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Monday, November 30, 2009

A Pulitzer Prize Novel

Our Book Club is reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for December. It’s a lengthy book that won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001. I’m struggling to read it because it moves so slowly. In the first one hundred pages the reader learns only a few things about the two main characters, and most of it comes through backstory. I’m guessing that maybe three-fourths of that first hundred pages is backstory. It bothers me to be taken away from the active part of the story and thrust back into time to learn things that could be woven into the story itself.

One of the writing tips I’ve come across over and over is to limit backstory—even better if you don’t use it at all. Another is to leave the reader wanting to turn the page when the chapter ends. I haven’t felt that way at all while reading this book. So it seems that the author has broken some of the rules of good writing, but he still managed to win the Pulitzer Prize.

I did a little research to see what qualifications a book should have to be a winner. One thing that surprised me is that the only books considered are those entered into competition with the required $50 fee. Risking $50 might be well worth it if an author ends up winning the certificate and $10,000 prize. Secondly, the Pulitzer Prize goes to a work of distinguished fiction that shows the American way of life.

So, someone entered The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and the committee felt it fit all their criteria. That doesn’t make it a page-turning, fascinating novel. The book became a best-seller, but with only one hundred pages of it read, I can’t recommend it to anyone. Maybe I’ll feel differently once I plow through the remaining 500+ pages.

The story is about two adolescent Jewish boys who come up with a new comic book character and storyline in 1939, New York City. The book moves through the war years and after, so it is a good look at a different time and a history of the comic book era. The premise here is fine, but it seems to me that the author might have easily told the same story in half the number of words he used.

One thing is for certain, all Pulitzer Prize winners do not end up on the “My Favorite Books” list for me and for a lot of other people, as well. It’s why we need so many books as each one appeals to someone, just not all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Countdown To Turkey Day

Is there such a thing as Thanksgiving Eve? If so, this is it! The countdown is almost finished, as tomorrow is the big day for families to watch the Macy's Christmas Parade, eat, watch football, eat, spend time together, eat, reminisce, and eat. Along with all that, most of us will silently count our blessings, or maybe voice them to all.

As for me, many of my blessings will be seated around our table, opened to accomodate all ten of us. But before that happens, I still have some cooking to do and a turkey to pick up. I ordered a fresh turkey so no hassle with wondering if it is really thawed or not. The salads are made, appetizers done, cinnamon rolls raising and soon to go in the oven.

Our family will arrive mid to late afternoon, Our quiet house will burst with activity and chatter the minute they walk in the door amid hugs and kisses and dogs jumping around with the same excitement. I'm looking forward to every minute of the 3+ days they will be here. And giving thanks for having two refrigerators to hold all the soft drinks, adult beverages and food.

One of our Czech exchange students will join us on Thanksgiving Day, and I'm excited to have her experience a truly American holiday.

I'm going to take a break from the blog until the holiday week-end is over. Happy Thanksgiving to all. Remember to write down those family stories you hear around your table.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thanksgiving Message

The following is a posting I wrote for the Our Echo website this morning, and I decided to use it here today, as well.

It becomes a cliche to say that you have much to be thankful for at Thanksgiving time. But maybe that's all right. After all, isn't Thanksgiving a perfect nudge to our conscience, a time to reflect on all the blessings we do have?


Imagine how difficult it must have been for the Pilgrims to feel grateful after the year of hardship they endured when they arrived in this, then unsettled, country of ours. It might have been easier to list all the rotten things that they'd put up with during that year, but they gathered together to feast and give their thanks to God. Maybe the first thing they were thankful for was that they were still alive. Many had been lost.

It's all too easy to let our trials and tribulations pile up so high that we can't see over them to the things we can and should be grateful for. In the difficult economic times we are in now, with our military fighting wars on foreign soil, and our politicians at war with one another in Washington, our concerns are great. But so are the blessings.

My personal blessings are a loving husband, children and grandchildren whom I'm proud to call my own, a country to live in that has more freedoms than almost any other place on earth. I have never wanted for food, clothing, or shelter. I have friends, both near and far, whom I can count on in good times and bad. I have been able to pursue a freelance writing career/hobby late in life that has been one of the most satisfying things I've ever done. I have health problems but nothing that keeps me from participating in life to the fullest, or keeps me from serving others in various ways.

We humans have perfected whining and complaining to a fine art. I'm no exception. I do my share of it at times, too. But this week, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, or even alone, set aside the complaints and make a list of the reasons you have to be grateful. Keep adding to it as the week goes on. You'll meet some of those blessings in your daily walk through life. Then give thanks to Him who made them possible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Good News in November

November has been a very good month for my writing world. Six of my stories, essays and articles have been published and today, number seven has come out at Long Ridge Writers Newsletter. A banner month!

This new article is on advice to writers, both beginners and those who have been writing for some time. It's to encourage writers to send out their work to an editor. Stories that build up in your file gather dust and mold unless you market them. There's no doubt that it's pretty scary to start sending your work to an editor. You risk rejection which causes frustration and feelings of depression. But it can also reap benefits. You can see your work in print, cash the check, and turn those feelings into ones of satisfaction. Take a chance and send something to an editor today.

I was fortunate to be in a writers group in my early days of writing that had a leader who harped constantly about sending work out. And that is exactly the subject of "It Pays To Listen." You can read it at
http://www.thelongridgewritersgroup.com/T6020/rx/wc01/it__pays_to_listen.shtml

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Thanksgiving Story

LongStoryShort ezine has published my Thanksgiving story in the November issue. It's a true tale of a Thanksgiving of long ago when I miscalculated the time to roast the turkey. Since Thanksgiving is drawing near, I have pasted the story below. A Happy Thanksgiving and Good Cooking to all.

Turkey in the Raw

by Nancy Julien Kopp

One Thanksgiving dinner stands out in neon lights in my memory bank. It can bring a blush to my cheeks, even thirty-seven years after the fact.

My husband’s father passed away in the spring of 1972. I knew the first holiday without him would be difficult for my mother-in-law. She had not been adjusting well to a life without her spouse. What better way to help our children’s grandma through Thanksgiving than to gather her three sons and their families at our house for the day? Five of the seven grandchildren were preschool age, and two were slightly older. The house would be filled with children playing, adults talking and the soothing balm of a turkey dinner. We’d make this a good holiday for Grandma. I issued the invitations via phone and began to plan a special day.

By Thanksgiving Day, I’d baked and done the pre-cooking. Now the turkey, filled with a moist sage stuffing, roasted in the oven. White potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and a green bean casserole were close to being ready. Nutmeg and cloves scented the corner of the counter where the pumpkin pies cooled.

“When do we eat? When do we eat?” the kids pleaded more than once.

I consulted the scrap of paper where I’d jotted down the amount of time the turkey needed. “Pretty soon,” I told them.

The aroma of the roasting meat added to our hunger, and I placated the entire clan with sodas, juice and appetizers and some adult beverages.

Finally, it was time to take the turkey from the oven, and what a beautiful bird it was-- big, browned, and beckoning. I called my brother-in-law, known as “Best Carver in the Family,” to the kitchen. One sister-in-law mashed the potatoes, while the other made the gravy. Toddlers scurried around us yelling, “Is it time now?” My husband and his oldest brother were glued to a football game on TV. Grandma sat stone-faced on the sofa, bent on feeling sorry for herself and being as miserable as she could on this day when we were gathered to count our blessings. Chaos was beginning to form here, and I began to feel a little flustered.

As I was trying to move the little ones into the family room, my brother-in-law uttered words that sent a chill straight to my bones.

“This turkey isn’t done. It’s raw in the middle.”

Silence suddenly reigned. No one said a word, but all eyes were on me. The unspoken question “Well, what you are going to do now?” reverberated in my head.

So what does a person do with a partially cooked turkey, side dishes ready to be put on the table, and a houseful of very hungry people? I flew into action. First, I put the cover on the roaster, popped the bird back into the oven, and turned up the heat. Lids went on the already cooked dishes, and we fixed hot dogs for the children, who probably enjoyed them more than the big dinner anyway.

An hour later, we resurrected the turkey, reheated the side dishes and sat down to eat, minus hot-dog stuffed children. The seven adults gathered around our dining room table ate to satisfaction and then some. The children appeared like magic when the desserts were served. Grandma managed to eat her dinner and join in on the conversation, not exuberant but not crying either. I hoped she counted her blessings, for many of them sat nearby.

I’d sensed complete disaster when I knew the turkey wasn’t cooked through, but in the end the family togetherness took precedence over all other things. I’d planned the day so that Grandma would be surrounded with those she loved, and it didn’t really matter that I’d miscalculated the time for cooking the turkey. But I’ve never forgotten it, and every now and then, the story of turkey in the raw generates laughter and some good-natured teasing—one more bond within our famiy.

Previously published at HeartCatchers ezine a couple years ago (no longer in existance). It is also posted at OurEcho.com, a website where writers can post their work.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One More Writer I Admire



Meet Maria Harden of Winnipeg, Canada. Maria is another writer I admire, even though she isn't writing a lot right now. Working full-time, caring for house and husband, having. family that lives nearby--all these serve to leave her with very little time for writing.

But a few years ago, when she wasn't working, she hammered out story upon story. Some won contests and many more were published at ezines like 2TheHeart.com and Heartwarmers, also OurEcho.com. An essay and photos of her sister's spectacular garden was published in Canada magazine, and she's had essays published in Canadian newspapers, as well. Maria loves to write, and having little time to devote to it now proves to be most frustrating for her.

As much as I admire Maria as a writer, there is also an admiration for her as a person who has accomplished a lot. She was born in Finland and came to Canada with her family as a very small child, so she considers herself Canadian with Finnish roots. A high school drop-out, a teen-aged marriage, a son born to that union, and a divorce--these things filled her teen and early twenties years. She raised her son, remarried and settled down, but not having her high school degree bothered her.

After her son grew up and was on his own, she decided to finish high school and get that much- longed-for high school diploma. It might make getting a job easier, but mostly it was for her own satisfaction. She accomplished that goal and proudly accepted her diploma, wearing cap and gown. This past spring, the school where she earned her late-in-life diploma contacted her and asked if she would consider being the speaker at the next graduation ceremony. Despite being nervous about standing in front of a crowd to speak, she agreed. We had e-mail chats about what she would tell these new graduates, and when the day came, Maria gave her speech, which I'm told turned out very well. Didn't surprise me one bit, for she has many abilities and she also loves to give to and help others. It's one of the reasons she writes, to share with her readers.

The same qualities that led her to finish her high school education are ones she uses in her writing. I'm confident that she will persevere and continue writing once she retires in a few more years. She is impatient at times, wishing she could stay home and write a story instead of hurrying away in the morning to her job as receptionist in the Winnipeg City Offices. Hang in there, Maria.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Helping Hands

Writers tend to help other writers, and so bloggers do the same for one another. You may remember my post featuring author, Jennie Helderman, which appeared here on October 12.. Jennie has started blogging, and one of the features she is planning to use is to have a Guest Blogger occasionally.

Guess who is her first Guest Blogger? Yep, me. I was very pleased when she asked me to take the lead on this feature of her blog. She gave me three categories to choose from for a topic. I could make comments on anything, something pertaining to writing, or an excerpt from something I'd written. Something about writing seemed the one that reached out to me.

I wrote about writers needing to send their work to an editor if they want to be published. You can read it at http://www.jenniehelderman.com/ at the November 18th posting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Can You Pester An Editor?

In a perfect world, a writer sends a submission to an editor. The editor writes back immediately that she'd love to publish the piece, contract attached, the article is published immediately, and everyone is happy. But sometimes there are glitches in this perfect world. I had one that has lasted nearly a full year.

On December 5th of 2008, I sent an article to an editor of a writing website. She e-mailed me that she'd like to use the article and would probably publish it in January of 2009, but then said she didn't promise it would be January. I happily returned my signed contract to her and began to watch for the article to appear. Months went by and no sign of it, but I wasn't overly concerned.

Finally, in August I e-mailed her asking if she still planned to use the article. My thinking was that if she had decided against it, fine, but I'd like to be released from the contract so that I could market it elsewhere.
No answer.

I waited a couple more months and wrote her again. I didn't want to be a pest and be put on a list of writers editors avoid, but I didn't want the article to lie in her files and grow moldy with age either. No answer.

Last night, I decided to give it one more try. The old "third time's the charm" theory. I wrote a short note and pasted the second letter below that and attached a copy of the article. Within a very short time, I had an answer. She apologized and said that the article would run later this month.

The question is can you pester an editor? And if so, how much? And how? Yes, I think you can make contact with an editor when you're concerned about the status of your work. The most important thing to remember is to do it in a mannerly mode, even if your anger is simmering and nearing the boiling point. Angry letters often receive angry responses. State the situation in a civil way, add any other correspondence at the bottom so the editor doesn't have to go searching through files. For the same reason, attach a copy of the submission you'd sent in the beginning.

When do you become a pest? I'd say you've reached pest level when you send your inquiries too close together. If you send three within one week, the editor will remember your name forever, and it won't be with favor. Use common sense. Give them time to consider the situation, determine if they are still going to use the piece or not. Keep in mind that yours is not the only submission the editor has to deal with. More often than not, if you follow those good manners your mother taught you, you'll come out a winner.

Monday, November 16, 2009

National I Love To Write Day

I feel like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I'm late, I'm late for a very important date! Yesterday was the eighth National I Love To Write Day, but maybe the day after is still appropriate to recognize this celebration begun by author, John Riddle.

Mr. Riddle is a longtime freelance writer whose work can be found in newspapers and magazines of note. In a recent interview, he said that he has always loved planning events and encouraging others to participate. He decided he needed a website, and when he was making plans for it, he opted to use I Love To Write in the site address. It was the seed of an idea that developed into this national recognition event, which continues to grow each successive year.

Mr. Riddle said his thought was to encourage others to write a poem, an essay, a letter to the editor--anything at all. He felt that many would like to write but think they don't have the time or the skill. By naming one day of the year, November 15th, as I Love To Write Day, it creates a certain freedom for those willing to try. Schools by the thousands have incorporated the day into their curriculum. The children of today who are exposed to this national celebration may find the joy of writing as they progress through the many levels of their education. And for that, I would like to thank Mr. Riddle.

I love to write and now maybe many others who have never made the attempt will also find the satisfaction and pleasure in it. When you get your 2010 calendar, flip the pages to November and put a big red circle around the 15th. Next year, you'll be ready to celebrate by writing something.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Firsts and Lasts

My online critique group, wac, is engaged in a new writing exercise. The results have been interesting, amusing, informative, hilarious, heart-tugging, and more. So what is this exercise?

Make a list of 20 Firsts and 20 Lasts. From that list a writer can find many topics to be used in future writing.
The list of Firsts is far easier to do. Once you begin, your mind reaches back into the netherlands of your youth and many Firsts pop up. The list of Lasts is more difficult. Sometimes, it might not be the last ever but only the last time you did something of a significant nature. Perhaps the last time you smoked a cigarette or had a drink, Then again, it may be a final thing, such as the last time you saw someone no longer living.

Our wac members have been sending their lists in, and I've found them to be a wonderful way to get to know each person a little better. Personality emerges quite clearly through these lists. Some things have been as expected while others have been surprises. One this morning found me giggling all the way through it.

Try making your own Firsts and Lasts lists, then refer to it again when you're searching for a topic for an essay or story. Out of those forty things you've listed, you'll probably find 35 stories to write-- at the least.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Party Time

This morning I'm going to my P.E.O. meeting. This international women's group rasies money to fund six projects that provide scholarships for women. Having always been an advocate of education for women, I am delighted to belong to this worthwhile community of women with a cause.

Each chapter within the larger organization sends money for the individual projects. We all know that it takes a lot of work to have a fundraiser in any organization. For many years, my chapter held an auction at the November meeting. We each purchased and donated an item to be auctioned. Two of our more outgoing members acted as auctioneers and provided a good time for all in attendance. We bid on the items we wanted and ended up making around $1000 at each auction.

Then one year, someone said it was really rather silly to purchase an item to donate so that we could then bid on it and pay way more than its value. Plus one of the good auctioneers had moved away. So, what to do?
We mulled over a good many ideas and finally came up with one that pleased all.

At the November meeting, we each bring a check made out to the chapter, drop it in a decorated basket and then have a Mimosa Party. Orange juice and champagne mixed together slides down quite easily along with the many goodies the hostess provides. Conversation and laughter ring through the air. The Mimosa Party Fundraiser is easy and fun, but best of all, it adds to the scholarship funds which enable other women to fulfill a dream by completing their education.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Steady Anchor

I've mentioned my online critique group here from time to time. It's for women only, international and for serious writers. I could make a long list of reasons I belong to it and what the benefits are. Instead, let me discuss only one here today.

'writersandcritters' (also known as wac) serves as a steady anchor in my life. We ride a roller coaster in our everyday lives with a number of things that we can't always depend on. The fish at the supermarket may or may not be fresh. My hairdresser sometimes can't give me an appointment that fits into my schedule. I might not be able to find a compatible day to get together with a friend for lunch. I'm never sure when my children can come home for a visit. The economy is less and less a dependable in life. The list can go on and on.

The critique group is always there for me. I can depend on the women in the group to give me help with my writing, to share in the pleasure a writing success brings, to give advice on marketing or almost anything else I might ask them for. Maybe 'support group' would be a more fitting title rather than 'critique' for that is what these women who live around the seven seas do for one another.

If my everyday world is topsy-turvy because of illness or some other distress among my family and/or friends, I can still turn to wac for a little time of normalcy and strength gained from all we do there. And these wonderful women are not only there for topics concerned with writing. There have been times when a member has been dealing with a serious illness of a family member, a tragic loss, or a major move from one place to another. wac members support one another through those situations, too.

Occasionally, a member of wac will pose a question concerning some aspect of writing, and before long, several others chime in with opinions or thoughts. The nicest part of that is being able to participate or ignore it if the day is chock full of too many other things. The discussions are filled with wisdom and humor and often plain good sense. If something happens with an editor that bothers me, I know I can turn to the wac ladies to help me sort out my feelings. They can help  me see it more objectively and get me back on track.

Yes, this group is my anchor, strong and sound. Our leader, Joyce Finn, is to be credited for creating and sustaining the steady strength wac has. My thanks to her and to the members of wac who call the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, Shanghai, China, the Netherlands and England home.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back Roads

We left St. Louis Sunday morning to drive up to Ken’s brother’s home in Macomb, IL. We started out on an interstate and after crossing the Mississippi River found ourselves on some back roads. Not four or six lane highways, but two lanes that wound through the Illinois flatlands, cornfields on both sides of the road. Cornstalks stood at attention like sentries on guard, leaves brown and dryleaves encasing corn cobs waiting to be harvested. The recent rains had kept the farmers out of the fields.

We wended our way through one small town after another, admiring the old homes and downtown areas. We pointed out interesting buildings to one another and commented that the trees here were more bare than in our home state of Kansas. The peace and quiet of these back roads and the communities that dotted them were soothing to the soul No fighting big city traffic hereWriting can be like that, too. Writers start out hoping to hit the big-time. They want those broadway lights in the writing world. Oh, to be published in The Atlantic or New York Times. Or maybe Good Housekeeping magazine or The New Yorker. But to get to those major highways, we have to traverse the back roads first.

We need to start at the beginning. It might be a no-pay place where we are first published. And from there, we go on to low-pay. No-pay to low-pay! It’s the way we begin. We might get 1 cent a word, move on to 5 cents a word. The back roads of publishing move more slowly than we’d like, but they do move us along. And as we traverse farther and farther along in our writing careers, we see the interstate highways, the Autobahns of our field. How far we can go is an unknown, but as long as that big six lane highway is our goal, we’ll keep moving toward it.

Meanwhile, enjoy the back roads of publication. They’re all right, and they’re a means to those expressways of publishing we all aspire to.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Choose One

This past week-end, Ken and I atteneded the annual meeting of the Children's Christian Concern Society.(http://www.cccskids.org/ ). This year the meeting was held in St. Louis at the Lutheran Seminary where board members and many spouses gathered to continue the work of the organization, which supports Christian education in underdeveloped countries around the world. On Friday evening, the Projects Director gave her report. Sandy mentioned writing grants a number of times. I also watched Brenda as her fingers flew across the keys of her laptop recording the minutes.

It struck me that there are so many different kinds of writing. Neither one of these women would claim to be a writer, but they defintiely are. They don't write to have work published in magazines, newspapers or online. But they do write. Sandy's grant writing definitely requires a  skill, as do Brenda's minutes. As I looked around the room, and I noticed Angela, who writes the newsletters the group sends to donors all across the United States. Her talent and skill is evident in the fine publication she creates.

In that meeting,, there were four kinds of writers--me and three others. And the writing we four do is only  part of the writing world. There are people who write advertising copy, newspaper journalists,  greeting card writers, journalists who write copy for news shows on TV, and the many who write newsletters for myriad organizations. Scientists write research papers, educators write textbooks, and professors must write classroom materials. There are comedy writers who keep comedians in business.

Whenever you see a printed word, know that someone wrote it. If you want to be a writer, there are many paths to be taken.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Selling Two Things—Your Manuscript and Yourself

All writers want to see their work published. A manuscript is not going to put itself in a snail mail envelope and dance merrily out the door, down the driveway and jump into the mailbox. A manuscript is not going to magically copy itself into an e-mail and hit Send.
You, the writer, have to make that effort. You need to study markets and select the ones that your work might fit with. And then, you have to do the hard part. You must actually send your work to an editor. You risk rejection but you also might be successful. You’ll never know unless you send your work to an editor.

But along with that manuscript, you need to sell yourself to editors and to the reading public. It’s not easy to constantly promote yourself, especially if you don’t have a balloon-like ego. Our mothers taught us not to brag, didn't they? Quiet, introverted writers find it difficult to sing their own praises, but it’s almost a necessity if you want to make it in the writing world.

When you have something published, don’t hesitate to send it to all your friends and family. They, in turn, will probably share it with others they know, especially if it’s a good story or article. I had a hard time doing so in the early days of my writing life, but I’ve learned that it is a benefit to me and liked by many of those recipients. I try to add an out for them but saying they should hit the delete button if they have no interest. Guilt-free for any who don’t want to read my work.

Join some online writing groups and submit your work to ezines. They often reach thousands of people. Do it often enough, and readers begin to recognize your name.

If you have an opportunity to speak to a small group at your church or a civic organization, accept it. Nerve-wracking at first, but it gets easier each time and more people in your community will label you a writer whenever they see you.

C. Hope Clark has written a book called The Shy Writer. It’s a help to those who like the seclusion of writing but quake at the thought of talking to others about it. Take a look at the explanation and excerpts from Ms Clark’s book at http://www.booklocker.com/books/1746.html

Writing is sometimes the easy part. Selling your work and selling yourself takes time, effort, and a bit of an inflated ego. Go for it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not What I Planned For Today

Some days don't turn out as planned. And this has been one of them It's only half over, so I shudder to think what the remainder of the day will bring.

I was working at the computer a little after 9:30 this morning, waiting for a friend to come over. She's having a problem with a brand new washer which is the same brand as my new one. She says it's so noisy she can hardly stand it. She was coming over to have a 'listening' session in my laundry room. Not too many of us entertain in the laundry room, but she wanted to compare the sound before the service people came to her house on Friday.

The phone rang just as I was answering an e-mail regarding a football ticket we are trying to sell. "Where are you?" were the words that met me when I answered? "We're all waiting for you." came next.

I'd forgotten that I was to meet my marathon bridge partner at our opponent's house this morning. No, I didn't really forget. For some reason, my mind told me today was Wednesday, and I knew we played on Thursday morning. I promised I'd be right over. No more time to work on selling that ticket!

But first, I had to call the woman coming over to 'listen' to my washer and cancel. I grabbed a sweater and my purse and flew out the door. Luckily, the house I headed for was only a couple minutes away.

We played our marathon match, and my partner and I lost. Seemed appropriate for this day.

Next on the agenda is working at the hospital gift shop all afternoon, then home to pack for a five day trip we start tomorrow. Are you getting the picture? There is going to be no writing done today. And there may be no lunch as I'm using that time to write the blog entry.

We all have days like this now and then. Days when what you plan on doing somehow never materializes. The best solution is to go to bed that night and start all over again the next morning. I'm hoping tomorrow will be a whole lot better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Essay Published Today

I occasionally send an essay to a Heartwarmers, an ezine that has been online for a good many years. They don't pay the authors, and they never notify a writer when a submission is accepted. This morning, I received a nice e-mail message from a woman who is a nurse in Virginia and mother of a soldier serving in Iraq. She thanked for the things I'd written in the Heartwarmers essay for today. Needless to say, I was surprised.

Looking farther down  the list waiting in my In-box, I spied the Heartwarmers address, opened it and was pleased to see my essay "More Than A Number" published. The editor had changed the title to "Say Thank You" Either way, this is another Veteran's Day offering. My patritotism seems to be on a high this year. I've pasted the essay below for those who might like to read it.


Heartwarmers has lots of feel-good kind of stories throughout the year. To sign up to receive the ezine, go to http://www.heartwarmers.com/

More Than A Number

By Nancy Julien Kopp

The men and women in our armed forces are not numbers in a newspaper article. Each one that deploys leaves behind parents, sisters and brothers, spouses and children, as well as myriad friends. They are not numbers; they are people. They laugh, they cry, they love, they endure hardships, they work hard. They are human beings with all the emotions you and I experience. They sweat, they like to eat three times a day or more, they enjoy fellowship with others, they pray, they shake with fear more often than we’ll ever know. They are warm, living beings—not numbers in a newspaper account.

How often do we read that another brigade has deployed? Numbers? No, not numbers, that brigade is made up of people who smile, cry, tell jokes, treasure the photos they carry of loved ones. They have headaches and stomachaches like you and me. They get slivers in their fingers and bruises on arms and legs. They’re no less vulnerable to physical ailments than you or I, but they face dangers we have never dreamed of.

I live near an army post, so I see uniformed soldiers everywhere I go. They stop at the grocery store on their way home from work just like teachers and attorneys and librarians do. They pick up their children at soccer fields as a civilian mom or dad does. We are all very much alike, except for one thing. These soldiers, male and female, have volunteered to serve, to protect our country at home and in foreign lands, to perhaps put their life in danger while doing so.

Have you ever thanked a soldier or marine or sailor? Maybe you’d feel uncomfortable walking up to a total stranger and saying, “Thanks for all you do for me and the rest of America every day.” What a great gift it would be if you could say that or something like it to a member of the armed forces. Think about it the next time you see an American in uniform.

A couple years ago, my husband and I were returning from a European trip. We were tired and anxious to get through customs when we landed in the USA. As we approached the passport checkpoint, a door opened and an entire unit of uniformed soldiers filed through. They were returning from Iraq, an even longer flight than we’d had. We stopped and watched these fatigued young men and women as they walked by us. Some nodded and smiled, others stared straight ahead. Some I could barely see for the tears that had filled my eyes. I wanted so badly to say Welcome Home to them, but the lump in my throat didn’t allow it. The pride that encompassed me at that moment cannot be described. I was every soldier’s mother for just an instant.

And what about the ones who didn’t return to walk through that airport door? The ones who came home in a body bag or a wooden coffin. My pride in them is every bit as strong along with a deep and abiding gratitude in what they gave for the rest of us. They sacrificed so that we can keep living in a free country. Yes, we Americans have many disagreements, but, even so, we are blessed in numerous ways.

Don’t wait for Veterans Day or Memorial Day, take time to say thank you to a military person. Say it in person or say it in your heart, but please say it.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Send A Note To Those Who Need It

In the last few days, I've been reminded of three friends who are mourning losses. Two have done so for a matter of years and one only a few months. All three live in different parts of the world. All three are writers.

Does this mean that writers suffer losses more than non-writers? Not at all. It's more likely attributed to the fact that I have many friends who also happen to be writers. As much as we hate to admit it, loss is a part of life, and the older we get, the more we must deal with it.

As a friend of one who is moving through the journey of losing a loved one, we cannot heal them. We cannot change the event, but we can show moral support through a phone call, a letter or card, perhaps an e-mail. And it's not necessary to dwell on what happened. They know all too well what happened. The sometimes over-used phrase "Thinking of you" works well in this instance. It helps to know others thoughts are with us in the difficult times.

Lots of people do think about others who are mourning, but the thoughts never leave their mind. It only takes a few minutes to drop a note or make a call, and the benefits for both sides far outweigh the time consumed in showing this moral support.

I've urged those having stressful times in their lives to sit down and write about it. Use writing as one tool on the road to recovery. Today, I'm urging you to contact the friends who need you for one reason or another. A loving gesture of this kind will always be appreciated, even if it is never acknowledged. For sometimes, the person who is still mourning is unable to respond to the kindness of others. But they will most certainly remember.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Veteran's Day Essay



I was raised to embrace patriotism, both by my parents and my teachers. Perhaps it was because my early years were during WWII, followed by school years during the Korean Conflict. It was a period when the vast majority of  Americans supported their military. With that in mind, I wrote an essay for Veteran's Day that has been published in a Johnson County, Kansas newspaper for seniors. The essay is in the current November issue. You can read "Any Soldeier, Any War--Maybe You Know Him" below.

Any Soldier, Any War—Maybe You Know Him
By Nancy Julien Kopp


Some call it Veterans Day while others say Remembrance Day. They are the same day commemorating the same wars, the same men who gave their lives fighting for what they believed in. Some volunteered while the draft nabbed others, but nearly all carried an unseen banner of the country they loved right next to their heart.

Any soldier, any war—maybe you know him.

He left mother and father, sweetheart and friends. Gone were his carefree summer days, spent with boyhood chums. Schoolbooks lay forgotten, dust settling over the covers. Baseball bats and marbles, toy cars and lead soldiers tumbled into a box, saved for the next generation. A letter jacket in the closet, placed there by a boy--would a man return to claim them?

The boy who braved the high school football field turned into a young man whose hands trembled as they quickly wiped a tear from a cheek the first time he went into combat. Knees quaked and his heart beat double-time until training of both boot camp and a lifetime before that kicked in. The little unseen banner of his country fluttered right over his heart bringing calm and a determination to do all deemed necessary.

He fought in scorching heat and bitter cold, through fields of flowers in spring and myriad fallen leaves in autumn. He battled through daytimes and in moonless nights.

In the quiet moments, thoughts spiraled backward to home, to Mom and Dad, and Christmas trees, and baseball games, and to turkey dinners and ice cream sundaes. He fingered a treasured photo of Carol, the girl he loved, and swallowed the lump in his throat that rose whenever he studied her face. He’d taken the picture on one of the last days before he left for the army camp. A wisp of her dark hair had blown across her forehead, and her hand looked poised to sweep it back into place. She’d posed with her free hand on a hip and a quirky smile on her face, as though she might make a wisecrack at any moment. He slipped the picture into his pocket when the thunder of guns drew closer.

He adjusted his helmet, gripped his rifle in both hands, and scanned the line of trees ahead. Was there some soldier from the other side creeping closer? Did he, too, think of home during a lull in the fighting? Did he have a photo of the girl he loved? Wasn’t he fighting for his country, too? The insanity of it all sometimes swept over him like a wave crashing on the beach.

Countries disagreed and made war, but only the men who fought were lost. Some soldiers died, while others lived to carry the horrors of war forever, to hide them deep within, letting them surface only occasionally. Despite the human loss, countries rose again from the ashes like a phoenix to grow strong, to wait for a new generation, to wage war yet again.

He promised himself to never forget his fallen comrades, the towns and families they’d liberated, the good that evolved from the scathing waste of war. He’d march in every Veterans Day parade until his legs would carry him no more. And he’d wipe a tear from his cheek when other boys left childhood things to cross the sea and fight the next enemy.

He’d wear the poppy in his buttonhole right over the unseen banner that still fluttered across his heart. For God and country, he would remember, with pride and regret, those who did not return.