"The Weaver’s Loom" is a story about forgiveness. It explores the struggles of two beautiful cultures, bound together by the great human tragedy, the Holocaust. This is no political novel. It is an illumination of an enduring friendship between two unlikely women with an indomitable will to live.
One of the main characters in "The Weaver’s Loom" is based on a woman named Mary Lanka—my great-great grandmother—whose single defining legacy was having two children by a Jewish man in Hungary. "The Weaver’s Loom" is technically a work of fiction; however, like most historical fiction, a good deal of it is based on fact.
How do I get my ideas? Well, life has a funny way of providing oceans of material from which to draw really great stories. I was also lucky enough to come from a family of truly great storytellers. Family gatherings were never wasted sitting in front of the television, drinking wine and playing cards, or pecking away at electronic devices. When my family gathered around the dining room table for a meal, before long, either my grandmother or father was hip-deep in some hilarious story about a long-dead relative.
Meals carried on late into the evening. Coffee and desserts were promptly served, but folks still lingered in their chairs, picking at the crumbs on their plates, not ready to leave the table. It didn’t matter how many times you heard a story, the telling and retelling was filled with such vivid detail, it was as though you were hearing it for the very first time.
I grew older, and my grandmother, frailer. I began to worry about all of the wonderful stories that would be lost upon her passing. I bought a digital tape recorder for her to talk into, but she wasn’t interested. She said that
sharing stories with her family was enough. What I didn’t understand was that she NEEDED human interaction to draw the stories out of her. Grandma eventually moved into a nursing home, growing more silent and withdrawn with each passing day, and when she passed, her stories died along with her.
Through the artful storytelling of my mostly poor and uneducated relatives, I learned what the “arc of a story” was LONG before I ever put pen to paper. Unfortunately, natural-born storytellers are becoming rarer, while published authors almost commonplace; however, the work of today’s author is critically important to the next generation of up-and-coming storytellers.
What advice would I give to a young writer? Well, last Thanksgiving I was cornered in my living room by an aspiring young writer who wanted to know how to get published. Of course I was flattered he would think enough of me to ask for my advice, so I gave him a high-level overview of every book I’d ever read about how to get published.
“Yeah, but how do I get published? I REALLY want to get published.”
I took a deep breath. I reiterated how to get published in both traditional and non-traditional terms. I gave him several of my own query letters, scratching the titles of important resources to pick up at the library.
“Yeah, but how do I get published? I’d do ANYTHING to get published.”
This went on for nearly an hour. Was I annoyed? Yeah. I had worked in the publishing industry for more than 25 years—in my earliest days, as an underpaid, unappreciated flunky. I had survived seeing my hard work stolen by my editors. I’d anguished over credit taken for my ideas. Yeah, I’d paid my dues. This young person’s need for instant gratification was too much for me to bear.
I cut him off mid-sentence.
“Do you want to get published? Or do you want to be a great writer?”
“No. One does not necessarily mean the other. What do you want?”
“I want to be a great writer.”
“Excellent! What do you like to read?”
“Nothing. I hate reading.”
“Okay. Then, you will NEVER be a great writer.”
Why did I say that? Because, over the course of the past 43 years, I’d learned that solid writing technique was mostly a matter of osmosis. Garbage in, garbage out. Fill your mind with great writing and, voila, you WILL get
better. Your vocabulary will improve, your sentence structure will improve, your dialogue will improve, your character development will improve, and your plot line will improve. The literary classics are like Miracle-Gro® for an aspiring writer.
So, for aspiring writers of all ages, here are my suggestions.
Learn how to listen—and, I mean, REALLY listen. And not just to praise, because 99% of the praise from family and friends is the rough equivalent of a fart in the wind. Listen to your critics and detractors. Search for that one
nugget of truth in their words that will help you rise to the next level.
Observe the world around you.
Take time to figure out what makes people tick. Especially the ones you DON’T like.
And, most importantly, let it marinate. Take time to reflect—and evolve. Because great writing does more than just entertain a reader. It TRANSFORMS the reader.