Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Writing for Me by Normandie Fischer


Normandie Fischer
Writing for me.

What, for an audience of one?

Les Edgerton (as quoted in Chip MacGregor’s recent blog post on finding your writer’s voice) suggests that we write for us. That we don’t talk down or up or around as if to an ideal reader, but that we imagine ourselves as the one picking up our book. As I read his words, I thought of the talk I gave last week in Portland, Oregon, on “Writing the Crossover Book.”

My intended reader has always been the me I used to be. (Although the me I am watches over her shoulder.) That me questioned everything and had no clue God existed outside of all that shouting from nature—you know, the sunsets and the sunrises, the trees and the rocks, the sea . . . oh, yes, the sea. That me was rather appalled by what I’d seen of church goers. Their behavior didn’t resemble their message, not from my side of the room. My atheist mother was kind and loving. Those other folk gossiped and judged and condemned. Some of them were racist. Some cruel.

“You need God,” the grandmother I barely knew said. Well, if I did, he’d better not look like those pew-sitters or rote-spouters. A God who still parted Red Seas? Maybe. A God who transcended man’s inadequacies, who had answers for this skeptic? He’d have to be a whole lot more than what I’d seen by my twenty-seventh year.

He was. He showed up and showed off. No, I didn’t turn into a perfect person, but I found a perfect God, one who hears and cares and delivers from bondage all who cry out to him.

I am my audience. The me of my twenties and thirties and forties and fifties. (Well, that gave it away, didn’t it?) The me who once questioned, who failed and still fails, and who has been yanked out of the mire again and again.

I don’t write for the ones who have answers, but for the ones who crave answers—even if  they don’t yet know the questions. I write for the hurting and the broken—even if they don’t yet recognize their brokenness.

I write about the real, the pain, the guilt, even if some of my stories flit in frothy bits of fun as they chase what-ifs. I want my stories to touch hearts like mine. My voice is the me crying to be heard above the noises that would blot us out and press us down.

About the Author
Becalmed
by Normandie Fischer
About Normandie Fischer 
I sail and I write. I also edit (as Acquisitions and Executive Editor of Wayside Press) and mess about at home in North Carolina with my husband and mother when we’re not heading off on board our lovely ketch, Sea Venture. Two of my women’s fiction books release this spring and summer, Becalmed and Sailing out of Darkness.

Becalmed, from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
​​When a Southern woman with a broken heart falls for a widower with a broken boat, it's anything but smooth sailing.​

Sailing out of Darkness
by Normandie Fischer
Sailing out of Darkness, from WhiteFire Publishing. 
An unexplained apparition, wanderings through Italy, and mayhem back home push four lives toward their day of reckoning.​​​ Sailing out of Darkness is the haunting story of mistakes and loss and the grace that abounds through forgiveness.​

Connect with Normandie Fischer
Blog - www.writingonboard.com
Website - www.normandiefischer.com



66 comments:

  1. Good article, Normandie. Good point that atheists can be loving and churchians can be jerks. Shows the universality of the fact we're all made in God's image, and we've all fallen. Thank God He's provided a Way back for us.

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    1. He has, but remembering how I saw the church makes me very conscious of how I appear to the unchurched around me. I just started reading a fantastic book about this subject. It's called The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a tenured English professor at Syracuse University, a devout feminist, and a lesbian whose world changed when her intellectual pursuits brought her into contact with a retired preacher. This man and his wife never preached to her and never invited her to church, but merely offered friendship. Two years later, she had let God into her life.

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  2. Hey, I get it. And, of course, we want to be able to reach those who are where we were at....years ago. Ahem, tells on me, too. Great post, Normandie.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Linda. We need to think of ourselves as growing in wisdom with the addition of grey hairs. (Now if only I could become as disciplined physically as you are...)

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  3. Beautiful post, Normandie. I think we all need to write for ourselves if we want our stories to come off as authentic. So well put!

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    1. Thank you, Roseanna. I appreciate you on so many levels.

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  4. Encouraging post. We are many people over our journey. Thanks for the thought-prompting.

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    1. We are, aren't we, Davalyn? And all those people we are/become need to be heard and need to be touched. I'm sure that's why we often read different stories as we mature, but our challenge as writers should be to craft words of enduring quality that reach across the generations. Something to strive for, certainly.

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  5. Hi Normadie -
    Your books sound romantic. Love the cover designs.
    Les Edgerton wrote a great book on FINDING YOUR VOICE too. Early in my writing career that book helped me and it's still on my shelf where I can see it and read it when I'm feeling a little less than confident.
    Thanks for the reminder to share my own unique voice. Yours sounds wonderful!
    Michelle

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    1. My stories are definitely romantic in tone, Michelle, although they're not romances. I hope you read and enjoy them when they finally show up on the shelves.

      I'm glad you were encouraged. If we write for ourselves, I think we'll be more honest in our work, and our voice will resonate with others.

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  6. So true, Normandie. Thanks for sharing and being transparent.

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    1. Thank you, Mary. Transparency is paramount, I think, if we're going to touch the heart of others.

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  7. I think I write "from me" more than "for me." I write from my life experiences, my mistakes, rebellion, disappointments, and how I overcame, succeeded, how the Lord renewed my thinking. I write from epiphanies and observations. Writing, to me, is the gift I give back.

    Thank you Normandie for writing from such a Christ centered perspective and how you love those who others so casually write off.

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    1. It seems to me, Linda, that your from-mes touch hearts because of your heart, which is always generous and kind and shows through. So, don't you think that this transparency, this desire of yours to reach out from your mistakes, is also to walk you through those bits to a place of understanding, of using the mess to bring healing to others--and yourself? Or, if you've already achieved healing, to touch the you-before-the-mess that ones like you (and me) can leap over the problem or at least find a hand to lead us through it?

      When I first wrote Sailing out of Darkness, I was in a place that still longed to make that leap to victory over pain, and my then-what-ifs manifested themselves in my writing. Bits and pieces of ourselves and our pain creep into our stories, I think, even if those stories don't speak to our particular issues. I usually come to stories like a cat checking out something new--sniffing from all sides and sometimes poking with a paw to make sure it's safe.

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    2. Or, as we say it in the south, We look at it like a calf looks at a new gate. :)

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    3. Love that, Linda. In my part of the South, I don't come across too many cows. They're more inland. Here, lots of cats and birds and fish, oh, my.

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  8. Thank you for writing from such a Christ-centered perspective. I appreciate how you love those whom others so casually cast off.

    I think I mainly write "from me" more than "for me." :)

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  9. Thank you for this, Normandie. I have several friends who are atheists. They often get pigeon holed as bitter, angry, Christian haters. My friends are loving and have been hurt by Christians. It was refreshing to read your perspective.

    I love that you're writing to the "you" from before. That tells me a lot about you.

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    1. thank God you found the Fathers true heart. Christians are notorious for shooting their wounded. Its sad. Great post

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    2. We're called to walk in shoes not ours, aren't we, Susie. I think you achieved that beautifully in your novel, Paint Chips. Showing love, revealing our heart, holding out a hand with no judgement, as Lola did in your book. So important.

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    3. Rita, thank you for your comment. We are notorious for shooting our wounded and the wounded around us. I know the Father's heart is working on each of us to make us more loving and kind--which is the only way we'll grow the kingdom, one hurting heart at a time.

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  10. "He showed up and showed off." Loved that, Normandie! My mom says some peeps just believe and others are seekers, I think you're a seeker. God was showing off all along with the beautiful sunsets and gorgeous sea swells, but you needed to find Him in your own way--a way that spoke directly to you. That's what I love about Him, He knows each of us intimately and He has infinite patience. God bless, my beautiful friend.

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    1. That's so true, Denise. I was raised in a home that said Jesus wasn't even a real or historical figure, that believing in God was anti-intellectual, so I had some real hurdles set before me, in spite of those sunsets (and those rocks, trees, and seas) that spoke so loudly of creation. Couple that with the face of those few Christians who came my way, and you had someone who absolutely needed a show-off God, one who'd reach down to capture my wounded heart. (Not that I knew it was wounded, mind you. I was a successful editor, artist, and figured that my messy life was just the way things were.)

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    2. I understand. I was surrounded by religion but it wasn't present in the details that ground faith. I'm a seeker, too--the thing about that is, even after you find God, you still quest for the truth in *all* things. It's an essential part of who we are. IMHO God made us that way b/c he knew this quality would eventually lead us to Him. xxxd

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    3. Absolutely, Denise. It's only as seekers that we grow in wisdom and understanding!

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  11. What a thoughtful post and beautifully written. Gives us all something to think about.

    I think, like Linda, that I write more from me than for me. Although when I really consider that question, I believe it's probably both/and rather than either/or.

    Blessings!

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    1. Well, we all write from some piece of ourselves, don't we, Golden? Because without lives lived either immediately or vicariously, we'd have no subject matter. Some are fortunate to write from observation, but without a deep well of experiential emotion, we'll fail to create characters who touch hearts. Our books may be filled with what-ifs (I know mine are) that haven't touched us in the immediate, but touch some core of emotion in us, something that allows us to dredge up a response. I love writing from the POV of a hurting soul, several of whom turn out to be a story's antagonist, even though I've never been there or seen that. The question is always, "If I had suffered like that or been raised in such a family, been abused, hurt, deserted, how would I feel? What might I do?"

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  12. You've touched on something very important here. And if a writer doesn't take the time to find that internal reader and develop THAT audience, their writing will never fully develop. It can't because it will always be limited by expectations.

    Someone else's.

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    1. Absolutely, Thomas, well said. Just as we shouldn't fit our behavior and expectations to reflect the crowd's values or perceived desires and instead should always try to become the best of the "us" we've been given, so as writers we must reflect this individualized us--to the best of our ability (which, fortunately is something that can grow and improve). When I taught sculpture, I encouraged my students to dig to find the expression that best mirrored their talent, that best gave voice to their individual narrative. That's what viewers respond to--not clones, but individual talent, individual expression. In the very best art, we see things that call to us, because as humans, we live in certain commonalities, sharing universal hopes and longings.

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  13. It’s good to read these comments—helps me realize why this post spoke to me. It’s the universality that someone mentioned. Many Christians can remember previous (not always positive) experiences with those in the church. Sometimes it’s completely unintentional—the church people mean well and they think they’re representing God the best they know how, but in our status as broken human beings, it doesn’t always work.
    I agree with the comment re: transparency. I didn’t really start growing until I allowed a little transparency in my life. And, even though I write nonfiction for the educational market, I didn’t really start writing until that transparency was part of my life, although I’ve yet to see the connection between my general market writing and my spiritual journey. The two may be coming together now, as it appears I’m embarking on a new direction in my journey? Here I am, facing your question of audience: who is my audience if I write these musings on this fork in the road? Certainly God. And I need to process this for myself. So I guess I need to go do some writing. :-)

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    1. Lovely, Tracie. (Otter? Cute.) So often we think we must be something or show something that we're not. I've got to look holier than you do so that people will like me best. That doesn't work, does it? It's only in humility and transparency that others will be drawn to us. They want real. Unbelievers especially can sniff out the false faster than you and I can say it.

      Yes, please do get writing those musings of yours. I can't wait to read them.

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  14. Interesting to write for oneself. You had better like you. I tend to think I write better when thinking of writing for others. My quality isn't so important when I write for me... But when others read it? Wow, it better be good.
    KP

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    1. But that rather misses what I'm trying to say, Kevin. It's not that we write as if we're the only ones reading it, but rather that we find our inner reader as Thomas said so well above, "...if a writer doesn't take the time to find that internal reader and develop THAT audience, their writing will never fully develop. It can't because it will always be limited by expectations...Someone else's."

      It's a question of transparency. If I tried to write for my imagined audience of say, women over thirty, how would I see them? What would their faces look like? Would I worry about their scowl or their laughter? Would I try to fit that description in some flowery voice that I think someone else might like? Or in some simplified voice because someone else might like that best?

      And yet I come across stories that seem to do just that very thing, and they don't touch me deeply. Perhaps an editor has tried to create the clone instead of the author. Perhaps the critique group has pushed and prodded with their own version of how something should sound or be.

      It's all about finding our voice, our own unique voice that listens to the inward person and writes to him or her.

      If I write from my heart to satisfy the imagined me in the mirror, then I can be real. I will have to be real--even if my stories aren't about real things. And I'll want to be the best me I can be to satisfy that inner critic who always challenges me to dig a little deeper, to understand more, to know more.

      That may not work for you. Because you've got to satisfy you--not me.

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    2. Interesting concept. I created a character based on someone I once knew. In the writing I'm discovering things about that character I didn't know before--whether or not they are true for that person in the past is irrelevant. It's important now that they are true for this character. In the process perhaps I'm learning a bit more about why people do the things they do.

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  15. What a really neat concept. And it makes total sense.

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    1. Thank you, Christine. It's obviously not unique to me, but it's what I've done since I started writing oh so many years ago!

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  16. Hey, Normandie,

    Enjoyed this post very much. Writing is so intensely personal, isn't it? It's kind of like letting people rummage around in your closet, or see you in your jammies, and chances are, they'll let you know what they think of the closet and your choice of sleepwear LOL! If it reaches a lost heart, it's more than worth it. Thanks for sharing such a personal perspective. BTW, LOVE your jammies!

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    1. Oh, how sweet. I'm so glad you're not turning up your nose at their ratty condition! But do not even imagine I'm going to let you see those closets. Jammies, yes (really, nightgown), but the closets are off limits. (You don't want all the things I've stuffed in there to fall on your head, do you?)

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  17. Normandie, what a beautiful, thoughtful post. I love it when God shows off, but I also love it when He and I have our little secrets, when He's done something so tiny (but so magnificent in its message to only me) that I can't help but grin. I'm not quite sure which humans I'm writing for--sometimes me, sometimes people I think might glean something from what I write by the WAY I write it (humor, seriousness, etc.)But I DO know that I always write for God, using the characteristics, talent, and insights He gives me, and rely on the fact that He'll find the right reader for my writing :-)

    Blessings,
    Deb

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    1. Well said, Deb. I can see those little secret things now, but I certainly couldn't back in the day! He gives us what we need, doesn't He? I needed the big and the splashy in those days just so I'd pay attention. Others just sigh and say yes, please.

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    2. Amazing to me how often God shows us those little secret things that are so important to us (even if they're trivial) -- just shows how much God cares for us!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Mary Kate. I'm glad you liked it.

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  19. Nice, Normandie! I hadn't thought about it before, but I write for "me" as well--Me as a kid craving mysteries (mostly Nancy Drew!) It sure made a difference in my writing when I discovered that my stories needed to reach that same age group--go figure! Aloha! --Cheryl

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    1. You've done well with your writing for that kid in you. I'm sure if you'd sat down to analyze the kids' market or thought only of what some amorphous middle grader wanted, you'd have come up with something not quite as perfectly tuned to the audience because it would have a remoteness to it. But because you wrote to the you of your youth, your work resonates with readers--even grown-up readers such as I.

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  20. Great post, Normandie! Thanks for sharing this insight with us. I've heard the idea that we should write what we'd want to read, but I love how this takes things a bit further--as in ministering to the me I used to be. Thanks for visiting!

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  21. Beautiful post, Normandie. I've watched many times, as a pastor's wife, new believers start to sink like Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus on the water. Some church people can be such an obstacle to growth but focusing on Christ keeps our head above water. It is wonderful to hear you write to those hearts that don't get the church culture prevalent in our world today.

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    1. Thank you, Jody. As one who lives a life that's better than I deserve (as my husband likes to say--because each of us receives unmerited grace), I can only give thanks for the joy it brings. And because the me I write to is not merely the me of my uncharted youthful waters, but also this woman who looks over my shoulder and knows the truth, I must strive in love to reach those such as she who sink deeply into the water with Peter--and with the least provocation! Knowing how fallible I am--as are we all--I'm required to have compassion. I must. My log will otherwise grow so heavy I won't be able to pry it out.

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  22. Thanks for having me, Annette. I've had such fun with the interaction and ideas from others. Writers are such a thoughtful bunch.

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  23. There's peace in writing truth, even when the truth reveals past hurts and failures. It breathes authenticity into the story. When I read truth, I recognize myself and how much more I need God. That's my prayer for my writing, too: Let me be honest, with hope as the end result. Inspiring article, Normandie.

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    1. Thank you, Dee. Yes, we never want to fill our stories with truth that offers nothing, because then we're merely ruminating about emptiness. And the hope we offer doesn't have to be spelled out in graphic terms or preached. If we know the Author of Truth, then our stories and our lives can expose it and share its blessings with no label attached or any literal signpost.

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  24. Great points, Normandie. I really get the "writing for me" idea. I think the older, wiser me is often writing to the people who are just like me when I was younger. I'm hoping to help them choose wisely as well.

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    1. That's it, Tim. We're a signpost without having to say so. But we need to point ourselves to that place as well, to remind our human frailty of the truth.

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  25. Hi Normandie. Great post. I love the idea of writing for the "me" I used to be and the "me" I am now. That way, I think we reach more "mes" out there then we ever dreamed we would, because so many of us are searching, seeking, hurting, and questioning, just like us.

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    1. We are, aren't we, Patti? No matter our age, there's more we can learn. I learn best from stories, deep ones that make me think and question, that allow me to put myself in the shoes of the protagonist and wonder if I'm getting it right. Athol Dickson's work pushes and presses me to search my heart (as do a few others'), and for that grateful.

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  26. Normandie, your thoughts are so beautifully stated. It makes me think of my early church experiences too. So glad you are writing for you - that means others can learn from you too.

    Regina

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    1. You're a dear, Regina. Thank you for your kind words. Indeed, I hope I can touch hearts through my stories.

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  27. Normandie, Such a nice post. I'm so glad God doesn't expect perfect. I'd have failed long ago!

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    1. Wouldn't we all, Sharon. Wouldn't we all. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  28. As always Normandie, beautifully written from the heart. xx Hugs

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    1. Thank you, David. I always appreciate your compliments and hugs!

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  29. I really enjoyed reading this,and it mirrors my own thinking about writing and the way I write. In grad school I had this huge argument with a professor in class one day because he was talking about the need to "know our audience" before we write, to imagine who would be reading our work, and tailor our words directly to them. I knew from experience that my best writing came when I was writing to someone like me--for myself, essentially, the story I would love reading. I argued my case but the class generally thought I was wrong. I still believe that I am right, and that's still how I write, but I also see his point too. But I think it comes in the editing stage that we may want to target a more precise audience, children, for instance, or non-believers, as you do, or a critic so we can hone in on those flaws and the things that might put "others" off. Anyway, loved this, and felt I got to know you better in the process.

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    1. Well, Deborah, having read your work, I'd say you are absolutely correct! If we don't write what we'd want to read--for ourselves as the audience--then our work won't ring true. Yours does.

      And yes we hone our work through the editing process, but I think in knowing ourselves, we develop our voice, that unique voice that sets our work apart from someone else's. If you write for children, aren't you still writing for the child-you? That's what will make children's stories effective, because they'll sense your authenticity. The same holds true for whatever audience we choose. As writers, we put ourselves in the place of our audience, whether it be fantasy or mystery or literary fiction. What do we enjoy? What would make us laugh or cry or tingle with fear?

      Much of my writing is cathartic: I don't have to be the characters, but what if I were? How would I respond to this or that? How can I dig deeper into a motivation? Often that digging helps me understand my own actions and motivations.

      Thanks for stopping by! I always love our interaction.

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  30. Normandie,

    Thanks for the insight and truth in your words! I will savor them!

    My new devotional is all about raw and real grief from losing a child to cancer, so yes, I value the broken heart that pours out the often not pretty, yet authentic words.

    ~ Alice J. Wisler, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Alice. I'll look forward to hearing more about your new work!

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