Friday, June 20, 2008

The Wall of Why

If you heard a tired thunk today, that was me finishing revisions for Stay the Night. I ran down to the wire, but after a bit of last-minute waffling sent the manuscript off to the editor in time. The next manuscript, Crystal Healer, is nearly ready to make its July 1st deadline, which is the same day Twilight Fall hits the shelves.

Then I have to pitch things, review offers, dodge phone calls about bestseller lists, and make a lot of career decisions that I've been putting off for some time now. None of that should be depressing, but it is. It can also be distracting, annoying, inconvenient and, at times, overwhelming. Which is when I go upstairs to my office, and look at my Wall of Why.

It's an ordinary wall, covered with not-so-ordinary things. In a little glass case in the center is the very first copy I ever held of StarDoc my first novel in print. I can still remember how it felt, to take it out of the box and hold it in my hands. That book is there as a symbol of how much I wanted this job, and how very fortunate I am to still have it after ten years.

Next to it is a framed photo of a California reader who wrote to tell me she had terminal cancer, and to ask me if I would tell her how I planned to finish the StarDoc series. She was fighting, but she was afraid she would die before I finished the books. I wrote back and told her everything I had planned, and sent her copies of all my manuscripts as soon as I finished writing them. I kept corresponding with her until a few days before she died, shortly after she read Eternity Row. That photo is there to tell me to always do my best for the readers, and to never give up.

On the other side is another glass case, this one holding a folded American flag that was flown in Iraq, sent to me last summer along with a certificate from the 332nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Balad AFB. All this, to thank me for sending books to our troops. There just aren't words to describe how stunning and humbling it is, to receive such a gift. All I have to do is look at that flag, remember all the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to serve this country, and the weight of the publishing world vanishes.

There are other things on the Wall of Why -- a photo of my daughter as a toddler, sitting on my lap at my first booksigning; the original cover art painting for Shockball; even a letter from then-President Bill Clinton replying to a bitchfest I'd sent him about improving senior health care in the U.S. (he didn't do anything with my suggestions, though) -- and they all recharge my batteries in some way or another.

There are a lot of important reasons to keep writing, no matter how tired, depressed or defeated I feel. Because as the Wall of Why always reminds me, it's not just about me.

What would you put on your wall, and why? Let us know in comments.


  1. Anonymous1:42 AM

    Huh. My wall is nothing so moving as all that.

    I have a picture of my son from seconds after he was born at Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan. My one and only important contribution to the universe to date.

    I has my GI Bill bought and paid for Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which I finally got after 7 years of taking classes between deployments. I affectionately refer to it as my degree in BS. My patients might agree.

    I has my Shellback Certificate from the first time I crossed the equator on the decks of the USS Kitty Hawk. I may be alot of things, but having blown neon green ink out of padeyes on the flight deck, I am no longer a slimy pollywog, lolz.

    I have my honorable discharge from the US Navy, in which they politely thank me for allowing them to shaft me hard and long for 7 years. NAVY: Never Again Volunteer Yourself.

    Surrounding that are pics of the various places the Navy sent me..Japan, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam, Australia, Bahrain, UAE, Afghanistan.

    A good sight more entertaining is the opposite wall, which contains my bookshelf full of signed copies. Twilight Fall is over there somewhere *g* in between the yaoi and stuff.

  2. I love this idea - thank you for sharing it. I have a few things like yours (but not a flag) and I should gather them up and put them all on the wall in one place. Some days you really really need a Why Wall.

  3. A copy of the Bible, to remind me that there isn't just one view of the world, and sometimes the majority is wrong.

  4. "Why" is something I've been struggling with for a while now. I think I have to get me one of these walls...

  5. Nothing right now. Just the *yeah* I get on the inside when another one's done.

  6. There's the letter from the reader whose son was in the hospital; my book distracted her from her worries for a little while. There's the memory of ditching WIC after my first sale and knowing my kids would not run out of milk or Cheerios as a result. There's the pure joy of seeing the first book I ever wrote in print, and knowing it isn't the last. And finally, being certain that despite the difficulties, this is the best job I've ever had.

  7. That must have been so hard when your reader died. I'm glad you got the chance to interact with her.

  8. A picture of my husband and son, hanging out together when the little one was a few months old.

    A letter in a frame written by an author I admire telling me to never give up and keep on until it happens. It reminds me that there are those who've gone through the fire and came out tempered and ready for this crazy life. It will, eventually. I know it will.

    A picture of my stepkids and their big smiles. Heartbreakers to be, the lot of them. Luckily they're not teenagers yet LOL.

    And a simple metal sign hanging above my desk "Bang head here" with a circle for when I'm stressed. It makes me laugh every time I see it.

    On a shelf next to it I've got all my signed copies of books and those original novels that got me to write in the first place and kept me motivated to continue.

    *hugs* The harder (and more irritating) stuff is in the non-writing part of the job. Good luck with all your decisions and I hope they are everything you need them to be.

  9. I don't have a Wall, but I love the idea of one. Other than a picture of my boys, I don't know what I'd put it on it right now. I'll have to think about it.

  10. I'm commenting to say I can't comment right now. I'm too busy crying over your story of the terminally ill cancer patient and how you kept corresponding with her and sending her your manuscripts.... all choked up. My mil is living with us, and going through chemo at 77 so I know what they go through, and can only imagine what your gesture meant to that woman.

    I'll be back when I stop crying, dang it.

  11. Anonymous10:17 AM

    What a good idea. I've heard of inspiration boards or binders or albums before, often on decorating shows. Thanks for sharing yours - it helps to see it isn't necessarily about being Martha Stewart-like. I have an interactive triple-strength "wall of why" that follows me around night and day. You guessed it, children under the age of... well... offspring will always have questions, won't they.

  12. Okay, now I'm all teary-eyed, thanks Sheila (not too hard to do these days).

    I have a blank wall at home, I guess it's been waiting for something. I'm sitting here at work and looking at my cubicle walls, at the motivation pasted all over it in the form of pictures and pictures of my daughter, my cats (living and deceased) and my siblings on my wedding day. I would transfer this home, should I have the privelidge of writing full time in the future.

    My wedding day is the final time my entire family spent the day together. Choices and broken relationships will keep it that for a long time, but that day was HAPPY because I knew at the time what it meant. My daughter's pictures make me smile, remind me why I do *anything* that even remotely hurts. My cats remind me that there are lives that depend on me, that cannot thank me although they make their anger clear when dinner is late, but they love me.

    The only thing I would add is a picture of me as a child. Because reading saved my sanity, gave me direction. Reading saved me. It can save some other child. And if my writing can do that someday? Just imagine.

    Sorry this is so long, it's your fault for making a pregnant woman cry! ;)

  13. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Hmm. My Wall of Why would probably contain a couple of things-

    - An email thanking me for including people of color in my stories. That was the email that made me vow never to have an all-white cast of characters in anything I write.

    - A blank case - waiting for a copy of the book my latest book. It's not my first book, but it will be the one I'm most proud of so far. And it will remind me to always strive for better-quality writing.

  14. I have no doubt you'll make the right decisions. :)

    I don't really have a wall of why, but I do surround myself with photos of Scotland and friends. I also have my medicine bag, feathers and a zen calendar.I had someone tell me the other day not to forget my roots. All it did was remind me of how much I've changed and how little others have.

  15. I don't have a wall yet but I do like the idea and know two things that would go on it already. First would be the picture of my siblings and myself taken as an anniversary gift for our parents when I was 8. It reminds me of how important books became to me as a very introverted child in a house full of teenagers. Second would be a copy of the email I got from a friend the first time I got brave enough to let someone read one of my stories. She had started reading it after work and stayed up half the night because she couldn't stop and must finish. That moment is when I realized just how much I want to give others as much pleasure in my stories as I get from them.


  16. Like signy, I don't have a wall yet, but when I do I plan on putting a picture of a dear friend who died just a few weeks ago. He said on more than one occasion that if I wrote a vampire novel, he would place his autographed copy of a more popular vampire novel on the second shelf so he would have room for mine.

    I would also include a photo of my blued angel boy, my black cat calendar, and a picture of Christ with the saying, "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it." That helps remind to keep writing no matter what life brings me.
    And anything else of interest the I might find, maybe a reproduction of a crystal skull, I'm into artifacts like that.

  17. Anonymous2:49 PM

    If I had a Wall of Why, I'd hang small odds and ends I'd collected over the years that are (sadly) now in storage.

    I'd make a mosaic of pictures of my best friend. My first dog (who very well might be one of my best frieds, rest her puppy soul,) my current baby (who is a dog as well.) A picture of my mom, a picture of my fiance. A picture in memory of my dad.

    Of course there would be a shelf to hold the bottles holding water, sand, and small shells collected by hand from the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. An arrow head found when we were building our house. Small rocks I've kept from my childhood obsession.

    A large map showing places I've been and places I want to go.
    Designs and pictures of my future wedding dress.

    And small prints of the 7 deadly sins by an amazing artist.
    This is also my first time posting and feel the need to tell you that I am once again rereading the Stardoc Series. I started Shockball this morning. (This is my eleventy hundreth time reading the series.) I am normally much more into fantasy than sci-fi, but Stardoc sucked me in and refused to let me leave. I've enjoyed my stay immensely. Thank you.

  18. I'm just starting to build my Wall of Why. I've completed the first draft of my first manuscript and am starting revisions - I feel things are going well - but the more I study the business of publishing the less enthusiastic I feel. I find your attitudes about the publishing world, what you choose to do and not to do as an author, to be a breath of fresh air - and evidence that, with a good story and compelling characters, one can be a successful writer without having to pimp yourself out.

    I read an interview with Nora Roberts recently in which she said something to the effect of, "Don't chase trends. Trends come and go. Just write the best story you know how to write." Good advice. So, right now I'm focusing on the writing. And I'll think long and hard about what goes up on my Wall of Why. Thanks for sharing yours.

  19. My parents were given that same flag for Christmas by my uncle who was stationed in Iraq over the summer. I was absolutely floored and amazed... God bless our soldiers!

    I don't have a wall of why, but if I did, it would have these:

    A small cross, to remind me of who my real Audience is.

    An empty M&M wrapper, because most of my favorite memories with my parents seemed to involve M&Ms. :-)

    The picture of my best friend and I when we were about 10. She taught me how to imagine and was the first person who believed that I could write.

    And that's all. The rest of the wall would be a giant window. :-D


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