Friday, May 26, 2017

An Experience To Remember

I take issue with the phrase Happy Memorial Day because there is little 'happy' about it. It's a time to honor our fallen military men and women and to honor those who have served and still serve today. I was reminded of a wonderful experience Ken and I had a number of years ago during the Iraq War. Today, as we head into Memorial Day weekend, I am sharing it with you. Enjoy your family and friends this weekend but remember what it is we are to remember.

Patriotism On Parade

By Nancy Julien Kopp

The hotel ballroom buzzed with music, conversation, and laughter. Military dress uniforms and ball gowns added to the festive air of the evening. My husband, Ken, and I were the only civilians out of more than four hundred attending the Kodiak Ball honoring the 70th Engineer Battalion. The men and women in the battalion, stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, returned only weeks earlier after serving a full year in Iraq. On this night, they gathered with spouses and dates to celebrate their homecoming, their survival, and the joy of being an American.

The soldiers requested that our church send someone to receive thanks and appreciation for the support of one company within the battalion, and we were pleased to be the representatives from St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. The congregation adopted Charlie Company upon their deployment in March of 2003. For the year they served in Iraq, members of the church mailed letters, birthday cards, and packages to the men who soon became “our soldiers.” We sent Christmas cards to the nearly one hundred members of Charlie Company, kept them in our prayers, and eagerly waited news about them. Members dropped monetary donations into a pair of shiny Army boots placed in the narthex of the church. The money allowed items like socks and other necessities along with some little touches of home like gum and candies to be shipped overseas. A line of love and pride between the members of the church and the soldiers grew strong and steady as the year progressed.

Tonight both the battalion commander and commander of Charlie Company greeted us. They clasped our hands and thanked us for all the support they’d received. Both men spoke with sincerity that was further mirrored in their eyes and warm handshake. From then on, other soldiers and spouses approached us, introduced themselves as members of Charlie Company, and offered us heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all the church members had done for them. One officer remarked, “We expect support from our families, but when it comes from perfect strangers, it means a great deal to us.” Another commented that the caring and concern shown them seemed almost overwhelming at times, but it made their job easier knowing people at home supported them.

With each introduction and conversation, my pride in our country and the men who served in her armed forces grew steadily stronger. I marveled at the many men and women who volunteered to serve their country. No draft board tapped them on the shoulder and handed them marching orders. These soldiers chose to serve with a pride, love, and belief in America.

The evening provided many emotional moments including a Table Of Remembrance ceremony to honor fallen comrades. The ballroom lights dimmed, and a spotlight centered on a table set for one. A soldier’s solemn voice related the symbolism of each item on the table in a somber tribute. A moment of silence followed, a moment needed by many to swallow the lump in the throat and wipe away a fallen tear.

Two movie screens placed at opposite sides of the ballroom flashed pictures of the 70th Engineer Battalion going about their everyday jobs in Iraq. Poignant as well as humorous moments captured on film showed a side of the military not often reported in newspapers. These were Americans who had a sensitive side, could put a comic slant on serious moments, and portrayed a fine work ethic learned in various parts of America during their growing-up years.

After dinner, the battalion commander asked Ken and I to come forward to accept a framed Certificate of Appreciation for the church. The soldiers offered us a standing ovation. We returned to our table with cheers and applause ringing in our ears. Never have I felt so much appreciation, warmth, and pleasure.

No matter what one feels about the right or wrong of the war in Iraq, be proud of the men and women who answered the call to represent America. They are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. Support them in every possible way. Before this special evening ended, it was our turn to voice heartfelt thanks to the soldiers and their families. We spoke for many Americans as we expressed our appreciation for their service.

A full moon lit the way to our car. I told my husband that this would be a night we would long remember. It wasn’t only the moon that was glowing tonight.

Published at

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Even Moving Inches Will Get You There

Today's poster quote can be summed up with a simple thought. Achieving success doesn't happen overnight. 

Beginning writers know this in their rational mind but their heart might tell them otherwise. When we want to be successful writers, we would give a lot for it to happen quickly. Write a story. Get it published. Sounds simple but any writer with experience will let you know this is a dream. It may be what your heart is saying but it takes a lot more than just plain desire. 

But doesn't the quote begin with a dream? It's our jumping off place. It's where our writing journey begins. We acquire those other things along the way--faith in our ability, action, perseverance and patience. 

Wouldn't it be nice if we could stop in at a writing shop and buy a pound of each? If only! Instead, writers must work at each one of those traits on a consistent basis to make that dream a reality.

Will your big dream come true if you pursue each one? For a few, it will. But for many, only part of the big dream will come to fruition. And that's perfectly alright. There's nothing wrong with meeting small goals. 

At times, it feels like we move inch by inch when we'd like it to be leaps and bounds. Keep in mind that even with inches, you're making progress. It's when you move backwards or get stuck in one place for a long time that you should be concerned. Keep moving! 

Yesterday, I spent some time looking through some calls for submissions. It's been awhile since I submitted to someplace other than Chicken Soup for the Soul.  I've been busy with a lot of other things. At least, that's what I told myself. But the reality is that I got a bit lazy. Finding places to submit to takes time and perseverance. A bit of patience, too. As I scanned through the possibilities I found in newsletters and facebook postings, I got more enthused. I thought about pieces already written that might fit this one or that. I had a few ideas for new writing pop into my head. 

Consider what you haven't been doing for awhile and revisit. Whether it's a certain kind of writing or finding places to submit or revising old pieces, spend some time there. Inspiration can sometimes be of our own making. That simple act of looking for places to submit to yesterday definitely inspired me. 

Today's poster might be a good one to print and keep close to your writing area. Use it as a reminder of where you want to go and how you can get there. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Writing Exercise To Try

a message more women need to hear.:

Here's a writing prompt that you can use to start writing today. Instead of just a photo prompt, this one incorporates both a visual image and a phrase. 

Study the picture and then begin writing using the phrase she was stronger than she thought.  I've made the picture extra-large so you can see more detail. You can completely ignore the many items in the photo if you like and use only the words. The phrase is more important. The details in the picture might be of some further inspiration. The more you look at the picture, the more you see.

Give it a go and see what comes from your creative mind. Write a paragraph, a story, or a poem. Maybe even a personal essay. Your choice. I'd love to see the results but the comments section will only take a small word count. 

Have fun with this one!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Family Trees Trigger Memories

If you haven’t snagged them yet, we have 4 Free Family Tree Templates!:
Family Tree

A family member contacted me last week to ask if I had ever made a family tree for our family. Did I have enough information to make one to share with the family? I had done one once but had received a little more information from an older cousin since then. I decided to download a free template and do it again.

I searched through a file drawer for the family genealogy information and proceeded to fill out the template similar to the one shown above. As I wrote the name of each parent, grandparent and great-grandparent, flashes of what they looked like and stories I knew about them came to mind. Some I remembered because I had known them while others were known to me only through family stories and photos.

If you work on a family tree for your own family, you will probably have the same experience. You'll see your grandmother in her kitchen. Maybe a vision of your grandpa milking cows by hand will flit across your mind. You might remember a great-grandparent being cared for by other family members. A funeral you attended for one of the grandparents could have made a deep impression on you. I only attended the funeral of one of my grandparents. I was 12 and I can picture the funeral home, the room where the funeral was held, the casket and, most clearly, my father shedding tears for a mother-in-law he loved dearly. 

That memory flashback is enough to be the basis for a family story or even a personal essay. Seeing my dad cry was a new experience and it left a forever moment with me. 

As the stories or thoughts come to you while writing names on your family tree, jot down some notes. You'll be able to write a new family story or use the situation and/or person in your other writing--even basing a fictional character on someone in your background. We write what we know and who do we know better than our own families? 

Some of our family members are beloved and always will be. Others may have irritated you for one reason or another and you will most likely harbor a bit of resentment toward them forever. Just because they are family, there is no rule that says you must feel equally about every one of them. 

If you've never filled out a family tree template, give it a try. I think you'll be surprised at the myriad thoughts that flit through your mind like a bee collecting nectar from a variety of flowers. If you already have a family tree, take a look at it and see what recollections it brings. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Know The Characters You Create

4 people, 4 different characters

 Last night, I was watching the season finale of one of my favorite tv shows. Call The Midwives is a British production shown on PBS. At the end, I cried a little with sheer joy and love for the people in the show whom I've come to know so well. 

It occurred to me that every character stands out because each one has been carefully developed by the writer. Ah yes, we come back to that well-known (to us) entity--the writer. 

It goes without saying that the main characters in a story--long or short--must be drawn fully and with care. The show I watched last evening has many characters and, as the series progresses, viewers have gotten to know a good number of them to the point that we feel what they are feeling because we understand who they are, their motives for their actions, their joys and sorrows, their goals and more. Thanks again to the writer(s). 

I think that one of the reasons that the series is successful is that secondary characters are also well-developed. They are not just those 'walk across the stage and smile' extras. 

Creating a character who readers (or viewers) will remember takes time and some skill that comes with doing it over and over again. An author of multiple books doesn't have to spend as much time as the one who is writing a first novel. And guess what? There is plenty of help. Our old friend, google, will find many how-to articles on character development. 

One site I checked on has a chart to be filled out for each character. It's lengthy but thorough. If you can write something about your character on every line in the chart, you will know him/her quite well by the time you reach the end. Check it here

Many writers will tell you that they come to know their characters so well that the story almost writes itself because the characters direct the story. I've had that happen in one of my longer projects, so I know it is no figment of imagination. 

Take some time to get to know the characters you create and your readers will thank you. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Two-sided Coin--Part 2

Currency, Bitcoin, Digital Currency, Crypto-Currency
Looking at the other side of the coin

Yesterday, we looked at the frustration side of writing. Today, let's explore the other side--satisfaction. Here is the second half of the article.

Part 2:

One of the best parts of being a writer comes with the publication of your work. It’s comparable to a gift placed in a golden box and tied with a silver bow, your name on top. Here’s where the satisfaction side of the coin shows up. No matter how many times your work is published, it’s a pleasure. It definitely erases some of that frustration, which never disappears completely but can diminish and become of less importance with each success.

Sometimes satisfaction comes from the fulfillment in achieving a completed story, novel, article or essay. Many writers begin a project and never finish. I’m willing to guess that most writers have folders with half-done projects. But it’s those completed pieces that allow satisfaction to enfold us like a soft, silken shawl. Revel in it when it occurs.

What joy there is when inspiration hits while we’re doing a mundane household task, or driving a carpool. Maybe a character begins to form in your mind when waiting for a bus, or a word you’ve sought reveals itself during a conversation with a friend.

Another form of satisfaction comes when an editor assigns a project and we manage to  return it completed with all points covered. Writing on speculation is much easier than writing to a specified set of objectives. For assigned articles, a writer must do the research, write a first draft, revise and edit her work, then check to see if she’s covered everything asked for. Including all points asked for requires good concentration and writing skill, so any satisfaction at the end is well-earned.

Escaping into another world while writing is one more form of satisfaction. While writing, we create a place of refuge, creativity, and personal meditation that can prove emotionally fulfilling.

I will continue reading the daily offerings in the devotional book for writers, and I am certain I’ll continue to learn from other writers’ frustrations, as well as enjoy the happiness that comes through when they are satisfied. I’m going to plan to keep the satisfaction side of the coin face up. It’s a lot more fun than the other side and is bound to make me a more productive, more creative writer.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Two-sided Coin--Part 1

Currency, Bitcoin, Digital Currency, Crypto-Currency
Two Sides To Every Coin

Today's post is the first half of an article I wrote that was published several years ago. This part explores the more difficult side of the coin that we writers face. Tomorrow, I will post what we find on the other side of the coin. 

Part 1:   

Daily Devotions For Writers  rests next to my printer, where I can reach it easily every morning before beginning to work. The life lessons the book contains offer advice, relate trials and also inject a bit of humor. Some of the writers talk of a revelation that came when least expected. Most of the devotions include a scripture verse and/or a prayer—sometimes a quote.

After reading the daily devotional book for a few months, I noticed that a pattern appeared to emerge in the guise of a two-sided coin. On one side of the coin, I sensed frustration from so many of the writers. It appears to be a universal theme for both seasoned and new writers. But flip the coin over, and satisfaction is evident.

Novice writers may experience the frustration in greater amounts than the satisfaction. It takes perseverance and patience to traverse the tunnel of disappointment. Doesn’t every writer dream of instant success? When rejection letters pile up faster than election campaign literature, what’s a writer to do? Confidence levels fall with alarming speed when new or even long-time writers don’t meet with some success. Doubt pays daily visits, and if a writer chooses to entertain him, he’ll stay.

Believe in yourself and your work. If you have something to say, a story to entertain or to make a difference in the lives of others, don’t let the early-days frustrations get you down. Make marketing lists, and work your way down that list until you either find an editor to accept a particular story, article, poem, or novel chapters, or have exhausted the list. If every editor you’ve selected rejects your submission, it’s time to take a look and determine why the piece didn’t sell. Make some revisions and try again. It’s rarely easy to look at your own work objectively, but it’s possible, and it will be to your advantage to do so.

Lack of time to write is one common frustration. Life tends to get in our way. Occasionally, the writer allows that to happen, for what better way to postpone a project that’s not coming easily? A serious writer creates time to write. Frustration also occurs when an idea forms in the mind but won’t translate into the printed word. From the brain to the fingers is not always a smooth road.

Once in awhile, a writer finishes an article or story, puts it aside for the required seasoning of a few days, then brings it out again only to find that it doesn’t say what she wanted to say at all. In fact, the writer is disgusted with the piece and is ready to hit the delete button. It’s the very reason writing books and editors advise setting a finished piece of writing aside for a few days. Then the writer reads it with a new perspective; sees with different eyes and gains satisfaction from the process of improvement. Isn’t it better that she hasn’t been one of those writers who dash off a piece and call it finished, then send it to an editor immediately? More than likely, it will come flying back with a form rejection letter. Avoid this kind of frustration by allowing yourself some time between a partially finished and a truly completed piece.

While frustration often looms over a writer’s head, it’s not all bad. Beneficial lessons present themselves through the haze of the stress involved. It’s up to the writer to discern the positive angles. Face your frustrations with open eyes and a willingness to turn them to your advantage.