Stumbling towards the light

October 8, 2007 at 8:42 am | Posted in career, Honorary Heartlette, Linda Rettstatt, writing | 1 Comment

Hi, everyone. I’m Linda Rettstatt. My first novel, And The Truth Will Set You Free, was released in July, 2007 by Wings ePress, Inc. I’m very happy to have been invited here today to share with you some of my journey from the first word to publication. I’ve yet to meet an author who actually started out to become an author. It seems we all got here via some detour.

I wanted to become a writer when I was in high school. Of course, then, I had a romantic notion of what that would mean. I planned to move from my rural river town in southwestern Pennsylvania to what was then a writer’s colony-Westport, Connecticut. I would live in some cramped attic, wear black, and write brilliant novels. Bear in mind, it was the ‘60’s.

At the time, I worked for the local newspaper-in the billing department (nothing glamorous). I was also offered the task of reviewing the local community theatre productions. Something for which I was not paid, but granted the by-line upon which I insisted. My words in print, my name above them, made it all worth it. But I pursued a different creative outlet and became a semi-professional musician.

We set our feet on a path and follow. And, just like the rural roads I walked as a child, the path presents twists, turns and detours. But the dream, like an ember buried beneath the dying fire, never lost its spark.

Fast forward-thirty-five years. I moved from Pennsylvania to Mississippi to develop a family counseling program for a non-profit agency. I’d found a way to funnel my creativity into my work as a psychotherapist. In between appointments, I’d take a few minutes to chat with my co-workers. The receptionist who handled my appointments, an outgoing southern belle, listened with interest as I shared that I had once dreamed of becoming a writer.

One afternoon, when my few remaining appointments had all canceled, I sat in her office, whining that I had nothing to do. She said, “Why don’t you go and write that book you keep talking about?” (I think her question was intended to get me out of her office because she did have something to do.)

Have you had the experience of shaking a soda can, then popping the tab on top? I sat at the computer and stared at the screen. Where do you start? I’ve since learned there are many starting points. I started with a title. I still don’t know where it came from. It’s not an original phrase-And The Truth Will Set You Free. I set those words into type. Now what? Who’s the story about? I’ve always liked the name Kate. But she needed a last name. I surfed my family history and came up with a surname-Reynolds.

That’s when I popped the tab on the recently shaken can. I wrote throughout the afternoon. I went home from work, a disk in hand, slipped it into my home computer and continued writing. I was possessed by a passion I’d held within for years. In three months, I had the first rough draft of a complete novel.

I ran out and bought all the ‘how to write’ books I could find. I don’t do well with rules, so I shelved all but two-Escaping Into the Open:The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg, and The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Punctuation. I’ve discovered, as I’ve learned the language of the trade, that I’m a ‘pantser.’ I’ve learned that you have to find your own style, what works for you.

Once I had a completed manuscript, I stared at the printed stack of paper-my book. I’d accomplished the one thing I’d always wanted to do-I’d written a novel. A few of my friends asked, “What’s your book about?” I offered it for their reading. They all read it and responded with, “You’re going to get this published, aren’t you?”

Well, um, okay. How hard can that be? Back to the bookstore for a Writers Market. Of course every writer must have an agent. We all know that. So I turned to the list of agents and sent out my version of a query letter. (I’ve since learned how to write one.) And the rejections rolled in. The funny thing is, I was somewhat proud of them. They proved that I’d stepped into a new world, taken hold of an old dream.

I stumbled upon the world of e-publishing and Wings ePress, Inc. I submitted an email query and, within the week, I had a request for the full manuscript. Okay, not knowing any better, I took it for granted this is the way it always works. Two months later, I received a contract. Well, this was easier than I’d thought.

My first book, And The Truth Will Set You Free, was published in July, 2007, by Wings ePress. My next two are contracted for publication next year. (See my website for excerpts and reviews.)

Now, I know it doesn’t always work this way. I have three other manuscripts that are searching for a home. I still take a run at agents every few months. I needed a writing group, a way to network with other authors, a place to have my work critiqued. Unable to find a group in the Memphis area (where I now live), I started an on-line critique group, The Women’s Fiction Writers Exchange. And here’s where I learned the ins and outs of writing and publishing. If you do only one thing for yourself as a writer, find a good critique partner or group. It is the most valuable resource you will have.

From my still-limited experience, I would further suggest you: (1) find your natural style and stick with it; (2) trust your instincts; (3) create a writing space that inspires you; (4) find your muse (mine is music, songs that speak to the story I’m writing. Karla Bonoff‘s New World kept me on track with Kate’s story); (5) and to reiterate, find a critique partner or group that you trust. Not only will these writers help you shape your manuscript into a masterpiece, they’ll serve as your sounding board and your cheerleaders when you most need encouragement; and, lastly, keep writing.

I don’t personally believe in writer’s block. You may not be able to write the thing you want to write, but you can always write something. Write every day. Write anything. Take the opportunity to hone your skills with description while creating a shopping list-two tomatoes the deep red-orange color of the western sky at sunset. Funnel your frustration with the cable company into a humorous essay (once you’re able to laugh at the experience.) Just write!

I thank the Purple Hearts and, especially Meg, for inviting me here today. Now, I’m off to query a few more unsuspecting agents.

Linda Rettstatt

Honorary Heartlette – Linda Rettstatt

September 30, 2007 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Honorary Heartlette, Linda Rettstatt, writing | Leave a comment

October’s Honorary Heartlette is Linda Rettstatt!

Linda grew up in the small town of Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where her passions led her to music, social work and the Sisters of St. Joseph. A few years ago, an old dream that had never died re-emerged and Linda starting writing. And writing. And writing. She writes stories for women- of strength, love, humor and hope.

Her first book, And The Truth Will Set You Free, came out at Wings ePress, Inc. this summer and was a bestseller for July/August.

To learn more about Linda, visit our Honorary Heartlettes page or check out her web site.

She’ll be here on October 8. We hope you’ll join us!

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