Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I was planning to post something else this week, and I already had my little piece written and critiqued by the group, but it’ll wait until next week. Since the tagging game got me, I guess this is what I get to do.
Games remind me of parties. If there is a party, I want to be there, so please invite me. If you don’t then I’ll have my own party. Since games are usually part of a party, and I love to play games, we must begin.
I guess I'm supposed to write five things about myself that you don't know. This task should be easy because you have no idea who I am. Anything I choose to tell you would probably be okay because you wouldn’t know if it was true or not. After all, I’m a writer.
1. I have four children, two boys, and two girls, all grown now. When my daughters were teenagers we toilet papered many homes. To their surprise my mother, also helped shuttle them and their friends to many homes to make someone happy. They never had to wonder where I learned my joking ways. I will never be too old to participate in such fun. Of course, when our home was toilet papered in retaliation, my daughters had to do the clean up.
2. I was born in the small farming town of Spanish Fork, Utah, but I didn’t live there until I was in the 5th grade. Most people think that small towns are dull and boring. Believe me; it wasn’t because we made our own fun. If it were today most of us would have been jailbirds since stealing watermelon was high on our list.
3. My parents taught me to live life to the fullest. We always had fun. No Dullsville for our family. They taught me to love music. I took lessons, and played the violin for years. Now it sits under my bed waiting for me to pick it up and sometimes if I’m alone, I do pull it out of the case and play.
4. My mother has served for almost 40 years on the Days of ’47 Committee, and for all those years, I have been by her side helping. I have met many famous people (all the LDS church prophets) and participated in activities that would never have been possible without this experience. I always know the months of June and July are spent helping my mother with any tasks she feels necessary. At the age of 86 she is still involved, and that means I’m still busy.
5. My mother and I were both Relief Society Presidents at the same time. Our wards met in the same building at different times. It was a fun experience.
Now I get to choose someone else to play the game. My choice is our fearless leader Darvel.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
It's been loads of fun reading the stuff at Six LDS Writers and a Frog. Stuff I would never have dreamed of. LOL. It's also been fun to get to know my fellow bloggers. My life, I'm afraid, is not all that exciting, but I'm sure I can come up with five things. I just hope they're as entertaining as everyone else's has been.
1. My dad dropped my mom when he was carrying her out to the car while she was pregnant with me and going into labor. I know, many of you are now nodding their heads and saying, "OH...that's what's wrong with her!" LOL. She was fine, and apparently no permanent damage to me, but I still shake my head when my brother talks about it.
2. I love to cook. Perhaps I should say...I like to experiment with recipes. My favorite thing is pasta with mushrooms and chicken and veggies and homemade Alfredo sauce. Mmmm. I guess my next challenge is to learn to make pasta from scratch. My daughters tell me they are intimidated to attempt cooking because they don't think they'll be as good as me. My husband and I both tell them it just takes practice–like writing! (grin)
3. I am a closet reader. I have stayed up till 3 am reading a book just to get to the end. I haven't done it since I've been working, but I used to. My husband thinks reading should be taken off the school curriculum. LOL (Just kidding! My children are all addicted to the written word.)
4. I too (Rob--this is for you--I’m going to watch for your entry this year!) have won ribbons at the state (and county) fair for painting. Most of mine are in watercolor since it's the cheapest medium to do.
5. I'm a mystery shopper. A common date for my husband and I is watching the trailers for movies. Sometimes we stay and watch when the theater is mostly empty. We also get to eat out sometimes and get reimbursed for it–anyone for bowling?
And just for good measure: I didn't have to change my name when I got married. My husband used to have people guessing while he was on his mission that he was married. He would tell them that he'd been in the sealing room with a woman that was not related to him but had the same last name. One of the women in a ward he served in had the hardest time knowing if he was telling the truth or not. Go figure.
And the beat goes on....Tag to Karen!
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The universe is filled with weirdness, and it only seems to be getting weirder. I came to that realization the other day after eating some mixed nuts. It prompted me to make a list of the illogical things in life.
1. I can buy peanuts in a jar. Why, then, do they insist on filling the can of mixed nuts with mostly peanuts? Hey, if I wanted peanuts, I’d go buy peanuts.
2. A stop light turns yellow to signal it’s going to turn red, and drivers should prepare to stop. Why, then, does it only stay yellow for a tenth of a second? Even Mario Andretti couldn’t stop a car in that amount of time.
3. I spent years listening to the television telling me to get an education. Now that I’ve gotten one, everything uses symbols. What … they think I can’t read? And exactly what does a rectangle with a big X through it really mean?
4. The dials and knobs in my car are part of my safety features. Why, then, do they contain symbols the size of a gnat? I’d need a magnifying glass to see them. By the time I hauled it out and got the symbols in focus, I’d be upside down in a ditch.
5. Laptop computers sound like they should sit in your lap. The other day my husband, Russ, was working with it in his lap and the computer overheated and locked up. It took hours to get the thing to shut down. Re-reading instructions, we found out that a lap is soft and covers the cooling vents, so the machine is supposed to sit on your knees. And reason they call it a "laptop" is …?
6. Toasters used to cook the bread so it was golden on both sides. Now it comes out brown on only one side. How could something as simple as toast get goofed? Maybe the engineers didn’t have a magnifying glass to decipher those little gnat-sized symbols that told them how to build it.
7. Let’s not neglect the writing world. Using a computer saves an author precious time, which can then be used for writing that award winning novel. Oh wait, see number 5 above.
8. I’ve often heard it said that "Jesus saves, and so should you." I chose to do just that. I saved this blog to my computer and for double insurance decided I should print a hard copy. I clicked a button displaying a symbol that I hoped meant "print". The machine made a click and paper scrolled through. (Wow, did I really guess the right button?) Then the paper jammed, the machine clunked, and it squirted ink everywhere.
And the reason they call it a printer is…?
Saturday, January 27, 2007
We have great neighbors on our block. Each Christmas we receive wonderful goodies from them and gifts that usually help us remember Jesus and his part in our lives. This past Christmas one of them brought us a sign.
It was made of block letters cut from a piece of pine, sanded and painted. The letters are mounted on a horizontal piece of wood that help them stand vertical. The letters form the word, "Believe".
This word can have many connotations, believe Christ, believe in the Book of Mormon, or believe the sun will come up tomorrow. I want to write about a kind of believing that writers need most. Some feel they have it, others feel it is beyond their grasp and others feel it can only come through osmosis, absorbing it from another. Depending on your prospective, all of these are correct.
Mark Twain, one of my favorite classic writers said, Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
As writers we congregate with those who demonstrate the most support of our efforts. We love to hear how good we are but we tend to doubt the truth of it.
For some, belief is hard. When we put our heart and soul into our work and have it rejected only to see our peers find success, it breaks a heart. The belief is still there, but we dig a hole and bury it deep in the forgotten backyard of our cherished hopes and dreams.
I have noticed that in our Authors Incognito group there are many of them who are truly great. Those who go out of their way to build another, to help another, so that they too can believe. The great ones dig in our yard looking for our cast off hopes and dreams. They work all day and sometimes into the night planting the seeds of belief and then when one seed takes root they care for the seedling until it becomes strong and grows into greatness.
If we are graceful (and wise) we will offer words of encouragement and support for our peers. Thereby working on our quest to become really great.
I once listened to a speaker tell about a bucket of crabs that caught his attention. He watched, as one crab began to climb out of the bucket. It struggled to get the edge and almost freed itself when another crab grabbed onto it and pulled it back down into the bucket. The observer saw this occurrence repeated time and again with different crabs playing the roles. The fisherman need only to leave the bucket alone and his catch would stay in the bucket.
How wonderful it would be (but not for the fisherman) to see a crab get to the edge, turn around and start pulling his fellow crabs out of the bucket and then to see groups of crabs holding onto each other as they all climbed out together. Such is the nature of our writers group.
Thanks to all of my fellow bloggers, and especially those people who leave comments, for helping me believe. I hope I have helped you believe too.
PS If you are one of those writers for whom belief is hard, Please know this, There are millions of people on planet earth. Most of them never have a desire to write. Many cannot understand the need you feel to do so. For whatever reason, God has given you this desire. For some of us it means continual practice to become better, for others it is easier. Please do not offend the giver by shunning the gift.
If you only believe . . .
Friday, January 26, 2007
With the recent game of tag circulating among the bloggers, I figured it was only a matter of time before I get tagged. Luckily, I had this blog ready when both Keith and Wendy decided to tag me.
As it turns out, hearing about the game has re-activated some of our long-lost bloggers—I suspect we will be reading about some of them in the very near future. So here it is, my contribution to the game, given willingly for the good of writers everywhere.
1. I was born in Nevada, but lived in many interesting places between Utah and Arizona. Since I lived in the areas surrounding Mesa, Arizona for most of my school-going years, I tell people I grew up in Arizona. I went to a different school every year of my young life—except 7th-8th grade. I only went to one Junior High school.
2. When I was sixteen, I fell off a stage (which I wasn’t supposed to be on at the time) in the pitch-black darkness of an empty theater, severely spraining my ankle. This happened one month before our high school musical production of “Oliver,”—in which I had a fairly large role—and two months before I jetted off to New York with my choir group for a once in a lifetime performance in Carnegie Hall. It was a killer hoofing it around the Big Apple on a still throbbing ankle, not to mention dancing around the stage during the play. But I did both, and the audience never knew.
3. When I was a little girl I read the book “Cheaper by the Dozen” and loved it so much that I told everyone who would listen that I was going to have twelve children when I grew up. Since my husband didn’t share my love for that particular book, we’ve settled on the number four. Hallelujah!
4. I met my husband when I was working in the toy section of a local department store. He was the security guard on duty. We talked less than five minutes and then he left so I could return something for a customer. I was so distracted that I completely botched the return, and my manager made me go into a training session so I could re-learn how to do returns. He came back and asked me out before the end of my shift.
5. I am a romance junkie. Movies, books, short stories, real life, any and all of it. I love a good romance with flowers and fluff and a really good conflict. But I don’t write much of it. For now, my writing tends to lean more toward children’s fantasy. That way, the romance genre can remain a personal indulgence rather than a pressure to step up and compete with all the brilliant romance writers of our time.
Well, there are my five things. Now I’m looking forward to reading more about everyone else. This has been fun. Whoever started this game, (I think Jeff Savage?) thanks. It’s been a blast. Let’s see…Connie Hall…Tag! You’re it.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
5 things no one knows about me....
That’s a really hard assignment. I have no room for secrets in my life. I’m a very open person; what you see is what you get and if you don’t like it, you can look the other way!
It took hours, but I finally managed to come up with five things that may or may not be known, depending on who’s reading this.
1. I keep a statue of Buddha above my computer monitor. No, I do not worship it. It is the miniature version of a statue I was very fond of as a child. When I found it in the store, it brought back all sorts of good memories, so my husband bought it for me.
2. I hate peppermint. I don’t like the smell or the taste. I love every other kind of mint; wintergreen, spearmint, etc. But I loathe peppermint.
3. I’m incredibly shy by nature. People never believe me when I tell them this, but it’s true. I was so painfully shy as a kid that, when anyone came to the house, I would hide in my bedroom. It took a patient home teacher who always had candy in his pocket to get me out of that habit. He would slip a piece of candy through the bedroom door that I would only open an inch. To this day I have a very hard time in crowded places. When you meet the outgoing, talkative person at the writers’ conference, it’s years of acting classes and moving every year as a kid. Without those experiences, I'd be cowering in the back of the room under a table.
4. I have two middle names. No, I’m not telling you what they are. Both names are for my grandmothers.
5. I almost turned down my mission call to marry a Pentecostal minister. It came right down to the night before I mailed in my acceptance letter, I laid in bed for hours after everyone else was asleep, mulling it over. Thankfully, I made the right choice and, as a result of my wonderful mission, I met my very best friend, who later introduced me to my husband, who I married in the temple.
So now you know.
“My life is an open book, I see.”
So who’s next?
Nicole Giles! Come on down! You’re the next contestant!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Genesis 1:31 “And God saw every thing he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
The scriptures tell us that it took God six days to create this earth and its heaven and all forms of life, and that he rested on the seventh day. I wonder why it has taken me so long to learn the Lord didn't do it all in one day, so why do I think I can?
I’ve always been big on setting goals every year. I usually plan each day right down to complete details. I have given class after class on time management and I know that it is an important thing to do. This year I am sitting back and just waiting. I haven’t failed to plan my time since 1982. Wow, that’s 24 years. I’ll get around to it, because I still think it’s important, I just don’t want to do it now.
This year, as I read the goals that Nichole and Cindy in our blog group set I felt guilty. I didn’t set any such objective. I didn’t want to. I know I’ll eventually give in and set some goals, but right now, I don’t want to think about such things. Maybe it’s rebellion, but in a few weeks I’m sure my time management will be back on track. Meanwhile I’m taking a break.
I haven’t given up writing. I actually started a new short story. One day this week, I revised a story I had wrote and submitted to a contest last year. It only took a couple of hours. I am starting at the top of all the stories on my computer and revising them, making them more marketable. I will follow my writing group’s advice and get them in the mail (next month).
This coming weekend, I’m going on a writing retreat. I will leave Friday night and not return until Sunday evening. I will have a room of my own and will hibernate there. I hear there is no internet so I’m trying to do my research now and I’m saving it on my computer. There is electricity, so I get to take my lap top and of course my Alpha Smart. I’m also gathering the writing books I’ll need.
Since I’m a writer, the story ideas keep swimming in my head. No matter how much I want to quit I can’t. I wonder if I could get by leaving my cell phone home. If I did, I would probably have an angry husband, but one can wish can’t they? Maybe he’ll only call once a day.
I’m seriously thinking about the idea that God didn’t do it all in one day so I don’t need to. I really am taking it one day at a time. I don’t try to do everything in a day, but after years of practice, it’s hard to slow down. I’m trying to enjoy the moment. I’ve not done that very often over the years.
Yes, I’m still doing the things required of me such as my church calling in the stake and I still go to my job every day. In fact, after I was there on the 15th I was asked, “What are you doing here? It’s a holiday.”
I told my boss, “Since I’m already here I’ll take a day off in a few weeks.”
My house is still clean. Even after having an extra three people staying last week it’s still clean. I spent the weekend cleaning out a file cabinet. There really must be something wrong with me. I’m just going to keep saying, “You don’t have to do it all in one day.”
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
By Darvell Hunt
I didn’t sleep well the other night. I don’t think it’s a Freudian hang-up or anything, just that things in my life are changing. One of my dreams (from when I did find some sleep) wasn’t a particularly pleasant one: it was a dream of failure.
I was attending a writing class taught by a published author—a writer that I don’t think really exists outside of my own dream world. She had been excited to read a new novel I had submitted to her because she had seen other samples of my writing. I think she was somehow hoping to ride a wave of success by discovering me as a new best-selling author.
In my dream, my instructor became depressed—even angry—when she discovered the low quality of my submitted novel. Her dream (which is funny, because she’s a dream character herself) of discovering the next J. K. Rowling had been dashed, and because she apparently wasn’t a very good writer herself, saw her chance at real fame going down the drain along with mine.
I think dreams of failure like this—or at least the fear of failure—is what keeps many of us writers from walking out on a limb and taking a chance. It takes a big ego to be a writer. It’s scary to be told that your writing is garbage and that you might be better off to find a better “hobby” in which you actually have some skill.
Fortunately for me, my writing is not garbage and my nocturnal writing class was just a stupid dream. At the risk of sounding egotistical, though, I must admit that I survived the experience with a healthy Writer’s Ego—which is good, I believe: if the future is anything like the past, I think I’m going to need it.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
The game of tag is going around and has made its way to our blogging site. I was so anxious to play that I wrote this blog before anyone actually tagged me. Some might say that’s crazy, but I have faith in my blogging friends. Plus, I begged and pleaded to play. And if all else fails, we’re a small group and eventually I’ll be the only one left and someone will have to tag me. In light of all that, I'm thinking I can get away with just pretending to be tagged.
In this version of the game, you’re supposed to tell things that other people don’t know about you. So here goes.
1. I can not sew. I've tried and the garments would either fit an elephant or an ant, but not me. I do have a sense of humor though, which is why I don't mind telling you that the hem on my jeans is glued. (Ok, all two of you who read my profile know that I can't sew, but I wanted to mention it again so that no one asks me to hem their pants.)
2. I am barely computer literate—as evidenced by the fact that this list indented itself when I wrote it (which I didn't want) and then unindented itself when I posted (which at that point, I no longer wanted, either).
3. When I was in my late teens, I drove through the suburbs of Washington DC ringing the bells of an ice cream truck. I think I ate more of the frozen confections than I sold. It was a defining moment in my life when a guy offered me drugs for ice cream. It made me realize just how dumb a drug user had to be to trade something with a street value of twenty-five dollars for a fifteen-cent popsicle. The second most defining moment came when another guy came out to the truck and offered to teach me to sell drugs. He had a flashy Camaro obtained from pushing dope, but I figured I had the better deal—a truck full of ice cream.
4. I once walked over a creek and its steep, rocky falls (Great Falls, MD) on the handrail of the bridge. My best friend squealed on me, and my high school sweetheart (who eventually became my husband) was not happy to hear the news. To this day, he refuses to let me do anything fun, like skydiving or bungee jumping, unless he’s there to take me to the hospital afterwards. Apparently he doesn’t have faith in my ability to bounce when I hit solid objects.
5. Usually I keep this a secret, but since I blabbed it in a column I’m writing for the newspaper, I’ll tell you as well. I have a degree in Entomology. Yes, that’s right … bugs. However, I do not like all bugs, just the pretty ones. I’ve asked my friends not to bring their bugs to me for identification, because I have enough bugs of my own that I can’t identify. However, if you’re really nice and you coax me, I’ll be happy to teach you how to pet a bumblebee.
Note: As of Saturday, I was officially tagged. Wahoo, I'm 'it'. Thanks, Keith. And I tag ... W.L. Elliott and G. Ellen. Twice the tags for twice the fun!
Friday, January 19, 2007
I was planning to write something else this week but I got tagged in a game I didn’t know I was playing. Jeff Savage started the game on the Six LDS Writers and a Frog site. Tristi Pinkston continued it on her site and tagged me. So here I am.
OK, as I understand it, I’m supposed to write something about myself and reveal my secrets. The task may be easy because you probably don’t know anything about me. After all I’m not a famous writer like the rest of them. Then again, it may be harder than I thought to dredge up things that may be best left in the past.
1. I once spent the night with a girl who wasn’t my wife . . . it was on a freeway off ramp in Pensacola, Florida. The girl was my cousin. We became separated from our caravan and had to cross the United States by ourselves. She was sixteen and I was seventeen. Luckily, my uncle left his credit card on the dashboard. We used it for gas and didn’t dare eat. You know I still can’t figure out why, but it never occurred to us to just call home. Kids can be so stupid sometimes.
2. My wife was literally a gift from heaven. We were in a high school drama class and her friends pushed her from the stage. She landed in my lap. We dated and were forced to break up. We were reunited after a nine-year separation and we were married Four-months later.
3. I’m a Dutch oven cook.
Okay, I admit it! It looks like a fixation. I own 35-40 Dutch ovens (I don’t know the exact number because I stopped counting 5 years ago). My wife and I have spent many years in competition, teaching, and catering our family and ward events. You might say we have cast iron flowing through our veins.
4. I was arrested once for driving the car in a drive-by shooting . . . and the victim was a police officer . . . okay, actually there weren’t any bullets, and no one was really shot. My friend and I were scheduled to do a skit for drama class in high school. We had to work up a scene showing conflict and a fight. We ended the scene with my pulling a starter’s pistol from my boot and shooting my friend with blanks. On the way to school, another of my friends stuck the gun out the window, pointed it at the campus policeman and fired. The officer who was a city policeman wasn’t amused. If it had happened today instead of 1975, they would’ve locked us up and thrown away the key. We convinced the officer (who luckily was our friend) that we wouldn’t do it again, begged him to let us keep the pistol for our skit and everything worked out great. Oh, and we got an "A".
5. I can’t think of anything else that may be of interest except I still haven’t read Harry Potter and I think Mark Twain was a wise man. He was the original Will Rogers I know he said some things about Mormons but considering where he was born and raised, I’m surprised he turned
out as good as he did.
I’m going to save the rest of my story for when I’m rich and famous and I write my memoirs. If that never happens then I guess my secrets may have to go to the grave. Are there any publishers listening? Do you want to hear more? Just kidding, well maybe . . .
I am honored in the extreme to be tagged to do this challenge. I name one of my fellow bloggers for the next round. So step up Inky, I know you’re itching to give it a shot. Tell us some secrets that will knock our socks off.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Everyone I’ve talked to lately seems to have the winter blues, (also described as the winter blahs) myself included. I suppose we all have our ways of combating this depressing, gloomy season. We exercise, we shop, we read, we clean, we eat. A few of us write. But not always.
There are days when I don’t feel like doing any of these things. I shouldn’t admit to it, but there are days when all I want to do is curl up and go back to bed. Or put on my most comfy clothes and curl up in front of the TV and stare at the nothing that is on. And I really don’t like TV. What is wrong with me?
When I do turn on that wicked waste of time, reports of record breaking cold, ice storms, and blizzards that shut down airports and close roads flash across the screen repeatedly, along with commercials for medicines. There is a medicine for everything—every kind of cold, flu, or allergy—because in this kind of cold, it can’t be prevented. But make sure to keep a pen handy. If one of those medicines does you harm, the ad for a lawyer follows close behind.
Even my story is suffering. The one that has been building up in my head for the last year, anxiously awaiting its turn to be written. I’m wondering if my characters have fallen asleep, or if time in the land of no name (because I haven’t come up with a good one yet) has stopped, waiting for winter to pass in my world. Every time I turn on my computer intending to start working on this particular story, I can’t seem to string two thoughts together. The weather is freezing my brain. So, what do I do?
Well, I’m not going to claim to have the solution to my own dilemma, nor the dilemmas of anyone else whose work is suffering because it’s January. Instead, I’ll offer a suggestion.
To prevent brain-freeze, keep your brain moving.
Many people have problems with broken water pipes during the coldest winter months. Pipes that are run through outside walls are at risk of freezing unless someone either diverts heat toward them, or runs water through them. Some people set up space heaters, or open their cupboard doors to let the warm air get to the pipes; others turn on the faucet and let it drip all night long. All good suggestions.
The same concept can apply to our over-chilled brains. At a time when you least desire to write, do it anyway. It doesn’t matter what you write, or how. Apply all your neurotic behavior, sit at your laptop, or Alpha-Smart, or grab pen and paper and write one single word. Then let drip another word, then another, and another, until you have written at least one sentence. Then try for another sentence. And so on and so forth, for at least ten to fifteen minutes. If at the end of that time, you still feel utterly uninspired, go ahead and stop. Maybe the writer in you just needs a little break. And he or she is perfectly entitled.
Sometimes, it’s okay to wait a while. We are writers. Writing is in our blood, it’s in our brain, it’s in our hearts. So go ahead and give ‘the writer’ a short vacation. Don’t worry. He/she’ll be back. In the meantime, the parts of us that live in the real world will get by. Even if it is only day-by-day.
Borrowed from “The Pocket Muse Endless Inspiration” by Monica Wood. “Today, write about the last piece of something and the two people who want it.”
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Last year did your year run smooth or did you sometimes have a hard time keeping it together? Sometimes I found it hard to stick with it, and keep writing. It wasn’t always easy to feel motivated when I wrote.
I wish I had a secret formula to relight your fire when you feel burned out, but I don’t. There weren’t any smoke signals in the air for me. I simply stopped writing. I felt drained and had nothing more to give. I couldn’t even think of five things that gave meaning to my writing. There was nothing that inspired me.
Sometime I made the excuse there was too much to do, and too little time. I soon grew tired of all the days I didn’t feel like writing. Once I realized this, I knew I needed to find new direction and meaning in my writing. I needed to re-evaluate my goals and think about what I want to achieve. The things that used to motivate me just seemed like too much crap to deal with.
I’ve always felt it was okay to take a day off and do the most fun thing I could think of. A day is good, but weeks soon turned into months. (I bet you all thought I always wrote, but I fooled everyone because I had written my blogs months in advance.) My plan of escape wasn’t working for me. I reached a day when I knew it was time to get back to work. My father taught me that you finish what you start. I will finish my stories, but this time I’m going to be careful and not bite off more than I can chew.
It’s going slow, but finally my mind and fingers are working. I have never been a person who could work on only one project at a time. When I feel stuck, I move on to another story. I give myself permission to temporarily skip a problem in one story and move onto something that won’t make me frustrated. When the cobwebs clear out then I’ll go back to the first story.
I still haven’t figured out how to get a burst of energy on the days I simply don’t have any, but one problem at a time. I might not write every day because some days are just too hectic, but I’m going to write every week. I’m going to survive this New Year by stepping up to the plate and writing. There will be no more jumping the ship for me.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Everyone has their own method for shoveling snow. Some get out their blower, others retrieve their shovel from the garage. I get out a ratty ol’ broom with bristles that are four-inch stubs. It’s not that the broom is superior to a snow shovel; it’s that my dog, Corky Porky Pie, thinks the broom is a wild animal and loves to chase it. For every foot of concrete that I brush snow off, he kicks two feet back on, and the neighbors are treated to the sight of me swinging a broom with a 30 pound dog attached by his teeth.
After twenty minutes of sweeping, Corky is usually too dizzy to hold on anymore so I put him in the house, where he barks at full volume to come out. Already my muscles are tired, because sweeping with a 30 pound dog attached is like sweeping with a bowling ball—and just about as effective.
Determination sets in though, and despite the stitch in my side and the ache that radiates across my chest and down my left arm, I continue to sweep and push snow. Halfway through, I pull out my cell phone and consider calling the ambulance but no … by golly, I’m not giving up.
I take a breather, and wonder if all this cold air is destroying my bronchial tubes. Why do I keep going, when I could be inside eating chocolate cake and drinking hot cocoa? I ask myself. Because eating cake for breakfast isn’t very nutritious, I answer. It seems that me, myself and I are quite good conversationalists.
Back to sweeping I go, and the stitch in my side feels like an appendicitis attack, but I will not let the snow win. I am determined. I am sweeper, hear me roar.
An hour later, the job is done. My mittens have blisters, my nose is frozen and my boots are encased in ice, but I have triumphed. The front step is cleared. There are only two sidewalks and the driveway to go, but those can wait for another day. I feel like a returning hero … and my cake and hot cocoa are calling to me.
I’ve decided that writing is very similar to shoveling snow. Everyone gets out the tool that works best for them. Some use a computer, others use an Alpha Smart. I use a pencil. Not because it’s the fastest way to write, but because it has an eraser. After twenty minutes of staring at a blank page, my eyes are already tired. The going is so slow that I feel like my pencil is filled with lead. Determination sets in and despite the pain in my wrist and the pounding in my head, I go on. Halfway through, I pull out my cell phone and consider calling in a ghost writer, but no … by golly, I’m not giving up.
I take a breather and wonder if the dust from all the erasing is clogging my bronchial tubes. Why do I keep going, when I could be eating Twinkies and drinking chocolate milk? I ask myself. Because too many Twinkies give you hips like an elephant, I answer.
Back to writing I go, and the ache in my wrist feels like carpal tunnel, but I will not give up. I am determined. As a co-blogger, Keith Fisher, says, “I am writer, hear me roar.”
An hour later, the job is done. My fingers have blisters, my vision is blurred, and my feet feel like they’ve been encased in ice for lack of movement, but I have triumphed. The first paragraph is written. There are only thirty chapters and a title to go, but those can wait for another day. I feel like a returning hero … and my Twinkies and chocolate milk are calling to me.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
I had to make a change in occupations lately. It wasn’t by choice, I assure you. I was learning to be a typesetter when they canceled our project. Now I've moved to a different position in the company, making less money and I've been banished to the early morning hours of the graveyard shift. It’s quite an adjustment to sleep during the day and adapt your lifestyle to the vampire’s realm.
I wouldn’t want you to think I’m totally inept at adapting or uninformed about the other side of the daily clock. Let me explain.
When I was younger I worked straight graveyard shifts. My wife worked days and we never saw each other except in the golden hours between five and ten each evening. I caught a few hours of sleep here and there and life was good, but I was younger then.
Besides the sleep deprivation, I have been experiencing another awakening. (Get it? No sleep . . . awakening?) Anyway, I’ve been learning yet another computer function and working at becoming proficient in another process that has nothing to do with writing or what I set out to be almost 35 years ago.
In my short fifty years on the planet I have worked at many occupations and learned many professions. I had designs that most of them would become my life’s work, my career, or my magnum opus. Now after all these years I find I am, to coin a cliché, Jack of all trades—master of none.
To make matters worse, I was told by a kid one night that people over thirty can’t understand computers. He was kidding of course but I immediately retorted, "You do realize don’t you, that everyone of those responsible for the internet and the information age, the very inventors of the microcomputer, are all over thirty. Some of them are even over sixty."
His answer was, that was before they were thirty, after thirty they got stupid and stopped keeping up. Okay, I’ll give you a minute to gasp in disbelief. Those of you under thirty can agree with him but try to keep it to yourself.
So here I stand at the crossroads to eternity with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, being forced to learn new things, resisting with every breath and hoping for and receiving divine help. I have launched yet another career and with the help of Geritol and a splash of cold water in my face. I may be able to overcome the opinions of my new peers who have pegged me as a no-nothing, over-the-hill codger with digital knowledge acquired in the dark ages. I’ll get by, and maybe I can share a little wisdom, the kind learned through hard knocks and a loving father in heaven.
Just so you don’t think I have forgotten the subject of our blogck: the magnum opus I spoke of, I decided about 15 or so years ago that my life’s work, the thing that would be the measure of my life would be my children and my writing. The job I go to each night (at ungodly hours) is a job. My career is writing fiction with a little non-fiction thrown in for good measure.
Good luck in overcoming your challenges. Some of you may recognize a quote from Red Green "Remember I’m pulling for you . . . we’re all in this together."
Thursday, January 11, 2007
“Writers love to worry. By their very nature they are neurotic. And they tend to exhibit the gamut of phobic behaviors from nervous tics and insomnia to full-fledged paranoia and delusional episodes.”
“The Forest for the Trees”
I got some new writing books for Christmas, and I was so excited that I dove right into them. One of the books is Betsy Lerner’s “The Forest for the Trees, an Editor’s Advice to Writers,” which I am currently reading in my spare minutes.
Lerner spends an entire chapter talking about the neuroses of the literary greats, and then goes on to mention the neurotic behaviors of many of the writers she—as an editor—has worked with. I found this information not only enlightening, but also somewhat inspiring because this editor seems to be convinced that it is our neuroses that not only make us write, but force us to write well.
I cannot logically enter the entire chapter into a blog, nor would I attempt it. So instead, I thought I’d share a few of the neurotic behaviors exhibited by some of the world’s great writers. Read on, and see if Learner mentions something YOU can identify with.
“When I’m writing I feel it’s the only time that I feel completely self-possessed, even when the writing itself is not going too well. It’s fine therapy for people who are perpetually scared of nameless threats as I am most of the time—for jittery people. Besides, I’ve discovered that when I’m not writing I’m prone to developing certain nervous tics, and hypochondria.”
“My schedule is flexible, but I am rather particular about my instruments; lined Bristol cards and well-sharpened, not too hard, pencils capped with erasers.”
“I write my first version in longhand. Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand…then I type a third draft on yellow paper, a very special certain kind of yellow paper.”
“Jackie wrote on Pink paper, and she apparently had not yet discovered the ‘Shift’ key on her typewriter (a pink IBM Selectric): she wrote everything in capital letters, like a long telegram, and added revisions in a large, forceful circular hand, with what looked like a blunt eyebrow pencil.”
(Describing the habits of Jacqueline Susann.)
Hemmingway was said to have sharpened twenty pencils before he started work.
Dame Edith Sitwell reputedly lay in an open coffin before beginning her day’s work.
Lerner goes on to say, “If you become successful as a writer, these ritualistic behaviors will become known as your ‘process.’ Then, all the quirks of character become part of what makes you tick.” However, Lerner admits there is a downside to these and other eccentric habits. “Should you fail to achieve success, all these behaviors look only like excuses or sick behavior.”
Whatever your neurosis, habit, phobia, ritual, or superstition, chances are most editors are ready to deal with it because Lerner admits, “…Neurotic behavior gives a shapeless day structure.” And habitual structure is the thing that forces us to produce.
Do you have a ritual? If not, maybe it’s time you got one. It is, after all, the process used by some of the greatest literary minds of our time. Not to mention the writers on our blogck.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
What can help us writers through the rough waters on our journey to have our stories published? I wish I knew. Even when all my writer friends are pulling together to make this writing voyage as smooth as possible, there are still many storms ahead.
Sailing isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are at least six types of boats-sloop, cutter, catboat, ketch, yawl, and schooner, and the mast is different on each one. Don’t ask me what a mast is because I have no idea. Other words I don’t understand are fractional rig, masterhead rig, headstay, jib-headed, square, gaff, mainsail, junk, boom, lateen, sliding gunter, lug, wishbone, and marconi. I haven’t even got to the sails yet which include main, mizzen, and head. With deeper reading and more studying, I may be able to understand all the foreign words.
I guess this is what it’s like for many of us learning to write. There are hundreds of ways to write – some of them work and some don’t. To help me every few weeks I usually read at least one of the "Fifty Tools Which Can Help You in Writing" by Roy Peter Clark. He says, "You will become handy with these tools over time."
So far, it hasn't helped me as much as I was hoping. It's not his fault; I take full responsibility, since old habits are hard to break. There’s lots of good information and he even says, "Eventually, they will become part of your flow, natural and automatic."
I certainly hope with practice that it will become automatic and natural to me. I particularly like #50 - The Writing Process, the part about collecting evidence. This is my favorite part of writing. I love collecting details and facts. I enjoy all the research. I guess that is why I love historical fiction.
The more we learn about sailing or writing, and the more we practice the better we will be. If you are anything like me, you need to get help from wherever you can.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
I’m sure I’ve never met a fore or a simile that I didn’t like. That is, if I could remember what a metaphor or a simile is. There’s a composition and grammar book sitting on my desk that I refer to constantly, but when I went to look those terms up, my glasses had gone into hiding and the words looked like little ants. However, my less than 20-20 vision did tell me I could learn about meta-sores and similax in the book. (This might also explain why my biscuits are as heavy as bricks and just as tasty when I follow a recipe without wearing my glasses.)
Eventually the glasses turned up in the laundry basket and after putting them on, I immediately started on matters of high priority. I opened my email and found the joke of the day from the "Good, Clean Funnies List". That's when I discovered I'm not the only one who can't tell a metaphor from a semaphore from Connect Four.
Thinking you would enjoy these, I've pasted the email below for your reading pleasure. It’s a safe bet the analogies listed are metaphors ... or maybe similes. It’s not a safe bet that they're good ones.
These are actual analogies found in high school essays.
- John and Mary had never met. They were like two
hummingbirds who had also never met.
- Even in his last years, grandpappy had a mind like a steel
trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted
- The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But
unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
- The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from
not eating for a while.
- He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck,
either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from
stepping on a landmine or something.
- The Ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one
slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
- It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids
with power tools.
- He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard
bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
- Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten
to put in any pH cleanser.
- She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing
- It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally
staple it to the wall.
(Brought to you by GCFL.net: The Good, Clean Funnies List
A cheerful heart is good medicine... (Prov 17:22a)
Mail address: GCFL, Box 100 , Harvest , AL 35749 , USA
The latest GCFL funny can always be found on the web at
http://www.gcfl. net/latest. php)
Saturday, January 06, 2007
"Good Morning mister Phelps." What we will attempt today will both delight and astound you. We will enter into the realm of the unimaginable, the unbelievable, we will cross over into the . . . TWILIGHT ZONE.
But before we go where no man has gone before and listen to a story about a man named Jed, we must admit that we love Lucy and that life is a holiday on primrose lane.
Now if you were born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, or lost in space, you must realize that there is danger, Will Robinson. If we climb every mountain we can laugh at the danger with a spoon full of sugar. Don’t worry little buddy you can take great comfort in knowing that father knows best and that Darby O’Gill is holding the king captive in a sack.
So before we say goodnight John Boy, or help Alexis out of the fountain, let us remember that when you wish upon a star, all your days will be happy days. You can take comfort in knowing that there are a million stories in the naked city and suicide is painless but there will be truth or consequences. The price is right and the days of our lives will be free from a visit to the General Hospital.
When Andy whistles or Fonzie says "Ayyy," take comfort in knowing that Hoss and Ben will help Joe and Adam out of the bear trap. None of them will ever get married and break those family ties.
Before you ask, "What you talkin ‘bout, Willis?" Let me explain:
Like many of you, I was raised on media. Most of us can remember plots from Leave It To Beaver, Gilligan’s Island, and Mash, only to name a few. We remember Eddie Haskell’s classic saying: "I tell Lumpy’s mom the same thing but I don’t really mean it Mrs. Cleaver." We ask ourselves, why did the Howell’s bring luggage on a three-hour tour? We cried when Henry Blake was killed. We even felt sorry for Frank when Hot-lips married someone else.
If you are like me you have a hard drive in your head, filled to overflowing with cliches and tunes, metaphors and characters that dictate who you are and why you react the way you do to certain stimuli. When I whistle the tune to the Andy Griffith Show, I bet your mind wanders to a laid back time. A time when walking in bare feet all summer was okay and night games were played with all the neighborhood kids.
Even if you were born in a later decade, you will think of Andy and Floyd sitting on a bench watching people go by and One Bullet Barney, up to his shenanigans.
When I say Shazbot! What do you think of? When I raise my hand high into the air and say, "ew ew" who am I imitating? When I talk about Tom and Huck in the graveyard at midnight, can you tell me why they were there? Why was Romeo standing outside looking up at a window? It’s all in your head and whatever you are is a result of your programming.
As writers we are bound by what we can write. When we use a metaphor we can’t say, Adam was selfish and self-centered like JR Ewing in Dallas. But we know what the character was like. We can’t say the castle looked like Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Our metaphors must be clean with our own language but the reference is in our brain. We remember what JR was like and we know what Hogwarts looked like, so we can describe it.
We live in the 21st century with the hard-drives in our heads full of the metaphors of our youth. A lifetime of seeing things on TV and in movies. Of reading descriptions and listening to stories. We are better off than the great writers of the past. We have all those memories to draw from. Add our own personal experiences to the mix and our understanding of language, and we are invincible. We are writers, hear us roar.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Dear reader, in case you decide to believe that the following story is anything other than fiction, I feel inclined to assure you that it is simply a daydream—my own wishful thinking.
T’was the week after New Years
And all through the town
The neighbors, they scrambled
To take Christmas down.
Big piles of Santa’s, wreaths,
Garlands, and bows
All shoved into boxes
Next to socks with huge toes.
The children high-tailed it
To play with their friends
Just in time,
See, their mother was at her wit’s end.
And Father with his duct tape,
And Mom ready to snap.
Considered the floor
For a short little nap—
When in through the door
There came such a racket,
Mom sprung from the floor yelling,
Hang up your jacket!
Away through the kitchen
She flew like a flash.
“Now, stomp off your boots.
Muddy shoes bring in trash.”
Moonlight on the crust
Of the filthy black snow
Three months more of winter to go
When what to a frustrated soul
But a dirty white mail truck
Through ice quite severe.
With a spunky young driver
Who was bundled up thick,
And coughing and wheezing
As though he was sick.
More rapid than snow melts in heat,
Bare feet, and no coat,
With the mail key in hand.
“Now Mailman,” she said—
As her breath he could see—
“Please give me a hint,
Is there something for me?”
He rifled the letters
And gave her a stack.
Then he winked and he smiled
Before turning his back.
And then with a sigh,
Mother turned to go in
And she ran through the door
Happy face and big grin.
The contract she’d waited upon
The publisher’s rejection pile
Her book survived.
The clean up would wait,
And she felt like a sinner,
But this night the family
Would go out to dinner.
This New Year,
Her story would be bound and glued.
And that mother,
She felt like a righteous young dude.
But she wouldn’t forget,
Those who helped her this far.
She stopped to click send,
Then she got in the car.
When her friends read her thanks,
All her joy they did hear.
“I will be throwing a party this year!”
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
As a writer, have you ever wondered why you see the world that surrounds you the way you do? To every writer of fiction it is vital to be able to imagine yourself in another person’s place. Something magical happens when you let your thoughts wander and let your imagination take over.
The dictionary says imagination is: ”The act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.”
Fairy tales and fiction stories are usually the result of this process. Writers imagine images seen with the ‘mind’s eye’. A good writer invites the reader to pretend such stories are true.
Writing fantasy keeps my creative juices flowing, and I love creating make believe settings because they don’t need to resemble the world we live in. When people read the things I’ve written, I love hearing comments such as unique, inventive, creative, original, impressive, and fascinating. Keep your mental images flowing and let your thoughts wander as your imagination takes over in your writing.