Write What You Know


To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee, is said to be one of the most inspiring stories ever read, outside of the Bible. When Lee submitted the story to a publishing company, she was told that it was too much of a collection of short stories, so she spent three more years working on it until it became the best seller we know today. The next year, Harper received the Pulitzer Prize for her work, and the book was made into a major motion picture.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “Write what you know.” Sure, it seems logical that if you know a subject you will write accurate facts, and your research is mostly your life experience. Yet, never have the words seemed truer than they did today, as I sat working with a student on his To Kill a Mockingbird assignment. I stumbled upon the similarities between Harper Lee and the young girl, Scout, who lives and narrates the story in her book.

Harper Lee grew up in the 1930s in a rural southern Alabama town. Scout grew up in the 1930s in a rural southern Alabama town.

Lee’s father, Amasa Lee, is an attorney who served in the state legislature in Alabama. Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, is an attorney who served in the state legislature in Alabama.

Lee’s older brother and young neighbor (Truman Capote) are playmates. Scout’s old brother (Jem) and young neighbor (Dill) are playmates.

Lee was an avid reader as a child. Scout reads before she enters school and reads the Mobile Register newspaper in first grade.

Lee is six years old when the Scottsboro trials are widely covered in national, state and local newspapers. Scout is six years old when the trial of Tom Robinson takes place.

Harper Lee told the press that she had started another book when To Kill a Mockingbird came out, but to this date she hasn’t submitted any others. Some say she didn’t like the fame, others say it would be hard to beat the book she already wrote. Nevertheless, her work is still read in high schools today, teaching life lessons as students read about the life Lee actually lived.

4 1/2 Star Review From Night Owl Romance

A Place To LandMary Vine has a knack for combining suspense with romance. When Ulianne arrives in a small Eastern Oregon town to interview ranchers, hunters, environmentalists and Native Americans about the impact of wolves migrating into the area from Idaho, she thought the worst case scenario was having a bunch of doors slammed in her face. Unfortunately, she didn’t consider that her writing job with a glossy tabloid would put her life in danger. She also didn’t anticipate having to question what she plans to do with her life or how she fits that life into her Russian immigrant family. She’s always thought that it was her responsibility to bring her family into their new life and to help them financially. Falling in love with the handsome cowboy, Jackson Holt, complicates everything she’s ever thought her life was about.

I loved watching Uli stretching and learning and becoming her own person separate from her family. It was interesting to see Jackson’s frustration as he struggled to not only let Uli grow and change, but hope that he was figuring into her rapidly developing goals for her future. The one thing that would have made this story even more enjoyable would have been a little more steam with the romantic scenes. Vine skimps a little on drawing this out with juicy details.

“A Place to Land” lands well in the beautiful scenery of Eastern Oregon as well as in the heart of the reader.

It's Coming!
It's Coming!

You are invited to join me at Booktoberfest, a premier event designed to connect local writers, encourage the arts for future generations, and raise money for school and public libraries.

Day: Saturday, Oct. 23
Time: 10:00-6:00
Location: University of Phoenix, Meridian Campus
Offering: Writing workshops
Vendor booths
Kid’s corner
Author spotlights
Awards ceremony

I will be presenting at 2:10 PM. I hope to see you there. Please visit www.booktoberfestidaho.com for more information, and let me know if you have any questions.


Meeting Cover Model Steve Bronson

A_Place_to_Land_CoverI experienced one of the highlights of my writing career this past weekend. During a book signing event, I had the honor of meeting Steve Bronson, who happens to be pictured on the cover of A PLACE TO LAND. Poor guy, I made him take off his sunglasses so I could see his handsome face (his face was mostly covered by a cowboy hat on the cover). He was very gracious about it. As he walked off into the sunset, I noticed he’s taller than I expected him to be. In my opinion, he makes a great Jackson, the hero of the story.

Five-Star Review from The Romance Studio

The Romance Studio

A Place to Land
Mary Vine
Contemporary romance
Available from Black Lyon Publishing
ISBN: 978-934912-22-5
December 2009

Ulianna Markova, an immigrant from Russia, is determined to be wholly American, self-supporting, and to help her parents and siblings to a better life. In lieu of the usual job interview, she travels to northeastern Oregon to do an article about wolves. Her first interviewee is handsome Jackson Holt, a wealthy ranch owner who refuses to talk to her about the subject. Determined to succeed, Uli continues to ask questions of other ranchers, and a local Native American teacher, even after sustaining slashed tires, a broken windshield, and a kidnapping.
Jackson, in spite of his feelings about wolves, falls for Uli and watches over her. Uli, still determined to return to Portland to help her family, falls for Jackson. Then she realizes she loves Jackson and wants to stay, but before she can decide, she is attacked again, learns who is doing this and why, but might not live to make her decision.

This wonderful romance held my interest from the first word to the last. The author has a way of describing the surroundings so you feel you could drive out there and find the place. You see the gorgeous scenery, the sprawling ranch, and the two cowboys who work for Jackson and who watch out for her.

The characters are wonderful. Ulianna’s struggles between the old world and the new are evident in her reactions and decisions. Her strength of character shows in her persistence, even in the face of danger. Jackson, a bachelor, reveals his feelings, beliefs and strengths, as well as his gradual willingness to listen to Uli. The author depicts the stages of the romance in a way that fits perfectly with the feelings and doubts of Uli and Jackson.

The loving older couple, from whom Uli rents a room, depicted as the average American couple and who become like surrogate parents to Uli, greatly add to this story. The mystery behind the attacks is well hidden, yet the clues are there. I did not learn the surprising truth until the end.

A delightful, poignant read. I’ll be looking for more from this author.

Overall rating:
Sensuality rating: Very sensual

Reviewer: Jaye Leyel
May 25, 2010

Love Changes

When I was fourteen years old, I was in love with a rock star. His boyish good looks and toothy grin, as seen on my television screen, won me over. I continued to be smitten with him until his songs moved down the hit chart, and I moved on to other rock musicians. Even though I couldn’t settle on one star, I knew I would never lose my love for the music.

I graduated from high school and moved on with my life, this time taking notice of the men around me. After trial and error, I found a man with a sexy smile and dimple in his cheek. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and with our two minds together we could solve most problems, or at least work through them.

Five months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a concert on the Oregon Coast starring the rock singer with the toothy grin. Somehow, he still had the boyish looks, but he didn’t lure me in as before. What I did like was the awesomeness of being in the same room with him, while thinking about what my teen self would have thought about being close enough at one point to reach out and touch. Basically, in present time, it was surreal to see the man in person.

There was something else I noticed at the concert. With my teen years long gone, my hormones are quieter and my love is no longer shallow. I’ve fixed my love on my husband, and it is a deeper love than I’d ever thought possible, even without the passion of the early years. Then, I believed I’d find true love, but could not fathom the deepness of the love that I’ve come to know. Remarkably love changes.

I loved the concert, to go back in time is a wonderful experience, but I also liked sitting on the beach peacefully soaking up the sun with my husband and talking about nothing in particular. I no longer sit and stare at him; however, with maturing I’ve found other things in life that define me as a person apart from him, even though he’s the one I run to with my dreams, my hopes, plans and concerns.

Undoubtedly my younger self would have gotten a kick out of knowing I’d be able to see this heart throb one day, but pretty disgusted that I no longer favor rock music. Again, love changes.

Write Like the Wind

It seems to me that some writers can write like the wind, producing two or three books to my one. Some have children, others have full-time jobs, but all have issues that pull them away from the page, yet they are still successful in the field. Perhaps I have only half of the needed talent, while a prolific writer has the whole shebang. I thought this was true once, but not anymore.

It has been said that a successful writer is an organized writer. I consistently have papers waiting to be organized on the top of my desk that are separated into two stacks, one on each side of the computer. After tiring of the mess, I bought a roll top desk to hide it, but every once in awhile I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that I might be missing something important in the pile and straighten it. Certainly, I am not the only writer whose desk is in disarray, many successful authors have an even bigger mess than mine, so I don’t think that by organized a tidy desk is what is meant. If this is true, then in what way does organization count, and does organization bring forth speed in writing?

Whether you write as you go or outline your story every step of the way, you’ll get the story written, and one way can be just as fast as the other. Since the joy of writing only goes so far before it becomes work, you need to know what you are going to write when you sit down. If you aren’t inspired when your butt hits the chair, and you don’t know something of where you are going, you’ll be staring at a blank page. Distractions here we come.

In those early writing years, I thought that I could only write when I was stress-free, because that’s when the inspiration would flow. Then one day a writer told me that the book her fans liked the most was written during a very stressful time in her life. I wish she had added that I would never get any writing done if I waited for a time without stress.

Without inspiration, what is needed is a system. Print off a free monthly calendar online and jot down your plans. Perhaps one page a day to complete your book is reasonable to record, because you can complete 365 pages in a year. Pen in what you will write when you sit down, it doesn’t have to be a complete outline, but enough to keep you going. You have to spend time up front to make it work. That is organization.

I set up a writing schedule while working full-time and it is amazing how much more work I’ve gotten done since. Next, I started to rethink the book-in-a-month challenge, even though I couldn’t write a book in a month, I knew I could get several new pages written. While writing, I didn’t know if I could salvage any of the story, but found much of it usable when I got a chance to go back through.

One hour a night, five days a week is another easy plan to get more writing done. I discovered that if I wrote at least an hour after work each day, I had five hours of typing in and still had the weekend to spend with my family. If I took additional writing time on the weekend all the better, but if not, I still felt like I’d gotten something done and it was relatively easy to do.

Sometimes, to be visible at home, I take my AlphaSmart (that I bought used for fifty dollars) and type near my husband while he’s watching TV. The AS is lightweight, extremely sturdy, smaller than my laptop, and runs forever on a battery. When finished, I plug it into my computer and it sends what I’ve typed into a document. I’ve also used the AS in the community while waiting for appointments, or when I travel, helping me write more than I would have been able to without it. Now that’s another easy to do plan.

Still, I have quite a bit of work to do to keep up to the speed of others. I tell myself I’m not in competition because I’m working full time and that when I retire I will be able to write like the wind, however, the saying is true that if you want something done ask a busy person. In actuality, the answer to writing speed has everything to do with why a writer writes. Many of the fastest writers in history wrote for a reason. To keep poverty at bay, writing was approached like a job, not a hobby. Today, the most prolific writers I know approach their work just like anyone in any other profession; they count on the money to pay the bills. Something (whatever it is) has to drive you to write, to get it done far after the joy of writing has left the room.

In summary, to write like the wind, schedule what you will do each day while still being present for your family, put your butt in the chair, and have a commitment to get it done that will move your writing from a hobby to a serious career.
Mary Vine

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