Saturday, April 5, 2008


Even though I wrote that big long post about deciding to become a writer, I was still grappling with it. Then I started getting signs. These signs have been in the form of other writers inspiring me. I’ve often been inspired by other writers but this time it’s been right in a row. Bam, bam, bam! Here is what I stumbled across just in the last week or two:

There was an article in this month’s The Writer about Michael Perry who writes essays about the country life like I do. Right off the bat I got excited because I learned he’s had a ton of colorful jobs just like I have—forklift operator, nurse, cowboy—just to name a few. Although he’s afraid of horses. Still…

We have a lot in common. The more I read, the more I exclaimed, “That’s me!” But I was most excited when I read that he only took one college creative-writing class and is self-taught. Just like me.

I’m not saying I’m anywhere near as good as he is. I’m still learning, trying to catch up because I’ve quit a hundred times to become a telephone operator, nurse’s aid, cowgirl and all those other jobs I’ve had. But if he can do it, I can do it. That was number one.

Then in Parade magazine I read about Frank McCourt. I’m Irish too. But that has nothing to do with it. A little voice in his head said, “Don’t settle for less. Find what you love and do it.” But he became a teacher because the voice also said, “Yeah, but that won’t buy bread.” Sounds just like me. He trudged along doing his second choice until he couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t know whether he couldn’t stand it anymore or he just couldn’t do it anymore. But he retired after 30 years of teaching, went home and wrote Angela’s Ashes. It was a bestseller. McCourt was 66.

In The Roanoke Times I read about a local guy who’s originally from New Jersey like me. His name is Scott Loring Sanders. He was the family breadwinner. And yet he quit his job to go to school and become a writer. I can’t imagine what his wife thought. Divorce? I don’t even have that kind of pressure on me. I’m not the family breadwinner and yet I’m hesitating. Sanders has more confidence in his little finger than I have in my whole body.

His first novel, The Hanging Woods, just came out and a second one is due out next year. His number one rule is: Stay disciplined. Meaning, don’t stop.

This may sound corny but I feel like God is sending me signs. So I’m going to keep going.


Kristine said...

Debi, if you give it your all now, you will never look back and wonder if you should have. On the other hand, if you don't take this chance, you might always wonder. It's kind of scary though, isn't it?

Never underestimate your natural writing talent! There are some things that I just don't believe can be *taught*!

Mothball's Blog said...

Hi Debi, This is Scott Loring Sanders. You mentioned me in your recent blog. I was googling, looking for new reviews on my book, and saw your blog. Thought I'd say hello and give a few words of encouragement.
I like that you say that I have more confidence in my little finger than you do in your whole body. Well, that isn't exactly true. At least it wasn't always that way. Now that I've sold a couple of novels, my confidence is building, but that feeling of self-doubt never goes away. Nor should it as far as I'm concerned. That self-doubt keeps me motivated, keeps me striving to write the best books I can.
I can't tell you how many times I sat at the computer while writing The Hanging Woods and said to myself, "What am I doing? I'm wasting my time." Depressing thoughts constantly haunted me. One of the things I tell people now when giving a talk is this: "Imagine working full time at your job for several years and never getting paid one penny. Not only that, but while you're working, there is no guarantee that you'll ever get paid once you finish the project. And on top of that, there are about a million people out there who would practically kill to have your job."
That's daunting to be sure. But here's my point. I had to persevere. I believed in my work, I thankfully had/have a wonderful wife who also believed, and I refused to give up. I was tenacious. I accepted every rejection and criticism of my work. I didn't always like what people had to say, but instead of getting upset and angry, I tried to learn from it.
So stay at it. There are no guarantees except one: I guarantee that if you give it up then it will never happen. The only way to write a book is to sit down and write it.
So I understand what you're feeling. I think every writer, from the most famous all the way down, knows exactly what you're going through. I wish you the best of luck and stay after it. Feel free to contact me if you want. I'm happy to talk about writing, publishing, agents, etc. I had several excellent people give me advice and help along the way, and I want to do the same.
Take care, Scott

Marion said...

Debi, McCourt wrote a book about his teaching days in the US, and he recorded the audiotape. I've forgotten the name of it, but the FCL has it. You'll love listening to his accent, although it's a wonder they didn't fire him as a teacher right away!

Amy Hanek said...

First of all, LOVE the new look to your blog. It really suits your writing. Second of all, I agree, there are signs EVERYWHERE!!

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Oh, how exciting! Scott Loring Sanders, the author of "The Hanging Woods" commented on this blog post and offered to communicate with me! Now I'm really getting signs!

Amy Tate said...

Don't you dare give up Miss Debi. You have many wonderful things to say and you are VERY creative. A novel is definetly in your future!!!!

Motley said...

The Blog looks GREAT Debi! Your daughter is very talented. It's very exciting to see you hob-nobing with the big wigs. Follow your dreams debi - YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!! GO GIRL

colleen said...

The Universe sent me to Floyd that way. I heard about "Floyd" and/or "Roanoke Virginia" about three times in one week, living in Texas at the time.

After I finished doing full time foster care, I blogged for about a year before, one day, I just felt ready (didn't have to think about it) to go to our local newspaper editor and say, "I'm writing a lot, can I float stories by you?" She bought the first one. Still can't make a living at it, but I did fill out a W2 for writing last year!

I probably said all this in an email, can't remember. Those of us who are self-taught need to support each other. I was just reading yesterday about a Gallway Ireland working class woman poet, Rita Ann Higgins, who is living the life as a respected poet.

I love Angela's Ashes. The writing, written from a child's point of view, really inspired me. While writing The Jim and Dan Stories, my girl's voice came through that way. Also I read... Nula... author of "Are You Somebody?" and it inspired me as well. She, also Irish (me too) has a very natural voice as though she is speaking. She uses lots of -- and I thought, 'if she can write I can.'

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

I'm going to have to email you and find out about "Are You Somebody?" I think I'd like reading it because I really like a natural voice and I try to write with one--I try to trust myself and my voice.

CountryDew said...

You must follow your dream.

Anonymous said...

You are the country version of Carrie from Sex in the City!