<![CDATA[Nancy Clements - Blog]]>Mon, 29 Feb 2016 19:35:08 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Making the List]]>Mon, 30 May 2011 13:40:43 GMThttp://www.nancyclements.com/blog/making-the-listA few weeks ago, I attended the Houston Writer's Guild Annual Conference. While there, I pitched my manuscript to three agents - it was the first time I'd ever done that. Surprisingly, I wasn't as much nervous about talking to them as I was unsure about whether or not my manuscript was "good enough."  All three of them requested chapters, so I came away with my confidence nourished.
And then the mail brought the critique letters from the writing contest (did I mention I also entered the HWG Manuscript contest?) Over 100 manuscripts were submitted to this contest, and my manuscript placed in the top 15, just outside the "Honorable Mention" category - which thrilled me to no end. Especially since it was the first time I'd ever entered a contest like that. The critiques were positive, but contained a few suggestions for improvements, as they should. I love the criticism – I think it will make me a better writer – but it sent me back to the manuscript to make changes, even while three agents were expecting to see some chapters from me.
I still haven’t sent them anything.
It turns out revision is a tricky business, especially after you think your manuscript is finished. Going back to flesh out the characters more, to change their perspective, leads to sweeping changes later in the story, and soon I found I was rearranging entire sections to make the plot line flow better. I’m still working on it.
And the clock is ticking.
Pressure to finish, self-imposed deadlines, four hungry kids and a full time job – it’s enough to make me question my sanity. Why am I doing this? Because I have to. It’s a compulsion, a driving need to share the story that has its own reserved chamber in my heart. I want to get it out there, but it needs to be right.
My family tells me to send it – after all, it made the top 15 list. My writing friends tell me to keep revising – the agents will wait for it. I hope they’re right. I continue to revise, aiming for the grand prize – the list of published authors. That’s the real list I want to make.

<![CDATA[Finding Time]]>Sun, 20 Mar 2011 15:33:38 GMThttp://www.nancyclements.com/blog/finding-timeHave you ever noticed how life seems to get faster the older we get?

I remember being a kid in the sweltering Houston summer, walking barefoot to the neighborhood pool each morning for swim team practice, then home again when it was over, anxious to get my “real day” started. I envisioned friends pouring from their houses, collecting on the sidewalks with roller skates or jump ropes or some new amazing game that we just had to play all day, until night or the mosquitoes forced us back indoors. Problem was, it never happened that way. I would come home from practice, pour a bowl of Fruit Loops, and wait for the doorbell to ring. And wait. I would look out my windows for signs of stirring across the street and go back to waiting. By the time my neighborhood friends actually came around, half the day would be gone. Don’t get me wrong – we would make the most of those afternoon and evening hours, filling every minute to the brim and stretching time as far as it would allow, and that made all the waiting worthwhile. And so by dark, when most of us had to be back home, a single day had felt like a week. And a week felt like a month.

How did we make time slow down so much? I wonder this because sometimes I’d really like to harness that ability again, to use it as an adult and slow life down. I sometimes feel like the older I get, the faster life seems to go. A day – a week – can slide by in a flash, and I stand gaping after it, wondering how it got by me. Life speeds up as an adult – work, kids, meals, errands, appointments, meetings, practices, and if we’re lucky, a little bit of sleep at night. And boom! Start over the next day with the same craziness.

This week, I discovered a little trick, and it slowed life down a bit. My kids, especially my oldest (who is in college), convinced me to drive over to the lake with them. They wanted to watch the sunset. I thought of everything I still needed to do at home: make dinner, work through the mountains of laundry, vacuum the dust off the hardwood floors, go through the mail, clean the fish tank… and on and on. Actually, I hate to admit, I thought of how nice it might be if all the kids went to the lake, leaving me at home to plow through these chores without interruption. But their pleading swayed me, and I found myself climbing into the front seat of my son’s car. He wanted to drive.

We ended up on a gravel road, parked in a remote area next to wild brush and scraggly trees and the rough, rocky shoreline. How my son knew about this place, I didn’t know, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask. I just went with it.

I followed my children as they picked their way across rocks, through leg-scraping brush, and across the damp sandy earth of the lake’s edge. I followed them around a quiet cove and up an embankment of rough-cropped rocks, massive sheets of stone punctuated with pebbles and broken bits of shale, until we reached the top. There before me, the lake stretched out in both directions, the panoramic view breath-stealing, and I sat myself on a recliner-sized rock while my children climbed down to the shoreline, where they explored deep indentations in the boulders that they called “caves” and skipped stones across the pummeling waves. Their voices, diminished by the strong winds and the ocean-like sound of lake waves slamming into rock, drifted up to me and skipped away.

I sat on my rock furniture for less than forty minutes, but it felt like hours. Time slowed. The wind blew everything from my mind and the sound of the water settled in my heart, and I felt peace creep into me and reach all the way to my fingertips. My oldest son climbed up to sit with me, and together we watched the sun set – a process that lasted mere minutes but seemed much longer. As twilight faded and darkness set in, I didn’t want to leave.

We had been gone just over an hour and yet it felt like half a day. Since then, I’ve caught myself thinking of going back, to recapture that essence of peace and to force time into a slower pace. Because I know that it’s only going to get faster the older I get.

And that’s my discovery. Time is a one-sided friend. I can’t wait for it to come and find me – I need to go find it. Wherever it lives.

<![CDATA[Forest and Fog]]>Tue, 15 Mar 2011 01:05:05 GMThttp://www.nancyclements.com/blog/first-postMy first memory of walking in a forest was at the ripe age of twenty three, when my new husband and I hiked through the Shenandoah Mountains. We found an old-growth hemlock forest and left the trail, traipsing across the tender needle-carpeted forest floor and marveling at the immensity of those towering trees with their short, soft needles and their dainty, miniscule cones. The softest diffused light poked through the tallest branches, and the only sound was the gentle whooshing of the wind as it swept through the high boughs. The forest was magical and quiet and serene, and I wanted to take it home with me.

I suppose I captured an image or two on my little point-and-shoot camera, but images alone rarely bring something back to life in the same way it was experienced. Words are much better at recreating images and sounds in the imagination; words are much better for breathing life into old memories.

I fell in love with the power of words when I was very young. From Dr. Seuss to Laura Ingalls Wilder to Jane Austen, I was mesmerized by the worlds I encountered, the people I met, the moments that transformed me. I filled notebooks with my own poetry and prose, wrote greeting cards and advertisements and stories, and kept all of it hidden away. I hadn’t a fraction of the talent of those esteemed writers, I thought. Even when I did receive encouragement from my teachers – the only people who ever read my words – I was too shy and filled with self-doubt to pursue writing as a serious career.  Instead, I became a teacher of English, and tried to share my love of the written word with others who might become so much more than I.

The debut of this journal marks the first time I’ve ever presented my writing to the general public. It is, in many ways, a birth, borne of those quiet and serene places – the forest and fog – that live deep in the writer’s mind, deep in the memories of words well-loved.