The Course of Gratitude

On Thanksgiving, I was invited to dinner an hour or more from my house. There would be family and friends and I was excited about going.

Already stressed from running late, I ticked off my checklist of things as I tossed them into the car, hopped in, turned the key, and …. click.. click…click.

Uhm. No. I must have been hallucinating. I didn’t depress the gas. I didn’t turn the key completely. Confidently, I tried again. Click, click, click my car responded to each and every try. Not one hint of the engine igniting.

I called my daughter who had arrived ahead of me – stress and disappointment overwhelming me. She said it was probably just the battery and she arranged for someone to jump my car.

They arrived, hooked up the cables, and said – turn the key. Click… click… click. Okay, wait a few minutes and try again. But with each and every try the click, click, click even seemed to get weaker.

Not only was I missing the dinner that I was already late for, but my baby – my car – my very dependable, has never let me down was ailing. I assumed since the battery couldn’t be jumped, there was something very wrong with her. I imagined the costs, the time, began to wonder how I would get to work.

Too late for dinner. Too late to make alternative plans. I donned my big sunglasses to hide my tear swollen eyes and took my dogs for a walk. I returned home, ate a bowl of fruit (I hadn’t shopped for heaven’s sake, I was going elsewhere for dinner!) and cleaned out my closet. What else might one have done?

As I thought of the dinner conversation missed, what are you grateful for? I had to consider what I was and am grateful for. Of course, I am blessed.

As with the immediate circumstances, the car with the suddenly dead battery, spending Thanksgiving with my dogs instead of a table filled with food – I was still grateful.

I’m grateful the car didn’t die anywhere else! It died here, in my own driveway, leaving me safe at home and not on the freeway or the supermarket or an hour away from my house on a chilly holiday night.

I’m grateful for the amazing family I have. I may not spend every holiday with them because they have a father, in laws, friends, but I see them all the time. As I walked the dogs around the neighborhood, I saw my neighbors enjoying their family – some of whom only visit on holidays. I am bless to have family who want to hang out with me, want to be here with me, and don’t just come on holidays.

I’m grateful for the beautiful souls I’m fortunate enough to call friends. In the last some years, I’ve attempted to align myself only with those who glow with positivity. They are people who I can count on, people who care about me and I care about. I probably could have even called them on Thanksgiving for a ride, but I didn’t want to disturb their holidays.

I was fortunate enough to have my daughters recreate Thanksgiving on Saturday – which, somehow, was better than the original could have been.

Of Importance

Someone recently allude to the reason they haven’t been writing is they felt their work wasn’t important.

But – is that why we do this? Out of some idea of importance to the world or to ourselves?

Are we not just driven to create because we are creators? Or does it lose meaning when we think our creations are not important?

As a young person, I wrote. I wrote with no thought of audience or publisher or awards. It was a drive within me, for as long as I can remember, to just write. Get it all out. Put it down on paper.

The idea of importance to the world didn’t come until later – college, in fact, when one professor said – but what is the deeper meaning?

And a student answered – maybe it was just for fun?

And she, slitting her eyes, growled, “We don’t do that.”

My writer friend always got stuck on audience. She’d start on a piece, but then she’d become stalled, staring at it for hours and rereading it and attempting to answer the question – Who is the Audience?

All these expectations stifle the creative spirit. Maybe these questions need to be answered, but I believe the answer must come after the creation.

Perhaps that is the true spirit of creation. Create first, ask questions later.

The spirit of commercialism to which we are all pulled, drawn, or lead is in opposition with the authentic need to create. For the product, we must ask the questions and then create something tailor made.

I don’t want to make products. I suck at sales. I just want to write. The writing is important to who I am as a human. Writing makes me a better human. Isn’t that important?

What is Creativity?

My friend believes creativity is a gift direct from the powers that be.

I believe everyone is creative in different ways.

My friend feels when she is ill, she is unable to write. The body, she says, is recreating itself, creating health from illness.

I think of the great minds in our society – Mozart’s last work, although incomplete was powerful, was written on his deathbed. Einstein was working on his next great theorem as he lay dying. Howard Hughes, burned and bleeding, after a plane crash left him near dead, redesigned the bed he lay in, redesigned the plane in which he crashed.

My friend is not completely wrong. When I’m not well, the last thing I’m thinking about is how my character will move forward.

But maybe that’s exactly what we need when our body is focused on healing, that our mind needs to be occupied with our passion in life. Maybe there is something to the creation – the connection between healing and writing – that makes magic.

We know that, already, don’t we? We heal though creativity. We are fully present when involved in our purpose.

I wrote the first draft of Our Gentle Sins during a stressful time. It came out fast and easy. The flow was beautiful and powerful and made me feel better, more in control, and hopeful.

When I think of the book now, the characters hold a special place in my heart. Jack and Valerina are the epitome of hope

Grief Memoirs

I handle grief by writing. I handle stress by writing. I handle many things by laying a line on paper and allowing the dark moments to flow out. Image and rhyme and memory and magic blooms and appears sometimes in chaos, other times in patterns however rarely symmetrical.

People all handle grief differently and all the ways are valid. Many people don’t understand those who don’t bawl and post and praise. Other people don’t understand the public display.

After my brother passed last year, my mother followed him in a matter of days. It took me a bit, but I wrote. While I’m working on a longer piece about my mother, I’m proud to say Memory House Magazine out of Chicago accepted the piece about my brother.

“Days of Remembrance” is a mystical memoir of my brother’s passing, more specifically the days following his death. The print version will be out soon. They’ve invited us to read their digital version at https://chicagomemoryhouse.wordpress.com/

I like words…

I like sentences. Big, beautiful sentences so long and thick you can wrap them around yourself and keep yourself warm in the winter. Yeah, those. But I like words too. They go together, you know, words and sentences. I like to make them move with rhythm, sing and dance in a way that you fall into them as if you’re hypnotized by them and you never want to leave them, you just want to sway back and forth and keep reading until you slip off of your seat.

It takes time to create those. They start small, like these. Then you have to let them sit, like yeasty bread, and let them rise. You leave, come back, lift the towel, pinch and poke at them, and leave them again thinking, “I know it can be better than that.”

Then you have to sit down with them, you have to get to know them, talk to them, talk through them, try them on, and break them then mend them, try this and try that. It’s frustrating too, I know. You fight with them, want to give up on them, want to trash the whole thing and sometimes you might leave in tears with hopelessness tearing at your soul, but then you come back on another day, maybe an overcast day that holds the threat of rain, and you sit down and talk it all out once again. Maybe this time, this time, it works. Someday it will.

Then you’ll move on to the next sentence.

This is writing. It hurts. It cuts giant gashes filled with jagged edges through you. It scars. It gives you nightmares and makes you curl up in a ball and rock not so gently back and forth.

But it’s also the only thing that pushes you forward, fills the empty spaces, gives you purpose. It keeps the dark shadows at bay and protects you from the harsh world.

You probably think this is about you….

Naming characters, for some writers, is a complicated process. They want an original name for their original character. Perhaps they want something that describes strength and power, or maybe they want something that will tell a reader this person is a nerd. Maybe an old name, from their grandmother’s era, to say something about the character or their family.

For other writers, they log on to baby names and search through for the perfect one. The perfect one might be based on sound, consonants and vowels, rhyming, colors, meanings.

For me, sometimes, characters name themselves. The character develops and the name comes. For Our Gentle Sins, Jack’s name came to me like that. But some of the other characters were actually named for the students in the class that I mention in my acknowledgements. I was inspired by that class.

it was January 2017. The world was changing and people, some of my students, were afraid, others were angry. That semester, I was asked to teach the History of African American Literature. The students were expecting another teacher. When I walked in – they weren’t certain what to make of me or what this class might become.

I said – I love literature and we are here to learn together. If I say something or do something you don’t like – you tell me. Later, I was evaluated by our expert in African American Literature. He said, “never have I seen a class so open to talking about gender, race, culture – and being respectful about it!”

That was my rule – we don’t have to agree, but we should learn how to respectfully disagree.

It was a wonderful class.

Our Gentle Sins began just before the semester, I was so inspired that I would write before class as the students walked in and after class as they walked out. They asked me what I was working on – I told them. At one point, they asked me to read them a section. I agreed.

What I told them is that I’d been so inspired by the class that I’d named some of my characters after some of the names in class. Not after the students themselves because I didn’t match up characteristics between real person and student, just their names. They loved the idea.

Many, many times, I’ve had people think the story was about them or that the character was somehow inspired by them. I had, at least, one person (maybe more) stop talking to me because of a character name. I didn’t realize it right away. It was only when I looked back on our messages that I saw the dates and the topic – the story they were about to read. The name had NOTHING to do with them or the friend they believed the character to be named after. It was just a name and it felt right in that place.

The truth is – if I really disliked a person, I would never use their name, not for good guys or bad guys, not for the character who might die or a stray dog gracing the pages. Why would I want to be reminded of someone I disliked? The name might be similar – but it was never about them. It was a character.

Although my students appreciated I used some of their names, none of them felt I’d used them personally as the inspiration for the character.

Our Gentle Sins is about people finding their way in life – recovering from past mistakes. Aren’t we all?

Book Review for Our Gentle Sins

Thank you to my fellow author and friend, Ron Terranova, for his review of my upcoming release, Our Genlte Sins, June 21!

  “Lace has woven a wonderful tale with themes and characters that are universal and recognizable. Such issues as a woman’s personal sovereignty within a relationship, the oppressiveness, both subtle and overt, of patriarchy and the mixed blessings of liberation are explored. A wonderful, readable story, ideal for Summer reading. Kudos to Noreen Lace.”

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Review of Our Gentle Sins

When a Publisher’s Weekly reviewer writes “energetic prose” one gets excited!

Yes, that is what they said about Our Gentle Sins, “energetic prose” in a preliminary book review!

as well as –

“Lace takes a familiar story… and suffuses it with intriguing family drama.”

and finally –

“this is an appealing novel with relatable, flawed characters.”

More reviews to come.

Release date: JUNE 21!

A Journey of Souls

Sometimes it’s challenging to tell your story in just a few short words – but Our Gentle Sins is the journey of two souls who are recovering from past mistakes. Aren’t we all?