Tag Archives: authors

The Art of Forgiveness

I submitted this essay in application for the Dr. Ellen Taliaferro Scholarship to the San Francisco Writers Conference 2017. The prompt was this: Write 500 words or less on the power of forgiveness. So I did. And I won! The conference took place at the Mark Hopkins Hotel this past weekend. It was fabulous. Thank you Dr. Taliaferro!

“It took a long time, but as soon as I let go of my anger and resentment, I was free. I dropped the chains I’d been carrying around like Ebenezer Scrooge and felt as if a single balloon could lift me off the ground and carry me to the sky.”

I wrote those words some time ago while working on a story in which my main character had been betrayed. She was suffocating under the weight of her own hostility and venom. As the writer who created this character, I understood her refusal to forgive. In fact, I was quite sure I didn’t want her to. But as any writer knows, sometimes characters have minds of their own, as if they can jump off the page and poke the author on the shoulder and demand we go in a different direction. That’s what my character did – she forced me to allow her to forgive . . . of course that changed the trajectory of my plot, but that’s another story!

I used to think forgiveness could only be given following an apology. I mean, why should I let someone off the hook who isn’t sorry for acting against me? It makes sense that apology and forgiveness go together. They are opposite sides of the same coin. They complement each other like ingredients in a recipe: 

Sift equal amounts guilt, remorse, and admission of wrongdoing into bowl. Add an open mind, a kind heart, and a scoop of understanding; stir gently; bake as long as it takes. Enjoy the delicious blend of sincere apology and heartfelt forgiveness.

But over time I’ve learned that forgiveness is like a piece of art that stands on its own. It might be part of a set, but it is still complete and rich with possibility all by itself. A willingness to “let it go,” with or without the apology, makes us better people. People who forgive readily are happier, easier to get along with, and have more patience. They don’t hold grudges or revisit old arguments and are kinder than those who choose to stay angry. And what I find most interesting, people who forgive are quicker to recognize their own faults and apologize for their own misdeeds.

So, back to the story in which my character decided to forgive her betrayer . . . She and I ended up parting ways, and I decided to set the story aside. But my opinionated character left me with a wonderful gift, a message whispered into my ear:

“The true beneficiary of forgiveness is not the one who receives it . . . it is the one who grants it.”

I’d love to hear from you in comments below. And if you aren’t already, please follow my blog by entering your email in the box on the right. Thanks!

Should I Stay or Should I go?

I’ve gone in and out of several writing groups over the years. For the most part, I’ve gotten at least something out of each one — encouragement, sympathy, advice . . . and oh yeah, homegrown vegetables – writers have all kinds of interesting hobbies! For many of us, however, there comes a time when a critique group fails to serve its purpose.  Here are FOUR situations that indicate it might be time for you to move on.

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In Defense of Prejudice

And what’s that got to do with writing anyway?

One of my writing colleagues recently published an article about prejudice against beauty. What? Who doesn’t like beauty? We all enjoy seeing beautiful things, places, faces. But what we don’t usually consider is how that pretty face makes us feel. Envious? Intimidated? Intrigued? Superior? Before that gorgeous gal utters a single word, have we judged her based on appearance?

Drawing conclusions, positive or negative, and making assumptions about people according to how they look is human nature. If I see a good looking guy driving a fancy-schmancy car, I think he’s rich. But he could be the chauffeur, the son of a rich guy, the boy-toy of an heiress, a car thief . . . who knows? From a young age, we are taught not to judge a book by its cover (or a man by his car), but we can’t help it.

From Science Daily: “Contrary to what most people believe, the tendency to be prejudiced is a form of common sense, hard-wired into the human brain through evolution as an adaptive response to protect our prehistoric ancestors from danger.” Okay then, it’s all about survival. While we’ve come a long way since the caveman days, we cannot ignore our instinct to be wary of those who might harm us, thwart our plans, or get in our way. Stereotypes help us make sense of the world, and we want to be able to look at people and think we know what they’re about.

So what do stereotypes have to do with writing? For starters, it’s one way writers create surprises, twists, and tension. We take preconceived notions and turn them on their heads. The drunk, depressed girl with no life becomes the one who solves the mystery (The Girl on the Train); the nerdy newspaper reporter turns out to be the super-hero (Superman); the ambulance chasing, low-life lawyer is at his core a noble advocate for the truth (The Night Of); the outcast, scrawny dog/wolf steps up to be the leader of the pack (Balto).

As writers, we often give a protagonist prejudices as a way of showing character arc and creating tension. The protagonist must evolve, have a change of heart, or experience a revelation in her quest for whatever it is she desires. And it’s the “will she or won’t she” question that keeps the reader in suspense.

So the next time you draw a conclusion based on nothing more than appearance, don’t feel bad. It’s your inner caveman at work. Just know, you might be wrong . . .  then again, you might be right.

Read Mark Fine’s insightful article here: http://www.thefinemaxim.com/are-searchyou-prejudiced-against-beauty/

Would love to know what you think . . . And please follow my blog by entering your email in the box on the main page. Thanks!

To Read Me is to Know Me

cropped-Untitled.jpgWriters must be brave. When we write, we reveal stuff – what we think, believe, imagine. It took me a long time to get over feeling vulnerable and exposed. Actually, I’m not over it – I’ve just learned to live with it.

As a writer of fiction, I have no choice but to open up my head and spill the contents onto paper, creating stories with a fervor and passion that allow me to let go of my fears. My current work in progress deals with sexual abuse, a subject that is difficult to read and excruciating to write. My readers will judge, infer, and assume things about me when they read it. But I’m okay with that. As writers, we reveal how we think, expose what matters to us, divulge how our brains work and where our imaginations take us. All of that is what makes me the kind of writer I am.

If you want to know me, read my stories. Bits of me are sprinkled throughout every one of them. And if you really want to know me, watch my interview with Chris Williams from “I SHARE HOPE.” We spoke about everything from kids to cooking to how anyone on earth is able to inspire hope in others. His project will renew your faith in people. And it just may change the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Literary Agent Soulmate

Unknown-4There’s no magic . . .
I’m in the midst of querying literary agents. It’s hard work, painstaking actually.
To do it right, authors spend countless hours researching, investigating, and tracking. Landing an agent can take months. Or longer . . . Continue reading

GIVING – A Holiday Tradition

In the spirit of giving during the holiday season, 100 percent of my royalties from The Long Dance Home will be donated to The Mar Vista Gardens Steppers, a non-profit dance program located in a public housing development in Los Angeles. In addition to dance instruction, Steppers provides at risk children and teens with the inspiration, mentoring, and support they need to help break the family cycle of poverty.

Every royalty penny I earn during December will go to this wonderful program. Please help me support The MVG Steppers and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica.

Soft Lips JulieAbout the book: The Long Dance Home is a sweet, funny, romantic holiday story. Cece Camden, a cautious, organized planner, has her life all figured out. That is until she doesn’t. At the time of her twenty-ninth birthday, nothing goes according to plan, and the disciplined, level-headed, former ballerina is thrown into turmoil. With financial woes and boyfriend trouble, Cece makes an impulsive decision that sets into motion the unraveling of her meticulous life plan. Set in a small town at Christmastime, The Long Dance Home is about choices that alter life’s path and dreams that come true when they are least expected.

By the way, I love bookclubs, and it’s great fun to Skype with groups who have read the book. Let me know if your bookclub is interested! If you would like a signed copy for yourself or for gifting, please email me at juliemayersonbrown@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for helping me support The Mar Vista Gardens Steppers, and I hope you enjoy reading  The Long Dance Home. 

Available on Kindle for $2.99 and in hardcopy wherever books are sold. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ET55U0M

Where have all the Readers Gone?

We hear endless reports about the drought in California, the potential extinction of the Northern White Rhino, and the disappearing rain forests. But does anyone care about a certain type of human being whose numbers are dwindling at such a rate they should be added to the endangered species list? 19650368_ad5e5c496e_oThis creature is disappearing faster than pay-phones and pop-tarts (for anyone who has never heard of a pop-tart, it is a toaster pastry that is delicious but not particularly healthful that we ate in the car on the way to school when I was a kid). What kind of human is this, you may ask?
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Favorite Books

Whenever I speak to a book club or at an event, somebody usually asks me about my favorite books and authors. Here are a few:

First book that comes to mind is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafon. I almost never read a book more than once, because there are so many great books to read. This one – three times!

Anything by Philippa Gregory – I love historical fiction and the British Royals. Gregory does it like nobody else.

The Girl with Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – her words flow like beautiful music.

Sara’s Key and The Book Thief – both captivating stories written for YA but crossed over into the adult market because they are compelling and well-written.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – I just loved this book.

 

When I was a kid:

Nancy Drew – could not get enough of those great mysteries!

One of my favorite series was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. And I LOVED the TV series with Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert based on Wilder’s life.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I’ve never stopped dreaming about secret doors in the backs of closets . . .