Tag Archives: human heart

SECRETARIAT – SOME THOUGHTS ON THE WINNER’S CIRCLE


I LOVE horse racing.

I know – odd type of hobby. This came from my dad, who back in the day, drove a cab, drank heavily, and spent every Sunday betting the ponies. I only saw him on weekends since my parents were divorced, and I tagged along for some quality father/daughter time.

Our day usually consisted of chain smoking in OTB (yes, you were able to smoke INSIDE then!). Pencils tucked behind the ear, racing booklets underneath our arms, he taught me the basic principles of horse racing and horse betting. Glamorous, no. Fascinating, YES.

I learned about breeding, jockeys and trainers. I learned the differences between tracks, turf or dirt, and could narrow down the odds of who would win on a sloppy track in the rain. I learned to trust my gut if I saw a horse I liked, and if a family name came up on the list, I always bet it. Every August, we travelled to Saratoga Springs and immersed ourselves in the sport. As onlookers strode by dressed up with pretty hats, munching on the variety of food offered, my father and I sat on a hard bench by the rail in the hot sun and shared a pretzel and lemonade for our only meal. All of our concentration, time and energy was taken up by plotting and betting on the next race.

I learned many important things on those Sundays by listening to my father.  But the most valuable lesson was simple.

It’s all about heart.

Handicappers can plot a race by using a number of statistics – mostly from the breeding. But a horse with a heart and soul longing to win will always beat the numbers.

The story of Secretariat was inspiring on many different levels. First, the horse itself had the heart of a champion. He loved to run, needed to win, and this quality was bred deep into his soul. Second, his owner was a woman who had the same heart. A housewife with children, she stepped away from society’s expectations to follow her dream. She never apologized for it. She felt guilty, I know as a fellow mom how guilty she probably felt all the time, but she believed her horse was special and could win. She hoped her family would back her, but took the chance they wouldn’t. Every man told her it was impossible. With millions of dollars at stake, she went toe to toe with the elite circle of men who controlled the industry.

But they couldn’t control her.

And they couldn’t control Secretariat.

Is this a post about hear me roar, I am woman? No, not this time. This is simply the acknowledgement of our need to pursue our dreams and follow our gut, despite the odds. Despite hearing everyone say “You can’t do that!” To learn to dig deep within our souls and push for more – to pursue greatness.  Will we get there? The odds say no. But sometimes you beat the odds and you never know until you go for it.

Secretariat went on to win the Triple Crown and still holds the record for time in the Belmont.

We need to hold to this principle: as writers, as moms, as individuals.

Writers get rejected on a consistent basis. We are told the project we put our blood and guts into is not good enough. We keep writing and try again. And again. Always with the possibility of greatness.

Mothers grow an actual human being in their bodies, push them out and into the world, and are expected to do everything right with raising this child. We will make many mistakes. We will hurt our children, not meaning to. We will mess up and feel hopeless and struggle with our constant mantra: “Are we failures?” Yes, we get up every day and make them breakfast, and dry their tears, dress them and bathe them and tuck them in at night. We look for joy in the endless details of child rearing. The job will never end and we will rarely be told how good we are at it. But we persevere and go for the gold.  And sometimes we do it again. And again.

I rather regret the things I tried and failed at. I rather be like Secretariat and end up in the winner’s circle.

Wouldn’t you?

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Inspiration…


I attended the RWA National Conference this year.

Inspiration comes in many ways.  There are so many things that can inspire on a daily basis but my favorites come in the forms of “lightbulb” events.  Those are the ones that make a difference.

On a writing scale, I was surrounded for 4 days by people who were both gracious and all talented. Our favorite icons took time away from their own writing to come and inspire others. I learned various information on craft and theme and dialogue. I learned about publicity and marketing. I met with editors, agents and writers. Throughout the whole conference though, there were certain nuggets of inspiration that has made a difference in my career and my life I’d like to share.

Writers inspire me. Writers who work hard. My icons such as Suzanne Brockmann, Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Howard and Nora Roberts are my American Idols in the romance industry. I heard all of them speak, and they each write different type of books and had different advice for both the published and aspiring author but one theme pushed through them all.

Writers write.

They seem to have a pretty glamorous life. NYTimes bestelling authors who have money and fame  and  public adoration. But once you get to the nitty gritty, you realize they do the same thing you are doing every day. They just write. Some for two hours. Some for 4 pages. Some more and some less. The writing is not marketing or revising or editing. Just writing.

Not very glamorous, huh?

More like the commoner such as me.

They all took precious time from their writing to go to the RWA conference. Most of them admitted they stopped attending conferences because it took up too much time. As does blogging. Sure, they pay for a publicist, but they always honored the integrity of the job and their work: they write first. Then everything else comes next.

Nora Roberts  says she is her own boss and mean as a pitbull. There are no sick days or whiney days allowed because this is a “real” job and it doesn’t have many sick days or vacation days. I think once we begin demystifying and realize the most important thing is writing and getting new work on the page, we even the playing field. Nora Roberts had one line to write for when she began. We have many – new markets are actually opened thanks to e-books. I came away with a positive energy from all the editors and lines looking for fresh voices. They want to buy if it’s good. If we write enough, it will be good enough.

 RWA members inspired me. I was lucky enough to hook up with some fabulous women who seemed like my writing soul sisters. We shared wine and laughs and plot and suddenly it didn’t feel so lonely.  Everyone had different stories to tell about the market, or their struggles or their sale. We all had butterflies in our stomach at our pitch – and high fived afterward. These are people from Texas and CA and Atlanta and the Black Hills (shout out to Amy!). They inspired me to keep the friendship going and meet them next year at National. I feel more comfortable reaching out to new authors I admired because they were so happy to talk to me and realize I love their work. Everyone was gracious and enthusiastic and my networking “net” expanded more in these four days than the past year. This inspires me.

Disneyworld inspires me. At the laser show in Epcot, I watched the countries light up one by one. Crowds merged together in awe over the showers of sprinkles dripping from the sky, set to haunting notes of music that made my heart swell in all of the clichés I have ever written. I felt as if we were one in this world, and not separate.

Walt Disney inspired me. My girlfriend was able to do the back tour of Magic Kingdom and told me a beautiful story I need to share. There is a sculpture in Magic Kingdom of Walt with Mickey Mouse. Mickey is pointing down the road at something. If you follow, you will find a bench where Roy, Walt’s brother, sits beside Minnie Mouse. There is a space on the bench that is empty.

Walt Disney knew he was dying and only had a short time left. The story goes like this:

Walt Disney: “Mickey, I’m not going to be here much longer, old buddy. I need to leave but you’re going to be ok.”

Mickey:  “Don’t leave. I want to go with you.”

Walt shakes his head sadly. “No, you can’t come where I’m going, Mickey. But when I leave, I want you to walk over there.”

Mickey turned his head to where Walt gestured and pointed his finger. “Over there?”

 “Yes. Roy is going to take care of you. There’s a spot for you next to him and Minnie on the bench. This will always be your home, Mickey so never be afraid.”

I teared up imagining that scene. Love inspires me.

Books inspire me. When I read something where words sing and romance is hot and plot moves and I go into a fugue state into another time and place – I am inspired.

My children inspire me. They are loving and open to every new thing thrown their way. They may react with fear or trepidation or enthusiasm but they are present for every part of life and it inspires me to create the same present tense type of day for myself. My children make me to look at the world differently and strive to be a better human being.

When Jake was graduating pre-k, the teachers listed what each child stated he/she wanted to be when grown up.  I proudly skimmed through the notes such as firefighter, superhero, astronaut and doctor. When I got to my son’s name it read: Chicken robot. Yep. Chicken robot. My son did not just want a career – he wanted a whole new species.  After the initial rush of laughter and embarrassment, I realized how awesome my son was. Nothing held him back – his imagination and vision was vast and held no boundaries.

Love inspires me. Sacrifices for family, friends or a spouse.  Decisions to give up money and fame to pursue a passionate dream. Being brave to risk your heart being broken. Again. and Again.

Here’s to writing and following our passions and doing the hard work so we can then enjoy the good stuff.

Here’s to good friends who cheer us on even though they have never met us.

Here’s to the endless capacity of the human heart which sometimes disappoints but mostly awes me.

Here’s to inspiration.

Drop me a line and let me know what inspired you.