Monday, January 24, 2011

My Road to Publication by Debra Shiveley Welch

I'm pleased to have Debra Shiveley Welch guest blogging today about her road to publication with Cedar Woman. Debra...

Cedar Woman
is finally out after two years of intensive research, and a lot of fun in the writing. Launching a book is like raising a child in many ways: you have great hopes, are very proud, and worry about how it will survive out there in the big, wide world.

Paramount in my creating Cedar Woman was the wish to, not only write a book that my readers will enjoy reading again and again, but the desire to represent The People, the Lakota Sioux, with all respect, and with absolute truth to the best of my ability. I also wanted to show that their customs, beliefs and desires are universal in many ways, and deserve the respect any people deserve. To be able to write about these things intelligently, and with honor, I had to immerse myself into their culture as much as possible.

My sister, Julie Spotted Eagle Horse Martineau, was invaluable in the process of researching and understanding The People as far as their culture, beliefs and ceremonies were concerned. She spent endless hours on the phone with me and wrote many emails explaining everything from, what it is like to be struck by lightning, to how to build a sweat lodge.

With Julie’s help, I also learned a lot of the Lakota language. I’ve always loved listening to and learning new languages, and speak some Spanish and read a little French. Now I was learning yet another, word-by-word, and enjoying the flavor of the words of the Lakota Plains Native American, or NdN as The People prefer.

I had personally been through an Hunkapi, or Making of Relatives Ceremony, a Naming Ceremony, Sweat Lodge and Wopila or Thank You ceremony, and could draw from those experiences, but living in Central Ohio as I do, I needed to get to know my heroine, Lena Cedar Woman as well as I knew myself.

To get started, I set up character sheets. To make them come alive to my readers, my characters had to be living, breathing people to me.

On each sheet I wrote the character's name, appearance (hair, eye color, height, build), when and where they were born and when key things happened to them. Also included were likes, dislikes, any hobbies, quirks, basic personality, etc. They were ongoing reference sheets. That is, when something key happened to them, I added what it was, and when, and any other information I would need to be able to refer back to it.

I based my characters on people I knew or knew of. For instance, Michael Young Bear was based, physically, on Christopher Reeve, and Lena Cedar Woman on my cousin Vicki. I described Vicki to a tee when describing Lena, except for her anomaly, which I can’t divulge here. :-)

Logan was based on my sister Julie’s son Logan and my son Chris, rolled in to one, and Sonny Glass was based on the wonderful actor, whom I’ve had a crush on most of my life, Clint Walker.

Locations were taken from places I’d been. For instance, Lena’s condo is the condo I lived in before I married. Her house in Westerville is my house. Restaurants and apartments are all from buildings that I am familiar with from my childhood until now.

Then came the outline. It wasn’t carved in stone, but it gave me a road map. I also inserted dates on the outline because it can be so easy to get lost and mess up your dates, ages, etc.

Once the book began to take shape, I got a writing partner – a woman who was willing to invest a lot of time with me discussing the project: the characters, for instance, what they would wear, how they felt, how they would react to something or someone: like gossip, without consequences. Since I help her with her projects, this makes for a very comfortable relationship since we know each other’s writing styles intimately.

Research begun, characters created and documented, a few hours on the phone with my writing partner, outline written, I began to write. (I write sequentially as a general rule.)

As I finished each chapter, my partner read it, looking for typos, punctuation, spelling, grammatical errors, and as the story progressed, continuity. Did I forget to check one of my references pages and mess up a date? Did I decide to change the age of a character in chapter four and forget to go back and change it in chapters one - three? That sort of thing.

I remember the first time I read Barbara Taylor Bradford's Hold The Dream, the sequel to A Woman of Substance - one of my favorite books. I was a little disappointed when I read, "being identical twins," when referring to Paula's babies. Either this was a major brain burp, or at one point in writing the book, Ms. Bradford had the children as both boys or both girls. Somewhere she apparently changed her mind, making one a boy and one a girl, and forgot to change the identical twin reference. It taught me a valuable lesson and it is one of the reasons I have a writing partner. Had I been Ms. Bradford's, the mistake would have been caught. Okay, well one can dream, can't they!

Once the book was completed, I again edited, and then I edited, and then I....edited. When that was completed, I found three volunteers to read the book. Their reward being that they don't have to buy the book to enter the raffle and win prizes which is coming up in March.

One looks simply for punctuation, one for spelling and grammar and one for continuity and ambiguity. (I know what I was saying, does the reader?)

Before I began writing, and then half way through the book, I traveled to powwows, where Native Americans of different tribes gather to celebrate their culture, dance and beliefs, with my sister, Julie Spotted Eagle Horse, or Spot as her friends call her. Stepping into the arena to dance was very intimidating. I don’t like being the center of attention, yet there I was, dancing unfamiliar steps, while at the same time, trying to show deep respect. It was a good time, and I learned a lot. I made many new friends with whom I remain in touch, experienced new foods, admired endless adorable babies, and witnessed the devotion the dancers have, not only for the style of dance they have chosen, such as hoop, jingle and traditional, for instance, but their regalia as well, which includes patterns and beading handed down for generations.

When finished, I was proud of my creation. I truly believe that I wrote something which is good and true, respectful and admiring. It is truly a good representation of a people whom I admire with all of my heart.

Still, the heart of Cedar Woman is about Lena Cedar Woman, her trials and sorrows, her triumphs and joys, and her ability to stand up to tragedy, move forward, and change the lives and fortunes of the people she loves.

It is, at heart, a romance: Cedar Woman’s love for her parents, her mentor, her career and her half-side – her true love. I believe that I have instilled some sweetness, along with the strength that Cedar Woman possesses, and I know that I have proven that Mitakuye Oyasin: We Are All Related.


Unknown said...

Katie, thank you so much for posting this.

Cheryl said...

This book sounds absolutely wonderful!

Best of luck.


Pat McDermott said...

You've certainly done a lot of work to write this fascinating story, Debra. All that research is sure to help create a special world in which readers can find an entertaining escape.

Unknown said...

Thank you Cheryl and Pat. Yes, a lot of work, but so worth it.

widdershins said...

Thank you for taking the time to become authentic yourself before and as you wrote this story. When we write of and within other cultures, particularly their spirituality, that authenticity needs to shine through.

Unknown said...

I agree. Only then can we show the respect and honor our subject.