I just wanted to take the opportunity to talk a bit in depth about my books and discuss some of the stories behind what inspired me to write them. I want my readers to know about my process and what brought about the things that I chose to write about.
Thank you. Becky L. Stout
Welcome to my first post that will be "About My Books". We're starting with my first book of poetry, Designing a Harvest Moon. This one is all over the place, tonally and with the subject matter. I mean, there are ten chapters in it which talk about a wide range of things. Some of the things are uplifting and beautiful; some are the darkest and most horrible things you can imagine. But I'm a storyteller. And I had stories to write and tell and share. Some of what is expressed here comes straight from my heart, some of it comes from the feelings of others, some of it comes from the my imagination or someone else's. The point is, yet again, that this book is all over the place. And that is precisely why I wanted to start talking about all my books, because of this one, as there is much to explain about it.
So, I thought I would just discuss all these different chapters, what inspired them and why I wrote them. Just so people who might be interested in reading this book will know and be prepared. Because, as mentioned, I do cover some very heavy topics in this one. I'll take it one at a time and tell you all what they're about. And speaking of being prepared, this might be a long one.
"My Whole Wide World" - There is a movie called The Whole Wide World. I love this movie and not enough people have seen it. So, in order to get some exposure for this great piece of art, as well as pay tribute to it, I did two things. First, the title of the book. The title was inspired by a line I heard in the film, spoken by Vincent D'Onofrio, which is why he gets a little thank you on the dedication page. Second, this chapter. What I did was write some poems that were all inspired by scenes and characters in the movie. I loved writing this and I hope I did a good job. The best part is that I have had people ask me what this section is about and I am able to tell them about this film and that they should go and watch it. I want as many people to see it as possible and I wanted to do my part to make that happen and, again, to pay tribute to everyone who was a part of it.
"The Caged and Released Chronicles" - What an epic title. I guess. When I was writing this book, I was taking notice of everything around me. And I was around a lot of people. People who weren't shy about sharing stories with me about their lives and others in their lives and things they were witnessing. Well, between that and what I was seeing myself, I realized what a harsh world this is. So, I took all of it and came up with the idea of being someone trapped in a harsh world. I saw that I was using quite a lot of imagery that reminded me of fairy tales, like princesses and queens and dragons, which is why I came up with the "epic" title. Therefore, this chapter is a fairy tale world that I created which has some dark corners, as they often do. But thankfully, there is some light getting through the cracks of it and, in the end, there is freedom.
"Supernova" - There are some people in the entertainment industry that I love and admire. So, I thought I would write about some of them. Everything here comes directly from me. This is how I feel about these particular people. Sadly, in the subsequent years, some of the people I wrote about in this chapter would be moved to another. More on that later.
"Blackout" - Open a newspaper, turn on the TV and you will be confronted by a lot of unpleasant stories that may have something to do with unpleasant people. Here's another place where the opinions and ideas of others came into play. I would listen to where they stood on certain people and their actions. I would ask "What do you think about what so and so said?" or "What do you think about what so and so did?" Sometimes I agreed. Other times, I did not. But I wanted to write from different angles, so I did. There's a lot in here about trusting those you shouldn't and people getting caught in lies. There are a couple of things about how the world tries to convince so many of us that there is something wrong with us, sometimes to the point where we can get angry at God, because we're not "perfect". But He made us to be who we are, because He loves us. So, yeah, there is some sad stuff in here. But sadness does exist.
"Playback" - I listen to a lot of music. In this case, I listened to a lot of songs written by men. Then, I decided to take whatever stories they were trying to tell and tell them myself through my own female perspective. This was actually a fun one to write.
"Still Caged" - This chapter has a lot of spillover from the second one. Hence, the title, so you might still notice some of that fairy tale imagery here. Again, I was paying attention to what people around me were saying and sharing and how they felt about certain things. A lot of those things were quite difficult. I heard some stories from near and far that were terrible. I wished I could have ignored them, never to think about them, but I couldn't. One person said she worked in a place where one had to participate in . . . "extracurricular activities" to get ahead. And they thought no one knew, but she knew. I had heard of things like this. If this was true, I felt bad for her, but also for anyone who did this. Someone else told me she knew a woman who left a good man for a bad one because he fulfilled her physical needs but treated her like crap. That sounded like a foolish choice to me. I witnessed some incidents with people who were parents, but really shouldn't be. They had so much anger in their faces and eyes, and their children, so much sadness. And I can't take parents who treat their kids so badly. Makes me wonder why they keep having them. I heard about a place where they allow in every kind of awful person one can imagine, and I didn't even want to think about who they might let in next. So I wrote about all these things. I even wrote one called "Torture", which was, I realized after I wrote it, all about the Devil, along with horrid things he has done to our world and those within it, and how he will get no mercy, because he shouldn't. Some crazy imagery I used on that one. So, yes, some dark stuff here. And some of the bad things I was thinking about and writing about spill over into the next part.
"E.W.C." - This is the hardest section to read and to write. Let me explain. "E.W.C" is a term that I heard on Law & Order: SVU, a show that highly inspired this chapter. It means "Endangering the Welfare of a Child". I was watching this show a lot at the time, and the episodes that hit me the hardest were the ones about the kids. For so many reasons. So I started to write about that through my own eyes, often based on stories I saw on this show and others. Therefore, in a way, I dealt with real issues in a fictionalized world. I wrote about victims who were ignored and people who look the other way for whatever reason and how would they feel if it was their child. I wrote about how these abusers are master manipulators and will try to hide their actions any way they can, but it will all come to the light. I even wrote about people in law enforcement who I heard pose as minors in order "to catch a predator" and what a celebration there must be, by them and the public, when they do catch them. And one thing I wrote was based on an idea I had for an episode of SVU where the perp had a crazy defense, which did not help him get away with his crime, but instead of a script, I wrote a poem. Most importantly, though, I wrote about how we must always seek justice and not revenge. One poem called "After" is about how one can think they've defeated the guilty party and are so pleased with themselves, but it didn't work because they went about it the wrong way, and often our best weapon to actually defeat is to simply say something when we see something and do things the right way. Another called "Guilty Blood" talks about how intoxicating the idea of revenge can be, but if you try to become the hero that way, you've crossed a line into a place you may not be able to come back from and nobody wins. So it's best not to go there. I wanted to show how terrifying it can be if we let ourselves be overtaken by rage and the want for revenge if we ever are in this situation, God forbid. Because I thought about that, and it scared me. I don't want anyone to ever think they can get out of that dark place by adding more darkness. Only light can get rid of that. Only good can defeat evil. Revenge may seem like the best solution, but it's not. Justice is what we should strive for. And whatever rage we may feel, whether in the situation or not, as hard as it may be, we must let ourselves turn it into strength. Strength that can be shared with those who need it. I know I went to some dark extremes, especially metaphorically, but it's a dark subject. It can be hard to get through, but I wanted readers to feel something and not forget. Because none of us should ever be apathetic when it comes to protecting the most innocent of us.
"Dropping the Ball" - I am not a sports fan, but I started to pay attention to things that come out of that world. And, again, I paid attention to some fictional television shows that covered the topic and let that inspire me. Anyway, I noticed how a few people behaved in the community and I didn't like a lot of what I saw. I was upset by some of it. I also looked into some stories that were going around in the news where this subject was concerned, and I listened to people's opinions on them, because I've never really been a part of that world. Therefore, many things I wrote, yet again, are based on the thoughts of others. For example, there was someone who knew someone who, when any sports figure was accused of a particular crime, would never even entertain the idea that it could be true, so the question arose of how he would feel if someone he knew and loved was involved. So, I wrote about that. Then, in another situation that happened, I was surrounded by people who were on completely different sides, half blindly believing something about someone, the other half blindly not believing. Something I've been guilty of myself, even after this. Because we don't always learn our own lessons. So, I wrote from two different perspectives in one poem. I wanted to express how dangerous it is when two sides are fighting for what they think is the truth, instead of their number one priority being to seek out the actual truth. We have to be open to the idea that even people we admire are capable of doing bad things, and if we think someone broke the law, we can't fight it with more lawlessness.
"Memory Boxes" - There have been many people who we have lost and some of them I greatly admired. I was saddened by the thought of losing them, so I decided to do a chapter of tributes. And while it may seem like this would be one of the darker sections of the book, I tried to be as positive as possible. Talking about what a great impact that some of them had on the world and on me, personally. And in case you didn't figure it out, this is where some of my subjects from the "Supernova" chapter would be now. Gone but not forgotten.
"All Day, Every Day" - This last chapter is just a mix of all different kinds of poems. It's almost as though it is representative of this book in its entirety. I just had all this poetry that didn't seem to fit in any of the other sections, so I gave them their own. There are things in here inspired by musicians I love, friends, my life as a writer, my life in general and so much more. Some of my favorites are in here, some of the ones that I consider the best.
I wrote and published this book about seven years ago, and I certainly have changed a lot since then. My perspective has also changed. Now I don't usually go back and read my books often, but I have over the past several months. I was not in the best place when I wrote some of this stuff. I had issues with anger and bitterness and resentment, and whatever may have triggered me to write some of this was tethering me to the past. So, I decided to move on from that and let myself look at all this in a new light. I'm seeing things I didn't see before. New angles, new stories that I didn't even know were there. It's like a lot of this has a new life to it. Now, instead of harming me by keeping me tied to that past, it will help me and hopefully others.
So, that is what my first book of poetry is all about. Once again, I know it's all over the place. I know I talked about very good things and very, very bad things, but that's life. And I wanted to tell stories about life. Whether they came from me or someone else, whether they were real or made up, whether they were beautiful or shocking, I wanted them to be told and to send the message that I want to be sent through them. That was what I wanted for this book. And what I still want is that only good come from its existence. Through the darkness and the light, only good. I hope and pray that I succeeded.
I really like the title I came up with for this book. Letters To My Stranger Loves. It actually expresses what I was trying to do perfectly. So, what was I trying to do? Let me tell you.
I have been writing since I was a kid and sometimes, I write about people who I don't even know. As I got older, I sometimes wrote about people I don't know who I also happened to have crushes on. Yes, that's right. This book is all about my celebrity crushes. Well, it's not ALL about that. Let's just say it was inspired by them.
One day, I thought about all the things I'd written about people I don't know and for some reason, I started thinking about all the famous guys who made my heart flutter, even if it only lasted for like ten minutes. I started to make a list, and the list got quite long. So, I thought that I should write about all these guys and make a new book. Although, to say I wrote about them directly is a bit misleading.
In a few cases, yes, I did write about the actual person who I had in mind. Other times, I was inspired by something they did, usually a role they've played, if they were an actor, or a song they wrote, if they were a musician. The point is that, a lot of the time, these guys were simply a jumping off point for my inspiration. Somehow that made it much easier to write. And it makes it much harder for anyone to guess who these poems are about. I mean, I barely remember in some places and I'm the one who wrote all of them. I did make a list of names and matched them with the poems, but I may or may not have misplaced it. Who knows? Maybe I am meant to forget.
If I may point out a few of my favorites, they would include, "Tell Me With Your Eyes", "Gentle Traveler", "Mysteries", "Sunburst" and "Wondered Love". I suppose I could name a few more, but I don't want to influence any readers on what they might choose to like themselves. But, indeed, these ones are quite good, in my opinion. Apparently, these "loves" of mine were extra inspiring.
The point is that this shows how I am willing to open myself up to any kind of inspiration. I understand that the concept of this book may seem a little odd to some people. Possibly even pathetic. I mean, I can imagine someone reading this thing or even just hearing what it's about and saying, "Oh, please! Just get a real boyfriend!" Because it's that easy, apparently. I'm not saying that a real boyfriend isn't better than an imaginary one, or whatever, but still.
In short, I'd say this book is rather gentle and sweet. For the most part. There may be a tad bit of negativity here. I mean, there are all sorts of reasons why crushes go away. Sometimes we grow out of them and move on. Sometimes said crush does something just plain dumb and it makes you stop liking them altogether. Such is life. However, collectively speaking, this is probably the calmest book I've ever written, which is a nice shift from some of the things I had to write about in its predecessor. Perhaps, I needed the change. This book has some great stuff and some okay stuff, much like all of my books. But overall, I think Letters To My Stranger Loves is a pretty good one.
The Heartening Voice is the book I consider my best. I don't know why. It just is. And there is something of an interesting story behind the process of how I came to write it.
At the time, I was doing a lot of writing, trying to compile things for a new book. But I kept hearing a voice in my head. I certainly recognized it, but it was not one that was not my own. It's never a good idea for me to have that happen, because, when I write new things, I like to hear them in my own voice. I even read them aloud to hear how they sound. And I don't particularly like my voice, so if something I've written sounds good, even as I'm reading it, I figure it must be good.
But this other voice I was hearing could have thrown things off, as this person has some vocal chords that could make the worst bit of writing sound like it's the song of an angel. Therefore, how could I judge on the quality if everything automatically seemed amazing? So, I tried very hard to clear my head of anything but my own words and sounds. But then, I hit a wall.
After I silenced that voice, I found it very hard to continue writing. It was then that I realized that it was that voice which was inspiring me to write in the first place. So I chose to embrace it. Once that happened, the writing started to flow again and I started coming up with some of the best stuff I ever had.
Again, I cover a wide range of topics. I wrote about some people I admire, about some movies that I love and about some personal experiences I was dealing with at the time. I pulled inspiration from everywhere to write the poems for this book. There was one called "Street", which was my take on a movie called Once. "How Much Love" was inspired by my favorite Shakespeare quote. I had the Chelsea on my mind when I wrote "Hotel" because I was thinking about who I would want to stay as a guest if I had a hotel like of my own. Lots of fellow artists is the answer to that by the way. And the one I would call the best in here, "Sea Calling" was indirectly inspired by Sting, as I had recently heard the music from The Last Ship. So, I had was thinking a lot about ships and the sea, which morphed, slowly but surely, into the fairy tale sounding poem that I came up.
As usual, I just let everything around me inspire me. Including that beautiful voice, whose owner I may never reveal. A lot of what's in this book is much more personal than in the previous ones and it felt good to be able to do that and share myself more openly with my readers.
So, that is my summary of my best book, in my opinion, The Heartening Voice. Enjoy.
I can write at any time. I think most writers can say that, even though some of us allot special times to do it, for various reasons. But that inspiration to get our words down can hit at any time of the day or night. That's how it has always been for me, for better or worse. To be honest, there are few things worse for a writer than to be hit with a great idea when there is no way to be able to even get it down on paper, much less cultivate it. Yes, those awful moments do exist. However, when it came to this book, I mostly wrote at night. Which means I was writing Beneath the Sable Veil
The strangest thing about my writing so much of this book at night is that I am, in fact, very much a morning person. I love the dawn and the sunrise and the start of new day, leaving the old one far behind. But, for some reason, I found myself being awake well into the night and doing a lot of writing in those hours. And some of what I was writing about had me exploring the shadows that have lurked in my own life and heart. I was going into those caverns where light is at its weakest, but that was where I found some very valuable treasures. And then I found my way back to that light.
Digging deep to get to the part of myself that I may not want to confront, the part that may frighten me sometimes, is something I've tried to do since I started writing. I had learned that I can't be afraid to face those areas of my life, because they exist for a reason. Someone who taught me how to do that is the same person to whom I dedicated this book - Rich Mullins.
If you don't know who Rich Mullins is, he was a Christian singer/songwriter. who sadly passed away in 1997. Well, sadly for us, as I believe that he truly is in a better place and has been since the moment he left us. And if I may say, he may have been the best artist in the entire industry. Just the pure musicianship alone that he possessed would put him along the most acclaimed musicians. And not just ones from the Christian music world. The man was a musical genius, but he also had an amazing message. And he was not afraid to show himself for who he truly was. He never tried to portray himself as perfect. He showed the flaws, the bruises, the scars that he had. He showed what was hiding in his own shadows. The things that a lot of people try to hide.
So, in addition to writing about whatever came along to inspire me, I took a lesson from Rich and went to those places, once again, that are sometimes hard to deal with about myself. I told the stories that I may not have wanted to tell, but once I let myself go there, more and more flowed out and then, all of a sudden, I had a new book.
I'll mention some of the poems that stand out to me. There is "Winter Cafe", which I wrote due to all the time that I . . . cliche-ly wrote in cafes, always looking at the door, hoping that someone special might walk through it. "Fall Into the Gray" is about my love of cloudy, rainy days. A book and film about the struggles of creative types, like myself, inspired "If They Could See The Dawn Like Us". And of course, there is "Diamonds Out of Stones" and "In the Strangest World", which are ones that I wrote about the aforementioned Rich Mullins.
And there is my take on my book Beneath the Sable Veil. Though I do still enjoy my beautiful mornings, I am grateful for the nights that brought these poems to me so that I can bring them to anyone who reads my work.
I suppose I should begin at the beginning when it comes to this collection. Specifically, what I decided to call it, because there is some back story there.
As I was writing this book, for quite a while, I had been calling it by a different name. I had intended to give it a title that was a lyric from one of my favorite songs. Of course, I started to realize that maybe I shouldn't do that. Or perhaps, I couldn't do that, legally speaking. I'm never sure about these things. So, I gave it a name that ties itself to that lyric, as best I could. I think it worked out. I did, however, still dedicate the book to the person responsible for that lyric that I love so much. Again, it all worked out.
There had been quite a gap of time between the release of this book and its predecessor. More so than there has ever been before. Because life exists and it happens. So, I've had this collection with me and building for some time.
When I started writing it, I wasn't sure where it was going or if there would be some thread tying it all together, as was the case with previous books of mine. I think I just started looking at the world around me, the people in it, things I saw happening, stories I heard, and I let myself be inspired by it all. And as always, I often let my imagination come up with some stories of its own.
I did notice one thing during all the time I read and reread this collection, searching for typos and spell checking and making sure things were as I wanted them to be. There were certain words that continued to show up throughout many of the poems. Now I've never been one to shy away from using some words a lot. Mostly because, in the moment, those just happen to be the ones that come to me as I write. And when I'm writing one thing, I often don't think of the others. However with this, I had to wonder if all those particular words kept coming up for a reason. Perhaps, they are the thread for the book. And I wonder if other people will notice as much as I did.
So, as this book is read, I hope that the messages and the stories I wanted to get across are clear and even inspiring to those who pick it up. Again, I get into a few harsh things, as life can be harsh, but there is also love and hope and redemption throughout. And those things are always what I want to include in everything I do.