers. A fascinating thought. Rembrandt seemed to her to be like Hawthorne. Here's what she said:

"He [Rembrandt] chooses simple and everyday objects, and so arranges light and shadow as to give them a somber richness and a mysterious gloom. The House of Seven Gables is a succession of Rembrandt pictures done in words instead of oils. Now this pleases us because our life really is a haunted one. The simplest thing in it is a mystery, the invisible world always lies round us like a shadow ..."

I love being challenged to see familiar things in a new light, and McCullough has succeeded in making me do that on nearly every page of this wonderful book. Once again ... the man is my hero as a writer/historian. 

For me personally, there is no better place to spend the week approaching a new year than Paris. Since I can't be there in reality this year, I'm grateful for McCullough's taking me there in my imagination ... and combining Paris with history puts two of my favorite subjects in tandem. Let the good times roll!

I wish you each one a blessed New Year.                                                                  ---Stephanie Grace


  1. Paris is it's own mystery. I've never been but maybe someday. What a great picture of your grandkids and CONGRATULATIONS on your Master's. That is an achievement indeed. Have a blessed new year.

  2. Thanks so much, Sally. They keep "Yaya" hopping ... and smiling. A good combination.