Monthly Archives: July 2014

Reflections on Being a ‘Little’ Sister

On the day I met centenarians Sadie and Bessie Delany, the first thing I did when I got home was to call my sister Helen.

You would not believe these two women – these two sisters – that I met today,” I told her. “They are 100 and 102 and still having the same squabbles they had when they were children!”

I thought it was charming and hilarious. My sister did, too. “I guess that will be us if we live that long,” she said with a laugh – and a groan.

All writers bring their life experiences to their projects. For me, having a sister just seventeen months older meant that I was able to relate to the Delany Sisters instantly. I understood the dynamics of the “big sister-little sister” relationship and how important it was to Sadie’s and Bessie’s identity. The sister relationship is the heart and soul of the oral history I wrote about them, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years.

Like the Delany Sisters, my sister and I were thought of as a pair. I remember being in my crib next to her little bed. In fact, I vividly recall her having a nightmare and that I climbed out of my crib to get our mother. (It was the first time I’d ever climbed out of the crib and I remember Mom’s surprise.)

My sister and I have two older brothers as well. In the parlance of our family, they were “the boys” and we were “the girls.” I suppose this united us even more as sisters; we stuck together in surviving two older brothers!

Naturally, however, my sister and I were competitive, too. There were times when we couldn’t stand each other. I’m pleased to say, though, that we haven’t had a big blow-up since a rather famous (in our family) quarrel on Thanksgiving Day 1994, and that’s a pretty good run, wouldn’t you say?

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My Creative Process: Explaining the Read-Straight-Through Marathon

I just completed a 48-hour writing and self-editing marathon in which I read my new manuscript from beginning to end with as few breaks as possible.

This requires some serious discipline. No television, no reading, no Internet. No ice cream, no meal preparation. Just snacks, water, and coffee. And, occasional stretching exercises and power naps.

My “read-straight-through” marathon is not about meeting a deadline. It’s actually part of my creative process. It has happened several times during the creation of each of my books – this time around, with the sequel to Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society, which is what I am working on now.

I say the marathon “happens” because I don’t plan it. I just know I need to do it.

Essentially it means that I have reached a point when I’m not entirely sure what I’ve written. Inconsistencies creep into a manuscript over time. The more interruptions – a doctor’s appointment, a phone call, a thunder storm – the more inconsistencies.

Only by reading the manuscript all the way through, in what is basically one sitting, do I see the flaws.

Oddly enough, it’s a fascinating part of the process. My mind is fully engaged, and I’m using my God-given talents to the best of my ability.

I know that other writers have different approaches. I don’t know why this works for me; it just does. There are many mysteries to the creative process, and that is what makes it so beautiful.

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