Monday, September 15, 2014

The Wannabe Writer's Son

A repeat post while I'm away from home.

Every writer was once a wannabe writer singing that song over and over. I wannabe a writer, oh Lordy, how I wannabe a writer! It's pretty easy to want that status but actually going after it is a different story.

I wanted to be a writer for the vast majority of my life, but I did little to make it happen. I gave myself one excuse after another. They were all pretty valid reasons--at least, I thought they were. Working while attending college left precious little time to pursue my desire. Next came marriage, still teaching and running a household for two. Still wanted to write but....  In a few years, I had quit teaching but was a stay at home mom to two children and helping my husband in his career by handling the social end of things connected to his job. Even so, I did take time to do other things I enjoyed. I played Bridge, read a lot, quilted baby quilts for a hospital gift shop, was a hospital volunteer. But I didn't try writing. I still thought about it but something held me back. It wasn't until we landed in a new community as empty nesters and where it was hard to make friends that I finally pursued my longtime desire.

Guess what? I wish with all my heart that I'd done so years and years sooner. But that's beyond happening so no use fretting now.

If you're a wannabe writer, don't give yourself a string of excuses like I did. Part of the reason we do that is fear. What if I am a terrible writer? I can almost guarantee that you will not be an award winning writer right from the git-go. It's a rare person who can achieve such a status. You won't become a good writer until you spend endless amounts of time writing. Almost every writer I know cringes a bit when he/she looks back at their early efforts. New writers generally commit all the no-no things possible. They overwrite, they are redundant, they forget the sensory details, they tell too much, they forget the use of dialogue--all kinds of things that they correct little by little as their writing life progresses.

I like the end of the quote above It's that easy, and that hard. I've found that most worthwhile things don't come easy. You have to work at it and maybe you need to work at it for a very long time. The important thing is that you must start. Yep, sit yourself down at the keyboard and put one word after another until you find a stopping place. Not gonna be a masterpiece, but it will be something you wrote. Progress! You don't need to show it to anyone unless you want to. You don't need to ask for a critique unless you want to grow as a writer. You don't need to do it again unless you really mean the words of the wannabe writer song.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Authors Don't Always Write Good Books Every Tim

We're traveling again so I'm repeating some popular posts for a few days.

I read a wonderful book recently,which shall remain nameless for reasons apparent farther into this post.

It was a real page turner and so well written that it grabbed me in the opening pages and held on until I closed the book after finishing it.

I decided I'd like to read something else by the same author, so I looked up her credits and found that the boryyok I'd just read was her second published novel. I checked out her first book at our library and was eager to read it.

What a disappointment it was. It was a historical novel, like the other book, but set in an earlier time. It had all the elements of what should have been a good novel. There was a little romance, a mystery, a ghost, descriptive passages, an interesting setting. But I had to littering slog through it. There was an abundance of unnecessary material, and I got frustrated waiting for something important to the tale to happen. I kept plugging away at it thinking it was going to get better. It didn't. Finally, after going two-thirds of the way through the book, I flipped to the final chapter to see what happened to the characters. It was then that it hit me that I didn't really like any of these people, could not relate to any of them. The whole dreary thing disappointed me.

It made me wonder why an author cannot write a winning story every time. Maybe it's like a race horse who cannot win the race every time they fly out of the starting gate. And maybe we shouldn't expect an author to write the same kind of story (an interesting one) every time. The ones who stay in our minds and who make lots of money writing have the ability to do that. Maybe we shouldn't expect it of every author.

I don't write novels,, but I do know that some of my essays and inspirational creative nonfiction is better than others. It would be wonderful to have a winner every time, but that might happen only in a perfect world.

I reminded myself that even though this author had written one excellent book and one not so hot, she did get two novels published which is more than a good many writers can claim.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Saddest Birthday On A Day We Must Never Forget

The Saddest Birthday

Today we recognize and remember the tragedy of 9-11. I'm posting a story I wrote some time ago. I ran the same story one year ago today. It still seems appropriate to do it again this year. Take a moment or two out of your busy life to honor those who lost family members and friends that day. 

Birthdays are special in our family, celebrated and recognized all the waking hours of the specific day. Not only a cake and gaily wrapped gifts mark the occasion. Extra smiles and hugs come the way of the birthday person, as well. Treasured memories of other birthdays seem to pop up during dinner table conversation. Daily chores might be cancelled for the honoree. In short, the birthday person reigns as the star of the day.

But in recent years, my husband’s birthday has been clouded over with a sense of sadness and grief. His special day happens to be September 11th. Never again will we celebrate without remembering that ill-fated day in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. 

That morning I’d greeted the birthday boy with a kiss and a hug and presented him with a card and gift. He smiled broadly as he fingered the purple and white shirt with the Kansas State logo gracing it’s front, and I knew thoughts of wearing it to Saturday’s football game ran through his head.

After the gift-giving, we settled into our usual routine. Since Ken had retired, we spent our early mornings reading the newspaper from front to back and keeping an occasional eye on the Today show on TV. We both looked up from the newspaper at the urgent sound in the broadcaster’s voice as she narrated film showing a plane flying into a skyscraper in New York City. In less time than it takes to sneeze, the tragedy repeated itself. And we knew immediately that it was no accident.

The remainder of the day found us tuned into further reports of the devastating occurrences which are seared into the memories and hearts of all American citizens. I never made the cake I’d planned on. The birthday greeting calls our children made to their dad were not filled with good wishes and teasing remarks. Instead, these adult children of ours were as overwhelmed with the day’s happenings as we were.

Late in the day, we received word that a baby boy had been born to one of our daughter’s childhood friends. Shadows of grief surrounded the joy we felt for Jen and James and their new son. As evening fell, it occurred to me that the birth of this baby and all the other babies born on this day might be taken as a sign from God that no matter what had happened, life would go on. These new lives became seeds of hope sown in sadness.

The American people banded together on that tragic September 11th. They picked up the shards of their lives and soldiered on. Hearts shattered, but prayerful resolve pieced them together again.

This year we celebrate another birthday for my husband on September 11th. We’re back to those special celebrations once again. I’ve been mulling over cake possibilities and worrying about what to give him to commemorate the day. Even so, we’ll take time to remember the saddest birthday he ever experienced and to honor those who’ll not have an earthly birthday anymore.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Book By Dorothy Love That I Recommend

17456100I was drawn to this book at our local library for two reasons. One is that I enjoy historical novels, especially those set in the Civil War era. The other reason the book captured my attention when I spied it on the New Book shelf is that the author, Dorothy Love, is part of my facebook life. I see her now and then through other writers pages. You can learn more about her and the novels she's written at her website.

Carolina Gold is set in the post Civil War period in the low country of South Carolina. Charlotte Fraser returns to Fairhaven, her family's rice plantation, to find it in ruins. Her father has died so she is left to restore the plantation but it's a huge job without the 600 slaves that had maintained the life led before the war. Charlotte is determined as she sets about hiring a few men to plant one of her rice fields. She renews friendships with old neighbors, meets some new ones. Nicholas Betancourt, widower and father of two young girls, has moved onto the plantation nearest Charlotte. Their lives become intertwined when she is cajoled into teaching his two daughters. Charlotte agrees only because she is desperate for additional money.

We watch Charlotte struggle. We see her passion for her old home and her determination. We are not surprised when she and Nicholas form more than a casual acquaintance. Property rights, secrets, a yellow fever crisis and more come into play.I'm not going to reveal any more of the story.  The book held my attention to the end. There is a cast of varied and interesting characters and I learned some things about growing rice that I didn't know. I learnedmore than I'd known about the difficulty of the Reconstruction period in the South. I learned how unusual teaching methods were viewed in the nineteenth century.

Reading a book like this is also a painless way to learn some history. It's obvious that the author has done her research and the reader benefits from that. An actual woman who lived in this period and was a rice planter inspired the author to write the novel.

It took a little while to get into the story but, once I did, it moved at a rapid pace. I found myself looking forward to continuing to read during whatever free time I could manage. I liked the book well enough to look for others written by Dorothy Love and to recommend it to others. In a nutshell, Carolina Gold proved to be an entertaining read.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Use Memory Triggers To Write Family Stories

Last evening, I gave a program for a womens group at our church. "Remembering Our Grandparents" was the title I selected. Since Grandparents Day was Sunday, I thought it might be nice to honor and remember our grandparents.

My aim was to trigger some memories for the women who attended in hopes that they might start writing some of the family stories about their grandparents.

I read two of my stories about my grandparents and one about my dad as a grandparent. In-between the stories, I asked people in the audience to tell us a short anecdote or memory they had of a grandparent. What interesting stories we heard! At the end of the program, I challenged them to go home and write the stories they'd told this evening so that their own children and grandchildren would have them forever.

Many of the storytellers, and the stories I read, triggered memories for others. I have a feeling some of the ladies will go home and think about many other things that happened when they visited a grandparent or the grandmother came to see them or when Grandpa took them to town for ice cream.

Here are are few questions that might trigger memories of your own grandparents. Be sure to include your grandparents in your Family Memories Book.

1. What did your grandmother/grandfather look like?

2. Did any of your grandparents speak another language?

3.  Did your grandparents live near your family or far away?

4.  Were your grandparents a part of your life or did you see them only occasionally?

5.  Did your grandparents let you get away with more than your parents did, or were they strict?

6.  Did your grandparents have a sense of humor?

7.  What was the worst thing you ever did at your grandparents' home?

8.  What did your grandmother/grandfather cook that you especially loved?

9.. Did your grandparents take you to church?

10. Did your grandparents come to see you perform in sports or drama or musical events?

11. Did your grandmother/grandfather ever punish your?

12. Did you learn any life lessons from your grandparents?

Monday, September 8, 2014

One Day Past Grandparents Day

Ken adn I and our four grandchildren a few years ago

Yesterday was Grandparents Day. In 1973, West Virginian Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade started this day to recognize grandparents. It was a grassroots movement, never made official by our federal government. She and her husband had 15 children,43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. Seems rather obvious why she felt it important to honor grandparents.

Mrs. McQuade had three purposes for establishing this holiday that still hasn't received the national attention that Mother's Day and Father's Day have done:

   1.  To honor grandparents.2
   2.  To give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children's children
   3.  To help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.

This evening, I'm giving a program at the women's group at my church titled "Remembering Our Grandparents." I only knew 2 of my own grandparents. My father's parents passed away long before I was born. And the two I had were only part of my life for a very few years. Grandpa died when I was 9 and Grandma soon after my 12th birthday. Even so, I have vivid memories of both of them.  And I've written stories about them for my Family Memories Book. 

What about you? Did you have 4 grandparents? Or fewer? Or did you have grandparents and step-grandparents? Did they influence your life in any way? Mine certainly did, even in the handful of years I knew them. Grandma taught me life lessons that I still use today. One of the stories I'll read tonight is centered on what I learned at Grandma's bakery when I was very young. Obviously, I was impressionable as I remember so many things of the many hours spent in the back room of the bakery. 

The other story I'll read deals with the terminal illness my grandfather had, my grandmother's care for him at that time even though they'd been separated many years, and a short but memorable visit I had with both of them at that time. The visit brought on by a dying man's wish to see his granddaughter once more. 

Have you included stories about your own grandparents in your Family Memories Book? If you haven't, it's time to start thinking about doing so. What fun it would be for your own grandchildren (or your children) to read about your grandparents and how they influenced your life. 

My grandmother, Elizabeth Doonan Studham

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Surprise For Me In A New Chicken Soup for the Soul Book

A few days ago, the UPS delivery truck pulled up in front of our house, the driver zipped up to the front porch and dropped a box of books. Inside were ten copies of the newest Chicken Soup book that has one of my stories in it. I had Ken take a picture of me holding the book, a bit blurry but it's me and the book--my 15th story in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book.

The book is titled Reboot Your Life and my story is "Forgiveness and Freedom" which is in a section called Adjust Your Attitude. I'm delighted to have the story published but it got there in a roundabout way.

I had a vivid dream one night about my father, who had died many years earlier. In the dream, Dad said something to me that struck a nerve. I couldn't forget about it for days. When I finally faced the situation and made a decision, I did have a new way of looking at some long-festering feelings. And I knew that my life would be better for it.

Later, I wrote the story and submitted it for consideration in a Chicken Soup book on Forgiveness. The story would be perfect for this particular book. Or so I thought. Silly me! Imagine my surprise when I received a notice that my story had made the final cut in the Reboot Your Life book. What?

Apparently, someone read my story when they were reading for the Forgiveness book and decided it would work well in the other book. So, the story jumped the book lines and landed in one I'd never considered submitting to.

Several years ago, Chicken Soup selected one of my stories for their Christmas stories book. It wasn't one I'd submitted for the book that year. Instead, it was one I'd submitted 2 or more years earlier. They had kept it in their files and ended up using it. You can imagine my surprise when that happened.

These experiences show that Chicken Soup editors will put a story where they think it fits best and they will look back for earlier stories to use much later. I think it's part of what makes this anthology publisher so successful. They work hard to make sure the stories fit the book. It also gives hope to writers to know that, even if their story did not make it right away, it could pop up later. Believe me, when that happens, it's a delightful surprise. I'm guessing it doesn't happen frequently, but it does happen.

Reboot Your Life is to be released September 16th. The retail price in most bookstores is $14.95. You can pre-order on Amazon for a discounted price on the paperback and another special price to purchase it for your Kindle reader. Check it out here. Holiday gift giving season is closer than you think. Need I say more?