Friday, April 17, 2015

Other Libraries In My LIfe--A Photo Essay

Yesterday, I posted an essay about the first library I used and loved. Today, I have a few pictures of other libraries in my area. The one above is the Kansas City Library in Missouri. It's so unique that I wanted to include it. 

This is the Manhattan Publice Library in Manhattan, Kansas, where I live. Only a small part of it is showing.  A recent enlargement of the Children's Department has made our library a building of impressive proportions. 

This is the atrium area of the Manhattan Library that leads to the Children's Department on one side and the main library on the other. An elegant metal sculpture depicting several of Aesop's fables graces the wall area.

Another library in my community is Hale Library on the Kansas State University campus. Made of native limestone, as are the majority of the buildings on campus, it is a magnificent piece of architecture and houses a very fine collection within its walls. Many a student fondly remembers the myriad hours he/she spent here.

The last photo for today is one of the libraries I shall always remember. We were staying in a small English village a few years ago. Ken went out for a walk in the early morning. When we were getting ready to leave the B&B, he said, "Come over here, I want you to see what I discovered this morning on my walk." We strolled around the building until we came to the road side. And there stood an old telephone booth that had been turned into the local library. I wanted to go inside and explore the books on the shelves but we had to get on the road so I didn't get to do that. My dear husband knew that, if I once got inside that little library, it would be difficult to get me out again! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

To Celebrate National Library Week

Adele Maze Branch Library Oak Park, IL

This is National Library Week. Today, I'm posting a personal essay I wrote about what the library has meant to me throughout my life. The photo is of the very first library I ever went to and continued to use for all of my growing-up years in suburban Chicago.

My Second Home
by Nancy Julien Kopp

In addition to my regular residence, I have a second home. My mother introduced this special dwelling to me when I was only six years old.  She held my hand, and we walked several blocks in warm autumn sunshine, stopping only when we approached a square brick building. Graced by trees and shrubs and a patio-like courtyard, it had a certain elegance and air of importance that I recognized, even at so young an age.

We entered the building and stepped into a cool, quiet atmosphere. The first thing to meet the eye was a large, wrap-around desk that extended across the entryway. A stout woman stood behind the desk, gray hair severely drawn back and caught in a small bun. No make-up adorned her face, and there wasn't a smile there either. I moved instinctively closer to my mother, my hand nestled in hers, until I looked up into the woman's eyes. What I saw made me smile at her. Blue eyes, the shade of cornflowers, sparkled with a smile of their own, softening her otherwise stern appearance. Soon, the smile in her eyes spread to her wide mouth.
"We've come to get a library card," my mother announced. The woman had the application card ready in a flash and passed it over to me to sign my name. I proudly printed it for her and slid the card back across the desk. Not only could I sign my name, I could read, as well. Dick and Jane and their dog, Spot had shown me the way.

"Alright, Nancy," she said as she read from the form, "come with me."

She came around the desk and offered her hand, saying, “I am Miss Maze.” I grasped the hand this corseted woman in the black dress offered. My expectations were great, and I was not to be disappointed, for this kind woman led me to the Children's Department and patiently showed me all the books that stood on shelves like soldiers at attention. She spoke with wonder and awe as she explained the kinds of books that rested before us, making me eager to read every one.

It was a land of enchantment, a ticket to exotic places.  My mother and Miss Maze introduced me that day to the fascinating world of books and libraries, and thus began a love affair that continues to this day. I became a voracious reader and still am.

I was the child whose nose was always in a book. When old enough, I walked to the library alone at least weekly, sometimes more than that. I strolled past the conservatory that was home to a tropical rainforest, then on by a city park, across the railroad tracks and down a cinder path that ran behind the train platform. By the time I reached that cinder path, my pace increased, even though I carried a stack of books. I was in a hurry to reach the riches awaiting me at the library.

The grade school I attended had a separate library, which we could use when we reached fourth grade. I visited it regularly but also continued going to the public library. I felt at home in both places and felt much the same when I moved on to the high school library, then one on my college campus.  The libraries provided necessary information for all the papers I wrote during those years, as well as hours and hours of entertainment, as I read book upon book. The building I had frequented near my home during my growing up years was renamed when my old friend, the librarian, died.  The South Branch became the Adele Maze Branch Library, and every time I saw the plaque bearing her name, I thought of those cornflower blue, smiling eyes, and her kindness to me and other children through the years.  How I wish I could thank her for what she gave to so many. 

During the years since I left my home community, I have made a habit of making a visit to the library one of the top priorities whenever moving to a new place. Within the first week, I have fled the packing boxes and sought out what has become a second home to me. Over 50 years of marriage, we have lived in five different towns, and, in all of them, the library has been a sanctuary and a haven.

Now, when I open the big glass door to my local library and walk through the atrium to the book-lined shelves, I feel just like I did when Miss Maze took my hand and led me to the children's books. I am happy and contented, as though loving arms have surrounded me with a great big hug. Best of all, I still feel an exciting anticipation of the unknown treasure waiting for me amongst the volumes that line the shelves in my second home.

I am so grateful that I had a mother who led me to one of the greatest treasures in my life, the public library.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Nice Surprise For Me

I entered a contest sponsored by the Winfield (Kansas) Arts and Humanities Council. This is the 26th annual Kansas Voices contest. I had entered once a few years ago but did not place. Maybe, I told myself, it was time to try again. I decided to enter three pieces. 

One was a poem that my online critique group particularly liked and so did I. The second was a fiction story that takes place in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The third was a creative nonfiction story called Christmas Spirit--Lost and Found that could be classified as memoir. 

The winners were to be notified by Friday, April 10, 2015. There was no notice on any of my entries on that Friday. I felt a bit disappointed as I thought maybe one of the three might place. I knew that this is a prestigious contest in our state and quite competitive but was hoping to be successful. Apparently, it was not to be. 

However, on Monday afternoon, I received a phone call from someone involved with the contest. I wasn't home but the woman left a lengthy and very nice message. It seems that my creative nonfiction story won Honorable Mention. I was invited to attend a reception and awards ceremony on May 2nd, 2015 in Winfield. The writers of the winning entries would read their story at that event.

Today, I received an email with a list of the winners. It seems this contest does not give 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Instead, they have 1st place and two Honorable Mention awards. Mine was right below the 1st place winner which pleased me. Monetary awards are given to all 1st and Honorable Mention winners. 

You who read this blog regularly know that I have said many times that you cannot win a contest unless you enter nor can you have a piece of your writing accepted by an editor if you don't submit it. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Self-Doubt Is Often Self-Created

Self-doubt might easily be termed a curse. At times, it certainly feels like some wicked old witch had placed a 7 year Curse on our heads. The problem is that we can't put the blame on others when we begin to doubt ourself. It's definitely a one-on-one, like it or not.

You've all heard that old plant a seed and it will grow. That works in both positive and negative ways. If you plant the seed of self-doubt, it is probably going to grow unless you perceive it as a giant weed on your writing path and stomp on it.

What creates self-doubt in writers? Here's a list of a few possibilities:

1. Multiple rejection letters

2. Poor critiques of material submitted to a critique group

3. Not liking your own writing

4. Past experiences in other parts of your life

5. Age

Let's look in more depth at the list, one by one.

1.  Dealing with rejection is no fun, nor is it easy to whisk away the feelings they bring like yesterday's bread crumbs on your kitchen floor. I've written more than once that rejections can have some positives. If you're getting rejections on the same piece of writing multiple times, take the hint. It needs revising. It doesn't mean you can't make it better.Tell yourself that all writers get rejected so you're no different than thousands of others. The key is to not get dragged down to a place where you can't crawl up again. We all get down when we get a rejection. That's human nature. Let it feel crummy for a day or two, then move on.

2. When you get a lot of negative reactions to the writing you submit to a critique group, it hurts. You probably went to the meeting with hopes of high praise. When it doesn't work out that way, it's tough. The best attitude here is to use the experience as a learning situation. Ask yourself what the group saw that you didn't? Ask yourself if their suggestions might improve the story or essay. It's a fine opportunity to grow as a writer.

3.  This one's simple. If you don't like your own writing, how can you expect readers to like it? If you don't like the things you write, take a step or two back and view your writing with more objective eyes. Ask yourself what it is that you do not like. Is the writing flat? Boring? Filled with mechanical errors? Rambling?

4.  If you've let past experiences in other aspects of your life lead you into doubting yourself, it's very likely you might do the same with your writing. I'm a believer in making a list of pros and cons of any situation. Then start emphasizing the pros and working on correcting the cons. And no, it doesn't happen overnight. It's a work in process forevermore for some people.

5. Age? I don't buy that one at all. I didn't start writing until my mid-fifties. The nice thing was that any editor who received my submission had no idea what my age was. She judged me on the words I'd strung together. When I started my blog, I chose the name Writer Granny's World. In retrospect, that was pretty dumb. Why advertise to the world that I'm a granny? On the other hand, it lets people know I've been around long enough to be an experienced writer. I hope to be writing as long as my mind holds out. I won't let my age be a factor until, and if, that time comes.

Be like the little engine that could. Every time you feel that self-doubt creeping up, just repeat the little train's mantra I think I can. I think I can. Worked for him, and it might work for you, too.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Find The Golden Nuggets In Freewriting

I found it rather interesting that this poster on freewriting included a picture of the Statue of Liberty. For the uninitiated, freewriting is a warm-up or exercise. Pick a word at random--open a book and point your finger--then use whatever word you hit. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Wrtie the word and then start writing whatever comes into your head. Pay no attention to the rules of grammar and punctuation. Just write without stopping! Open your heart and mind.

When the timer goes off, stop--or keep going if you're on a roll. When you read what you've written, you may be in for a surprise or two. This kind of writing exercise tends to release thoughts that may have been buried for a long time in the recesses of your mind. It can also produce a whole lot of nothing!

My online writers group does this as a weekly exercise. One member is responsible for selecting the words for one month. She can choose them in any way she likes. Some do the 'open and point' method and others keep a running theme. Last month, I chose all words that began with 'fr' and they brought forth many interesting pieces of writing.

This weekend, we were given a word that few of us knew but I certainly do now. The word and it's meaning is:

frangible:  adjective--easily broken; breakable 

My first thought was that it appeared to be a combination of the words tangible and fragile. I put fingers to keys and came up with ten minutes worth of interesting thoughts.

A freewrite exercise can lead to bigger and better things. A number of times, members of our group hit on an idea while freewriting and expand the exercise into a full story or essay.

Give it a try today. Use this word that we don;t use in our everyday conversation but is a very good one. Maybe we should try to use it now and then.

Set your timer for 10 minutes. Write the word: frangible. Put fingers to keys and let your brain start the exercise. Don't worry if what comes out is all drivel. Sometimes it will be but a golden nugget can come through, too. Freewriting does set your voice free. You can write anything you want to, no judgement from anyone.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writers Should Set Social Limits

I love the poster/quotes at The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life.. You'll find some interesting essays, quotes and other info at this site. And it's not just for women. The advice given covers all genders.

Edna Ferber wrote novels that have withstood the test of time---they're classics.  Among the best known are Giant, Show Boat, Cimarron and So Big. The entire list of her works is lengthy. Perhaps that is because she practiced what she preached. She gave up some things in life so she could continue working on her novels. She put work before self.

Sounds so easy, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. Those who write at home have multiple distractions through the day. Phones, doorbells, kids coming home from school, dogs needing to go outside. Then, there are the social events calling us. Lunches, teas, civic meetings, shopping with the girls. Add to that the social media most people use today--ie twitter, facebook and all the others like it. Yes, life has a whole lot of distractions to sidetrack writing time.

To say no to invitations and some of the other things I've mentioned takes determination on the writer's part. She/he must make a decision as to what takes greater importance in life. If it's writing, then you're going to have to learn to be strong enough to politely turn down many invitations. You'll need to set limits on the amount of time you spend on social media.

I'm not suggesting that you say no to everything. Far from it/ For our own mental health, we need some of these social distractions but we need to know when and where to draw the line.

One of my writing friends worked long and hard on a nonfiction novel in her home office. Because she was there, her retired husband popped in and out with comments and quesions through the day. She told me she'd be working like mad and there he was again, wondering about this or that. She finally put a sign on the door that said WRITER AT WORK and he learned, that unless it was an emergency, he was not to bother her when the sign was in place.

It's up to you (and me), as the writer, to set the guidelines. Others in our family or circle of friends can't be expected to know how much time we want to devote to our work and how much to our social life.

In closing, let me add one thing--Ms. Ferber probably didn't have nearly the number of distractions in her day as we do now.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Are You Up For A Challenge?


I saw this quote the other day while waiting in the x-ray area of my doctor's office. There were several others on the wall behind the receptionist's desk, but this one kept popping out for me. The more I read it, the more it made sense.

As writers, we can get complacent about our work. If we have a little success here and there, maybe we've satisfied. We've chosen our seat at the concert and like it well enough to reserve it for the season. Why move? I like it right here.

Change for the better is a good thing. It might only add to whatever else we've done. But to make some changes, we need those challenges. We need to try working on a project that's harder than ones we've done before.

Putting a challenge in front of ourselves may be good but it can also be pretty tough. Strive for something more than you've done in the past and, if you achieve the change, it will be ever so satisfying. To say nothing of the fact that it can put you ahead in your writing journey.

My friend, Grant Overstake, author of Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, had a post on facebook last night that fits right in with my topic today. He spent part of yesterday as a Teaching Artist at a magnet school, where he visited third grade classes. These kids are writing, illustrating, and publishing their own novels! I think Grant had as much fun as the kids did.

Think of the challenge the teachers of those third grade classes put before their students. Sounds to me like they rose to it quite well and I have no doubt that it will change each one of them in many ways.

I challenge you to challenge your own writing world and see what changes come from doing so.