Remembering Peggy Moss Fielding

pmfThe first time I met Peggy Moss Fielding was at the first writers’ conference I went to in 1999, held by the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. Even then, I admired her spunk and wit.

Not long after that, some friends and I heard about writing classes she taught in her home to members of the Tulsa Nightwriters. Now, we were already members of the McAlester McSherry Writers, but there were no rules that said you couldn’t be a member of more than one group, so we joined and went to Peggy’s class.

If I remember correctly, that first class was on writing romance, but that’s neither here nor there.

Peggy was a stickler for writing every day, no matter what. We started calling her Warden Peggy. The only excuses ever granted would be with a note from the Pope or the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (or your denomination of choice).

It is in large part because of Peggy’s influence that I am (still) a writer.

You know the saying “God broke the mold when he made” some person. I truly believe that to be the case with Miss Peggy. She was a firecracker and had stories to tell! (And that’s not counting the ones she wrote.)

She wrote inspirational pieces, true confessions, how-to books on writing, romances, etc. If I were to list everything she wrote, it would take the space of about 3 or 4 posts. She once said she would write anything at least once except for poetry. She told a story of getting her first sales. Two of them came in the mail at the same time. One was from an inspirational magazine and one from a confessions magazine. She hurried home and told her mother she sold two stories, “One to God and one to the devil, but the devil pays better.”

There are so many stories I could tell about Peggy, but since they involve other friends of hers, I will leave those to them for the telling.

In a romance writing workshop she had, I had a novel in progress titled “Satin’s Thief.” She loved that title. She said, “If you don’t use it, I will!”

OK, Peggy. That’s my next project. I promise.

And some day, some time, when we meet up again in the afterlife, I hope to be able to tell you that I wrote. Every day. At least 30 minutes.

Oh, and Peggy? In case you wondered, you were loved and are already very dearly missed.

50% Writer, 50% Business Person

Eloisa James
Photo (c) 2014 by Jen Nipps

Eloisa James was the keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc., conference earlier this month. She also presented a lunch session one day of the conference.

If at all possible, you need to hear her speak. She is very polished and very knowledgeable.

Of everything she said, one thing has really stayed with me.

“You are 50% writer and 50% business person and the business comes first.”

Why did that resonate so much in my mind?

That’s an easy answer and a hard truth.

I tend to ignore the business side of things. I write too much for free or for very little pay. Speaking of which, I’m going to stop writing for free. That means I’m going to start charging you to read this blog.

Just kidding.

The blog is something I do for me as well as for you. That’s something I couldn’t charge for.

There are things I can do — need to do — should have already been doing — though.

At the moment, I am a writer-in-residence at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. In addition to working on a book about self-promotion and networking (Selling Yourself Is Not Prostitution: Networking & Self-Promotion for Wallflowers) while I’m here, I will also be planning how I can address more of the business side.

I need to do that.

I have to do that.

If I don’t, there is no sense in my continuing to work as a writer. No one would expect an accountant or a lawyer to work for free. They wouldn’t expect a doctor to either.

Why should writers?

Why should any kind of artist?

We shouldn’t.

I’m going to change that for myself. I have friends I can call on for advice. Friends who have made their livings as freelance writers/editors for years. If they can do it, so can I.

But I have to put the business side into practice as well.

What about you? What is it in your writing life that you tend to neglect even though it needs attention?

Word Choices

redpenWhether you are a writer or not, word choice is important. It has a direct impact on how people view you. This is especially true in first impressions. Some very intelligent people sound significantly less so because of their word choices and pronunciation.

I’m thinking of the Jeff Foxworthy brand of redneck comedy.
Friend 1: Djeat yet?
Friend 2: Naw. Djou?
Friend 1: Yanto?
Friend 2: Aight.

Those two people could well be highly intelligent, but we would never know it based on the way they pronounce — or not — their words.

I also know people who use “ideal” when they mean “idea.” I know they understand they are two different words with different meanings.

From Merriam-Webster.com:

ideal
exactly right for a particular purpose, situation, or person

idea
a thought, plan, or suggestion about what to do; an opinion or belief; something that you imagine or picture in your mind

The two are not interchangeable. I can also add “idear” to the list, but that isn’t a real word, so we’ll ignore it.

One that is also not a real word that I cannot ignore, though, is “irregardless.” Unfortunately, it is listed in the dictionary, but says it is “nonstandard” and it’s definition is the real word “regardless.”

I make a point to never say this word. A couple days ago, my mother was determined to make me say it. We were talking about word choices.
Mom: What is that word? Ir… Ir…
Me (through clenched teeth): “Irregardless.”
Mom (laughing): I made you say it! Now I can tell people that you said it!
Me: It doesn’t count.
Mom: Yes, it does.

There’s one more thing about word choice. This one makes me cringe, especially when used by people I know well.

Ain’t.

I remember a time when it could be said that “Ain’t isn’t a word because it’s not in the dictionary.” That is no longer the case. It is in just about every dictionary I looked in. However, it is also noted that it is generally disapproved of but is habit and indicative of being uneducated.

That is why I cringe when I hear it used. The people who I hear say it are intelligent and educated.

I challenge you to think about your word choices and the way you say the words you do choose to use.

What words make you cringe? Why?