Telling YOUR story. Step one…

“Who here is a writer?” I asked the brave souls attending a local writing workshop. To no surprise, no one raised their hand. Cue the crickets. “Are any of you writing anything at the moment?” I continued from the front of the room. “I don’t care if it’s one page and you believe you may have written complete garbage.” With that refined explanation, several hands timidly raised up into the air. “OK then,” I replied, smiling. “YOU four brave folks are writers.” Which brings me to the first secret step to becoming a writer…    

Step #1 – Say aloud, “I am a writer.” It’s important to have confidence in everything we do, and writers can be particularly introverted and shy about calling attention to their talents. Writing is an intimidating endeavor, and you must step out of your comfort zone to give yourself permission to splash your thoughts and words onto the printed page for all to see, which can feel like the equivalent to running naked down the street. I applaud anyone daring enough to dive in, whether you’re sharing your writing with the world or keeping it to yourself or a select few, the adventure can be daunting and equally rewarding. It all begins with you. Say it with me… “I am a writer.”       

“I felt so bad for you. But it also felt so familiar, like I was reading about my own childhood,” one kind reader shared with me after she finished reading my novel for her book club assignment. While my book is a novel, it borrows heavily from my childhood growing up in a small farming community north of Kalamazoo. “I also had a mentally unstable mother,” she continued, “And our childhood was so messed up.”

As I listened to this delightful group of women sharing their own entertaining adventures of their youth, it became clear to me that I am not alone. In fact, I am convinced that everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s a rollercoaster childhood, finding redemption in an unusual place, or a simple connection between two strangers meeting on a vacation. Keep in mind that your writing is just that…yours. And it is your prerogative on who your readers are. Maybe your focus is writing about your own life or your parents’ lives as an ancestral gift to your child and grandchildren, or you can broaden your scope and write for the pleasure of all of us to read. The secret to step #2 is simple…

Step #2 – Just start writing. A writing friend of mine once put it this way… “I don’t care if your intent is to write historical fiction, and in the second chapter, you have aliens landing on earth. The worst thing you can do at the beginning of the writing process is to question what you’re putting down on paper. First rough drafts are just that, rough drafts. There will be plenty of time for edits and revisions. On that note, don’t ever show anyone your first draft. While you may think you just wrote the next “To Kill a Mockingbird,” trust me…you didn’t. After you’re a few drafts in, you may share your words with someone, but brace yourself for the feedback!      

Writing is an artform, and like artwork hanging in a gallery, it is subjective. If you do decide to share your writing with the world, understand that while there will be those who embrace your creativity, there will be others who will not understand or appreciate your craft. And that’s OK.    

Step #3 – It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s right. Just as life has its peaks and valleys, so will your writing process. There will be days when your writing will be on fire, and other days, not so much. One edit of mine included removing the back half of a finished manuscript and starting over.

At the end of the day, the secret to writing is no secret at all. The biggest obstacle is you. So, say it with me, “I am a writer.”

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.netand facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

CAN WE GO “HOME” AGAIN?

THE WALTONS: HOMECOMING – a 60 Second Movie Review

WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS PISS ANT SPOILER

When the CW announced recently that the beloved TV series, The Waltons would be receiving a reboot on their network, old people throughout the world rejoiced, and every young person went, “Huh?”

Never mind that. So, after trumpeting the news of this Christmas miracle, I feel obligated to providing my thoughts on the movie special that aired on December 28 on the CW Network – a holiday special featuring a family forced to deal with everyday life in the era following the 1929 stock-market crash and the hard times that followed.

SECOND WARNING…

Never watch a movie reboot with two sisters who remember every detail of the original adaptation and can’t get past the fact that every adaptation comes with new edits and dialogue. I understand their passion for tradition, but we are not the CW Network’s desired demographic. While I am sad that Mary Ellen no longer calls Elizabeth a piss ant (seriously, this is the best line in the original, and the mother’s reaction is priceless), I can only hope that this reboot brings a new crop of quotes to today’s younger generation. As a viewer who visited with the original Walton kids weekly, I have to say I was charmed by the new cast, with familiar faces filling the iconic roles (Hang on while I Google John Boy in Waltons Reboot. Oh yeah, 17-year-old Kevin from This is Us).

My only criticism is the needless Hallmark touch added to a show that attempts to depict life in an era that was darker and dirtier than what is shown in this sterilized version. But I am thankful and appreciate to be revisiting with this family on Walton’s Mountain. I cannot fathom this wholesome TV series surviving on a network full of shows overflowing with angst and superheroes, but something tells me that’s what they said the first time around.     

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Is Thanksgiving Canceled?

The note below recently followed students home in their backpacks from an elementary school…

Dear Parent / Caregiver,

In respect to all of our students, please note that we will no longer be celebrating the holidays of Halloween and Valentine’s Day at school. Thank you for keeping your child’s Halloween costume at home.  

In recognition of the individual cultures and lifestyles of their students, many schools are rethinking how and if they should be acknowledging holidays and events that were a given in the era of their student’s parents and caregivers. Gone, are the days of children parading through the hallways in Batman and witches’ costumes. And to help alleviate children from feeling excluded, mailboxes made from decorating shoeboxes to hold Valentine’s Day cards are now a distant memory.    

It’s the next step in what is sometimes unjustly being labeled as Cancel Culture. It wasn’t that long ago when schools acknowledged that Christopher Columbus didn’t really discover America, since the country was already inhabited by Indigenous People wrongly labeled by white Europeans as Indians.

Which brings us to the topic of Thanksgiving. What was once a day to celebrate the coming-together of Pilgrims and Indians, is now a holiday in question, as we learn and recognize that this story is for the most part fictitious, overriding the truth in what was more likely the hostile arrival of people invading the land of Native Americans.

But acknowledging that Thanksgiving is currently a flawed holiday should not stop us from celebrating a day centered around “putting down our weapons” and gathering around the kitchen table for great food and conversation. We need to absolutely recognize and celebrate the true first inhabitants of our country and we should welcome the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Unlike with Christmas, another holiday that embraces family gatherings, Thanksgiving comes without the commercial trappings of artificial Christmas trees and the need to power-shop on Amazon for the latest tech gadgets and toys.

After all, Halloween is just a silly holiday that has morphed from children going door-to-door in search of Snickers bars to grownups throwing elaborate costume parties and front lawns lit up like Christmas. And Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a faux holiday powered by Hallmark, florists, and department stores, encouraging us to buy jewelry and grossly overpriced roses. Perhaps, it’s time we take a step forward and take Thanksgiving in its literal context. A time for Thanks.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that can and should survive the Cancel Culture movement. As schoolbooks are rewritten to tell the true story of Indigenous People, let us celebrate our true first inhabitants of America. And let Thanksgiving continue to be a time when we gather with our family – without the wrapped gifts and without inflatable reindeer on the front lawn. Just turkey legs, stuffing, and love. And football.

Now, if we can just get rid of Black Friday…

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

WHEN THE STARS GO DARK –When Nonfiction takes a creative turn

Some of the best stories are found within the pages of real-life events. Categorized as Historical Fiction, many authors have found a fascinating niche of delving into true stories from the perspective of a secondary character or using a true story to inspire a fictional tale. It’s an intriguing twist and makes for an exceptional story. One example of Historical Fiction is AMERICAN WIFE, a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, and loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. Packed with intrigue and familiar characters, AMERICAN WIFE reveals the fascinating backstory on our former first lady’s life, and well worth the read  

Another novel that borrowed from a real-life event and news headlines, is WHEN THE STARS GO DARK, From Paula McLain, the author of THE PARIS WIFE (Yet another intriguing historical fiction novel, based on the first wife of Ernest Hemmingway). WHEN THE STARS GO DARK focuses on Anna, a homicide detective working on several cases involving missing girls. While this literary thriller is fiction, it includes a side-story borrowed from a real-life tragic event, in the kidnapping of Polly Klaas, a girl held at knifepoint and kidnapped in 1993.

WHEN THE STARS GO DARK is a true page-turner and a thought-provoking who-done-it that fires on all cylinders.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and author of Chasing North Star. Keep up with her at https://heidimccrary.net/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor