LET’S TALK WRITING #4 with JAN SELBURNE

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LET’S TALK WRITING #4

with Author of BEHIND THE CLOUDS

JAN SELBURNE

Jan SelburneWhy do I write? I’ve always wanted to write, and I thank my parents and my schoolteachers for drilling literature and history into my head. At twenty- one years of age I travelled to the UK for the obligatory two years working holiday and there in front of me was the history I’d learned from books. I was hooked. However, the love of writing was put on the back-burner for years because of career, marriage and children.

Five years ago I sat down to write my historical romance/adventure stories and I confidently sent my masterpieces off to various agents and publishers. Some never responded, the others sent rejection letters. I still remember receiving one rejection without the courtesy of a salutation and one line, “Don’t think so, thanks, I have plenty of World War One stories,” no signature.

Rejections by silence or by letter hurt and they are very discouraging, but eventually their messages sunk in. I was writing the same type of predictable historical romantic stories with different names and different backgrounds. A real amateur and, I was to learn later, my writing needed a lot more polish.

After a life change in 2014, I began rewriting that story set in the early days of World War One. The idea had come from my ancestor’s WW1 diary and an article on how people react when faced with fear and extreme danger. Example, a tough he-man turns to water and runs, the insignificant man or the quiet, unassuming woman show immense courage.

I spent many hours researching to ensure the story portrayed that era correctly, and I think I speak for all authors when I say I was immersed in the characters and their changing lives during that turbulent time in history. It didn’t matter that my fancy writing studio was, and still is, the small dining room table with the stray, now live in cat on my lap. I was with my characters all the way. Quite a few times I became stuck, I knew what I wanted but for the life of me I couldn’t find the right words or right scenes to get them there. I’d sit staring at my computer monitor, telling myself in in bad language I was dumb and to get on with it. Then, like all stories, it found its own feet and direction and I tagged along.

Behind the Clouds 2016.inddI submitted Behind the Clouds to a couple of publishers and was a bit stunned when Richard Savage, owner and publisher of Black Velvet Seductions, emailed. He liked my story. When the editing process began, Ric pushed me to do better and hammered me mercilessly on writing from the character’s Point Of View. I learned why I’d received rejection letters.

I was thrilled with the finished product, published in November, 2015.

As we all know, writing our story is a pleasure, it’s our creation. Promoting it is tough and can be very discouraging. I’m very aware that ‘one man’s meat is another’s poison’ goes for choices in books. So far, Behind The Clouds has received encouraging feedback and reviews. I hope I can accept negative feedback and criticism as a learning curve. My fingers are crossed!

I’m moving away from the historical romance genre and tackling a story of betrayal, deception and intrigue and of course the two main characters will fall in love, eventually.

Thank you again and I’m looking forward to saying hello to the writers submitting their stories to Let’s Talk Writing.

©Jan Selburne

 

What did Viga Boland think of BEHIND THE CLOUDS?

Read her Readers Favorite review HERE 

Thank you Jan for sharing your reasons for writing with us. For all of you who have read Jan’s thoughts here, I hope you’ll take the time to leave her your comments below.

Remember, we want to hear YOUR thoughts on writing. Please submit your own article to LET’S TALK WRITING. Click that link to see what we’re looking for. Hope to hear from you soon.

And Jan, please come back and share more of your ideas on writing with us in the future. I, for one, would love to hear more about your experience of working with a publisher. 

21 thoughts on “LET’S TALK WRITING #4 with JAN SELBURNE

  1. May Salix

    September 23, 2016

    I don’t know if this is something you’d be interested in now, but Marget Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind Letters” is an *awesome* book that details how meticulously she researched her novel – for every person who said “That’s not how it was,” she was able to say “Well, actually …” and list off at least two or three references verifying the fact. MM is awesome in other ways too, but that’s irrelevant to what you wrote.

    I loved the way you touched upon how if you want to be a good writer – a better writer – you need to do your research and know your history (I *love* history) – whatever that entails. I almost hope your next characters meet in a history class or something. Also, when you mentioned negative feedback (or “constructive criticism,” as I hope it would be) as part of a “learning curve” … A lot of people either don’t know how to give decent criticism or are afraid to – when they aren’t tearing something apart … I wish more people knew the importance of actual constructive criticism – it goes so much further than “That was really good!”

    Good luck with your new novel!

    • Viga Boland

      September 24, 2016

      Thanks May. Some excellent thoughts from you here. I hope some others in our group will add their thoughts to yours and Barbara’s.

  2. Barbara Studham

    September 23, 2016

    Isn’t it amazing how often woman put their writing on the back burner due to care-giving and life events. We all do it, but why? I believe it is because our love of writing is regarded as nothing more than a hobby and therefore rated low on the list of women’s obligations. This is sad, because so many women have marvelous potential for writing and should be encouraged to expand their horizons, even when care-giving. Having said that, when women do eventually write, it is often a struggle to engage the interest and support of friends and family.

    • Viga Boland

      September 24, 2016

      Fantastic comments for Jan on her post May Salix and Barbara Studham. Thanks so much for reading this and leaving such great feedback for Jan. Well Jan: you hoped some writer would comment and they have. Any further thoughts on their responses to you?

  3. Jan Selbourne

    September 24, 2016

    Hello May and Barbara,
    Thank you both very much for your comments . I appreciate them very much. Thanks May for your good wishes for my next novel. I love history and it should be portrayed as accurately as possible. Barbara you are correct about women putting their own wishes/talents on the backburner because we’d feel selfish putting ourselves first when others needed our attention. There is a difference between self and selfish.
    So good to meet you both via Let’s Talk Writing.

  4. Barbara Studham

    September 25, 2016

    This isn’t a comment on Jan’s piece as I just wanted people’s opinion in general. It seems the world’s priorities are screwed when it comes to memoirs.Take, for example, my two memoirs on the twenty years I raised grandchildren with mental illness. During that time, due to people’s misconceptions re: mental issues, I was derided, blamed, ignored, and isolated to the point where I struggled alone. Then, when I wrote a memoir on my experiences, I was congratulated with expressions like, “You wrote a book? Well done, Barbara!”, “Oh, you are so clever for writing that memoir!”, “I must read all about your experience raising your grandchildren!”. For some reason, by writing a book, it appears I increased my worth in life, when really my worth was in the raising, not the writing. How strange! Has anyone else experienced the same?

    • Jan Selbourne

      September 25, 2016

      Hello Barbara, thank you for the opportunity to say hi. I have not experienced the same, however I do understand. My daughter is a registered nurse in mental health, she witnesses first hand the incredible and often thankless work done by her patients’ carers and in turn raised my awareness of the isolation you endured. You are correct, we experience some tough times in life, then when we write, ‘hey, you’ve got a way with words!’. Best wishes, Jan

      • Viga Boland

        September 25, 2016

        Thanks Jan for replying to Barbara on her last comment.

    • Viga Boland

      September 25, 2016

      Oh Barbara. What you say makes my skin crawl…and you are so right. What’s important though about what you said is this line: “…really my worth was in the raising.” As long as you keep that in mind, then the accolades you receive for having the strength to write about it should make it taste all that much better. BTW, what you’ve written is such an interesting perspective that it would make a wonderful blog post for your own site. Or perhaps you can turn it into another great piece for “Let’s Talk Writing”. What do you say?

      • Barbara Studham

        September 26, 2016

        Hi Viga. I am intending to write it on my blog, but so few people leave comments on my blog, I decided “Let’s Talk Writing” was the optimal venue for my comment. Thanks, Barbara

        • Viga Boland

          September 26, 2016

          Wonderful. Let’s keep this column going then. I love the way folks are finally getting what we’re trying to do here. And all authors who post and respond, with their links, will benefit from doing so. So don’t forget to include a link back to your site each time you reply. :)) Now, if we could just get a few more submissions!

    • May Salix

      September 26, 2016

      I kind of take care of my grandmother (she’s still relatively independent), but I do not have a job for various reasons – one of which is I’m afraid to leave her for long. But I have managed to isolate myself to such a degree that I hardly ever leave the house, and even though the family (thankfully) claims I’m doing a great job – I’m appreciated – I feel like they think that because I don’t work, I’m just free loading – but I’m not! So I’m putting so much pressure on myself to write because I need to do *something* and that pressure is killing my inspiration and motivation.

      They know that I’m writing, but I refuse to let them see what I’ve written. Maybe I’m just reactionary and have internalized a lot of things, but if people talked to me the way they talked to you, Barbara, I’d want to lash out … They sound really condescending and I only read them. But actually … now that I’m thinking about it … the family who knows I’m writing, tend to have a “That’s cute” tone when they find out … Oh well. (I don’t know why I responded to this when I just woke up … I hope it makes sense.)

      • Viga Boland

        September 26, 2016

        It all makes sense May. Thanks for contributing to this new angle Barbara started.

        • Barbara Studham

          September 26, 2016

          HI May, you should never feel guilty for being concerned for your grandmother. That’s a problem we women struggle with, believing the social stigma that caregiving is a worthless task, when we all know family is the most important unit in the world. Good for you May, your priorities are correct–family first!

          • Viga Boland

            September 26, 2016

            Yes, May, Barbara has said exactly the right thing here. As so often it isn’t, but should be, “family first”.

  5. Jan Selbourne

    September 26, 2016

    Hi Barbara and May, your comments are so very relevant to most women. Barbara you put it in a nutshell, women struggle with the social stigma that caregiving is a worthless task. We often feel its expected of us because we are women.

  6. Nancy Gustafson

    September 26, 2016

    Dear Jan,
    Thank you so much for your inspiring story. It reminded me of a writer friend of mine. She was “left in the lurch” by her husband. With three children, one of them a six-week-old baby, she desperately needed to make some money. She got a job, but all her life she had wanted to write. So she transformed a closet into her office. Her first desk was her ironing board. She got plenty of rejections, but eventually received some acceptances, too. Now, after years of writing, teaching writing, giving workshops on writing and leading a writers’ group, she is a frequently published author. Perhaps a bit of a stubborn nature benefits a writer. Refusing to give up pays off, if we can only humble ourselves to learn more about our craft along the way.

    • Viga Boland

      September 26, 2016

      Thanks for this wonderful story Nancy. Perseverance and belief in oneself always pays off in the end. Your own submission to “Let’s Talk Writing” will be posted before the end of the week. Can’t wait to share it.

  7. Peggy Toney Horton

    September 26, 2016

    Hi Jan. I meant to comment days ago but life has a way interrupting our good intentions, doesn’t it? A good friend passed away and I’ve been otherwise engaged. But I can’t let another day go by without telling you I enjoyed your piece so much that I read it twice — some sections, three times. You have a beautiful writing style. I love the way you described your writing studio: dining room table with cat on your lap. (Sounds very familiar.) Also, I can empathize with your feelings when you received rejections. When I first started writing, after each one, I’d ask myself, “What makes you think you can write?” I didn’t write for two years after one particularly hurtful rejection, but when the longing is there, deep inside, it never goes away and I eventually started again, I now have developed one of the thickest skins of anyone I know. Rejections roll off like rain off a dripstone, yet, I consider no acceptance insignificant and celebrate each. 🙂
    I found it interesting the way your book Behind the Clouds was accepted and edited and the way you learned why you’d been receiving rejections. Thank you for sharing your experience. I feel I have learned from reading it. I wish you the very best of luck with your book!

    • Jan Selbourne

      September 26, 2016

      Hi Peggy,
      Thank you for your lovely comments. I was sorry to read your friend passed away. Not a happy time.
      The rejections are hard, after all we are only human, I find no response at all very difficult to accept. Quite often the publisher’s submission rules state ‘if you don’t receive a response within 60 days it is because your work is not what we want’.
      A thick skin is needed to keep writing. I’m writing !
      So nice to say hello, and best wishes, Jan

  8. Jan Selbourne

    September 26, 2016

    Hi Nancy
    Your writer friend is inspiring. I had to smile at the ironing board for a desk, that makes my small dining room table almost luxurious!
    If I’m gloomy and feeling I’m getting nowhere I’ll think of your friend with a baby.
    Thanks for your message, much appreciated.

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