Alegra Clarke's latest entry

Hi Writers,
Writer’s Digest 2007 Annual Competition winner Alegra Clarke has been updating us on her progress to get her novel published. Here are photos of our trip to New York. And here is her last post about her trip to New York to meet with agents.

Alegra’s latest entry:

Before I went to NYC the inevitable question, ‘So, what do you write?’ resulted in one of my best ‘Wow! Great day we are having!’ smiles and an under-the-breath answer of, ‘Oh, you know, I mostly like to write words, I aim for complete sentences, and I really like paragraphs…’

I had not found the genre for the novel and its absence made me feel unsettled, as if any moment my writer status was going to be revoked. During this time my husband tried to reassure me by saying, ‘just the fact that you think like this is proof that you are hardwired to be a writer.’ I think he was insinuating something about me having ‘a tendency towards anxiety’ or an ‘overactive imagination.’ But it wasn’t either of these things (really it wasn’t!), it was because I understood what having a genre or a solid ‘elevator pitch’ meant. It meant I had a solid grip on the story.

I have spent the last two months since the NYC trip plotting, testing my plot, researching, plotting again, sending my ideas to Joel Gotler, whose patience and generosity with me is enormous, until finally I could feel it and see it; the plot, the story I wanted to tell. With this came the knowledge of genre. I can now confidently say, ‘I am writing a psychological thriller.’ And believe me, for the last few weeks I have rolled the words around with obnoxious glee, harassing my friends with, ‘Ask me what I write…go on, I dare you!’

It has been a wild journey and I think it is only about to get wilder. In fact, I am depending on it. The original novel I wrote I can now see as a passionate and sincere effort at beating around the bush. That manuscript has become a fertile pile of compost for growing short stories. It might even be gestating a novel or two. But it isn’t the novel I am now writing. What I have now is the storyline the other draft was circling around. The learning process has been so accelerated that at times it is unnerving. I look back at something I wrote even five months ago and think, ‘How could I have not missed that fatal flaw? Why did I not get something so simple and obvious?’ All I can do is reassure myself that this is proof that I am improving and keep on with keeping on.

I am now in the last few months of research and plotting before I dive into the actual writing. I am doing things very differently this time by plotting in advance. I have always admired writers who can sit down with an idea or a question and pour out a novel in one draft, revise it and then be done. I am not that kind of writer – at least not at this stage.  And if I had a penny for every edit I did I would be one wealthy woman.

I personally don’t believe a dark story can be told halfway, it is a world that must be entered into completely. I have been organizing things in preparation for diving into the writing of this novel as opposed to my first attempt that was often written with one or both of my children hanging off of me like a jungle gym or engaging me in a chorus line of “No! Don’t touch that electrical socket! No! Don’t put your sister in the toilet!”

The last few months since NYC have felt like preparing for an extended journey. I was recently stunned by watching Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight because of how he intensely embodied some of the qualities of ‘evil’ I am hoping to explore in writing. I have always been fascinated by what it takes for an actor to take on a disturbing role and now I am about to embark on finding out what it will take for me as a writer. I think the most obvious answer is, “Lots of chocolate and coffee.” But I might be oversimplifying things.

Alegra will be updating us on her quest to get her novel published so stay tuned for more.

Keep Writing,

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21 thoughts on “Alegra Clarke's latest entry

  1. Eros-Alegra

    Thank you Heidi :o)

    I am hoping I will soon have some more short stories to share – I am finding the same issue of ‘structure, structure and more structure’ has found its way into my short story attempts as well. My recent ‘experiment’ has been to outline a few stories almost in an essay-style before attempting to write them. Hopefully my little experiment will prove a success!

  2. Heidi Page

    Your words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters in bits and pieces and chunks always leave me deeply stirred, pondering the mysteries of life in general and human hearts in particular, wanting more and wondering what’s going to unfold next! I can’t wait to read your short stories!!!!

  3. Eros-Alegra

    An added note (and then I will go away and get back to work!):

    While feeling slightly shy and squirmish about all of the wonderful comments from above I realized that I wanted to make a point about how invaluable it is for writers to have a strong support network. I have found my writing journey is not a solitary one, it has connected me to talented, generous, and passionate people who have been an essential ingredient in the learning process for me. Both Greg and Kemari have gone over and over drafts of short stories, as well as the initial draft of the original novel, giving me their honest feedback…including putting up with my grammatical issues (such as an inability to stay in one tense for very long). Having a group of trusted friends to engage with at this level has taught me a great deal, giving me a set of eyes to view my work from different angles. I derive a great deal of strength from knowing that I have the safety net of these relationships when exploring new material or rehashing old.

  4. Eros-Alegra

    I hope I can rise to the occasion for all the wonderful faith invested in me!
    Thank you everyone, your support is humbling and of course, inspiring.
    Now, I guess i need to get down to the business of actually writing…anyone know of a coffee company willing to sponsor?

  5. Kemari Howell

    It was Salamander’s Prayer that brought me Alegra. As a fellow writer and lover of language, I immediately recognized her raw gift. There was magic in her words, woven through every letter like spun gold through fabric. I literally weeped when I first read Salamander’s Prayer, and subsequently I subscribed to her blogs. It was love at first write, you could say. I consider her one of my dearest friends and it has been a blessing and an inspiration to be a part of this literary journey of hers. I have watched her from the beginning, when she was raw and pure and green, and now she is this polished, gleaming diamond. There is such a rich, hearty life to her words and I know that no matter where this next leg of the journey takes her, she is an unstoppable poetic force of life whose lyrical stories are undoubtedly going to be published and change people: the way they think, the way they see ordinary things. I can’t wait to dog-ear the pages of all her novels with my favorite passages and phrases.

  6. Grant Sowter

    I have recently met Alegra. If her stories are half as interesting as she is then her readers are in for an exciting time. She will challenge our perceptions, shake our comfort zones and push the boundaries of our imaginations. I look forward to the release of her novel in the days to come.

  7. Eros-Alegra

    Thank you Robin!
    (I also am eager to see how this all turns out…but then again I am one of those people with the bad habit of liking to skip ahead in stories)

  8. Robin Flinchum

    How amazing to witness this writer’s journey to the heart of a novel. Can’t wait to see how this story turns out (the novel and the quest to match it with a publisher). Thanks for letting us look into your process!

  9. Eros-Alegra

    I pay my dear, dear friend Greg by the word. I should also be paying him for his patient ear, editorial advice and an added bonus for the self-restraint he has displayed by leaving out the Austin Powers comment he was dying to insert as his grand conclusion to this comment.
    Greg, by the way, also placed in the same WritersDigest competition…it is how I became blessed with his colorful presence in my world.

  10. Greg

    What is truly obvious is Alegra’s gift. Everyone on the planet has a gift, a purpose, a raison d’être. Too many people either never look deep enough inside to find that gift or, after looking within, ignore it. Thankfully Alegra did look within, at a very early age, and saw a writer crouching there, waiting for her moment to be unleashed upon the world. I’ve known many people who called themselves writers over the years, but I’ve never known anyone who could grab the language by the throat, stretch it over the canvas, and shape it into such truly beautiful and moving imagery. I know I am not alone in my support and anticipation, but I can’t wait for the day when I can walk into any bookstore on the planet, march determinedly to the best seller list and point while saying, "That is an author everyone in here needs to read."

  11. Kate Silvertooth

    In Alegra’s voice we hear echoes of the most ancient of sorrows and feel our deepest fears stirring from within, and then with graceful wit she lifts us, not away from the edge, but over it. I look forward to reading more of her words, sentences and paragraphs. Pass the chocolate, please.

  12. Jennifer Barney

    From reading Alegra’s description above as well as being a spectator of her blogs over the past few years, it’s an eye opening experience to see all of what really goes into writing. It’s more than just the idea, plot, and thesis and more than just a bit of research. The writing has to become your entire world as you say, a world you must enter into wholly. Fiction must take so much energy to create and compose ideas, characters, plots, and places while getting all the facts into place. I do think a lot now of these Writers Digest competitions because they not only give the willing and deserving winners the spot light, but the opportunities to structure and help them grow and evolve into stronger and more successful professionals. I believe with Alegra’s brilliance and ambition, she will definitely go far and I can’t wait for the day to have her work on my bookshelf!

  13. Shea Lynn Baird

    i have only recently started to play with writing – blogging on several different profile sites for a year or so – and then starting my own. along the way i discovered alegra’s blogs and have become completely captivated. she manages to express what we all feel and think in a way we all wish we could … and i have followed her blogs on several different sites – amazed how she can bring me from tears to joy and giggles and a sense of ‘knowing’ in such a short time. i was so happy for her when she won the 2007 writer’s digest award – and pleased to find yet another facet of her journey being expressed – not just the plots and the stories as they develop, but her behind the scenes experience of the process. thank you alegra, and thank you writer’s digest. shea

  14. Tomi L. Wiley

    I find Alegra’s processes – both thought and writing – fascinating and helpful. It’s too easy to sit down and spew out what I’m feeling and call it art – for me, anyway. That’s not necessarily art, that’s blogging, or journaling. To whisk away the exterior husk of what you initially put to paper, to pare away the superficial skin of thought and peer in at the fruit that lies beneath takes patience and a lot of hard work, which it sounds as if Alegra is putting into her novel. I sincerely look forward to having the weight of her words in my hands, and based on her award-winning short story, I know it will be a story that will echo and stay with me for some time to come.


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