Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Sturdy Hand by Melissa Clark

I want to start by saying how much I'm enjoying this round of posts about your writing journeys. With a book out on submission, I am currently experiencing high anxiety and it is so comforting reading about everyone's struggles and successes and realizing this is just the way it is. 

I grew up with a writer-father so becoming a writer was less of a risk or rebellion and more of a given. I have always been surrounded by family support in my desire to do this for a living and I am eternally grateful. I know many writers who's parents or spouse or children just simply don't *get* the career choice or need. That aspect is one less emotional battle to fight, because God knows there are many others.

Writing, for me, has been a sturdy hand that has lead me to dark corners, dangerous places, unbelievable adventures and compelling people. Writing lead me to graduate school and subsequently to retreats in California, Vermont and Illinois. I've been fortunate to participate in conferences both as attendee and speaker, the highlight being the Carmel Authors and Ideas Festival where I dined with Frank McCourt and Elizabeth Edwards, among others. My writing journey has been static at times, and on a trajectory at others. I have celebrated publishing victories both large and small and have wallowed in rejection, a writer's constant companion. Most recently, my writing has lead me to explore a lifelong fear (not sure why) of kidnapping, and with this, a visit to Utah to observe the Elizabeth Smart trial, an experience I will never forget.  It has helped me answer many questions ("what if there was such a thing as lazy sperm?") and more importantly has given me the confidence to ask questions in the first place. Being a writer has also lead to being a teacher, discovering fresh and brilliant voices in students who have never expressed themselves in that way before. 

Being a writer is being on a journey that is neither kind nor gentle - it brings up issues, triggers feelings, stirs up self-doubt at an alarming rate. But despite everything I've experienced, and read about in your experiences, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Would you?

Melissa Clark will give away one signed copy of her novel, "Swimming Upstream, Slowly" to someone who leaves a comment on this blog or follows me on my regular blog, connections clark, by midnight tonight. Oh, and happy almost new year!


  1. So glad I found this blog, I love reading the insight you ladies have. Melissa, I especially like your comment that writing has led you to dark corners, dangerous places, unbelievable adventures and compelling people. Having always been on the "readers" side of the book, I have never thought about it from the "writers" side. Books, and the stories they contain, are such a wonderful way to experience all those things you mentioned and just continue to leave little traces of themselves in us (the readers) long after the story is finished and placed back on the shelves.

    Best wishes,
    Melissa Keller

  2. Like Melissa Keller, I am also very glad to have found this blog. I love how technology today has allowed us to interact with writers and be able to get to know them as individuals instead of just a picture and small blurb on the inside of the book jacket. I love learning where each writer comes from, the challenges they face and that they are in fact real people just like their readers.

    Thank you for showing us a more intimate side of you.


    Joelle :)

  3. Great post, Melissa. I feel your angst! Can I get back to you in about five days with an answer? Though I suspect debut day won't bring this full circle. 1) For me, I love to write—even the bad days, the no idea days, the can't string six coherent words together days. 2) The rest requires a savvy business person, unbelievably thick skin, and the obtuseness to never take no for an answer. So why do it? See point number one (:

  4. Good luck with the submission, Melissa. Fingers crossed for good news.

  5. I didn't know your dad was a writer! So, you really just went into the family business! :)

    I tried to do something else besides be a writer. I went to law school and practiced law, but after a while, I just couldn't take the hours, the egos, or the fact that I had these stories rattling around in my head without anyone to tell them to!

    Fingers crossed on your submission!!

  6. I have yet to meet a published writer who does not have a compelling backstory. For a long time, I had the backstory but no book to show for my struggles. Maybe there is a way to measure the degree of suffering to know when a writer is getting close to publication. (wink)

    Fingers crossed: especially for Melissa's submission and Laura's pub day!!

  7. I'm sure that writing IS a very scary profession, which is probably why I won't try my hand at it. Instead I'm quite content to read all of the wonderful books that you and other authors have written!

  8. I wish you the best of luck with your submission!

  9. Oh, Melissa, we wish you such good luck with your book! Isn't this an agonizing business???

    The trip to watch the Smart trial sounds so interesting. I love that part about writing--you just never know what you'll need to know more about. Or how you'll go about collecting that information! I've gotten a lot less shy about asking questions and asking for help...

  10. Wishing you the best of luck with your submission.I can imagine that is scary and exciting.
    I love the inside look at what authors think about, this blog is fabulous.

  11. Melissa
    I am so blessed to call you my friend. You are so very brave and do enter those dark places to ask the questions and seek the answers. I am always impressed by your willingness and determination and talent. Much, much love and admiration.

  12. Wonderful reading all your comments, and after consulting we have a winner - Karin Gillespie!

  13. My Dad is a writer too - and though he warned me not to become one, because it can be such a difficult road financially and otherwise, I'm glad I didn't take his advice. (He says he is, too!) Best of luck with the submission and I look forward to reading your good news here!