Round 3

Final Round 3 Check-In

Okay, really, it’s tomorrow, but I’ve conditioned you to look for the linky on Wednesday, so here it is.

WEIGH IN!  How did you do on those goals?  Let us know and swing by to cheer on your fellow ROWers.  And be sure to be back here by October 7th for Round 4!

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Combustible Lemons by K.L. Stevens

“When life gives you lemons… make lemonade.”


It’s supposed to be inspirational! Uplifting! Make something sweet out of something sour, right?


To me, it’s actually pretty depressing.

The idea, of course, is that life is some sort of Ultimate Evil Force (yes, capital letters required) that hands us sour packages where we have the choice to turn them into something sweet. That’s it. We can’t change what life gives us. We can let the lemons bury us, we can find sugar and work furiously to make lemonade, or we can just stop living, because then we won’t be getting any more lemons.


To me, the sentiment of “making lemonade” stinks worse than my ex’s hockey bag. And there is no stench known to man that is worse than a hockey bag after a few weeks of use.

Instead, I’m rather fond of Cave Johnson’s theory on life’s lemons:


“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!” (copyright to Valve’s Portal 2, edited for sensitive content)

So, Cave Johnson’s craziness aside, the idea behind his theory is that nothing (not even the cancer that was killing him) is worth “taking” from life.

Life isn’t some mysterious force that shoves lemons down our throats.

Life is the thing we do – live.


So, I can hear the questions now. “But Kristen, what do I do with these lemons? Should I be burning down houses?” Aaaaaaand let me stop you there. These negative events that life “gives” us aren’t the end-all-be-all. These “lemons” can be used in a positive way, no sweetener needed!


We are writers, aren’t we?


The answer is yes. And as writers, we need to tap into emotion to make our stories the strongest they can be. By turning our negative events into fuel, we’ll be able to drop combustible lemons filled with emotions on our unsuspecting readers.

It’s the ultimate “write what you know”!

Did you fall on the ice last winter and break your foot? Now you know the levels of pain and can accurately describe it and the (lengthy) recovery process. Lost someone recently (say sorry)? You can mimic those levels of loss and anguish in a character. Recently loved and lost? FEELS, man, FEELS.

Don’t let life’s lemons bury you. Don’t try to make something sweet out of something sour.

Instead, turn the lemons into power that you use against your readers. It’ll make your writing all the sweeter to read.


K.L. Stevens

When You Become A Real Writer by Buffy Greentree

When I become a real writer, then I’ll… What? What will you do? What is the difference between someone who wants to be a writer and someone who can confidently claim they are a writer?

Is it the number of books published? Or sold? Whether you have a traditional publisher? Do you need an agent? Will that make you a ‘writer’?

There are only 2 things that make a writer: continuing to work on your craft, and not giving up.

You might be an author if you have published books, or a best-seller if you sell more, more recognised if you have a traditional publisher, more promoted if you have an agent, but anyone who has all that is still only a writer if they continue to write.

So lets look at these two things. First, continuing to work on your craft. Despite a lot of opinions, it is my belief that you actually need to write, if you want to be a writer. Nearly everyone has a great idea for a novel in their head, some might have even planned the whole thing out, but unless you have words on paper/screen, you aren’t a writer. Words are the only medium you can express yourself in to be considered a writer.

I want to further qualify this because in today’s society the majority of people do have to write something most of the time, even if it is just To Do Lists. To be a writer, you need to be interested in the craft of writing. I don’t believe it should be just a means to an end, but an interest all in itself.

As Ernst Hemingway said, ‘I am an apprentice to a craft in which there are no masters.’ You need to be constantly looking around you for inspiration and new, better ways to express yourself. Act like the exam is always just tomorrow, and study that little bit more. I recommend for this that you read books on the art, attend conferences, join amazing groups like ROW 80, and talk with other writers. This will make sure that you are always focused on the craft.

So, if you are a member of ROW 80, meeting some of your goals, then you are halfway towards being a writer! The other, just as important half, though, is to not give up. The moment you decide to stop writing, stop trying to get published, stop trying to improve, you stop being a writer.

I used to believe that I could only call myself a writer if I was supporting myself by an income from my work. However, many great writers continued to work a day job nearly all of their lives. There are other fabulous writers who only earn enough to supplement their income. Some writers give their work away for free, and others just haven’t made money with their work yet. Which is why you just can’t give up.

Think of the many famous authors that had to keep trying after hundreds of rejections before they received their first dime. Were they not still writers during this period?

(Great article in ‘Writers Circle’ of 9 famous authors who were not only rejected, but given very rude feed back, if you want to feel better.)

C.S. Lewis, one of my all time favourite authors (‘Chronicles of Narnia’, and other great works such as ‘Til We Have Faces’) was rejected 800 times before a single piece of his work was published!

If at any time he had given up, even if he had given up after the 799th rejection, then he wouldn’t have been the writer we know (and love!) today.

So, at times we all feel discouraged, feel we aren’t good enough to make it as writers, and might even take a break from it all. However, in the end the only thing that differentiates you from either the ‘real’ writers or the rest of the population is whether you end up coming back and trying to write all over again. Then you can confidently call yourself a writer. Welcome to the club.


Buffy Greentree

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

Another week bites the dust!  How’d you do?

For those interested, I’m still looking for sponsors for Round 4.  Check out the FAQs for details and email me at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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How Hungry Are We? by Alberta Ross

How hungry are we to achieve what we desire? We want to write – but how much do we want it? Are we so impatient we give up when life doesn’t play ball with us.  Do we despair when those goal posts change? Are we willing to re-configure, to retreat before we advance? Are we willing to put on hold for other considerations without ever losing track of the dream?


When I need inspiration, extra determination, a role model to help me, I do not have to look any further than my sister. I have blogged about this quiet hero in my life before.  But I will share her calm philosophy with you all again.  Because, for whatever dreams we have, someone such as her can serve as a beacon.  She is not unique, there are many like her.


My sister as a child was deaf, had speech problems because of this, had to be sent to special needs boarding school at five.  I never really got to know her as a child, but during the holidays she was happy and, although shy, popular because of her smile.  Deaf? Never mind there are others worse off.


Her deafness was just part of an eye syndrome, which we didn’t know off until she was an adult and her sight began to deteriorate.  She was registered blind over 30 years ago, about the time she also needed two hearing aids to hear.  She continued to commute into London to work for many years, aided by her long cane, until she was retired on health grounds at 50.  That was 20 years ago.  Now most ‘blind’ people do actually have varying degrees of sight, just not good.


All her life she has loved walking. Up hill and down dale, exploring highways and byways, unlike me she really enjoys walking.  Like me she was brought up to be independent. Now her sight was such she was loosing both these pleasures.  She felt increasingly isolated and fearful of walking alone.


Then she trained with her first guide dog.  She still had some sight, with the dog she had independence and freedom again, soon she and the dog were traipsing the highways again.  Then there was a second guide dog and they too wandered the byways. All the time accepting and adjusting and insisting she was fine and always happy and smiling.


Four years ago she developed another eye condition which robbed her of the rest of her sight. Nothing was left, blackness only.


In the meantime we retired moved to another part of the country.  Now she, friendly soul as she is, had always wished to live in a village – me, curmudgeon as I am, prefer the anonymity of a town:)  We moved to a medium sized village.  I can remain fairly private and she has made friends all over the village.


This new guide dog and her have struggled.  What should have taken a month of re-training has turned into a saga lasting 14 months. So how much does a 70 year old hunger for her freedom, independence and the sheer joy of walking? No-one would have blamed her if she had elected to sit at home.


She has faced this new obstacle Life has thrown at her and adjusted yet again.  Routes she knew well had to be changed – re-configured – a few have had to be abandoned altogether for safety’s sake.  She has been bruised and battered, despondent and frustrated.  But always the goal was to be able to stride out on her own and enjoy what she enjoys. She has had to sit and ponder, to work out new ways of achieving that goal. She had to be willing to accept it could only happen sometime in the undetermined future. Still she managed to smile.


A month ago she completed the five routes she had set out to conquer, two take her into the village and three are for leisure. They range from 25 minutes to an hour.  She is back striding confidently along our byways and highways.


But, and this is a big but, she did not do this on her own.  She needed encouragement, help and advice.  Friends stepped in when I couldn’t walk the walk with her.  The villagers, from twitchers behind their curtains to local shopkeepers, kept an eye out for her and stepped up to aid and rescue when things went wrong. The community was there, as they say, for her.  The goal was hers, the determination was hers but without help it may have overwhelmed.


There is no shame in allowing others  to help; we have discovered this.  Our upbringing had taught us differently. You did for yourself, kept yourself to yourself, you did not ask for help. We imbibed this with our mother’s milk.


We have learnt, my sister and I, that a caring community is a gift to appreciate.  We have found goals are easier to accomplish with the steadying influence of a friendly hand under the elbow.  We have learnt that if one is hungry enough the goals can be achieved but that compromise is sometimes required, and is not always a backward step, merely a different route to the end.


So if we have a goal  and are prepared for Life to throw obstacles in our way, if we have a goal and are prepared to re-route the path to it. If we have a goal and can accept willing help and encouragement, there is no reason not to achieve. For us here, we have fellow ROWers as well as family and friends.  Kait has created, in cyberspace, a community like our village.  But for all the help  offered we must really want to achieve, Life can throw harder balls than those thrown at  my sister,  you must be really hungry for it.


Alberta Ross

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

September!  I don’t know about you, but somehow just seeing that switch on the calendar from August makes it seem a little less hot.   Have you planned your way around the Labor Day holiday festivities to get in your words?

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