Tag Archives: Julie Luek

Find Your Weirdness

By Julie Luek

Julie Luek1I’m almost fifty. There it is in black and white, a milestone in my life. My kids, 23 and 18, are flying the coop this year, out into the world to pursue their passions. My daughter, bless her heart, has inherited my creative passions and will pursue her love of music. She’s not choosing an easy road, nor one that will automatically lead to a steady job and income. I won’t discourage her though. I remember being her age, wanting to pursue English as a major, and my engineer father strongly suggesting (with his financial support) I pursue something more “sensible”. It turns out there’s nothing practical in studying a subject you have no love for.

Life ended up all right though. I got the MA that helped me land a satisfying job in higher education. I found it challenging and fulfilling for over 20 years until the day, three years ago, when I didn’t. At some point you realize you can’t fight your passion and no longer want to. Time is short. Three years ago I did the unpractical and walked away from a good career to pursue this writing gig.

I’m glad to say I haven’t looked back. It hasn’t been easy, and although I’ve had small successes, it’s not like the world of publishing has opened its arms to me in a warm and grateful embrace. Publishing is a fickle lover. Like most of you, I have to work hard and snuggle up to a lot of rejection to get my writing out there.

Luek_pathposteraAlong the way, I’ve also had to define who I am as a writer and what I want to write. It’s been a journey of self-discovery. I began by trying to write short stories. Baby steps, like little stories to prompts on Writer’s Digest. I entered a few contests and, eventually, even wrote a full-length, fiction manuscript. (It was pretty awful, by the way.) I also read a lot… a lot… of books, on story development, plot development, saving cats, the writing life, and how to put fire in my fiction. The more I read, the more I wrote (some really bad stuff), the more I realized I didn’t want to write fiction. But writers write novels. We all know that.

It took me three years to get it through in my thick head and probably thicker ego, that my first love is reading nonfiction and it follows, my true passion is writing nonfiction. It’s satisfying for me to see my articles in magazines, my essays on international writing sites like She Writes, and even an essay in Chicken Soup for The Soul. It’s like coming home.

The other day I read this quote by Annie Dillard:

Read for pleasure. If you like Tolstoy, read Tolstoy; if you like Dostoevsky, read Dostoevsky. Push it a little, but don’t read something totally alien to your nature and then say, “I’ll never be able to write like that.” Of course you won’t. Read books you’d like to write. If you want to write literature, read literature. Write books you’d like to read. Follow your own weirdness.

This is why I made the decision to try other supportive organizations for nonfiction, outside of RMFW. (Although thank goodness the friends I made here haven’t abandoned me!) It’s why I play around with writing styles and topics on my blog Julie Luek, and it’s why I keep sending pithy little ditties off to the Chicken Soup folks. I’ve even finally worked up the courage to test the waters on a book idea again; this time, of course, a nonfiction manuscript.

Like Ms. Dillard says, I have to follow my own weirdness. What’s yours?

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Julie Luek is a writer, living in the mountains of Colorado, published in numerous regional and national magazines, Chicken Soup For The Soul, and a regular contributor to the sites She Writes and Joyful Home and Life. She authors two blogs, Julie Luek and A Thought Grows. As an observer and participator in her own life, she continually rediscovers her purpose, learns to let go and not take herself too seriously. Julie believes if we generously share our stories and hearts we can all learn, laugh, and grow together.

Writers’ Halloween Fear List: BOO!

By Elvira Stoltey and Ghoulie Luek

This time of year brings out ghosts, goblins, and spooky apparitions. Of course we writers, often the creators of such paranormal specters, stare down spooks and fanged creatures knowing they are but a backspace stroke away from their demise.

While we may show bravado with the monstrous muses of our stories, we are reduced to huddling, whimpering masses, invoking incantations of protection, when it comes to…

The Writers’ Top Ten Halloween List of Frights 

10. The posts that flop.

If you maintain a blog, you no doubt have lived in healthy fear of the post that sits in lonely silence, resonating with no one except the crickets chirping in a lonely chorus.

9. Publications fade into oblivion before payment or publishers crash and burn before your book is released.

Freelance writing is filled with many perils including the constant threat of poverty. Unfortunately, the untimely demise of a publication for which you’ve signed a contract and submitted an article, does nothing to alleviate this dread. For novelists or nonfiction authors, there’s always that fear a publisher will go out of business somewhere in the process. Just try to get your rights back when that happens.

8. There are no good ideas left.

Vampires have fallen in love and been slain. Worlds have been created and evil empires defeated. Love has conquered all. Wizards, aliens, 4th dimensions and invisible forces have triumphed for good and evil. Elephants, tigers, and wolves have shown us how to be human and face our dark sides. Civilizations have risen and fallen. Bustier clad women with heaving bosoms and men with Fabio hair have shared passion.  Corpses have faced autopsies, shifty criminals jailed, and mysteries solved by unrelenting sleuths. Fifty Shades has been written.

What’s left?  A fearsome question we answer every time we pull up the blank page.

7. Every beta reader and critique partner hates your manuscript.

Shivers.  ‘Nuff said.

6. Rejections 

No. No thanks. Interesting, but not for us. We can’t use this idea at this time. It doesn’t fit our issue needs right now. Ha, seriously!? Maybe you need to seek another career option.

5. Ugly Reviews

They happen. You dread them. You swear you won’t read them. You read them anyway. And you feel like dog poop for the rest of the day (week).

4. The unintentional mistake that gets you banned from your own website, blog, or favorite social media site.

This can be as simple as a mean person marking your update as offensive or your tweet as spam, just because.

3. The book signing that no one attends.

There you stand behind your table, all alone, sampling the chocolate you brought to entice readers to approach, talk to you, and buy your book. Soon you sit, pull the bowl of chocolate closer, and eat it all. You feel so lonely. So sad.

2.The brilliant idea that comes too late.

Your final draft is finished when you discover another author has beaten you to the draw and produced a work very similar to yours. He has already signed a contract with a publisher.

1. The computer crash that comes just before you back up your files for the first time since you started your new novel, 50,000 words ago.

This is the one that makes you cry.

Introducing the Only-Slightly-Frazzled Blog Editors, Julie and Pat

Pat: Well, Julie, here we are wrapping up two full months of the new Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog. Thanks to our techno-goddess Wendy Howard, Mark Stevens and the RMFW Board of Directors, and a great team of regular and guest bloggers, I think it went pretty well.

Julie: I’m loving the blog but really broke a sweat pulling it all together. Oh wait, you already revealed the true worker bees and brain children behind the blog’s success. Yes, they were and are amazing, as were you and your step-by-step directions on how to edit posts (The “first, turn on computer” step was so helpful!)

Stoltey_webPat: I believe in starting with the basics, but maybe that was going a little too far. Anyway, now that we have a few minutes (seconds?) to chat, I think it would be fun to kick back and get to know each other better. Full disclosure: I’ve been going to Weight Watchers since September 2010, and I’ve almost lost 30 pounds. This photo I’ve been using lately was taken at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in 2011 when I hadn’t made much progress yet. Check out these chubby cheeks. And stay tuned for an updated photo in ten more pounds.

Julie: Wow, that’s fantastic, Pat. Well, we do have a lot in common. I signed on to SparkPeople about 6 weeks ago, and have been working on shedding some weight myself. My cheeks are still a little chubby though. I call my extra face padding my natural Botox– puffs the wrinkles right out!

Pat high school0001Pat: Okay, I just grabbed a piece of chocolate from my secret stash, so I guess it’s time to change the subject. Not too long ago on my blog, I told my readers three things I didn’t like when I was a kid and invited them to share their own dislikes. After that post, I thought of many more…I guess I wasn’t very easy to please. My hair, for instance. I hated my hair when I was a kid because I wanted to wear it long and straight and silky–like yours in your author photo…but my hair was thick and wavy and preferred to do its own thing. As a result, some of my grade school photos look as though I’d combed my hair with an egg beater (something one of my uncles often told me). By high school, I’d figured out how to set my hair on big bristled rollers to get something remotely resembling a page boy.

Julie Lueck_high schoolJulie: Isn’t it funny how we always long for what we don’t have? I had long, straight hair and always wanted full, fluffy hair with lots of body. I could never make it do the Farrah feathers in the front without cans and cans of VO5 (that was before we knew about the whole ozone depletion thing, of course). Thank goodness the blue eyeshadow and LaDisco jeans with colored stitching help deflect some of the attention away from my flat hair. But enough about hair; surely there was more to dislike in life than that…

Pat: Oh, you want something else? No problem. I was a farm kid with lots of chores to do, and one I really disliked was gathering eggs. The hen house was inhabited by a gang of nasty-tempered hens who persisted in sitting on those eggs and pecking the backs of my hands black and blue when I reached inside the nest. What I hated even more? The huge, vicious white rooster that stood guard. Yes, he would attack. I approached that task armed with a baseball bat…or a pitchfork. I was so traumatized by that damned bird that he was still in my mind and got a whole sentence to himself when I wrote The Prairie Grass Murders.

Julie LueckJulie: Writing therapy–very effective against latent rooster resentment. My mother-in-law tells me her brothers used to chase her with the chickens after they cut off the heads. Her phobia ran so deep, to this day she won’t eat chicken.

I grew up in the suburbs; I don’t remember any animal fears (unless you count rogue squirrels). My dislikes ran more to things like gym class in school. I still shudder to think of the little one piece shorts outfits they made us all wear and the Presidential Fitness tests I could never complete. It was scarring.

Pat: Was your one-piece gym uniform a magenta color? I had to wear one of those back in my day too. For me the worst thing about gym was that test where I was supposed to shinny up a rope. Shinny was not in my vocabulary. Can’t shimmy either…but maybe we shouldn’t go there.

Instead, let’s turn this question over to our readers and the members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Come on, tell us. What did you dislike most when you were a kid? You can comment here, or find us on Facebook and tell your story there. Julie on Facebook is here, and I’m on Facebook here.