Friday, October 8, 2010

WHEN THE WORDS WON'T COME

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

My guest is women's fiction author, Leanna Ellis. Her forte is handling subjects and emotion with humor.

We all hit different forms of writer's block. I think it comes with the territory. How we deal with it is also individualist. I'm a firm believer that God never allows us to face an obstacle alone. He always makes the way out for us. The secret is to see the path provided and then have enough trust to follow it, especially given the fact that humans tend to have *eye* problems. You know what I mean;  I think, I feel, I want?

I love Leanna's article of running out of words, dealing with grief and grayness of spirit. It resonated with me as I have faced similar issues this year. Leanna was provided an unlikely hero, Hilo. But I'll let her tell you all about that.


What happens when you run out of words? Recently I came back from a writer’s conference, and I was frankly all talked out. Usually I sit in the quiet (or near quiet, except for my barking dogs, meowing cat and children coming and going, okay not-so-quiet) of my house and write my books. But what happens when an author runs out of words?


This happened to me not too long ago. Right when I was supposed to begin writing my book, FACELIFT. No words. They just wouldn’t come. You see, my father had just passed away. To make matters worse, I write books with a big dose of humor and I frankly didn’t feel very humorous. Erma Bombeck once said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” Those words are so true, and actually describe my writing pretty well. I write about deep subjects, difficult subjects, deep in the heart subjects, and package it all up in humor. But after my father died, humor was hard to come by. And the well of words I’d been drawing from for almost twenty years was dry.

What’s an author to do? First of all, I tried to be patient with myself. When I could only write ‘Chapter Five’ one day, not the chapter, just those two words: chapter five, I breathed deeply, tried not to panic, and said, “Maybe tomorrow.” Cue in the music from Annie here, right?

The words still didn’t come. Day after day I had no words to put on the page. But I was busy helping my children through their grief and as they finished up the school year. There were lots of activities to keep us busy and kept me moving even when there were days that I didn’t want to get out of bed.

But the one thing that really got me moving was my crazy labradoodle, Hilo, named after our favorite vacation spot on the big island of Hawaii. She was a puppy, not quite one year old, and she had more energy than all of my other animals and children combined. I’d raised several animals in my time but never had I experienced a dog like this. Think Marley and Me…but worse! She could jump in one bound onto my dining room table. And she did regularly. She also ate everything in sight, including ten pairs of eyeglasses. She ate half a turkey, a pound of butter, a bunch of grapes, nine spicy chicken wings (bones included), numerous boxes of tissues, rolls of toilet paper, shoes and who knows what else. So to start each day, in my pathetic effort to wear her out (at least for a while) I would take her for a walk. But I soon realized that the blue sky, sun, and soft breeze blew away the gloom I often woke with in the mornings. Now, walking wasn’t an easy task, Hilo liked to bark and lunge at anyone and any dog or cat she saw. She reminded me a bit of Tramp in Lady and the Tramp, the way Tramp could stir up those chickens was the way Hilo liked to stir up the neighborhood. She also loved to go after cars and school buses. But those exhausting walks (more so for me than her) took my mind off my sorrow for a few minutes at least.

I began writing about Hilo’s antics on my Facebook page (still do!). Then one day, I thought maybe I would write her into a scene in my novel, Facelift, just for the fun of it. Of course, I had to change her name to protect the not-so-innocent. So she became Cousin It. And soon words were flowing more easily. Suddenly scenes were coming together for me.

Through the humor of Hilo, I was able to face the heartache in my own heart but also in my characters’. I don’t think it was a coincidence that FACELIFT was about finding hope and joy in spite of painful circumstances and situations.

FACELIFT Blurb:


A ‘can do’ kind of woman runs her own business, raises her teenage daughter, and takes care of her ex-mother-in-law after a botched facelift. But Kaye learns a facelift is more than skin deep. Joy is more than tacking on a happy face. It's relying on her sovereign God who has a plan for her life. Download first chapter excerpt. Trailer
BUY:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, Borders, IndieBound 


  • In Facelift, Kaye feels like her life is out of control. Have you ever felt that way?

I’ll be happy to provide a book for a giveaway. Please limit to the U.S. Thanks!

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Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna Ellis writes women’s fiction and is known for her quirky characters and wacky plots as in her current novel, FACELIFT. But don’t let the quirkiness fool you, Ellis probes the heart and plucks at the heart strings. Next year will debut FORSAKEN, the first of an Amish/vampire series. Now that is wacky!

You can find Leanna: Website, Blog, Facebook 

19 comments:

Mason Canyon said...

Leanna, your book sounds intriguing. It's amazing how our pets wind up taking care of us sometimes.

Sia, another great interview. Thanks for introducing me to another great author.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

~Sia McKye~ said...

Leanna, welcome to Over Coffee. So glad you could visit. We have plenty of coffee and goodies, rawhide chew toyies and treats--keep the darling Hilo away from the chair, oops, let me get my glasses.

I really enjoyed your article!

Tonya Kappes said...

Hi Leanna! I love your book cover and your story about Hilo. I've heard that getting my bum out of the chair would get my juices flowing and help with my "words." Luckily I've only had this once and as soon as I put pen to paper and let my mind wonder, I find myself back on track.

Kat Sheridan said...

I ran out of words months ago, and still working on finding them. But I do love your story about Hilo. What a sweetie! My little fur-baby does the same for me, demanding I get up and PLAY with him every morning, like it or not! Wishing you every success with your book!

Helen Ginger said...

Love the post. Getting outside and getting outside of your own head is very good advice whether you're grieving or just stuck.

Love the character name "Cousin It," especially since it's a dog.

VA said...

Out of control? The illusion of control is what I seek often. Seriously, I think it is the emotional drains that do the worst damage and make me feel like I'm stuck in the middle of a tornado and swirling round with no hope of finding a grip.

Death, moves, separations--essentially anything that upsets our fragile web of relationships, our connections to the world. As much as we fight it sometimes, humans are social creatures and when a person we count on to fulfill a role in our life no longer does, then we mourn a bit. Whether it is the child who has grown up and no longer needs us to tie their shoes, the parent who has passed on ahead of us, or even our favorite cashier at a local store that makes you smile every time you see them, just because you both enjoy the interaction. The connection.

Okay, no more heavy stuff, Hilo sounds like a terror. I can't imagine a dog even being able to consume some of those things. Rolls of toilet paper? Wow!

Writing when the words don't come is the definition of frustration. So I stare at a picture and make up a story about it, short or long just something. I got a whole bunch of strange characters running around in my mind that way.

Off to read the excerpt. That's for the smile, Leanna. Sneaking a muffin, Sia. :)

Olivia Cunning said...

Hilo sounds like a handful and a blessing in disguise. My life is totally out of control at the moment and I haven't had time to write or take a walk. I'm ready for things to slow down for a while.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I know walks and sunshine have sure helped me.

I like the way Vivian put it, the *illusion* of control.* Sometimes it's merely that although I seem to do an inordinate amount of wrestling to get that illusion. lolol!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Hi, Sia and Leanna. What a wonderful post! I have a labradoodle, too, and I think she might be related to Hilo!! LOL. God always finds a way to get us through, doesn't He? :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Shannon, what a fine Celtic name BTW, thank you for stopping by.

I've found that to be true many times over the years, especially when I take the time to *listen*.

Leanna Ellis said...

Hi, y'all! Thanks for all the wonderful comments! While reading through them all, I had to stop twice and get a shoe from Hilo and then stopped again to get her out of the trash. So it's one of those mornings. It's a bit funny because I thought my life was really busy until a couple of weeks ago when my daughter got the lead in a production of Annie. Now we're at rehearsals EVERY night for several hours and also half of Saturday. And I must keep writing because my Amish/vampire book is due Dec. 1. Deadlines do help and motivate. Before I was published I gave myself deadlines all the time and rewarded myself when I met mine. So for those of you still struggling to find time to write or find the words, try giving yourself a deadline. Start small….finish this chapter by the end of the weekend. Then when you've set several small goals and met them, set that deadline for finishing the book and keep on with the small goals too. See if that helps. Hugs to you all and--ooops! Sorry about that! Hilo didn't mean to snatch a muffin…or three. Really sorry.

Blessings,

Leanna

V.V. Denman said...

I'm in the middle of a writer's block right now. Thank you for your encouraging words. Maybe if my dog was more rowdy . . .

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Leanna, it's good to learn more about your writing. I was sitting in the marketing seminar at ACFW when Chip referred to your Amish vampire series. I'm looking forward to seeing how your humor comes out in that one!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I'm still trying to get my mind around an Amish Vampire. I'll admit I'm curious to see how you handle this.

Leanna, glad you could stop by. Life has gotten a bit beyond busy for you. How cool your daughter gets to play Annie.

Hilo, you even LOOK at those muffins again, I'll put you right through Sia McKye's great beast training. Trust me, with 4 Great Danes considerably bigger than you, I have this training down to a fine art.

Now sit! Good girl. Here's a muffin for you. No, no, one small bite at a time, good girl. See? you're smart as well as gorgeous.

Leanna Ellis said...

LOL, amazing that Hilo CAN behave...when she wants to. If she will just keep behaving then I can get this book written. My first draft did not have much humor as I was focusing on the suspense which is new to me and the heart issues, but a bit of humor has snuck into the manuscript, but it is definitely taking a back seat in this book!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Great Beasts can behave but boy oh boy, like with kids, it takes persistence, lol!

Leanna, I personally think, if humor is something we use on a regular basis, it's going to come out in one way or another in what we write.

So, when does darling daughter's rehearsals end and the first show is live? I bet she's excited. In the Annie comics, Annie has a dog, so is Hilo going step in for that cameo role? My god, can you imagine that scene? lol!

Leanna Ellis said...

Sia, we have laughed very hard imagining Hilo playing Sandy but it is not to be. First of all, behavior aside, she is the wrong color. Second she would kiss every audience member. :) Rehearsals continue through the month of Oct. Opening night is Nov. 5th! My daughter is over the moon excited! She'll have 21 performances from Nov up to Christmas. So a busy time for us. And my book is due Dec. 1st. Yikes! At rehearsal today, she got to sing with Sandy and it was hilarious! It's a small dog so my daughter had to finally pick the dog up and carry it. Not easy to do when you're belting out Tomorrow. But she did great.

And I definitely agree with you about humor and laughter. I love to laugh, even in the midst of tears. When my dad was in a coma and we were all at the hospital waiting for the end to come, many friends came to visit and we shared lots of funny stories from over the years. Laughter in grief is good. Healthy.

I've been gone all day and Hilo is wanting my attention, practically sitting on my lap where my laptop is.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank God the laptop doesn't resemble a pair of reading glasses, lol!

I hear you on laughter through the tears. My mode of coping.

I do understand telling of funny stories and laughing. I did it when my dad was in the same place. In the beginning of the coma, he wasn't down really deep yet and would respond with squeezing our hands. People in comas can still hear for some time and I'd like to think our laughter and funny stories brought him comfort as well as us. :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia and Leanna .. sometimes we just have to get over our grief .. and it takes whatever it takes .. each of us is different.

Hilo looks wonderful .. Standard Poodles I know well .. so I can imagine Hilo's antics .. and then the joy you will get from watching her and being horrified, but unable to scold, .. let alone the walks to blow the sadness and cobwebs away .. and to realise your father would love you to be happy with life once again ..

Hilo and life - and a starring role! Lovely read .. thank you - both of you .. nice to meet you Leanna

Have a great week .. Hilary