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May 08, 2011

WHAT DOESN’T COME NATURALLY

HANK:  Hi Mom! And thanks for everything. Even the thighs. But we'll talk later.  I just got to do a really fun thing. Many weeks ago, I invited my dear pal Avery Aames to guest blog here at TLC, and she was eager to do Mother's Day. Because Avery is a lovely person. (I promise you this has a point.)

Because Avery is also astonishingly organized, she wrote her blog a few weeks ago, and sent it to me.

Because the universe is an amazing place, and you never know what wonderful thing will happen next, turns out Avery's biography changed between then and now.

In the one she sent, it said Avery's book was nominated for the Agatha for Best First Novel. 

Aha. Last week, Avery's book WON.  Hurray and congratulations. And I just got to change Avery's bio. I'm sure her mother is now even more proud than ever.

 

Mothers make the memories

Underneath the memories:

Morning's undertow.

 By Avery Aames

AveryAamesCROP

It’s Mother’s Day. How I wish my mother had given me one of her talents.  She aspired to be a journalist, but she set her life on hold for other things that became more important: family.  But she had a gift.  She could write with such ease. I wish I had her gift. I do have her love of the language. {Thanks, Mom.}

IMG_0073_2

But let me say in all humility that I’m not a natural writer. It does not come easily to me. I work hard; I take classes. I know some people can simply crank out a good book in no time flat, but I stress over every sentence, every plot point, and I never feel it’s good enough.

All my life, I have written. Little stories, fantasies, plays that I could put on if I rented a barn. I attacked everything with abandon. [My mother kept a few in my baby book. She thought I was pretty good.]

But then in 7th grade, things changed. My writing dreams were dashed.  Here’s the story.  We were assigned a creative writing project. I wrote “The Girl with the Pearl Necklace.”  I loved what I had written. I presented it proudly to the teacher…who ripped it to shreds and said if I was considering becoming a writer, I should give it up. [My mother consoled me, but to no avail.]

 Gack.  As if that critique weren’t enough, I had another teacher in college who railed at my treatise on Shakespeare and the use of eyes in his work.  Okay, maybe I’m not a full-blown intellectual, but it was a decent paper. And he gave me a B, for heaven’s sake!

 But alas, I left my young years behind and decided I could never be a writer. Never.  Luckily, I also enjoyed acting and put all my efforts into it and I was good. I worked. I made a living. But if I wanted to get ahead in the acting world, a good script to star in was required, so bravely I wrote a screenplay. Though I won a few awards, I could not get the attention of agents. I wrote a treatment for a TV sitcom and sold it, but even that didn’t open doors for me.

 When my husband wanted to move out of Los Angeles to further his career, I moved willingly.  But I was a creative person. Even far from Hollywood, I needed to put my creative energy into projects. I loved reading mysteries and thrillers. I always had. So I turned from writing screenplays to novels.

 Guess what happened? You bet. As I faced rejection after rejection from agents, that little voice from my 7th grade teacher came back to haunt me. “You can’t do it; you’ll fail.” I had to prove him wrong.  Had to. And I did.  I’m now published. But even with success in the past year, I continue to feel that I’m at the precipice and might fail. After all, I’m writing under an assumed name. Doesn’t that make me a poseur?

 Okay, if you’re a writer, have I got your attention? Are any of you feeling like I do/did? Now, I’ll do what I do best.  Cheerlead.  Yep, I’m a cheerleader (and I’m good at it) because I have learned in this life to never give up. If you’re a “late bloomer” as David Seidler, the screenwriter who won the Oscar  for “The King’s Speech” this year, called himself at the youthful age of 74, keep trying. If you’re just starting out but there are voices in your head telling you that you’re no good, tell them to take a flying leap. If you’re in the middle of your career and you’ve taken a few headers, as an old song says, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”

You can do it!

So what was the worst thing a teacher, mentor, parent said to you? And do you still believe it?

  Lost and fondue

Three commenters will win copies of LOST AND FONDUE. 

 

Bio: 

Avery Aames is the author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series.  The first, The Long Quiche Goodbye, is a national bestseller. Avery just won the Agatha Award for “Best First Novel.” Avery blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, http://www.mysteryloverskitchen - a blog for foodies who love mysteries. And some of her characters show up on the Killer Characters blog, http://killercharacters.com  You can order LOST AND FONDUE here: http://www.averyaames.com/book_sellers.html

 

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Comments

"That toy box is for the boys." -Miss Ellen, Pre-school in Lynn, Massachusetts

You better learn to type so you can support yourself.
I hope you can cook since you can't type.
The same typing teacher in high school, one of those bad breath, dandruff creepy old guys who seemed to think that I wouldn't find a man, so I better learn to type to be a secretary. The snarky cooking remark, I can only guess I better be a good cook to find a man to support my non-typing butt.

The next typing teacher was much more humane, I ended up supporting myself for a number of years as a typesetter with a speed of over 90 WPM.

And yes, I can cook, for myself!

I know other friends from school who thought this guy was a wonderful teacher. Why he picked on me, who knows. I know the implication that I was not going to be able to find a husband or support myself stuck with me (for awhile). I did find a husband and divorced him and I have always supported myself so I did get over his mean-spiritedness.

Gaylin you reminded me of my college career counselor! When I was a fourth-year, I went to the counseling center to see what kinds of jobs I might qualify for with a degree in psychology. I took all those horrible interest inventories and assessments then went for my appointment with the career counselor. He handed me a long list of awful sounding jobs, like juvenile probation officer, and said, "Well, you can always be a housewife."

I'll spare everyone the quotes and memories that came flooding back reading this, but I will say this out loud: Avery, I think I fell a little bit in love with you this morning...:)

But William, I'd like to know what they say to boys.

I have found over the years very few to be encouraging...especially if they feel your success will threaten them. In HS, most students went to Harvard, Brown...all the Ivy's...I was heading to the "state school"...having attended one of the top public hs's in the state with a B- average...nothing came easy. I even had to wait for a Jan admission to my college. But I wasn't going to let the idiot guidance counselor get me. He told me to take up hairdressing-that I would never make it in college. I went. I did well. I married and had 4 wonderful children who have or are attending college. Thanks for that push Mr. Guidance counselor! I hope no one else listened to you! Hence my "question-authority" attitude!

I had a professor who told me that unless he "helped" me with my writing I'd never be able to write well.

His kind of "help" I could do without. Thank God I knew it even at a young age! Dirty old man.

He's probably senile by now but I became a published author without his smarmy assistance. HA!

No, I didn't believe him then and I don't believe him now.

And I love it that you're a cheerleader. Me, too. You're right--never give up, no matter what anyone thinks or says. Just keep at it and success will be yours. Always.

Love the post, thanks!

My high school choir director, when I tried out for the swing choir, said, "Well, Sandi, you really don't sing very well, do you?"

I still don't sing where anyone, including myself, can hear me.

Congratulations on the Agatha, Avery!

In the only creative writing course I ever took, the professor read my short story aloud in class to make fun of it. At least he didn't reveal the author's name. While everybody around me was laughing, I sat in anonymous anguish. There's a circle in hell. . .

Good morning to all. I'm on the west coast, so forgive my tardiness. LOL

Your comments have me sighing and near tears. I feel your pain. These memories are so fresh, aren't they?

Nancy, you showed him, didn't you! I love your books, your writing. What was he thinking?

Sandi, I'm sure you sing great and next time we meet, we'll sing a duet, okay?

Sarita, ick. Those kinds of memories we wish we could erase completely, don't we? [Wriggle, squirm]

Nora, your guidance counselor makes me mad. I've met others like that who think they "know" what someone should "do" and don't guide. There should be levels of success each student must achieve to prove the guidance counselor did the darned job right. Sigh.


William, I'm with Reine. We would like to hear what was said to boys, too. We women have a warped perspective. I'm sure it was all kids who got the shaft from higher-ups, but as girls, we simply expected the "stay in your place" shaft. [PS Thanks for the falling in love note. Aren't you sweet?!]

Reine - juvenile probation officer? I have to hand it to those folks. What a demanding job. But that was the "choice" you were handed? Or housewife? I guess some moms turn out to be juvenile probation officers, don't they? LOL Yipes. And the TOY BOX line from the pre-school teacher. I mean, please!

Gaylin - I got the typing note as well. I type over 90 WPM and supported myself typing for a number of years, while I became a working actress/writer. A temp job was perfect for me. I never could have done a 9-5 at a desk for life and am in awe of those who can. I also learned to cook. Who knew that would help me in my writing career? Too funny.

Thank you all for sharing. Your words have filled my morning with poignant memories.

~Avery

And Hank, thank you for your sweet introduction. You have been a rock as I ford the publishing stream, and I truly appreciate your friendship!

Hugs,

Avery

After commenting that the cheerleaders at the high school football game looked like they were having fun - I was about eight at the time - my mom looked at me and said, "Oh, honey, they don't have any fat cheerleaders..."

Ah. Well scratch that, then..

Avery! It was so great to meet you at the Festival of Mystery and wonderful to see you here.

Hmmmm. I can't really blame my teachers for the rotten things they said because I was a rotten kid. I did start getting these kinds of comments starting in about 4th grade:

"It seems your daughter would prefer to teach the class than take the class."

But my faves were from my high school teachers:

"What will your grandparents say when you end up in prison?"

By my senior year in high school, they were happy to see us leave by the carload before the school day even started.

Now that I'm a teacher, I should probably regret all the mischief. I do not.


Paula, dang, but people say the meanest things sometimes. So sorry to hear that. Did you see a recent GLEE about that very thing? Poignant episode!

Kathy, so nice to meet you, too. Weren't you a hellion? LOL Smarter than the rest. Why didn't they think that was cool? LOL (again). And yet you became a teacher, so you obviously did know how to teach the class.

Best to all,

Avery

I had teachers say to me "I can't" but I would tell them "I will".

My h.s. drama teacher said once, after assigning me the "simple" task of modern dancing my way through a scene from THE TEMPEST, said, "Wow, Kozak. You really can't dance at all, can you?" (it's still hard for me to dance in front of people.)

Same guy: "You're kidding. You actually want to be an actress? Don't you think you're a little shy for that?"

And even though we became friends in the years since, I've never forgotten either exchange -- like a curse!

Avery, congratulations on that Agatha (I almost said "Oscar"!) and thanks for your encouraging words this morning . . .

And hey, Nancy P.? Send me the name of that misguided professor because I stayed up all night last night reading "The Scent of Rain and Lightning" -- my GOD, what a book! Genius!

The librarian who explained why there weren't as many Nancy Drews on the shelves as Hardy Boys: "Girls will read books about boys, but boys won't read books about girls." Depressing how often that carries over into adulthood.
(And welcome to TLC, Avery!)

Hi Avery, as a fan of Mystery Lover's kitchen, I'm glad to meet you here. Congratulations for your award!
My teachers had no problems with my academics but I was very shy and they often told me that I couldn't go far in life.
Well I consider that I have a good life and that age and experience help to acquire confidence.

Hi, Avery! I drifted past your table at Festival several times, but we didn't speak. Congratulations on the award. And wow, do you ever resemble your beautiful mom.

I'm sure teachers said mean, dumb things to me, but as the eternal optimist I am I always chose to dwell on, well, maybe cling to, the positive things they said. My second grade teacher said very kind things to me, and she sent me to the library to read chapter books while she was teaching the class "See Spot run" because she could see how bored I was. Miss Mary, my third grade teacher, had me read to the sixth graders, sitting on the teacher's desk, with the book upside down in front of me so the older kids could see the pages. Mrs. Young, my seventh grade teacher, complimented my writing, which was lovely after my horrific fifth grade experience at the same school.

My husband's chorus teacher told him he couldn't carry a tune, and he still refuses to sing in front of anyone, except for once in front of me. He has a great voice! And when I taught sewing (my own school, here in my basement studio), I can't tell you how many of my adult students recounted stories of middle school Home Ec teachers who told them how worthless they were. Ye gods.

Words have power. But we also have the power to choose which ones we pay attention to.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone!

In one of the few times I disputed a grade, my junior high math teacher told me I had convoluted thought processes and he didn't know how I had arrived at the correct answer.

I pointed out that getting the correct answer was the goal and I had reached the goal, so why did I get a bad grade? He said how you get to the goal is just as important as reaching the goal, and that's why I had the bad grade.

At this point, one of the boys in class woke up and said, "Are y'all talking about football?"

I quit arguing with teachers after that. Besides, I like my convoluted thought processes.

P.S. (sorry) - Hi Avery! And congrats on the Agatha.

Harley, didn't you prove that h.s. teacher wrong!!! And you're certainly not shy any longer. And I've heard about your car dancing episodes! You CAN dance. :)

Dru, love it! "I will." Great motto.

Danielle, I agree that some shy kids can turn out to be confident adults. It takes time and maturity and no child should be judged by the first years of its life.

Karen, sorry we didn't get a moment to say hi at the Festival. [I did happen to have laryngitis then, so I might have tried to say hi numerous times. LOL] Thanks for the compliment. Love your closing remark: words have power. But we also have the power to choose which ones we pay attention to. How true. Again, this does require maturity...oh, to be grown up!

Hugs to all!

Avery

Congratulations -- and thank goodness for parents (and teachers and friends) who encourage! Happy Mother's Day to all who nurture!!
Walking to the Arch yesterday, and listening to Motoko's haiku riddles, I remembered:

As a solution for scary situations, nothing can beat my mother's accidental
creativity. As we walked to the Arch parking lot late at night, discussing
my sister's keys and my umbrella as self-defense weapons,
Mom said, "I'll just tell them, 'Watch out! I know Haiku!'"


Mother’s knowledge shines
Daughter’s safety is in words
Self-defense with poetry

Ramona, one of my high school teachers gave me an A but wrote by one problem, "Mary, Mary, quite contrary to all rules of algebra."
It was fine, though. By then I knew I wanted to teach English. Despite what they called "story problem" there wasn't much satisfying plot in math class ;-)

"Of course I'll take your application. But I'll throw it in the trash can. We don't hire women."

Do now.

So glad to see you here, Avery. I did speak with you (well, I spoke, you whispered, lol) at Festival of Mystery, and I got a copy of The Long Quiche Goodbye. I can't wait to read it. Congratulations on your Agatha win. How very cool, and, sure, a poke in the eye to those detractors who tried to discourage you.

I have blocked out a lot of the negative feedback I got growing up, though I was very hard on myself, so a lot of it was internal. One thing that does stick with me is actually a good comment, from a teacher who taught the journalism class I took when I got my Bachelor's degree (which I finally got when I was 40). We had an in-class assignment to take info from an AP feed and use it to form an article. When she read mine, she looked at me and said, "It's great. You did better than I would have." I'm sure she had no idea how much that meant to me.

I'm so glad you stuck to it. I'm hoping some day I find the courage to actually try. :)

When I was going into 4th grade my school district decided to experiment. They put all the "Gate" (super smart) kids in the same class with a few others. I was one of the 'others.'

This meant I had to work extremely hard to stay close to their level of aptitude. No matter how hard I worked, I wasn't smart enough. And kids assumed I was super smart because I was in that class...

I actually didn't remember this about my 4th grade class until a few weeks ago when I heard my mom talking about it. I wonder if this is why I have never felt smart, even when I got A's in classes....

I constantly think 'I am dumb/stupid'. My mom has always told me I am smart. Thank God! I have her. Otherwise I would probably be a total mess [not just half a mess ;) ] if she wasn't always there telling me I am smart. Someday I hope to show her that what she has always told me is true. I am smart.

Maybe I'll believe it when I'm 80.

I love you mom!

Peach Blossom, I spent several hours with you on Monday, and I totally agree with your mom. :)

I was told a number of times that I should be a writer beginning in elementary school.
I took it for granted and preferred to be a flibbertigibbet kind of girl.
Recently, I have fancied myself as a writer and have discovered what an internal task it can be.
Flooding your mind with ideas, and thinking that yes, indeed you too could be the next Carl Hiassen or Nora Roberts or Elaine Viets or so many other idols I tell myself that Ya, sure I can write like that. But the truth is I cannot so I will find my own voice and dig my teeth in to the truth that I seek as a writer.

Congratulations on your Agatha, Avery!
And as a parting thought writers are truly some of the most generous people on the planet and cheer each other on in times of angst and despair.
But Karma wins and some of our writers here prove that helping others is the ultimate gift.

In grad school, a teacher who was enjoying (briefly, I might add!) notice for her new book, held up a short story I'd just gotten up my courage to share with the class--holding it by the tiniest corner near the staple, as if it was disgusting, she said, "Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this collection of words?" She then went on to attack the protaganist, the tone, the plot and theme . . . at the time, I just thought she was being a b**ch, and I was angry; but a year later, I realized I'd not written anything new since that class. Happily, there were/are many others in my life who like(d) what I write, including my beloved late Mom, so I eventually started writing again.
Congrats on your win, Avery, and on winning every time you move past the anxiety of getting it all 'right'!

I got the "You can diaper a baby as well with a c as with an A."
a routine that changed when women were encouraged in school (in the seventies). I finally decided I could be good at something, and I worked really hard and did more than I thought. Looking at all the posts and the successful writers on this blog, I actually rejoice for all of us. Karen in Ohio is right. Words can wound; but we don't need to pay any attention to them.

Mary: self-defense with poetry. What a good laugh! Thank you. And regarding plot in match class...only the X&Y axis graphs, right?

Best,

Avery

Larraine, Lil Gluckstern, Marie, Peach Blossom and Laura, I'm just amazed at how many similar stories we have here. And how many women rise above and succeed...in life. That's the most important thing--finding happiness within ourselves, no matter what the old tapes say. Let's hear it for the teachers and mentors and parents that say the right thing.

~Avery

What an incredible giveaway! Thanks for the chance!

I've had some pretty helpful teachers and mentors (my mom is a teacher) but the worst was:

In ballet class, I was told that I didn't do my turns right when I was 6 and I still do think about that to this day.

When I had been married a few years and we were thinking of starting a family, my dear mother commented, "You know, not everyone was meant to have children." I know she had all the right intentions, as I was an only child and consequently somewhat self-centered. What did I know about birthin' a baby, not to mention caring for one?

Well, guess what? We have two grown sons--age 28 and 31--and, although there were times we wondered we would all make it through alive, I couldn't be more thrilled with who they are and how they turned out. I am inordinately proud that the younger (more troublesome) one once wrote on his MySpace page that his parents are his heroes because they got him through his childhood without "beating him ugly." He has now given us a delightful daughter-in-law.

My mother's been gone for 8 years, but most of the other advice she gave me was right on. Happy Mother's Day, Moth (pronounced "Muth"--she always said she was nobody's "Mom").

And keep up the fantastic writing,ladies--this is one of the few blogs I check every day.

Congratulations, Avery!

I'm almost always in a never-give-up mind set. Once in awhile somethings gets in my way, but I visit TLC and feel okay again. So - thank you Avery and all the bloggers and commenters.

Well, it depends on ow you could handle such things, even others would say you can't but in yourself you believe that you can.

Oh,dear Avery! Congratulations...you guys should know Avery was one of my first friends in book world. And I am so delighted!

(Storyteller Mary, I just burst out laughing.)

As for advice? My junior high guidance counselor, telling me about my scores on the Kuder test. "You scored high in "literature" and"persuasion," she said. "Maybe you should work in a bookstore."

Do book tours count as "working in a bookstore"?

Well, now, storyteller M--that's what I keep wondering! xo

Hi Avery,

Thanks for a beautiful blog! So many of us writers have that inner critic that is so hard to silence. I've finally learned to ignore it, but it's not always easy.

My mother was a great person, but once when I was a little girl, she told me I was a "jack of all trades, master of none." It was totally a joke, but it stuck with me. The negative stuff is easier to believe.

I cannot *stand* stampers of dreams!! So glad you prevailed--and how, Avery!

When I was a baby, the OB told my mother I would never be a good athlete. She told me to wear my letter jacket to a party at his house when I was in high school.

Guys never got the "good catch" alternative. We were told we could become gym teachers.

Molly and I graduated from the same high school her mother did. One of her mother's English teachers failed a young man named Tom Williams, class of 1929. Tom was later tossed from the drama department at Washington University. This was all before he published "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "The Glass Menagerie."

Congratulations on your Agatha.

Illegitimi non carborundum

I just went to a book signing and I return to, wow, yet another round of poignant posts. This blog is amazing.

OK, Hank, have to admit I never realized The Lipstick Chronicles was TLC. That made me smile big-time. And re: the persuasion thing...you are a very persuasive woman!

Debra, to this day, I question my dance turns. Had the same comment. It must have been my "balance" the teacher said.

Margie and having kids. Not all are meant to have kids, but obviously you were and how special for you to know that!! Hooray for your kids.

Reine - thanks for making me aware of the TLC thing. Too funny.

WFS: believe you can is one of my major mottos! Love it. Tried to write a song with those lyrics. It's a little gushy. :)

Nancy - the jack of all trades thing hit home with a hammer. I was told the same darned thing and wondered if I would ever be a master. I'm not and won't be, but boy, do I strive to master everything (to my detriment and my husband's constant consternation). (He adores me and thinks I do...silly man)

Jenny, love the phrase stamper of dreams. Yes, some people fancy themselves as the "decider" in another's future and stamp, stamp, stamp. Don't we dislike them (with a passion)?

Hugs to all.

Avery

Yeah, I used to think TLC was The Learning Channel. Then Cornelia, or was it Nancy - M or P - or maybe it was Margaret or... who straightened me out.

Karen, maybe. Or Mary? xoxo

As heartbreaking as it may have been for us in our early youth, it's nice to know that in spite of the discouraging words, we're not alone, and for the most part, we've conquered those slings and arrows!

Congrats, again, Avery, and welcome to TLC!

Hi, Avery!!! Congratulations!!!!

"You can't sing, therefore I am not paying for you to go to college for music!" ~ courtesy of my bonehead father. Supposedly, this was his version of constructive criticism.

I had just been accepted at West Chester Univ., first round vocal auditions (Piano and flute were my other two 'instruments').

I was not as confident back then, and so didn't go. Went to a business college instead (my grandma was an alum). Now, it goes in one ear and out the other, as I have come to realize that my father is himself a very insecure individual and couldn't handle either of his children exceeding him.

Oh, and I still sing. Frequently, in church. Sometimes at weddings or funerals. But, I hadn't intended my schooling to be for performing (which didn't matter to my dad, obviously)...I had planned on being a music therapist. Oh well.

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