Why The Chicken Crossed The Road


Here at Risky Regencies, we decided that once in a while we’d like to take a little break and have you, our wonderful visitors, take over! This month, we welcome Pamela Bolton-Holifield, aka Doglady, who is a 2008 Golden Heart finalist. Congrats, Pam, and welcome!

Hello, my name is Pam, and I am a Big Fat Chicken. There, I said it. Bwawk! Bwawk! Bwaak! Let me explain.

There are two things I have always done. I have always sung and I have always told stories. My Mom says I could sing every word of the Frosty Morning Bacon commercial when I was 3. Don’t remember that one. I’m sure it was a toe tapper. Apparently about the same time I started telling stories. These weren’t the “I didn’t do it. The dog did it,” kind of stories, but real stories with characters and adventures.

Here comes the chicken part. I was fine as long as my audience was doting grandparents and my adoring Dad, who thought I could do no wrong. I miss you, Dad, every day! Put me in front of an audience that has even one stranger in it and I clammed up like Ebeneezer Scrooge with his last penny. I sealed my lips, shook my head, and that was it. Not a word, not a note. Nothing. See? Chicken!!!

I wrote my first novel when I was 9. It was an 800 page romance novel about a half-breed Indian scout and the general’s daughter. My Mom suggested I let the lady who drove the bookmobile in the English village where we lived read it. Nope. Not doing it. To this day not a soul has read I Hate You General Sir. Chicken syndrome strikes again. Although with a title like that I think my poultry imitation was justified.

When I was 12 there was a school-wide talent contest. The prize was a humongous book–The Complete History of Great Britain. We’re talking a “his lordship was killed when his Complete History fell on him in the library. Killed him instantly and left a terrible port stain on the Persian rug” kind of book. I wanted that book. I did not want to sing in the contest. Bwaak! Enter my two best friends, Elizabeth Burt and Tammy Burton. They insisted I enter the contest. In fact, they signed me up for it without telling me. They picked the song–Wandering Star from Paint Your Wagon. They literally shoved me onto the stage when it came my time to sing. And I did, sing that is, and I won. I still have that book. If I can get to that book anyone who breaks into my house is a dead man.

Of course there were consequences. My teacher called my parents in for a conference. I knew I was in trouble. The song has the word “hell” in it. I was in trouble for singing the wod “hell” in a school assembly. I had my defense all ready. “They made me do it!” I was wrong. He told my parents I had real talent. Before I knew it I was talking music theory and piano lessons at the London College of Music. The rest, as they say, is history. My opera career took me all over the world. I sang in some of the best opera houses, cathedrals, and concert halls in Europe, and I had a ball. And I cannot tell you how many times I paused before I went onstage and thought “How did I get here??”

Fast forward a little over a year ago. My local bookseller sent me an email about the Avon FanLit event. “You should do this,” she said. Nope. Not gonna. Bwaak! She bugged me. Worse, she called my BFF and got her to bug me. I finally signed up for it and entered the first chapter just to get them to shut up. They were relentless. Every round I entered, and every round I told them, “My stuff is crap.” My chapter 3 crap won! So I decided to try writing again. I discovered that writing was like the bad boy you keep taking back. He leaves town, treats you bad, and you still take him back.

I entered Lost in Love in contests, and it made the finals in 3. It won the Royal Ascot, and I was thrilled. Then my BFF teamed up with my critique partner, Erin. They bugged me some more. They harassed me. They refused to let up until I said I would enter the Golden Heart. It became a big conspiracy. I had all kinds of people encouraging, aka badgering, me to enter, including some ladies you all know–Risky Regencies, The Goddess Blogs, the Wet Noodle Posse, History Hoydens, and Romance Bandits. How do you say no to two authors whose work you admire–Diane Gaston and Anna Campbell?

Adding fuel to the fire, everyone in my writing group–Passion’s Slaves (hey, Gillian, Erin, Terry Jo, and Marianne!)–decided to enter, too. Kind of like the group of friends who decide it’s okay to streak across the quad naked if you do it in a large group. Not that I know about that sort of thing…

So here I am, a Golden Heart finalist, and no clue how I got here. The writing part is easy (most days), but letting my baby go out into the wide world–that is hard. Especially for the Queen of the Big Fat Chickens.

There are those who say romance novels are fairy tales written for grown women. I happen to like fairy tales. One of my favorite Broadway musicals is based on a fairy tale. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella has lyrics that describe how I feel about romance novels.

In my own little corner in my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere
And the world will open its arms to me.

My friends wouldn’t let me sit in my little corner any more. I have lots of stories to tell and now I just might get the chance to tell them to the world.

Why did the chicken cross the road? She was shoved! And she thanks God for her pushy friends every day.

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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Gillian Layne
14 years ago

Good morning, my lovely feathered friend!! πŸ˜‰

You forgot to mention how very supportive and brilliant you are for the rest of us!

Lost in Love is a luscious romance, and I can’t wait until the rest of the world can read it as well.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

O Doggie One!
I am so confused about this chicken reference!
But never mind that, WELOCOME to the “other” side of the Riskies, and now that you have done this blog, let me remind you that people are READING it! Hope you weren’t chicken about this because we are(as are most people, I think)a friendly lot, as you well know.

Your story is charming. I find it amazing that you could have had a career in opera (the highest on my scale of singing – no pun intended) and could have been so chicken about performing. You must have gotten used to the idea. And you can get used to the idea that people read your work, too.

This writing thing does take courage, because there is always somebody out there who will not love your writing and who will be happy to tell you so. Sometimes we can learn from that feedback and sometimes we just have to let it roll off our backs, like water off a duck, to add another creature to the mix.

But just like I imagine applause is to a singer, just one letter or email from a reader saying, “I loved your book” is very reinforcing. As were contest finals and wins when I was pre-published.

The key is to have courage and to persist and to always take that bad boy back….because we know reformed rakes make the best mates!

doglady
14 years ago

Hello, Gillian! It is not hard to support such talented ladies! Thanks so much for the kind words about Lost in Love. You have been there since the beginning critiquing, cajoling and encouraging. I couldn’t have done any of it without the Slaves!

And Gillian’s novel To Seduce A Scholar is fabulous! Her hero is a sexy nerd and her heroine is one determined lady and wow, do the sparks fly.

doglady
14 years ago

You are so right, O Divine One! The Riskies are just the best when it comes to discussing any subject under the sun and being supportive and encouraging.

And the finals and kind words from people who have read my work are definitely as good if not better than applause to a singer.

I’ll tell you a secret. I STILL get terrified right before I go on stage. I always have. My hubby spent a lot of time backstage during my opera performances. My singing compatriots would ask “Why is he taking notes?” I finally asked him. He said he was thinking about writing a study of singers’ nerves. (Remember he was a psychiatrist.) He made an interesting statement when a group of singers came over to the house one evening. He said “I cannot figure out how you do it. Before that curtain goes up you people are neurotic, superstitious bowls of jello. As soon as you step on that stage you are Greek gods, masters of all you survey and you fear nothing. What makes that change?” “The music” was the consensus. If you love something more than you “love” the fear it makes you daring and bold. It took me a while to discover that I love my stories more than I love the fear of rejection. That’s why I write romance novels, I guess. Love makes you strong and bold.

Esri Rose
14 years ago

Pam, I’ve known a lot of chickens in my day (the actual feathered kind), and they can be pretty brave (in addition to being sweet singers). You must be one of those!

Flap your wings and croon a little tune, baby… I’ll be cheering you on at National!

doglady
14 years ago

Thanks, Esri! I am so excited about Nationals I will definitely be crowing, especially at the chance of meeting all of you in person!

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Pam, what a lovely, lovely post. You may think you’re a chicken on the inside, but you’re a magnificient lion on the outside, doing fabulous things.

Pam wrote, “I wrote my first novel when I was 9. It was an 800 page romance novel.”

WOW! You really have a lot of talent, patience, and work hard. Even reading an 800-page novel at age nine is a daunting idea. Writing one? WOW!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Love makes you strong and bold

Wow. Remember when Susan Gable blogged on the Wet Noodle Posse about mottoes? This would make a good character motto….or a great book theme.

As well as our own personal credo!

Deb Marlowe
14 years ago

Hi Pam!

First of all, that’s the best title for a nine year old’s novel, ever! You should totally make it an inside joke and use it in all of your work! I hate your rakish ways, sir! I hate your cold, aristocratic heart sir! What fun!

None of us will ever believe you are a chicken! It takes courage to set a pen to paper and bleed bits of your soul onto it. It takes courage to send it out to a contest and ask for an evaluation from complete strangers. It takes courage to lay your life history out on a blog!

Look at all you’ve done in a short year! And you’ve made friends and touched lives along the way. You’ve got kahones, girl! (Sorry, Riskies!) You’ve got what it takes to make it in this hard business and we’ll all be cheering you every step of the way, especially this Yankee Lady!

doglady
14 years ago

Thanks, Keira! The lion image is a good one to hold on to at this point. I will be the chicken in the lion suit at Nationals!

Maybe it was patience, Keira. I tend to think it was my propensity to go on and on that made the book so long! What I do remember was being terribly serious about it. I had a desk looking out the window of my room under the eaves in our quaint little house and I would sit there for hours writing.

I was extremely lucky as a child. My Mom taught us each to read by the time we were four. First grade was hard for me. The teacher would put us in a circle and hold up flashcards of words and I kept calling them out. This was 1964 (just outed my age, I guess!)and there were no programs for gifted kids. My first grade teacher was one smart lady. They talked about my skipping grades, but she said it would cause problems in my social development. So, I spent a few hours every day with my class doing first grade things. The rest of the day I was in the school library reading. This was a K-12 school so when I finished all the first grade books, I moved on to the second grade books. After 3 and half years attending school like this I had read everything in the library and I got to do a lot of research on England because that was where we were stationed next. Fortunately they had gifted programs in the base schools. I’ve been lucky in so many ways! My schooling and my friends!

doglady
14 years ago

I couldn’t think of one when Susan’s blog was up. It is a good motto/book theme. I have found it to hold very true in my life, O Divine One.

doglady
14 years ago

Hey, Yankee Lady!! I’m going to copy your post and put it on my desk so I can remind myself to stick with it. The friends I have made along the way this year and all of the support and encouragement I have received have helped to make me a very daring chicken!

Eleanor Roosevelt said : “You gain strength, courage and confidence with every experience in which you look fear in the face.”

And I will definitely keep the “I hate you” line as my inside joke. Those of you who know will have to laugh every time you see it!

Theresa Ragan
14 years ago

Great blog, Pam! Wow, your story gave me chills. So glad all of your supportive friends shoved you yet again. You must sing for us all at conference! Adele Ashworth sang for me the first time I met her at conference when she won first book!

You can do it all. You’re no chicken!

Hugs!

doglady
14 years ago

Thanks Theresa! I am so looking forward to Nationals and the chance to meet you all and cheer for all of the nominated writers I know! I didn’t know Adele Ashworth was a singer. I love her books!

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

Pam, welcome and it’s so great to hae you visit!

Anna Campbell
14 years ago

Hey, Pam, what a gorgeous post! And can I just say Diane and I were obviously right to push you, my friend! You should paste our pictures up in your lounge room and lay flowers on the floor below ;-)Congratulations on the massive contest success you’ve had with Lost in Love. I’m still so excited about your Golden Heart final!

Gillian, your book sounds absolutely delightful. I love a good geek hero, they’re one of my favorites. The brain is just so sexy!

Actually, speaking of pictures on walls, the GR has asked me to post up that chook you opened with. Which is kinda disturbing – I’m pimping chicken porn!

And I think I Hate You General, Sir sounds fantastic! What a great title! I’m with Deb on that one!

doglady
14 years ago

See Anna you are reading my mind. The altar to you and Diane has raised a few eyebrows from visitors, but then again, I don’t have chicken porn on my walls! I do, however, have three framed large postcards of Denise Rosetti covers in my writing studio! Talk about raising eyebrows, not to mention blood pressure!

Suzanne Welsh
14 years ago

Ah Pam, what a lovely post. And what a wonderful singing career!! (Even if you did sing the word hell in a school assembly. πŸ˜‰ )

We adore having you chat with us on the Romance Bandit blog and were so excited that you were a GH finalist. You truly will feel like a princess at Nationals!

Good luck with it and with the writing.

doglady
14 years ago

Hello, Janet! I always feel so welcome at the Riskies! And I recently reread The Rules of Gentility because I just love the language in it. And the FUN!

doglady
14 years ago

Thanks so much Suzanne! I always have a good time in the Banditas’ Lair. As I said I have had lots of “pushy” friends encouraging me along the way. Hmmm. I wonder if I need to find my tiara and my feather boa for Nationals.

Joan
14 years ago

Doglady said: So here I am, a Golden Heart finalist, and no clue how I got here

I’ll tell you how you got there. By persistence and keeping your b*tt in the chair.

You never stopped writing, you never gave up. You learned and listened and honed your skill.

You’ll be a princess at National and I for one will be honored to curtsy in your honor.

Joanie T who will be eyeing the feather boa….no GOLDEN feathers I trust?

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

See Anna you are reading my mind. The altar to you and Diane has raised a few eyebrows from visitors, but then again, I don’t have chicken porn on my walls!

What???? You mean I have to SHARE an altar with Anna????

Anna Campbell
14 years ago

Diane, I am but a minor supporting goddess holding up the mantelpiece of your greatness! πŸ˜‰ And I get the cheap flowers. Pam told me!

doglady
14 years ago

This Nationals thing is sounding better and better. Nobody told me there would be curtsying! And no roosters, golden or otherwise, were harmed in the making of my feather boa, Joan. You ARE bringing the gladiators to Nationals, right?

I beg your pardon, O Divine One, I mispoke! Your altar and Anna’s altar are NEXT to each other, not one and the same. Separate but equal right down to the Cadbury chocolate bar sacrifices. The sacrifices keep disappearing, but I assure you they are replaced. FREQUENTLY!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Diane, I am but a minor supporting goddess holding up the mantelpiece of your greatness! πŸ˜‰ And I get the cheap flowers. Pam told me!

I beg your pardon, O Divine One, I mispoke! Your altar and Anna’s altar are NEXT to each other, not one and the same. Separate but equal right down to the Cadbury chocolate bar sacrifices. The sacrifices keep disappearing, but I assure you they are replaced. FREQUENTLY!

Okay. I don’t know who to believe, but as long as the chocolate is dark chocolate, I’m happy!

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

LOL, Pam! I love your post, and the parallel between writing and the bad boy you can’t dump is so apt. πŸ™‚ I sometimes think of stopping writing, stopping with the agony–and it always comes right back…

jo robertson
14 years ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Trish Milburn
14 years ago

LOL! I had to laugh at the chicken picture. I thought it was the Golden Rooster from the Romance Bandits blog for a moment. πŸ™‚

Pam, all I can say is, “Yay for badgering friends!” It really is good to have such wonderful support when you enter a creative endeavor like writing.

I understand the chicken thing though. I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking at chapters, conferences, competitively when I was in high school, and I still get nauseous and really nervous beforehand. Pepto Bismol is my best friend.

Congrats on your GH final, and good luck in the finals!

doglady
14 years ago

Shhh, Anna! You weren’t supposed to say anything about the flowers. And yes, O Divine One, you get the dark chocolate! Yes, Amanda, it is really hard to escape the allure of the bad boy lover that is writing. Then again, I think Diane said reformed rakes make the best partners. When exactly does that reformed part kick in, O Divine One?

Trish, you definitely have courage as public speaking means you have to be yourself. In opera I was always somebody else and I was singing. Much easier, relatively speaking.

And I actually get to meet Trish in person next weekend. Lucky you, Trish!

Trish Milburn
14 years ago

Pam, I’m looking forward to it! I was actually just thinking about that earlier.

Anna Campbell
14 years ago

Trish, please give Pam a great big hug from me. Wish I could be there too!

Annie West
14 years ago

Pam,

What a wonderful story! With that kind of history who knows where you’ll end up. As for being a chicken – no. Perhaps you’ve masqueraded as a chicken, hiding your true self behind those feathers. But anyone who can get up on stage and sing (and do it regularly) is definitely not of that breed!

Best of luck sending your stories out! Fingers crossed for you.

Annie

Gaill, aka OGreatEditor!
Gaill, aka OGreatEditor!
14 years ago

No wonder I can’t get through to Pam, she’s been playing here all day!
I don’t mean to step on any toes here, but as Pam’s legally certified BFF, I can tell you that she is one brave and audacious woman!
Do you know any one who would wear a butt bag on her back or drag it around at a Friday Chocolate gig, and let me say things like, her butt has been dragging all day, or she gets her butt on her shoulders sometimes!
And in this case, legally certified means we said it 3 times in a row while we twirled. Or something like that!
Pam is an inspiration and the greatest supporter anyone could hope to have on her side. I’ve been there!
Love you, Pam!

g-aka-OGE
g-aka-OGE
14 years ago

oh, yeah, one more thing, Pam’s heart is bigger than her voice, and she’s got one BIG voice!

doglady
14 years ago

Thanks so much, Annie! I will take all of the finger crossing I can get!

doglady
14 years ago

Gaill is too kind! She became O Great Editor One when she helped me to trim down my entries in the Avon event. I HATE cutting my own work and she is ruthless! And pushy! Did I say pushy? She just won the YA category of the Fire and Ice Contest with her “lad lit” novel NO FAT CHICKS. She has a built in resource – her 17 year old son.

Nancy
14 years ago

Pam, what a cool post. Some things are just fated to be, y’know?

I really envy you that honkin’ big book.*g*

When I was still trying cases, I always knew I’d be good if I was too nervous to eat heading into the trial. A calm stomach did not bode well. It’s something about the adrenaline. The effect has worn off now that I’m teaching instead, but it comes back when really big things are on the table.

Your first book is very impressive. When I was 9, I was still working in crayon!

You wrote: Eleanor Roosevelt said : “You gain strength, courage and confidence with every experience in which you look fear in the face.” We’ve been discussing her lately in the lair, and I think this is so true. Getting something scary behind you can turn it into a stool to boost you higher.

Diane wrote: This writing thing does take courage, because there is always somebody out there who will not love your writing and who will be happy to tell you so. Sometimes we can learn from that feedback and sometimes we just have to let it roll off our backs, like water off a duck, to add another creature to the mix. Too true! Entering a few contests can show very quickly that some judges may adore a book while others just aren’t feelin’ the love for it. I assume readers are the same way. Sometimes I’ll pick up a book a friend has raved over, and I just don’t see it. Subjective. It’s all subjective.

Joan wrote: I’ll tell you how you got there. By persistence and keeping your b*tt in the chair. . . .
You’ll be a princess at National and I for one will be honored to curtsy in your honor.
Me, too. The princess treatment is one of the biggest–and one of the few tangible–perks. Enjoy!

doglady
14 years ago

Thanks so much, Nancy. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the queasy stomach signaling a good “performance.” The joke backstage was that if our baritone was sick as a dog right before curtain we were in for a standing ovation at the end. And I can certainly attest to the fact that sometimes contest judges love every word and sometimes they hack it so bad they make Jack the Ripper look like a pacifist!

Lindsey
14 years ago

Great blog, Pamela. Can’t wait to see you cross even more exciting roads in the future. πŸ™‚

Santa
14 years ago

I just wanted to say that I am so glad you crossed the road! I loved your pieces at the Avon FanLit and your chapter gave so much delicious ingredients for the rest of us to use in our chapters.

I admire your courage, your perseverance bit, most of all, your talent. I can’t wait to meet you at National. I’m already practicing my courtesy.

doglady
14 years ago

Thanks Lindsey! Great to see you here. I don’t think my pushy friends will let me stay on one side of the road too long!

doglady
14 years ago

Hey, Santa! We had so much fun in FanLit, didn’t we! I am so glad you are coming to Nationals! I can’t wait to meet you. My camera will be going non-stop to make pictures to go with my FanLit scrapbook!

cail
cail
14 years ago

great post doglady, just wanted to pop over from TGB and give you a shout out! i hope we all get to read your book soon!

doglady
14 years ago

Hey Cail! Thanks for coming by! And as to reading my book soon “From your lips to God’s ear,” my friend!

jo robertson
14 years ago

Hi, popping over from the Romance Bandits to say hi to Pam, whom we adore over there.

OMG, Doglady, what a superb and entertaining blog post. No WONDER you finalled in the Golden Heart, girl! You are one talented babe. And you sang professionally too? I stand in awe. Of course, I knew most of this but just wanted to say it again.

How delightful that you had such good friends to push you out of the Chicken mode and take a chance on such wonderful experiences.

You’re my new hero — uh, heroine — uh, whatever.

Cara King
14 years ago

Love your post, Pam!

And I’m most impressed that you wrote such a long novel when you were a kid! I was always starting things, but I rarely got more than a chapter in before going on to something else… and sometimes not more than a page. πŸ™‚

Looking forward to meeting you in person at National!!!

Cara

doglady
14 years ago

Hi Jo! How sweet of you! I adore all of you as well. All of the Banditas have been such a source of encouragement and wisdom for me. Every time I enter a contest of let someone read my work I get stage fright, but I am getting better about it!

doglady
14 years ago

I am still trying to decide if the length of the novel was due to my dedication, my obsession, my stubborness or the fact that there were no girls my age in the village for me to play with at the time!

Cara, I don’t know if you remember but you judged Lost in Love in one of the contests I entered and your critique was so detailed and so helpful and encouraging. I really appreciate it!

Can’t wait to meet you at Nationals!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

it is really hard to escape the allure of the bad boy lover that is writing. Then again, I think Diane said reformed rakes make the best partners. When exactly does that reformed part kick in, O Divine One?

I’ll tell you when, O Doggie One! When you step up to that podium to accept the Golden Heart.
Or the RITA!
Or (I imagine)being on the NYT best-seller list.

Or!Or! WHEN YOU GET ‘THE CALL’

(grin)All are orgasmic experiences

Christine Wells
14 years ago

Pam, what a fantastic account of your life. I’d love to hear more about the opera singing one day. How thrilling to have not one but two major talents. I’ve seen your name everywhere finaling and winning contests with your Regency historical. You are going to be published. It’s just a matter of time. I trust you’re ready for your star to rise once more!