A Higher Calling

Inspiration comes in many forms and is uniquely personal. What stirs one person’s creative soul or moves another to action is purely subjective. Writers know this and most importantly, they know what works for them. They know what brings the words to the page and continually seek to reconnect to what ever it is that keeps them cultivating the next big idea. In a very real way, this hunger drives their passion.

I couldn’t help but think about the magnificent power of inspiration this week when witnessing the visit of Pope Francis and seeing the indelible mark he made on the hearts and minds of the millions who were drawn in and impacted by his presence. Here was one man; one very special human being who held a banner of kindness, modesty, and humility and quietly moved a nation, if only for a few minutes, hours, or days. His mere presence conveyed a powerful message and his actions and words, no doubt not only ignited inspiration, but most likely has changed lives.

Who would not be inspired by someone with humble beginnings who has risen to such stature? It is reported that the Holy Father was once a chemical technologist and even worked as a bouncer before he went into the seminary. He later became an Archbishop and soon after that was appointed cardinal by Pope John Paul II. His calling to become the 266th pope of the Catholic Church was a plan of divine design. What he gives to the world will be a legacy that brings awareness to global warming, the evils of consumerism, and reverence and support for family life. Not least of all, Pope Francis has been integral in restoring diplomacy between the U.S. and Cuba. Also he gives hugs, kisses babies, visits prisoners, feeds the hungry and asks for our prayers.

How hard do you have to look to find grace? Inspiration?

When you think about it, this is really not all that different than the shift in consciousness you experience when you witness that perfect sunset, or wake up with the idea for a perfect ending to a story that had been locked away in your mind for weeks, now fully formed and shinning in the light. It’s like a perfect song that pops up on your iPod when you plug in; it’s the phone call from an old friend out of the blue. It’s poetry. It stops you in your tracks because it is so stunning and simple and true.

This is Pope Francis. This is what he is and what he has done for us. He is a simple man with a simple message. This once ordinary man who has been called to do the most with the least of things — has manged to get our undivided attention and to stir our hearts and imaginations. The fact that anyone or anything can have this impact is inspiring. All we are called to do is to find the humility and truth within ourselves…and to pass it on.

~ Jamie

A Tribute to Jackie

The news of Jackie Collins’ death has left me stunned, shocked, and saddened to the core. Without exaggeration, she was, in my opinion, one of the most influential and relevant contemporary fiction writers of our time. I can remember discovering my first Jackie Collins novel as a young teen. I found myself quickly transported into a world so different from my own.  It was a first for me to read about people and places I had never seen in my everyday, Midwestern city; or in my everyday Catholic school-driven, sheltered and censored life. It was a little raunchy and racy; addictive in its power to seduce and surprise. The language and the characters instantly drew me in and the scandal — oh, was I hooked! Moreover, from the moment I closed the first of many sizzling Collins novels to come, I knew with certainty that I wanted to some day be like Jackie.  I wanted to write such pulse-tingling and insatiable stories. I wanted to be a bestselling author, like Jackie.

Jackie Collins’ remarkable career spanned four decades in which she sold over 500 million books worldwide — every one making it to best-selling status. The accolades go on and on. Her novels have been translated into 40 languages with eight of her books adapted to the screen. She even wrote five books since her diagnosis of breast cancer six years ago, during a battle she kept hidden from the world of faithful readers and fans. What Jackie has given to the world cannot be measured in statistics or sales. It lives in the hearts and minds of those she touched with her work and continued to entertain right up until the end; an end that has come all too soon.

Jackie was flair and style and punch. She was a force; fearless and bold; beautiful and brave. She defined the genre that put her in a league of her own. Her spirit, no doubt will live on in her unforgettable characters and novels. Rest in peace, stunning, talented, and fierce, Jackie.

We will see you in the words and hold you in our hearts…forever.

Reality vs. Fiction

I admit it. I am addicted to reality TV– some of it anyway. I find that certain shows hold the same hypnotic pull over me as that of a good juicy novel, without the work. Of course, Real Housewives of “anywhere” should not be a substitute for a genuine good read, but it does make for some interesting insights into human behavior. And for me, that makes such viewing not just a guilty pleasure, but a great source of inspiration.

What better way to study nuances of characterization, plot arcs, and dialogue? Watching these shows is like having a window into the minds of some of the most interesting characters never written. Not to mention, look at all the things you learn about pop culture and vernacular by just “hanging out” with your not-so-real gal pals; and the places you can go vicariously tagging along with these fictional vixens is a bonus. You get VIP inclusion into an exclusive clique that you would never otherwise be granted entry. Again, it’s like curling up with a good book in the pedicure chair and letting yourself get caught up in the drama and the dish. I for one, use these little binge morsels to feed my author habit. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this is the world that I write about in my novels. Such shows speak to my fascination with wealth and celebrity as it pertains to how I serve this genre to my readers.

Reality TV comes in many forms and categories, for sure. There is something for everyone and any writer worth their words can find inspiration in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. News and information constantly stream into our lives via social media, television, print, and/or water cooler talk. Anything is fair game. If it interests you, it would probably interest your readers. I once wrote a short story based solely on a Bruce Springsteen song. Inspiration abounds in artistry and outlets that already exist. Your job is to take it to the page and create a fabulous, riveting, unique story, or poem, or screen play.

When I watch the news, I am often shocked at how some of the top stories unfold, proving that truth can be — and often is, stranger than fiction. There is so much to be gleaned from world events, natural phenomena, and challenges of humanity from the subtle to the profound that speak to the human spirit and tap into the fears and dreams of all humankind.  It is worth a close or second look really, if you find yourself reaching for a glint of inspiration. When I tap into the REAL reality that is spinning around us right now…when I see people risk their lives in tiny boats to cross the raging sea to freedom; reality stars run for president; and brave souls like Caitlyn Jenner transform from being lost to finally being found, I wonder if indeed truth “trumps” (pun intended) the dreams of poets.

~ Jamie

Why Write?

I don’t know about you, but I write because I have to. I need to. It’s like having to yawn, or to stretch, or scream (sometimes). Because it allows me to release, to relent, to reclaim myself in every character that I birth…and in every story that I tell.

Sound too dramatic? If you are a true to-the-core writer, then I know that you are nodding. You get it. It’s the hardest, most demanding, most solitary thing you will ever do. No one can do it for you, and yet, if you’re lucky enough to have a network of friends and family and people who love you and support you — you are not just a writer, but you are a blessed writer. And the world will be blessed to know your truth.

Be liberal with your words. Be relentless; be bold. Don’t give up the dream that pulls you to the seat that finds you clicking away at the keyboard through weightless hours to the perfect end. Be you. Stay inspired–alert, always. Look around with fresh eyes and never look back. Great ideas and great stories abound everywhere.

Be ready. Be vigilant. It’s your time to shine!

~ Jamie