My why: creating stories and selecting genre for Humanity’s Grace

My books, photo of my grandmother and siblings on the Long Beach Peninsula, and the bottle used in the making of my trailer for Ripples.

Before I return to posting Time traveling to the secrets of our past: Part 2, I wanted to share this post featured first on January 1, 2022 by Women Writers, Women(‘s) Books. If you missed my Book Launch Celebration, this piece will tell you a bit about why I wrote my newest work.

I was recently asked which genre I prefer to write. My answer? Memoir when writing memoir, fiction while writing fiction, non-fiction in the midst of blogging, and now? Crafting the linked short stories that comprise Humanity’s Grace. While I may never develop full expertise in any single genre, unlike other writers who find themselves solidly within one, learning to write different styles and types of work keeps me challenged. I write primarily to satisfy my creative passion, something even more important as I begin to find my day job and 35+ year career less exciting. Who knows; although it seems unlikely to me now, maybe someday I’ll even attempt to pen fantasy! 

Shortly before the pandemic interrupted life as we know it, our community was impacted by a disturbing event. I began wondering: does good ever come from bad? I do not believe things are “meant to happen” in order for good to surface; when bad or sad things happen we grieve and it is not “for the better.” Yet, silver linings can open up into our complicated lives, allowing us to bear witness to beauty, often accompanied by kindness. Soon after publishing my novel, Beyond the Ripples, I lazily drafted short paragraphs of its sequel, yet I was left uninspired. Instead, they lay abandoned and I would instead blog, a format that continues to be easy for me to begin and complete. But as I wrestled thinking about bad things and silver linings those months later, I felt ready to begin to write another book, while even then my Ripples’ characters continued to speak to me.

The title Humanity’s Grace popped up early in my first drafting phase. Always an avid reader, it is my love of stories that led me to craft the fifteen stories that comprise Humanity’s Grace: each story stands alone, but together weave and connect into an emotionally-laden book. One of the stories did have its earliest beginnings as a drafted-but-tossed Ripples sequel idea, now updated with new characters holding their own stories in this linked short story collection.

Crafting short stories is challenging and exciting, requiring its author to be creative and succinct. As a reader I pay attention to form and function, and ask myself: what suits me? What do I like? During the past two years I have read many short story collections, including those by Alice Munro, Andrea Barrett, and Rick Bass, along with linking novels such as those of Elizabeth Strout. No matter what I read, I prefer books that don’t over-tell: requiring me to formulate my own conclusions about what happens next, what characters might be feeling. As authors we know it is impossible to satisfy all readers. We are drawn to what best fits our interests, and in the end, literary fiction speaks most to me as a reader. 

As Humanity’s Grace is released this month, I’m excited, a tad bit apprehensive, but above all, relieved to be more experienced in knowing what to expect than I did as a first time author. This round I took more time to approve my final proof from my publisher, knowing that this will be the final form readers see! I better expected the challenge of securing blurbs, but also understand it isn’t worth getting uptight over the ones that don’t surface. I feel bolder in repeating and updating messages to my followers, old and new: yet remind myself not to get too worked up over whether others “like” or “share” or even notice them.

Perhaps, above all, I have mellowed out on my hopes, dreams and expectations for the traditionally viewed “success” of this book. How many books might I sell, how much money will I make? Probably fewer and less than I’d like: yet my view of success is no longer hinged on that. I too know that each author offers something different and my niche may not be for everyone. Yet, as I receive feedback from readers, I remind myself of the sheer gift of creating something that gives meaning or enjoyment to another being. As authors, no matter how many books we sell, we must congratulate ourselves on that success: we have put words and sentences together in a way to entertain or educate or, in some cases, encourage readers to drop the cares of their daily lives to join us in a story. And that, is glorious. 

Available now in e-book and hard copies. Support local bookstores by buying hard copy at Bookshop.org. Buy from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Now available through Powell’s and on the shelves of Annie Blooms, White Rabbit, Time Again Books, Beach Books, and other special independent bookstores. Request from your favorite bookstore to order from Ingram. Learn more.

If you’ve read Humanity’s Grace or any of my books, I’d love to hear your thoughts in either a review or private email or message. You are appreciated!

During a visit I made to the Columbia River Maritime Museum visit in 2018, the Astoria-Megler bridge in the background. I spent time walking along the Riverwalk after sharing a book talk on My Music Man at the Astoria Public Library.

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