Thursday, July 27, 2017

Writers--Keep Your Eyes Open Wide

Are your eyes wide open when you receive a critique on something you've written? 

One of the women in my online writing group sent me a thank you for the crit I had done on a two part essay she had subbed. At the end of her message she said,  "I never, ever tire of receiving constructive crits to get my eyes open to what I couldn't see before subbing!"

That is definitely one of the reasons we benefit from having our work critiqued, or 'critted' as our group says. It is so much easier for someone else to spot the problem areas in our writing. We seem to be too close to be able to pick out the areas that need revising or dumping or having something added. We gloss right over those small mechanical errors when we attempt to edit our own writing. 

But give me a piece of writing by someone else and I can spot the places that need reworking instantly. 

I have been in a couple of writing groups where those who sub their work for critique keep their eyes closed to what others tell them. They come in eager to hear what the critiquers have to say but they want it all to be positive, to be told that what they wrote is wonderful. And many times, it is. Even so, there are always changes that can, and should, be made. That's the hard part to hear. No one likes to be told that they should do this a different way or that in another viewpoint or anything else that might be taken as negative. 

I lost a writing friend many years ago because I did an honest crit of a short story she'd written. She was a beginner and her work showed it. She had asked me to be a writing buddy outside our full group, wanting a one on one sub and crit. I pondered long and hard as to whether to be honest about the story she'd given me or to feed her ego. I chose the honest approach and she was furious. End of the one on one and end of friendship. I felt bad but I also thought that she'd never be published if she was not willing to open her eyes to her mistakes and to be willing to learn more about the craft of writing. 

When someone critiques your writing, remember that those crits are meant to be:
  • constructive criticism
  • to help you learn more about writing
  • to open your eyes to what you couldn't see in your own work
All the items in the list above are positives. Nothing there is meant to hurt your feelings. If you truly want a fair, honest crit of your work, push the emotion aside and concentrate on the benefit you receive from other eyes on your writing. Keep those eyes open!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Three Calls For Submissions

Reading 1

Bards Against Hunger is asking for submissions for an anthology to celebrate five years of their project to help provide life-sustaining food to those in need. There will be no pay other than the good feeling you'll have by helping a charity group like this one.  They allow up to 3 poems, no longer than 100 lines, to be submitted.

An unusual guideline is that you are to paste the poem(s) in the email and also attach them. You are also asked to provide the name of your state in the subject line. You'll note the guidelines also ask for a 3-4 line bio. The submission date says 'May' but I have been told that the deadline has been extended. Poetry may be on any subject. I'm guessing that something on world hunger might catch an editor's eye. Only a guess, however.

Chicken Soup for the Soul has added a new book in the possible book topics in their submission section. This one will be a book using the theme of Love. They're looking for a wide range of stories that tell of dating, romance, marriage. They may be serious or hilarious. Read more on the link above and then check that guidelines page to refresh your memory. Deadline is October 31st. While you're on the Possible Book Topics page, you might check the other books still needing submissions. This anthology series pays $200 per story. Competition is high so send your very best work.

The Moments anthologies group is looking for Christmas stories for a 2018 book as well as a few others. Check this page for what the editor is looking for. Some are already past the date but there are others for 2018 publication. Again, this one is a no pay with all royalties going to Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian organization . I have a story in one of the Moments anthologies that was just released and had another in the most recent Christmas Moments book. The newest title is Loving Moments. The book cover is an especially nice one. They will accept previously published nonfiction stories which helps some writers justify the no pay, donate for a charity situation.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Positive In Rejections

I love my rejection slips. They show me I try. ~ Sylvia Plath #amwriting

Do you love your rejection slips? Probably not. Usually, we'd like to tear them into shreds and throw them to the four winds to never be seen again. At least, that's how we feel when one arrives. 

High hopes are so easily dashed when the notice from an editor thanks you for submitting--ever so polite--but then goes on to tell you that the story just isn't right for their publication. Sometimes, they even invite you to submit something else another time. It's a long drop from those high hopes to the floor and the crash hurts more than our backside. Our ego suffers. Our self-confidence plunges. Our temper flares. 

So, we get through all that and then what? Maybe we should take a hard look at what Sylvia Plath, the American poet, novelist and short story writer, says in today's quote. Go ahead look at it. Read it aloud. Then take a little time to think about it. 

Perhaps we should take some pride in our rejections if, for no other reason, they let us know we made some effort as a writer. We wrote, we edited, we revised and edited again and then, we took a great leap of faith and submitted our work somewhere. And we waited to hear from the editor. And we waited and waited. 

Those writers who submit their work are the courageous ones. Far too many write and write and never submit a thing. Those writers are thinking What if they hate my work? What if it isn't any good? And worse yet--What if they accept it and want more? Can I produce more? Can I deal with success?

You'll never know the answers to those questions unless you actually submit your work. Every rejection you receive shows that you made some effort to get your work published. Those who do are the heroes/heroines. The longer you wait to start submitting your work, the harder it might be. 

Submitting is no assurance that you'll be published but you'll know you gave it a try. Who can do more than that? The one thing that you should do is to submit again and again. I've often referred to the Submission Ferris Wheel. Keep it going round and round with a new piece of writing in each seat. 

Whether you're successful in having your work accepted and published or not, derive satisfaction in knowing that you gave it your best. You did not let your stories, articles, book manuscripts and poetry gather dust in a file. 

Go back and read that quote one more time. Then start searching your files and markets and submit something. Today!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mystery Trip--Day 5 & 6

Jelly Belly Factory Shop

 We left Milwaukee Friday morning and traveled about half an hour to our final tour of the trip. The big, purple bus pulled up in front of the Jelly Belly Factory! We rode in a tram through the factory and ended up in the Jelly Belly Shop, pictured above. I had no idea that they made more than jelly beans. Almost everyone left with a Jelly Belly bag filled with goodies.

We traveled south and crossed the border into Illinois, which is our home state. As we traveled south, Ken and I had many memories triggered as we went by the area where we met in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago, then the western suburbs where I grew up. We passed right by the cemetery where family members are buried, then on farther south to the area where I went to college in Normal, Il, home of Il State University. 

Before we left the Chicago area, we stopped in Joliet at another mansion where we were served a sumptuous lunch and took a self-guided tour of the 40 room home. Closets were unique in the late 1800's and when the owner added a closet to each bedroom, he was taxed for each one as the tax was figured on the number of rooms in a home. The assessor saw those closets as more dollars! 

The St. Louis Arch

We didn't know our destination for Friday night but with traveling all the way down the state of IL, how could it be anywhere else but St. Louis? The Arch welcomed us to that city on the Mississippi. Our next bit of nostalgia came when we pulled up to a Marriott Hotel in Chesterfield, MO which is the suburb where our first grandchild was born 21 years ago. 

Dinner was on our own that evening and having no car, most of us opted for the Marriott restaurant. Off we went the next morning for the last leg of our Mystery Trip. Our lunch stop was a nice surprise. We pulled up in front of Jack Stack Barbecue in downtown Kansas City. The famed restaurant lived up to its reputation for good barbecue.

Two hours after we finished eating, we arrived at Meadowlark, the Senior Living place where most of the travelers on the trip live. After the pleasant temps in Milwaukee, the 107 degrees we stepped into from the bus felt like an oven! 

Now, we have memories of the Mystery Trip that two staff members at Meadowlark planned so very well, down to the last detail. Would I take another Mystery Trip? Yes, I would. Now, it's back to our everyday routine and my writing world once again. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mystery Trip--Day 4

I've thought a lot about how we were a bit hesitant to join this Mystery Trip. Go to an unknown destination? That was against my character traits bigtime. I like to have a plan. No plan this week except follow directions and be surprised. Pleasantly surprised all the way. If we'd stayed home and just heard the other travelers' tales about what they'd done this week and where they were, I most certainly would have regretted not being there. I've learned a lesson about having the courage to take a chance.

We had another fine breakfast--did you ever have scrambled eggs with bits of bratwurst, onions, peppers and cheese in them? Take my word that they are scrumptious!

We were kept in the dark about our first tour of the day until we arrived at the Basilica of St. Josophat. Once there, we had a docent talk to us and show us the basilica which was built by members of the Polish Catholic church here in Milwaukee in the late 1800's. Polish immigrants gave their time, talent and treasures to build this magnificent church. The smallest part of that trio was treasure as they were working families. They found others to help with the funding and they did much of the work themselves. A true labor of love.

Our next stop was the Milwaukee Art Museum located on the lakefront. Designed with great wings on the roof that resemble the seagulls that abound on the lake, it is an architectural piece of art as well as housing great art collections. Another docent led tour showed us several areas of the museum. We had a wonderful boxed lunch, then free time. Many of us met at the Wine Bar for a restful time on the patio where we had coffee, tea or wine and watched the many sailboats on a day filled with sunshine, gentle breezes and a temp of 78. Several mentioned they'd love to have a summer place in this city. I, who have lived in northern IL, know that the summer is just a cover-up for the strong gales that blow in off Lake Michigan bringing snow and temperatures that will frost your face in a hurry when winter arrives. And winter arrives much earlier than it does for us in Kansas and, yes, it lasts longer, too.

So, do visit Milwaukee in the summertime. Our evening excursion was to dinner at a lovely French bistro on the lakefront.We both had trout with a perfect salad and French bread so good I wanted to take a loaf home but it would be hard as a rock when we got there!

We leave this fine city on Friday morning heading south and west to Kansas. I'll post about that trip once we reach home. The city where we will stay on Friday night is another mystery!

Mystery Trip--Day 3

We had to think long and hard before signing up for the Meadowlark Travelers Mystery Trip but after three days, we have no regrets. It's been a great trip with a lot of interesting sights to see and some very fine people to travel with. All thanks to Becky and Monte, tour guides exceptional!

On Day 3, we started with a tour of the Pabst Mansion here in Milwaukee. A steamboat captain, turned Beer Baron, built this magnificent home with 34 rooms and 14 fireplaces. We were given a tour by a knowledgeable docent. Along with viewing the home, we learned a lot of the history of Milwaukee, as well. The whole group posed for a photo on the steps which Becky sent back to Meadowlark to be put in the weekly newsletter. We're famous!

Next, our big purple bus took us to the War Memorial Building on the shore of Lake Michigan. The temperature was in the 70's, a blessed relief to all of us who had been enduring a very hot spell home in Kansas.

We moved on for a food tour. Yep, a food tour! As if we hadn't been eating ourselves into looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy already! But never say no when it comes to food. The first stop was the Milwaukee Public Food Market, an indoor market of numerous stalls with every kind of food imaginable. Nice picnic tables outside to enjoy whatever you bought.

Next, we stopped at a cheese shop where we had appetizer plates of summer sausage, two kinds of Wisconsin cheese, pretzel bread, Dusseldorf mustard and a heavenly piece of cheese fudge. Yes, that's right--cheese fudge. It was so good that Ken ran right over to the shelf where it lay waiting and he grabbed a package to take home. Alas, we noticed later that it said "Keep refrigerated" so we might have to eat it all before we leave!

Next stop was a spice shop which held more spices and extracts than I'd ever thought existed. After a taste test, I bought some crystallized ginger to bring home.

On to a Sicilian Bakery where we were treated, and I do mean 'treated' to a mini cannoli that was some kind of marvelous.

In the evening, we had a dinner cruise with the Edelweiss Cruise line on a river and then out into Lake Michigan. A lovely dinner with music of our era playing and so much to see on the lake and the shoreline that it was hard to eat for fear of missing something.

So, yes, we are doing the Happy Dance that we signed on for this trip. Wondering what tomorrow will bring. Becky and Monte keep some things a mystery as to what and where. One tour for Thursday is a complete mystery, not even a hint given last night. Just be on the bus at the appointed time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mystery Trip--Day 2

We saw many churches in our Destination city

On our second day, we were up early, luggage outsidqe the door by 7:15. We had a nice breakfast and all hopped on the big, purple bus. Scratch that, we all boarded the bus--no hopping among senior citizens!

Crossing the Mississippi River, I wondered if we would be turning north soon, but it wasn't until we sighted the sign for the highway to Rockford, IL that we headed north. We lived in Rockford for a few years at one point so had a bit of nostalgia as we passed by familiar sights.

Once in Wisconsin, we headed to a town called East Troy where we had a delightful journey on an electric railroad. The engineer and conductor kept us entertained over every inch of the track we followed. A lot of laughing at this duo that could have been a vaudeville act. Bordered by trees, bushes, wildflowers and houses, it proved to be an interesting ride on a pleasantly warm day. The train stopped at The Elegant Farmer's which turned out to be a restaurant and market. We had a picnic lunch at outdoor tables, sandwiches made on Kaiser rolls made in their bakery, the meats from their meat case.

Back on the train for the return trip to the old depot. Climbing on and off the train was a feat as the steps were steep but we all made it!

By mid-afternoon, we knew our destination city was Milwaukee, WI. When Ken and I were first married, we lived an hour south of Milwaukee so sometimes came to this city to shop, have lunch and enjoy the sights.

Our first stop was at Lakeside Brewery. No trip to Milwaukee can overlook a brewery visit. Lakeside is a small brewery with a big heart. The beer hall was a lively spot and the tour director entertaining. Those who weren't beer drinkers sampled the Golden Maple Root Beer. 'Very sweet' was what I heard numerous times.

On to the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Milwaukee where a small reception was waiting for us. All was well until it was discovered that one person's luggage had not been delivered to her room. It was lost until later in the evening but turned up allowing the poor woman to sleep better than had it still been wandering around the hotel.

Dinner at Mader's well-known German restaurant was good but too much food, as we find in most restaurants today. I had one of the best pieces of salmon I've ever eaten. Cooked to perfection! A long hallway by the private room where we ate was lined with photos of celebrities who had eaten at Mader's. Stars from the 40's on up to today were there for all to see. More nostalgia!

On Wednesday, we'll explore more of this city on Lake Michigan. Many of the people in our group had never been here so all will be new to them. For us, some will be new, some will dredge up memories of years past when we spent time here.