Change is Coming

Knitted Silk Shawl (an original Tiffani Burnett-Velez creation)

Knitted Silk Shawl (an original Tiffani Burnett-Velez creation)

It’s super windy today where I live in the humid northeastern edge of America, and there’s more than just a dramatic shift in the spring weather – from cool and wet to hot and humid. Writing changes are coming for me as well. I have decided that I’m going to take, at least, the next few months off from writing fiction. I’m going to concentrate on a very specific writing project that will require travel (domestically and internationally), a heavy amount of research, and a deep dive into my family history. If you read my history and genealogy blog, That Was Then, a few years back, you got just a tiny taste of what my upcoming project will be.

I’m not quitting writing, but I am taking a summer haitus. Call me outdated, but I have been doing this writing thing since 1996, and it’s 2015 now, and I really can’t stand how some sellers have so readily embraced the lowdown practice of giving away or selling books for next to nothing at all. It’s a move that stands directly against the writer, and I don’t have the energy to keep up with this particular brand of dirty capitalism. I’m all for the free market, but I’m only for a few free books, like the Bible and the dictionary, maybe. I know there are a lot of writers who are happy with this idea, to share their work so daringly, and if that works for them, I’m happy for them. It doesn’t really work for me. Maybe that’s just because I’m not fond of the idea, but there it is. Publishing has changed a lot, even in the last decade, and I’m not completely comfortable with all the changes. And my grandmother always says, “You can’t really change the world, but you can change yourself.” So, here we go.

I’m going on 20 years of hard work, lots of experience, and a boatload of higher education. From Toccoa Falls College in Georgia to Harvard University in Massachusetts, I have been taught, challenged, and guided to write my heart, and this new project will be the first time I have really set out to do that. Yes, I have always written on subjects that intrigued me, moved me, or caused me to change in some way. But this project is one of pure love, very different. I’ll be showing you what I learned, which is going to be grand. I’m sure of it. If I’m going to talk to my friends and readers on Facebook about what I’m writing, I’m going to write what I love. My last year has taught me that I need a respite.

But, I do love people, and I do love history, and I do love my family, and my faith holds all that together, and that’s the beginning of a new conversation.

More to come, My Dear Readers. A new blog and a new website :) I will let you know where my work is going to show up next. If you want to stay connected, please indicate so in the comments below, send me an email, or message me on Facebook.

The Yarn Vigil

image

I started this piece back in March, when my husband had emergency gallbladder surgery. It is my gift to him. I’ve made him several afghans over the years, but this one was my vigil for him, my waiting room prayer that he’d be restored to health soon. A lot of knitting and crocheting projects are like this. They take time and help you concentrate on working out the stitches, all the while, keeping the end product in mind.

It’s June, and I’m still knitting out the edges of March’s big yarn vigil. These free-flowing patterns are my favorite. They remind me of why I love to write, which is something I’ve enjoyed less and less recently. Some of that is my own fault, and some of that distaste comes from outside sources that I will always regret having let into the safe circle of my writing process.

Knitting reminds me that most creativity ebbs and flows, and sometimes, you have to lean on one art to charge the other.

So, while I’m working through this present ebbing, I will also move forward with the flow of this ribbed-knit-garter stitch – rib knit vigil until wholeness is finally reached.

Some Amazing Reviews of All This Time!

All_this_time_II

“Stunning!  Exhilarating!  Vibrant!  I was privileged to read this book on Memorial Day weekend, and it was quite fitting.

Tiffani Burnett-Velez reaches right in to the core of all of the mangled emotions that stir inside both; the Service Members and the families that await their return, as our US military serves time in battle over in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I read this story with my mouth agape, I bet you will, too.” From Annie at Chick Lit Plus. Read more here…

“All This Time by Tiffani Burnett-Velez was a great story.  I can’t say enough things about this book because it is in the genre of books that I love the most.  I also loved this book because it brings issues that people are dealing with in our country and brings attention to them.” From Margaret at The World as I See It. Read more here…

All The Best Wishes

I’ve been writing since I could first hold a pencil, but first published pieces weren’t until 1996. I still have the t-shirt my first magazine sent me after they loved the piece so much that they felt guilty for not paying more. I wear the t-shirt, on which is written Pennsylvania Magazine, when I go hiking at Hawk Mountain, a jagged edge of the Blue Mountain and one of the highest peaks in PA, about an hour from my house.

The shirt is not the kind of thing I’d normally wear. I would have never bought it at a store. It’s literally a rectangle, and I have shape, a woman’s shape, so I have to tuck it in and fold up the sleeves like my mother did to her t-shirts in the 1980’s. I don’t like having to do this, but the material is so thick, it’s the only way to make it cooler in the drippy humid Pennsylvania summer. Even a fraction longer on the arm, and I would feel like I was wearing a sweater.

But it lasts like no shirt I’ve ever owned, and it’s impossible to wear out. I’ve had to figure out ways to make it work, but somehow, it always feels great when I put it on. I do it once a year when I go on a hike, a hard hike. It reminds me that I am something, that my writing career is a very similar sort of gift, a wrangled one that has to be fitted and refitted, but one that is durable and made of the highest kind of thread count – real stuff, solid shape.

The year before I got that t-shirt, I printed out my favorite writer’s signature and taped it to the top of my old PC. All the best wishes, Ernest Hemingway. I pretended he was talking to me, wishing me the best on a well practiced discipline and a sliver of talent, that thing that showed up in first grade and was the only reason I was allowed to remain in my tightly wound Catholic school.

And my favorite writer gave me back a few wonderful gifts in return for summoning his presence. He left a host of brilliantly written novels that I will study for the rest of my life and the idea that “one true sentence” is the best place to begin writing anything of value. One of the great things about the masters is that they teach long after they are gone. I don’t just read Hemingway, I hear him, and I try to hear him well. Sometimes I fail. Already, I have read places in this essay where I probably have. Less is more. Discovering that we share a birthday was the added bonus. Now, every July 21st, I celebrate for both of us. It’s our day, whatever that means, and I sit on my porch swing and I wonder what he’d have been like if he had not taken his own life. What would a 115 year old Ernest Hemingway be like? What was he trying to say in The Sun Also Rises? I imagine he’d say, Keep going. Don’t stop the hard work. He was always talking about embracing the hardest parts of writing and straightening up to them like a bull ready to charge. Hold out the red cape. Let him come at you, and if he gets you, do it again, and if he misses and even if the crowd cheers you wildly, do it again.

A t-shirt and a faded print out of a dead writer’s signature. These two things have sustained me many times when nothing else could. Before there were paid writing gigs, there was determination and a hope. If he can work that hard, I can work that hard. If I make a good showing, something will come of it. And then I put on the t-shirt once a year and go for a hard hike, one that reminds me of writing, because it always starts out so easy and beautiful and the breeze is soft and cool and the water bottle is still full. And then the hill gets rockier and steeper and the only thing I can do to keep from turning back, is to pause briefly at how far I have come. I can’t concentrate on how far I must go, and I can’t veer off on a trail that might look as though it’s an easier route, because no route is easier if it’s really going to lead to the mountain top, to the peak where the eagles like to nest and the red tailed hawks meet you eye to eye. This is true at Hawk Mountain and it is true with writing. So, I carry on, taking rests and sometimes looking for a short cut, but quickly realizing that it’s not going to work that way.

Where writing and hiking differ is when stones are thrown. That’s never happened to me on the hiking trail. I’ve met up with rattlesnakes and beehives, and I’m deathly allergic, so both are scary. I’ve been tripped and I’ve had my legs give way from overuse of my already diseased and weakened muscles, but I’ve never turned back on those hikes that mean something to me, and all of them do. I’ve only abandoned unmarked routes leading away from the intended path, no matter how many people have encouraged me that this was not exactly what was planned, but that it “might still work”. It doesn’t work for me. It’s not the path. While hiking, I always think of writing.

Since Monday, I have written 36 articles, edited two beautiful essays by emerging young writers, worked on rewriting 90% of a doctor’s website, scrubbing it of all the previously plagiarized pieces created by the last writer. I spoke extensively with a new client about helping him maintain the written memory of his young boy whose life was snuffed out by evil before he even made it to kindergarten, and I was paid for all of it, and, yet, I was called a hack this week by a few people who claimed I don’t know the value of hard work or what the writing life is like, because I have an opinion that I’m not ashamed of. Some openly stated that I simply didn’t have what it takes to be “in it for the long haul.” Well, I’m no Ernest Hemingway. I’m not even as prolific and talented as hundred other writers I can think right now, this minute. But, I’m pretty sure I understand the long haul. I wrote my first published article in 1996. I printed out All the best wishes in 2000. I put on the Pennsylvania Magazine t-shirt for the first time in 2002.

Three novels later, thousands of articles in hundreds of magazines and newspapers in the US and Europe, a small press ownership, a senior editing position at literary magazine, a myriad of assistant editing positions at several more, a teaching career, a bachelor’s degree, a masters degree, an MFA journey…I’m pretty sure I know what a long haul is, and so to the off shoot trails and the stone throwers I say…

All The Best Wishes,

Tiffani Burnett-Velez

ernest_moveable feast