Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election Night 2016: It's 2:30am and I Can't Sleep..

Because I knew that, regardless of the outcome, I was bound to be stressed by Election Day reporting, I purposely avoided all news, including my Facebook news feed until bedtime.

I fell asleep early but woke, stressed, 90 minutes later. Unable to get back to sleep, I broke my "news fast," hoping that good news would ease my anxiety. As you likely know by now, the news – at least as I saw it – was not good.

After obsessing online for an hour, I tried again to sleep. Again, I was unsuccessful. Finally, I did what I do best: I put what I was feeling into words and posted it on Facebook.

Some of those who read my words found them inspiring and comforting and encouraged me to share them here and in my newsletter


To be clear, this is not intended as an attack on anyone's voting choices. It is an expression of how I felt on election night and how I continue to feel days later.


inspirational quote
It's 2:30am, and as I lie in bed unable to sleep, I feel moved to set down my thoughts about tonight's election results – as much to put something into words for myself as to share those thoughts with you. Maybe thinking "aloud" will help still my mind and free me to sleep. Maybe it will help someone reading this to do likewise. I hope so, on both counts.

I will try, in the days ahead, to find some redemptive value in what has just happened, as I do my best to do with all perceived setbacks. I know that redemptive value is there because it is always there, somewhere in the "big picture," even if it is not always easily visible.

For right now, though, I'm just heartsick...
  • For my daughter, who will spend the next four years governed by men and, yes, women, who have demonstrated little respect for the wisdom I know she possesses to make wise and considered choices about her needs and about her body
  • For my lesbian and gay sisters and brothers, who will spend the next four years governed by men and women who have vowed to strip us of our human rights
  • For my Jewish coreligionists, who will spend the next four years governed by an administration endorsed by rabid antisemites
  • For the millions who, like me, are certain to lose our health insurance if, as promised, Obamacare is repealed 
  • For my black, Muslim, latino and other minority friends, who will likely continue to be insulted and disrespected, now at the highest levels of government
  • And for everyone of compassion in this country and beyond who respects human dignity and human rights. 
It is easy to be frightened and angry right now. I have been both over the past several hours and have yet to let it all go. It is easy, too, to demonize and blame. I have done those, too. It is also hard not to feel powerless. I have felt that as well.
inspirational quoteBut it is fear, anger, blame and feelings of impotence that created tonight's results, that got us into this situation. They cannot get us out of it. They will not get us out of it.

I wish I had an easy alternative to offer, for myself as much as for those of you who have been feeling as I do. Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions, no quick fixes, despite what some of those elected tonight might believe.

There is only the always difficult, moment-to-moment step of acknowledging our feelings, of not letting our fears and anger rule our words and actions, of not giving in to despair, of continuing to do our best to be the best we can be and of continuing to keep our hearts as open as we are able, as heartsick as we might feel in many of those same moments.

It is difficult for me to feel hopeful at 2:50am, when it seems as though this darkness I am experiencing will never lift. I don't imagine it will be a whole lot easier when light dawns in a few hours.

Yet in moments like these, hope is all I have. In moments like these, I have to push myself to remember that without hope, I have nothing.

Is that simplistic? Perhaps. But if it gets me to sleep tonight and, coupled with constructive word and action, gets me through the next days and months, it will be enough. It will have to be.

One final thought before I switch off the light and try again to sleep: I told a friend earlier today on a different topic that when times are tough, writing is the only thing that makes sense for me. Perhaps what I should have added is that when nothing else in my life seems to make any sense, writing is often the only thing that helps me to understand what I'm feeling and to find sense in the seemingly senseless. It has certainly begun to do that for me just now.

Perhaps my sentences are the seams that hold me together. Perhaps, that's the real reason I write. Perhaps, in the end, it's the only reason.

I invite you to share your feelings, experiences and comments. Please note, however, that insulting or inflammatory remarks will not be posted.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Not Just for NaNoWriMo: My Top 10 WritingTips

I am often asked at the end of an interview whether I have one piece of advice for the writers listening to the show. Or, if it's November, whether I have pointers to offer those writers cranking out a 50,000-word novel as part of National Novel Writing Monthor NaNoWriMo, as it's popularly called.

My problem with the question is not that I can't answer it. My problem is that I have more to say than the allotted time will allow! 

My solution? This blog post, timed to coincide with NaNoWriMo but filled with suggestions that will work for you year-round. All apply to fiction or screenplays; many are equally relevant regardless of your form, medium or genre. So, here goes...





My Top Ten Writing Tips for Authors & Screenwriters


1. You Don't Have to Know What Your Book Is About Before Starting.
I have rarely known what my books were going to be about before I began writing them. With three of them, I didn't even know I was writing a book when I started!

With The MoonQuest, for example, a writing exercise in a class I was teaching sparked a story I knew nothing about. When the class was over, I just kept writing...and a novel eventually emerged. The Voice of the Muse and Dialogues with the Divine each grew from journaled jottings that were never (consciously) intended for an audience. 

(It's those experiences that prompted me to write a book I did know I was writing and what it was about: Birthing Your Book...Even If You Don't Know What It's About, a step-by-step guide to getting your book written, whether or not you think you know what you're doing.)


2. You Don't Need to Plot, Plan, Outline or Otherwise Prepare. 
Of course, you can plot, plan, outline or otherwise prepare. There's no right or wrong way to write a book...or any other creative project. The only right-write way is the way that works for you on this book. (It might be different next time!) Just so you know, though, I have never outlined. Nothing. Ever. Not even my screenplays, which orthodox screenwriting lore would have you believe is compulsory. (That's why I wrote Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally – to free you from creativity-stifling orthodoxy.)

So how do you begin? With one word, any word. And then another and another and another. And another. No stopping. No editing. No censoring. No going back. Just racing forward through and past the fear, anxiety and inevitable nonsense and into the story that will reveal itself to you through the writing of it, if you get out of its way and let it. That's a Cliff's Notes version of my "Writing on the Muse Stream" method. Read more about it in any of my books for writers.


3. Forget the Rules. All of Them.
All my books for writers include a set of tongue-in-cheek "rules" for writers. And although they vary depending on each book's theme, they all share the same first and final rule: There are no rules. 

Whether during NaNoWriMo or at any other time, write the book (or short story or poem or screenplay or stage play or essay) that demands to be written as it demands to be written, not according to anyone else's rules or strictures, including those set out by the folks at NaNoWriMo.
  • You haven't started yet? Start today. Now. Or start tomorrow or the day after or next week. Just start!
  • Your book is a memoir or other non-fiction work? Or it's not a book at all but a screenplay? Celebrate the fact that you're writing something instead of beating yourself up for not having written a novel. The fact that you’re writing, that you’re moving forward with a project you’re passionate about, is more important than its form, medium or genre.
  • Your NaNoWriMo draft is shorter than 50,000 words? Celebrate that you've finished your draft instead of mourning the fact that you didn't meet NaNoWriMo's arbitrary word count.
  • You don't finish by NaNoWriMo's November 30 deadline...or by whatever deadline you have set for yourself? So what! However many words you have written are more words than you would have written had you not launched the process. When the time comes, celebrate that.


4. Don't Judge.
Just as you are not judging your process, don't judge your output. If you're participating in NaNoWriMo, you are racing against the calendar to meet a November 30 deadline and have no time to fix 'n fuss as you go. That's a good thing. The most uncreative thing you can do is edit while you write that first draft...of anything. NaNoWriMo or not, let your first draft be as chaotic, repetitive, inconsistent and illogical as it needs to be. Just get your story onto the page, however it comes out. Use subsequent drafts to polish, hone and refine your rough stone into the jewel it was meant to be. 


5. Trust Your Book & Its Characters.
Your book and its characters (if it's a novel) are smarter than you are. Get out of their way (and your own) and let them tell their story through you. Abandon control! 

6. It's Okay to Be Out-of-Order.
Like movies, which are rarely filmed in sequence, your first (or second or third) draft may not write itself in final book order. That's okay. In this as in all aspects of your writing enterprise, let the bits and pieces of your book or other writing project come as they come...and write them that way, knowing that your project's innate wisdom will determine the appropriate order when the time is right. 


7. Take Risks.
Creative expression is about risk-taking. It's about pushing boundaries – your own as well as those of others. It’s about boarding Star Trek’s starship Enterprise, taking off for parts unknown and journeying to the edges of the creative universe. Commit to taking more risks. Commit to the creative artist you are.


8. Do the Best You Can, and Let It Be Good Enough.
Your book may be excellent, accomplished, creative and insightful. It may be brilliant, compelling and universally lauded. But perfect? Not possible. It’s not possible because when we translate an idea or concept into language, we’re taking something that is infinite (energy) and dynamic (neural impulses) and converting it into something that is finite (language) and static (squiggles on a page). The resulting “translation” can never be more than an approximation. Do the best you can, and let it be good enough...because your book will never be perfect. Not. Ever.


9. Write
It seems obvious, particularly in a month devoted to novel-writing. But it can be easy to put writing aside in favor of research. It’s even easier to put writing aside while you try to figure what your book is about.

Don’t wait to figure out what your book is about. Don’t worry about its direction, theme, structure or focus. Don’t worry about chapter breaks (my first MoonQuest draft had none). Don’t worry about what people will think of it, or of you. Don’t worry about anything. Set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and, without judging or second-guessing what emerges, let your book do its wizardly work – on you as much as on the page.

In other words: Write...the book (or other project) you didn’t know you had in you...the book you could never have imagined writing...the book you believed you could not write...the book that is yours to write. 


10. There Are No Rules
As I noted in Tip #3, this is the one rule that never changes. No matter what you’re writing, the only certainties are that flow is fluid, your creation is unique and your book makes its own rules. Truly, there is no universal right way or wrong way. There is only your way, the way of your book.



You may be wondering whether I have ever participated in NaNoWriMo. The answer is yes. Three years ago, I wrote The SunQuest, the third and final installment in my Q'ntana fantasy trilogy, during NaNoWriMo. Amazingly, I did it in 21 days. But not every book can be written in 21 days...or 30. The StarQuest, The Q'ntana Trilogy's Book II, took me 11 years and two false starts to get from the first to the final word of a first draft!

However long it takes, the important thing is that you're writing. So hurry up and finish this blog post, open your notebook or writing application and WRITE!

Oh, and don't wait until your book is finished and released to start promoting it on social media. The best time to start talking about it online and off is now...even if you haven't started writing it yet! My newest book –  Engage! Winning Social Media Strategies for Authors – has lots of tips to help you do just that!


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Writing as an Act of Pilgrimage

"Don't be fooled into thinking you are supposed to arrive at a destination. It is the going that is central, the you that is going. Your pilgrimage is really about yourself observing your own transit across the landscape."
– Richard Leviton, "Designing Your Pilgrimage"


Writing is also an act of pilgrimage. 

We set out on a journey, often intent on a particular direction and destination. Yet if we're true to our art and to our heart, we free the story to carry us where it will.

The resulting journey is one that reveals not only the story we're writing but the one we're living.

When we listen for the stories that move through us, we also discover the story that is us.

How has your writing been a pilgrimage? What has it taught you – about yourself, about your work, about the world?


• Need some help getting going? Check out my books and recordings for writers, along with links to many free resources, on my website.

• Read how my writing journey has been a pilgrimage in Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir, in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from www.actsofsurrender.com.

Photo: Mark David Gerson

Sunday, July 17, 2016

How Sara's Year Got Its "After"

When the earliest readers of Sara’s Year approached me in the days and weeks following the book’s publication, they spoke with a single voice, and an unexpected one: “We want more,” they cried. 

Many wanted to know what was next for Marc-Allan Cameron (Mac), the celebrity artist in Sara’s Year who turns out to be as unlucky in love as he is lucky with fame and fortune. Others demanded to know the fates both of Bernie Freed, the young man who walks out on his mother’s funeral and spends the rest of Sara’s Year discovering all that he never knew about her and about himself, and of his friend, Erik Donnekin. And what about the title character, still others asked: What’s her after Sara’s Year story?

As I wrote in the introduction to Sara’s Year (and in an earlier blog post), that book was sparked by a series of health scares, in the midst of which I asked myself what I would want to make sure I accomplished should the worst occur. The answer was a new novel. Sara’s Year was the result.

It was to be a one-off. When Sara’s Year was finished, I planned to produce a new book for writers

Sarah’s fans had other ideas. (That’s not a typo: There’s a reason why Sarah the character has a different spelling than Sara the book.)

At first I insisted that there would be no After Sara’s Year. I felt complete with the story and its characters and felt no call to continue the saga. But as readers continued to push and prod, I began to reconsider. 

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I had to confess that I, too, was curious about the fates of Mac, Sarah, Bernie and Erik. But the character who most intrigued me, the one no one ever asked about, was Sadie Finkel. 

If you’ve read Sara’s Year, you’ll remember Bernie’s aunt as the quintessential alteh machashaifeh; that’s Yiddish for old witch (“that’s witch with a b”). Sadie was so utterly unpleasant in Sara’s Year that the author in me wondered how she had become that way and whether there could be any hope for her. 

It didn’t take me long to realize that the only way I would find out what happens to Mac, Sarah, Bernie, Erik and, yes, Sadie would be to write them into another Sara story. And now it's finished!

Although After Sara’s Year is, officially, the second book in what I am now calling The Sara Stories, you don’t have to have read Sara’s Year in order to be able to follow this new story. The two books are interconnected, but each telling stands on its own. 

By the way, The Sara Stories will not end with After Sara’s Year. I had barely begun a second draft of Sara’s Year when an idea for a third installment in the series popped into my head. No, I won’t be calling it After After Sara’s Year, but it looks as though it will include all your favorite Sara characters...plus more!

For now, though, I invite you to enter (or reenter) the world of Sarah and her friends in After Sara’s Year, the book I couldn’t have written without readers like you. And to encourage you, I have a special offer for you: 

Preorder your signed copy of After Sara's Year today, and start reading it before it hits bookstores!


You haven't read Sara's Year?
No problem. Each of the Sara Stories stands on its own!

Look for both books at
www.thesarastories.com 


While you're there, considering adding the award-winning Sara's Year to your order – for yourself if you haven't read it yet or for a friend if you have...or any of my other books. Just let me know to whom you want those signed as well. 


Marc-Allan Cameron hasn't felt alive in 30 years. 

For Sadie Finkel, it's been more than 50. 

When life comes knocking, will they let it in?


The newest spellbinding addition to the award-winning Sara Stories!

Preorder your signed copy today!


Preordered books will ship by mid-August, Priority Mail to US addresses. 
** Note to Canadian Readers: If there's a Canada Post shutdown, your books will ship once the labor dispute is over. To bypass Canada Post, contact me about UPS rates.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sara's Year: Now an Award-Winner!

In February Sara's Year was named the top 2015 medal-winner for general fiction in the New Apple Book Awards! This is a first literary award for Sara but a ninth for its author, with six prizes already received for The MoonQuest and two for The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. Check out these critically acclaimed books today!

• Look for all my books on my website or in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller.

• Preorder your signed copy of After Sara's Year, my sequel to the award-winning Sara's Year, TODAY! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

This is a slightly edited version of piece that I originally posted to Facebook on May 24. Click here to view the original post and its comment stream.

If you  I have just unfollowed another Facebook friend because of a vicious, vitriolic post attacking one of the Democratic candidates. This one was venomously anti-Sanders from someone who is vehemently pro-Clinton. But there have been just as many, if not more, from Sanders supporters. That both sets of attacks have been far more searing than anything coming from the Republicans should concern anyone who cares about the future of this country, not to mention the future of political discourse. (See "Don't Be a Hater."

Unlike those whose posts I have reluctantly chosen to mute, I see the many positive qualities in both Democratic candidates; I also see the many flaws in both. As I view it, both are qualified to be President, either would bring unique skills, passions and gifts to the Oval Office...and neither would be perfect. Whichever one would ultimately make it to the top job would alternately delight and infuriate their followers; that's the reality of politics.

It's also important to note that neither would damage this country, its citizens and its world standing and reputation the way a Trump presidency would, if Donald Trump's public rhetoric is to be believed.

One side note: Anyone who thinks you can equate a Clinton presidency with a Trump presidency has not been listening to Donald Trump and the Congressional Republicans or to their allies...like the KKK, for example, which has trumpeted its support for Trump in the hopes that he will put Jews in their place. A Republican presidency and Congressional majority would destroy American's remaining international credibility, would do its best to dismantle what little social safety net we have, including Obamacare, and would continue to strip women and minorities of their rights, making certain that those changes are upheld with Supreme Court appointments.

I understand the passionate yearning for radical change, and I share it. However, if Trump and the Republicans are elected because those who should be opposing them are instead opposing each other, we will all get radical change – just not the kind any of us desires and definitely the kind it will take generations to overturn.

I also understand that the political process is fraught with passion, and that's a good thing. Passion fuels change. But wouldn't it be better to channel our passion constructively, using it to broadcast the solid qualities of our candidate rather than misusing it in vicious attacks that are too often grounded more in rumor than truth?

If all elections are important, this one is perhaps more important than most. Let's keep the debate alive, but let's dial up the r-e-s-p-e-c-t and crank down the vitriol, which seems to grow more rabid as each day brings us closer to the Democratic Convention. This country deserves more. We deserve more. 

I welcome your comments as to why your candidate is the best choice or what your experience has been with the campaign so far. Negative comments, simplistic comments or those that simply say something like "your candidate is no good" or "your candidate should drop out" will be deleted.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How I Tried to Give Up Writing...and Failed

"I can't do this anymore. It's too emotionally draining. As soon as I finish with this draft, I'm closing the door on my writing 'career.' I'm not a writer anymore. It's over."

It's August 2013, a few weeks before my 59th birthday, and I'm about two-thirds through a first draft of my stage-musical adaptation of The SunQuest, the third story in my Q'ntana Trilogy. I've been at this nonstop for six weeks now. I started with The MoonQuest, the first story, and have continued straight through The StarQuest and into The SunQuest. I still have a fair bit of work left on this trio of initial drafts and I'm beyond burnt out.

For more than two decades, I have treated writing as a spiritual pursuit, writing from the deepest inner places I have been able to access and, as the title of my memoir suggests, surrendering more and more fully with each project to what I view as my highest imperative. This is also what I've taught – in my books for writers as well as through my coaching, classes and workshops.

But on this day, it feels as though I have sacrificed too much for too little return: My book sales are poor, my coaching income is negligible, I no longer have a home or car of my own and the emotional pain of digging so deep has grown unbearable.

On this day, my only commitment is do whatever it takes to finish this draft of The SunQuest so I can bring my trilogy of stage musicals to completion.

Two weeks later, as soon as I ring down the final curtain on The SunQuest and my Q'ntana musicals, I declare to my housemate and my closest friends that I'm on strike. "If I'm going to return to writing," I insist, "something has to shift. Otherwise, I'm giving it up. The work is much too hard for so pitiful a payoff."

My friends, some of whom are writers themselves, make sympathetic noises. I'm certain that they don't doubt my sincerity, but I suspect they doubt my determination. "Let them doubt," I mutter as I settle into a diet of Netflix movies and murder mysteries. "If nothing changes, I'm not going back."

My sole concession is to a pre-strike interview I conducted with New York Times bestselling mystery author J.A. Jance the previous month (see below). Because Jance was so generous with her time, I commit to editing the interview and posting it to YouTube as the sole writing-related interruption to my job action.

About 34 minutes into our recorded conversation, as we're talking about craft, I tell Jance how much I love that she never outlines her books because I don't either.

"I have to sort of step out with faith," she says, "that if I can write the first sentence of the book, I can eventually get to the end of it."

"Shit," I say out loud – not to J.A. Jance in the interview, but to the recording I'm editing. The moment she talks about the faith that gets her from her first sentence to her last, I know that my strike is over.

My creative and spiritual lives have always been inextricably linked, and both have been built on a solid foundation of faith.

My faith, as I describe it in Acts of Surrender, is not about submitting in any kind of demeaning fashion to some white-bearded, white-robed gentleman peering down from on high. "Rather," I write in the book, "I acknowledge the existence of an infinite mind whose wisdom transcends my conscious thoughts, and I do my best to defer to it. Whatever [that infinite mind] is – and I don’t pretend to have solved the theological and scientific question of the ages – it is something that is both within me and of which I am part. Whatever it is, it is definitely smarter than I am, and that is where my surrender is directed."

As J.A. Jance's words echo in my heart and mind, I realize that if the deepest part of me has determined that I am a writer and that my writing (and all that derives from it) is the most important part of my being, I can't walk away from it. I can't abandon my faith and I can't stop surrendering to it. I am a writer. Period.

I would be lying if I said that I never again doubted and never again half-wished that I could turn my back on the sometimes-onerous demands of my Muse. But every time I'm tempted, I remember my 2013 writer's strike and the words of faith that aborted it.

In the end, as I'm reminded over and over and over, all that matters is that I'm writing.

The writing has definitely continued since my failed strike; if anything, the pace has picked up. Although I have yet to return to my Q'ntana musicals, I am now at work on my 13th book, After Sara's Year, a reader-demanded sequel to last year's award-winning Sara's Year, itself a story about never giving on your dreams. 

After Sara's Year will be available later this year; meantime, pick up the Sara's Year, the  first installment in what is now The Sara Stories! Look for all my books in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from my website.


From my interview with J.A. Jance (if the video doesn't play from the player, click here)...
"I hated outlining in 10th grade geography class and I hate it now. Because I write murder mysteries, I usually start with somebody dead, and then I spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who did it and how come. I have to sort of step out with faith that if I can write the first sentence of the book, I can eventually, 100,000 words later, get to the end of it."



Monday, May 9, 2016

The Act of Surrender That Created Acts of Surrender

In this excerpt Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir, I share the act of surrender that helped birth my memoir into the world...

It’s May 6. I have just finished breakfast, and as I stare into my empty coffee cup, I contemplate my immediate future. It has been less than twenty-four hours since I completed a final draft of my novel The SunQuest and, along with it, an odyssey that has occupied nearly one-third of my life: Eighteen years ago I surrendered to the words that would become the first draft of The MoonQuest, a story I knew nothing about, a story that would launch a fantasy trilogy that I did not yet know existed. Now that I have written “The End,” both to The SunQuest and the trilogy, what’s next for me?


As I stare into that coffee cup, I am certain that another draft of this memoir, of Acts of Surrender, must follow The Q’ntana Trilogy on my creative agenda. How can it not when The SunQuest is, among other things, about Ben’s coming to terms with his past? How can it not when Ben’s story, like Q’nta’s and Toshar’s before him in The StarQuest and The MoonQuest, is also my story? Hardly a day went by, while I worked on The SunQuest, that I failed to notice a parallel between Ben’s life and mine, between what he discovers through reliving his journey on the page and what I have already discovered through living mine on these pages. 

At the same time, I ask myself: Wouldn’t it make sense to wait a month before taking on a new draft of Acts of Surrender? Between the Q’ntana screenplays and novels and the early drafts of this memoir, I have been writing nonstop for nearly two years. Maybe it’s time for a break. Besides, I have a business trip to Las Vegas coming up in a few weeks. Wouldn’t it make sense to wait until I get back? 

You would think that after writing three fantasies where conventional sense is an elusive commodity, not to mention penning two drafts of a memoir that exposes similar threads in my own life, I would have more sense than to ask questions about sense. Apparently, I don’t.

The coffee cup is still empty, and my mind wanders, away from my creative life and on to my life — not that it’s altogether possible to separate the two. I have now been back in Albuquerque for eighteen months. A 2010 move from here to Los Angeles ended after ten weeks, when I felt a call to return to New Mexico. Through this, my third sojourn in Albuquerque, I have become aware how much my life here has come to resemble my 1994-95 time in rural Nova Scotia: a hermit-like existence where little occurs beyond my writing. In Nova Scotia, my focus was on the first two drafts of The MoonQuest; once they were finished, I found myself back in Toronto, my monkish tendencies forgotten.

There is, however, one significant difference between these two periods in my life: In Nova Scotia, I had no conscious desire ever to leave. I thought I had rebirthed myself on the East Coast and, when the call came for me to go back to the big city, I was initially startled and dismayed. Here in Albuquerque, I have never stopped longing to get back to L.A., to resume a life that has felt on hold since I returned here. 

Suddenly, the opening scene of The MoonQuest pushes my mental wanderings aside. In it, the dreamwalker Na’an interrupts an elderly Toshar, who has long resisted writing his story. 

“It is not for me to boast of my exploits,” Toshar argues. But Na’an is firm. “It is your story to tell,” she says. “It is for you to fix it in ink, to set the truth down for all to read.” 

I cannot move on to other realms and set off on other journeys until I have told my story, I hear myself speak out loud, paraphrasing Toshar’s thoughts in The MoonQuest. The words catch in my throat, and I’m gripped by an emotion so strong that I find myself on verge of tears.

I can’t know what those other realms and journeys might be. I can’t know whether, in another parallel to my time in Nova Scotia, they will mark the end of my creative retreat and launch me back into the world’s bustle — this time to L.A. instead of Toronto. What I can do is recognize the charge I experienced and the truth that underlies it: Like Toshar, I must tell my story, this story, or I will not be free to move forward with my life. 

I know one other thing: Whatever the “sense” of the matter, I cannot wait a month to begin. In the act of surrender that is the book, I must make Acts of Surrender my primary focus, and I must begin now...in that realm where all stories begin: Once upon a time...

• An excerpt from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir (c) Mark David Gerson, available in paperback and ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from my website.


Photos: Coffee mug and L.A. billboard by Mark David Gerson. Flag is the Nova Scotia provincial flag. MoonQuest book cover designed by Angela Farley. Acts of Surrender book cover: Ojai, CA; photo by Sander Dov Freedman.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

In Freeing My Story, I Freed My Life

I never intended for The MoonQuest to be such a powerful metaphor both for my creative journey and for creative blocks and the creative process. But that's what it turned out to be...through my act of surrender to the story that wanted to be told through me.

In the book excerpt I share on this video, the main character is visited by a Muse-like being who insists he tell his story.

Na’an says it is my story. Perhaps she is right. Is that why the words come so reluctantly? So many seasons of storytelling and still I hesitate. Of all the stories to stick in my throat, how ironic that it should be The MoonQuest, a tale of the freeing of story itself...



• Look for The MoonQuest and its two Q'ntana Trilogy sequels (The StarQuest and The SunQuest

For more about the personal and creative journey that led to The MoonQuest, pick up Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir.

All my books are available in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by my to you from my website.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Raising a Glass in Gratitude, for Every Moment in My Life

 It's always significant for me when Easter falls in March. Although Easter is not part of my religious heritage, this holiday that marks death and celebrates resurrection parallels two personally significant death and resurrection events in my own life: the death of my mother in 1984 and the resurrection of my creativity 10 years later, almost to the day.

My mother rarely pressured me to be or do anything other than what I chose to be or do, and for that I will always be grateful. Yet all parents carry expectations for their children, however unconscious, and all children tune in to that, even if they're not aware they're doing it. When my mother died on the evening of March 26, 1984, the burden of that unconscious awareness lifted. This is how I tell it in my Acts of Surrender memoir...

"As courageous as I had allowed myself to be while [my mother] was alive – to come out as a gay man, for example, or to quit a secure job for the risks of freelancing or to leave my hometown – all my choices and actions had been colored by how I thought she might respond and had been filtered through her world view. With her gone, all her hopes, fears and expectations for me were gone, too. Suddenly, without being conscious of it or of what it meant, I was free. It would take a few more years before I could begin to grow into that freedom, before I could let it unalterably transform me and my world."

One of the most dramatic expressions of that newfound freedom showed up on March 28, 1994. That was the day I penned the first words of what would become The MoonQuest. This, my debut novel, would come to stand as a metaphor for the unblocking of my stifled creativity: It takes place in a land where stories have been banned and storytellers put to death.

When it was finally published 13 years later, it would also launch a writerly career that has now produced 12 books (with a 13th on the way), a trio of optioned screenplays and three stage plays-in-progress.

However, just as my mother's passing did not unleash an immediate flood of creativity, nor did The MoonQuest: It would take me more than a decade to complete an initial draft of my second manuscript, The StarQuest. (Ironically, I started writing The StarQuest a few days after Easter in 1998.) The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, my third manuscript but second published book, also didn't materialize for several years. And it wasn't until five or six years years ago that the real tsunami of creativity hit: It's only since 2010 that I have started and/or completed most of my books, screenplays and stage plays.

It's not surprising, then, that I greet this and every March with mixed emotion: with gratitude to my mother and sorrow at her absence, and with awe at the creative awakening that ignited 10 years later in a Toronto writing workshop I was teaching (a story I shared in my February 2016 newsletter). I will be raising a glass to both as the month draws to an end.

One final note: A year before her death from cancer, my mother confessed to me that she had made many poor choices in her life. I thought a lot about those regrets as I wrote my most recent novel, Sara's Year, the story of how one woman's abandoned passions inspire both her son and her oldest friend to live their dreams.

I am now 61, my mother's age when she spoke those words and when she died the following March. Like my mother's, mine has not always been an easy life and there are situations and circumstances that I sometimes wish had played out differently.

But unlike my mother and the Esther character in Sara's Year who borrows bits and pieces from my mother's life, I have no regrets. I recognize, not always happily, that all my choices and all my experiences have made me a stronger, more compassionate human being, a more insightful and creative artist and a more effective and intuitive coach, mentor and motivator.

Perhaps the greatest gifts of all were those very years when I didn't feel free to create and when I felt tied to my mother's hopes, fears and expectations. Like the caterpillar trapped in its cocoon, they forced me to push free to become the butterfly I now am.

So as I raise that glass, it will be in gratitude for every moment in my life – the blocked as well as the flowing, the deaths as well as the resurrections. And I will look forward to many more years of that same flavorful yet maddening goulash of love, fear, frustration and creation that comes together in every moment to shape each of our lives.

Photos: My mother on her second wedding day, some time in the 1970s • Me and my mother at a family gathering in the late 1960s • The current and original MoonQuest book covers.

Look for The MoonQuest, Acts of Surrender, Sara's Year and all my books in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from my website.

And watch for The MoonQuest movie, the first installment in a trio of epic motion pictures based on my screenplay adaptations of my Q'ntana Trilogy fantasy novels.