Many people have passed through my life. I may have met them in school, at the train station, bus stop or youth hostel. And there are some I’d like to be in contact with again. Here are three:
When I was 13 years old, my best friend was Deepti Gupta. Her mother was a wonderful cook and they invited me to dinner many times. Her family also included me in social Indian events and special holidays. I loved being her friend. I remember Deepti as a really sweet girl who was always smiling. We discussed travelling to India to visit her family but, being as we were only 13, our parents wouldn’t let us go. Unfortunately, her family moved to Ottawa and I never saw her again.
When I reached Townsville, Australia, in 1993, I had just left a private yacht. We had sailed from Sydney to Cairns. I took the bus to Townsville and went right to a nice B&B which had been recommended to me. The owner was a lovely older lady and she greeted me upon arrival. I asked for a single room but she wanted me to share a room with a nice Swiss girl who had just arrived alone.
But I said, "No thanks. I don’t want to share." I had just left close quarters with 2 people for a month so I wanted to be alone. However, the owner insisted I share a room with her. After a while, I gave up fighting and agreed to share. She told me Ruth could be found lying on a towel sunning herself in the backyard all alone.
After dropping my knapsack in the room, I sought out Ruth. From the moment we met, we became the best of friends. Her name was Ruth Mann and she’s from Switzerland. We spent the next two days together touring the area. I would really like to find her again and go visit her. Love to know how her life has gone.
I spent the first 5 years of my life in Brantford, Ontario, where my brother was born. My best friend was my next-door neighbour Barbara Bragg. She was a year older but we were always together. I have such good memories of her. After we moved to Hamilton, Barbara and I visited back and forth a few times but that didn’t last long as we got busy with our lives.
In Barbara’s basement hung this wonderful map of Canada with 4 of Neilson’s candy bars on the corners. It’s huge covering a wall. The map’s date is 1950 and it has all the old names for places in the country. I loved that map and begged the Braggs to let me have it. I don’t remember them giving it to me but I’ve always had it. It now hangs in my bedroom in a treasured spot.
If you know Deepti Gupta, Ruth Mann or Barbara Bragg, please let them know I’m looking for them. They are all probably married and have a new surname but I would give anything to be in contact with them again.
Andi Cumbo-Floyd www.andilit.com is my developmental editor and I requested that she write a guest blog about what she has done for me. Below is her reply.
I love Patty Lesser. I need to start with that, not because this is her blog but because it’s true. I love her as a person AND as a writer. She has one of the best storytelling minds I’ve ever seen. (You have read her books, right? Feel free to go get them now. I’ll wait.)
I have the honor of being Patty’s editor, and so I get to read her books first. (I know – it’s okay to be jealous.) So I’ve had the privilege of working with Patty as she grows as a writer, and in that time, we’ve worked hard to make her books even better . . .
To improve her work – and EVERY writer has room to improve, we’ve focused on three things, three ways that every fiction writer can improve their work. Here you go:
Choose a point of view and be true to it. If you decide that the best viewpoint from which to tell your story is in the mind of a 38-year-old monk who is narrating the story, then that monk needs to tell every bit of the story. You can’t suddenly have a 6-year-old girl that he sees on the street in Singapore share her thoughts because the monk can’t know what she’s thinking. You have to wed yourself to the monk and then use other tools – description, dialogue, internal monologue – to get across what we need to know about that young girl.
Remember that your characters have bodies. It’s really easy to get all heady in our writing, to have our characters do a lot of thinking and talking and forget that they have bodies that move. So be sure to incorporate movement, especially in the sections of dialogue. Have them move an arm or walk a certain way. Make them tilt a head or lean away from the person to whom they are speaking. Embody them, and they will live more fully for your readers.
Follow your story, not the idea you have for your story. This advice can sound like a lot of hokum if you haven’t yet experienced the fact that your characters have full lives of their own, lives that don’t necessarily succumb to your will. But they do – and if they don’t, maybe spend more time with them to hear their histories, find out their favorite brand of chocolate, and consider whether their cars are disasters or models of cleanliness that belong in showrooms. Once you know your characters, you have to let them live and do things that might go against your plan for the story. Those new paths are always going to be more rich than anything you’ve set out for them because that’s how life works – it’s not controllable or predictable.
So be like Patty – try out those things if you don’t already do them, and then let us know how they work for you in a comment below.