Ascent: Being There … Supporting Your Personal Evolution One Step at a Time

Blog Hop: Why Do I Write?

February 2014

Step One: Acknowledges the person & site that involved you in the blog tour

I was invited to this blog-hop by Christina Brockett, author of The Missing Pages of the Parent Handbook -- one of my coaching clients and a very competent writer. Honest. Pragmatic. Able to balance the serious and the humorous. Dedicated to her subject and the writing craft. Her stories moved me to laughter and tears.

Here’s the link to her site:

Step Two: Answer 4 questions below about your writing process

What are you working on?

Speaking as a coach – I’m working, primarily, on two of the most difficult things a writer can work on: finding and settling into a new voice, and finding the courage to move away from a past audience to cultivate a new one. This is no small thing, when you’ve been an established writer.

From around 1970 I wrote from one set of givens and a viewpoint. And then a tectonic event in my life turned my views over. Major worldview shifts are energizing personally, but also a lot of work when it comes to writing and building a new audience. I jokingly (I think) tell my roster of coaching clients, “Better to face the dreaded dark night of the soul than go through a change in voice and worldview as an established author.”

Speaking as a writer who is also a veteran product developer (which means you’re a writer trained to think like a marketer) -- I’ve been storyboarding a 4-book novel series about – you might guess – characters who hold two vastly different views of life and people and who now need to work together in an outward-bound type of school. Subject-wise I am focusing on young people who are about to fall through society’s cracks and be lost to us in systems that are full of failings. That’s the character-driven aspect. Market-wise I am focusing on an audience that is, 1) bursting open with interest in Eastern beliefs and practices and 2) wanting to figure out how to make the world better… before old systems of belief destroy it.

Which leads to the drive-shaft of the book – the plot-driven aspect: One of the main characters discovers that a random killing was a planned hit, which leads to uncovering a murder plot, which leads to uncovering a terrorist plot. This is why it’s four novels.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Right now, many books for the younger popular audience are focused on post-apocalyptic and dystopian worlds in which the characters are struggling for survival. Either that or zombies.

If they’re out there I’ve missed them, but I haven’t found current, popular-audience books that are about characters that are on positive growth-curves and making a huge, positive impact on the world. Comic-book heroes are allowed to do this, apparently, but not characters portraying real people.

I’ve heard from people with whom I’ve discussed this concept that it’s Pollyanna sounding. Oh well. I’ve had commercial success. I’m nearing 60. I have written and co-written 50-some books. I am more concerned about message. Let the sales “chips” fall where they may.

Why do you write what you do?

I have a firm belief that if the old ideologies that formed the way we relate to each are allowed to prevail, fundamentalism and militarism will destroy us.

I also believe that enlightened people – those who see that we share more, and what has divided us has to go - have a lot of work cut out for them.

I believe people can prevail over divisive systems and ideologies.

I want to challenge readers to think differently. View themselves and each other differently.

How does your writing process work?

I start with a gut-sense. (On a Myers-Briggs I’m an Intuitive to the jillionth power. I’ve learned to trust my gut about the way people work.) Which means I start with a character who has a huge personal dilemma and who has an inner chasm they have to navigate to get through to a solution. So in a sense I start with what I think of as the pulse of a character – what do they need to accomplish and what’s blocking them from getting there.

It can take a long time for me to “sit with” a character and understand their inner journey. THEN I begin plotting.

Which means careful storyboarding. I’ve coached and launched nearly 250 authors in my 36 years as a coach in the publishing industry. And every one of those who lost their way during the writing have done so because they just set off writing without a clear understanding where they were headed. They bought into the bad advice, “Just start writing! Let your creativity guide you!” and written themselves into the weeds. There is a balance, of course, and you have to find the balance between planning and creating. But this is why we have a left and right brain.

Normally I need about 10 percent of a book storyboarded and I am off to the races. My gut can guide me the rest of the way. On the current big project, however, with so many moving pieces and a big plot, I’ve spent a very long time storyboarding. I’ve taken over one whole bedroom in my home and the walls are covered with storyboards, character images and descriptions, maps…. I’m just now ready to jump in and write, because I now know these people and the outer events that will shift and change their world and cause them to have to respond in new and challenging ways.

Step Three: Say who is on next week

For next week I have tagged the following authors.  Take a look and check them out on March 4th.  I’ve inserted hyperlinks to each of their websites. All you have to do is click on their name.

The authors:

Mary Ellen Connelly is an engineer by day… and writer during the very early light of day and on weekends.  She is one of those rare people, a blend of sharp-mind and soft-heart.  She writes with the voice of a woman who has walked through, and continues to face intense challenges in her life.

In her first book, Losing Bear, being shopped now, she takes her readers on an intensely personal journey through the years she watched her oldest brother, Bernard, nicknamed “Bear,” all but disappear into the dark fog of schizophrenia. From the brother with the wry humor and love for music – links that connected him and Mary Ellen – he becomes like a brooding, unpredictable stranger. In this work, Mary Ellen speaks for so many who live with someone they love who is “there, but no longer really there,” and what it takes to live in that tragic reality.

In her second book, now in the works (and as yet untitled), Mary Ellen is exploring the often difficult realities faced by “smart women” in the workplace. Though some early-draft readers object to the term “smart women” (as if she’s implying others are dumb), nonetheless, the reality for many women is that their sharp intellect and savvy can add to their challenges at work. They can pose a double-threat to men (woman + sharply intelligent) and to other women, as well. (“Well don’t you think you’re something?”)  As her coach, I’m encouraging Mary Ellen to stick to her guns on this one. (As writers it’s not our job to speak for everyone. Just someone in particular.) She is voicing the challenges faced by too many bright, gifted women out there.

Jeanne Selander Miller is also a client of mine. She is the author of two award winning memoirs and her third book is expected out this spring. She speaks with the voice of the wounded, as her journey through life has taken her from days of joy and light through the darkness of loss and betrayal. Yet she also speaks with the voice of the resilient, as she perseveres through the darkness back to a place of healing and well being.

Jeanne’s first book, A Breath Away, won the Best Spiritual Book of 2012 at the London Book Festival and Honorable Mentions at the Southern California Book Festival and The New England Book Festival.

Fifteen years ago, Jeanne was married to the love of her life, Fred. They had an infant daughter and a four year old son when Fred was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone marrow cancer and given 3 months to live. What do you do when your whole life gets turned upside down? How do you live in the face of a great shadow? How do you learn to embrace your life just as it arrives every day, with all of its imperfections and all of its beauty? This is a story about learning to live in the present - a story of hope and learning to say good-bye.

A Million Miles from Home- Jeanne’s second book, was awarded Honorable Mentions at the Paris International Book Festival and the Great Midwestern Book Festival in Chicago.

Six years after the death of her husband, Jeanne remarried. But this time it was to the wrong guy. Wrong with a capital W. People who knew her wondered: How did a smart woman like this make such a bad decision? One decision at a time, making allowances for the little things, she found herself far from anything she could call a true home. This is a story about forgiveness -- learning to forgive oneself for mistakes made, to forgive those that hurt us, and how to cultivate resilience and move on with life.

The Healing Path Home is the third book in a this series of memoirs. It is a story of reinventing your life in your Fifties, of reclaiming your God-given right to health and happiness after being dealt some difficult challenges along the journey. Ultimately, it’s a story of resilience and redemption. (Releases this Spring.)

Dan Sheehan is an Iraqi War Vet and Bronze Star recipient. When he’s not chasing his two young kids around, flying a helicopter or spearfishing in the Pacific, Dan Sheehan is helping redefine what it means to be a warrior. With several combat deployments as a Marine Officer under his belt, Dan knows the burdens that members of the military carry after their service. He also knows that, however well prepared they are for the physical trials of combat, modern military training does not prepare soldiers to handle the emotional challenges they’ll face.

In his first book, After Action, Dan addresses the human costs of war. Brutally honest and intimate, it offers an unapologetic look at the price he paid in Iraq during 2003 and 2004 and the process he went through afterward. His steadfast refusal to admit any emotional aftereffects led Dan down a road that has claimed countless veterans. Events in his life finally forced him to take an honest look at himself and what he found, deeply buried among the memories and emotions of war, was a deeper understanding of what it means to be a warrior.

Dan is currently working on a second book that addresses the unfinished nature of a modern warrior’s journey. Drawing on the work of psychologists, mythologists, and other scholars, this untitled work examines the archetypal hero’s journey and shows how returning veterans have barely completed half of it. The belief that physically returning home is the end of a warrior’s journey is fundamentally wrong and lies at the base of the post-combat adjustment issues many veterans face. Using his own post-combat experiences as a guide, Dan provides a roadmap for veterans of all wars—past, present and future—to follow as they face the challenges of coming home.

seed fire
It’s Your Life. Be there.


Follow on:

Facebook YouTube

Upcoming Free Talks

David Hazard walks you through a virtual book publishing committee meeting, telling you exactly what each member of a review committee, from the publisher to the promotions director, needs to hear to give the "thumbs-up" vote for your manuscript. Afterwards, he'll field all your questions about agents, contracts, and e-book publishing.


Art * iculation
A 2-hour workshop on finding your writing voice... for visual artists

  • Sat, March 22, 2014, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
    The Art League, Torpedo Factory, Alexandria VA
    Register online for this Free Workshop in VA

The Power of Great Fiction Writing

View Arts Center in Old Forge, NY

Writing an Amazing Memoir

Writers’ Intensive Workshop

Learn solid creative writing techniques to help you launch a writing project in a powerful 3-day seminar. » Learn more.


Writing with Fire!Creating Works that Rivet Your Readers

A week in Ireland will help you find or further explore your voice as a writer! - especially when you wander the lovely hillside gardens, walk the labyrinth to awaken inner vision, or sit beside the Center's hidden waterfalls. Your voice - your fire, if you will - is what gives your writing, from first to last, its true and lasting brilliance. Great writers... successful writers... learn how to speak with "the voice of the soul, and the voice of the body." Power is released into your writing when you open these energies. Whether creating a novel, a memoir, or essays, a fresh, riveting voice is essential. Come to Ireland... and bring your writing to life.
Learn more and find registration information.Anam Cara

May 10, 2014 – May 16, 2014
County Cork, Ireland

The Adirondack Writing Sojourn

A creative getaway to launch or advance your career in writing in the "forever wild" beauty of upstate New York's pristine mountains and lakes. Professional publishing consultants, writing coaches, and bestselling authors are on hand to guide you and provide constructive critiques in this powerful 6-night 5-day session.
Learn more and view costs and registration.Adirondack Tranquility (c) Amanda Bird

September 7 - 12, 2014
Old Forge, NY