Search This Blog

Friday, April 30, 2010

News From Chicken Soup

I had good news this morning. A story I'd sent to Chicken Soup for the Soul has made it to the final round for selection for the new Christmas book. The book, Christmas Magic, is to be released in October 2010.
My story is about a very special doll I received one Christmas.

Making it to the final round does not guarantee the story will be in the book, but there's a very good chance that it will. In fact, the odds are definitely for that happening.

The interesting thing is that it came as a real surprise. Why? Because I had submitted the story to them on May 24, 2008! Nearly two full years ago. Apparently, they go through their old files when they feel the need of more stories to choose from.

A little longer wait to see if this story makes it. If it does, it will be my eleventh Chicken Soup for the Soul book. It's a very nice feeling.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Do You Find A Blog?

A man who posts his writing at asked a question yesterday. How do you find a blog? He knew there are thousands of them in cyberspace, but he wasn't sure what people do to find the ones that might interest them. He ended by asking if anyone could send an answer.

Being the kind of person who likes to help others, I wrote up a short blurb to give him a few places to start. My answer to David Paul is copied below. I got to thinking maybe others would like a few thoughts on the subject.

All About Blogs—A Message for David Paul and Others

David Paul asked how you find blogs. There are several ways, and I’m sure I’m not listing all of them here. But for starters, here are a few.

1. Subject: If you’re interested in a particular subject, put the keyword plus blog in a search engine and see what you come up with. For instance, if I wanted to find a blog that used antique cars as it’s main thrust, I’d put antique cars blog in the search engine box.

2. Other blogs: Many bloggers list Other Blogs I read along one side of their daily postings. Pay attention to them, and try out the ones that look of interest.

3. Signature: I sign all my e-mail messages with my blog address, so it’s seen by many people every day. When I send a Forward with a funny story or pictures or whatever, my signature goes along with it. I might send it to ten people, and each of them will send it on. The vast majority of people do not take the time to erase the former addresses, so it’s seen by even more people. If I send you a personal e-mail message, after I sign my name, this will be below it: You can set your e-mail program to include this signature on every e-mail you send.

4. Tell A Friend: When people find a blog they especially like, they’ll tell a friend.

5. Newsletters: Since I’m a writer, I subscribe to several writers newsletters, and they often include information about a blog pertaining to writing. If you are an antique car fan, maybe you subscribe online to newsletters about them. Watch for notices of blogs there, too.

In a search engine, enter the keywords finding blogs and you’ll be given a wealth of information on how to find them. I’m reminded of a story dear to my heart regarding my early days of using search engines. My granddaughter was around 8 years old at the time, and she was telling me in a phone conversation about a musical instrument she’d made for a school project. I asked her where she found the directions to make the instrument. Her answer has served me well ever since. She said, “Just Google it, Grandma!” And now, whenever I want to find something, I repeat her words to myself. Doesn’t it say in the bible that ‘a little child shall lead you’ We’d do well to listen to them in this high tech world we live in.

David, I hope I have helped you and others learn a little more about finding blogs. It is perhaps a coincidence, but last week I was on a panel at a writers conference. Three of us gave a presentation and answered questions. Our title was “Blogging 101: Everything we know about why and how you blog.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Have you Ever Written A Haiku?

One of the presentations at the conference was on the subject of poetry. Elaine Holoboff, whom I had featured in one of the blog posts a few months ago, talked about various types of poetry. One of them was  haiku, which is an ancient form of poetry.

Haiku is simple, has very few words and makes a bold statement. It is normally 3 lines with 5 syllables in Line 1, 7 syllables in Line 2, and 5 syllables in Line 3Note that is syllables, not words.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Only a few select words to construct a full poem. But I assure you, it is not a piece of cake.

 In the middle of the night after Elaine's presentation, I found myself wide awake. Way too early to get up so I tried to think of something pleasant, hoping to go back to sleep. My mind shifted from the Virginia woods where we were staying to the Flint Hills of Kansas, where I live. I could see the tallgrass prairie dotted with wildflowers in my mind's eye. Before I knew it, I thought of a rather poetic line, realized it had the right number of syllables to begin a haiku. Suddenly, all thoughts of sleep fled, and I composed the next two lines of the poem, changing it here and there until it satisfied me. I knew I'd probably never remember it in the morning, so on went the light, out came pen and paper to record the poem.

When I woke up later in the morning, the poem was there. I hadn't dreamed it. It was real! I found out that writing haiku is not only possible for a non-poet like me, but it's also a lot of fun. You might try it as a writing exercise. Google haiku to get a feel for the form and see what you come up with on your own.

Check out Elaine's haiku blog at and another posting of mine on February 26th that talks about haiku.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Common Bond

Now that I've been home from my writers conference for a couple days, I've had some time to think about it. One of the things that I pondered on was the diversity in the group of women in my writersandcritters group.

We come from many places in the USA, Canada and abroad. We have different backgrounds, a variety of personalities and economic status. But the one common thread is our love of the printed word.

It doesn't matter whether we are introverts or extroverts. Doesn't make a bit of difference whether we live in a tiny little house or a big one. Doesn't matter whether we grew up in a loving family or a dysfunctional one. We have all chosen to make writing a major part of our life. to the exculsion of some other things at times.

We understand about creating time to write. We've all done it. We understand about the heartbreak of rejection. We've all been there. We understand how thrilling it is to have our work accepted by an editor. We've experienced that, too.

We are sisters whose bond is strong.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Home Again and Ready To Roll

I returned from the writers conference tired in body but totally energized in spirit. The days spent with about 20 other writers proved to be informative, inspiring, and one whole lot of fun.

We had no speakers from outside the group as has been done in the past. Every presenter belonged to our writersandcritters critique group, either now or in the past. The presentations were professional and most important of all--they contained useful information for writers. Too often, speakers at conferences get into charts and graphs that show statistics and theoretical situations that do nothing for the everyday writing life of the writers in the audience.

One of our group members has published two mystery novels and has a third about to be released. On the last night of the conference, she told us that she'd attended many writers conferences over the years and found this one to be one of the very best.

I'll be posting more details about the meeting. The one thing I hope it will do is to encourage you to start a piggy bank account to accumulate the funds needed to attend a writers conference of your own.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Away For A Few Days

I'll be on my way in a few minutes to fly to Washington, DC. to attend my online critique group's conference. There will be no computer access in our cabins in the woods. Part of me says that will be just fine, and part of me is already having withdrawal symptoms.

There will be no more blog postings from me until next Monday, April 26th. Check back then, and I'll fill you in on what I learned this week.

Keep writing, keep working on those family stories and enjoy the spring weather.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our Conference Program

In last Friday's post, I wrote about our English member hoping to be able to fly to the USA for our conference this week. As of yesterday, she  learned she couldn't leave England for at least a week, thanks to the volcanic ash situation. Desperately disappointed, she and her travel companion left London and went back home to nurse their sorrow. I feel disappointed for her. Fi is a wonderful writer, has one of the most creative minds I've ever come in contact with. And she was to be a presenter at two of our sessions. Someone else will no doubt step in and fill the space, but I'd been lookng forward to Fi's presentation.

Our sessions program looks to be most interesting. A list of the titles of each are below:

1.  Walk The Walk, Talk The Talk:  Scripting--A way to develop better dialogue skills for fiction and creative nonfiction through guided informal improvisations
2.  The Secret Life of Word:  tips and tricks for more effective computer use
3.  Self-publication on the Amazon Kindle: It's not as scary as you thought
4.  (3 person panel--including me) Blogging 101:  Everything We Know About Why and How To Blog.
5.  Change Your Thinking--Change Your Life
6.  Revising/Re-visioning Your Noffiction Work
7.  Fiction Revision:  Love It? Hate It? Doesn't Matter. Do It!
8.  Poetry:  Reflections on the Soul Mirror
9.  Elements of Storytelling
10.  Mining Your Dreams For Gems
11.  Out and About:  How to get more from the places you go. Strategies for expanding and enlivening the uses of settings in your writing. A practical workshop involving guided exploration of your physical surroundings.
12.  Your Life--Your Goals

These 12 sessions will be spread over 2 1/2 days (Thurs, Fri, Sat). They sound terrific, and I feel certain I'm going to come home inspired to write.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Travel Troubles

Next week, I am flying to Washington, DC to attend the third writers conference with my online critique group. Actually, I tried to attend all three, but the very first one we had went horribly awry--for me. I left Kansas City heading to Chicago for a connecting flight. Ten minutes before boarding time in Chicago, my flight was cancelled due to thunderstorms. Long story short, they could not get me on another plane out for two full days. It meant I would arrive the final evening of the conference and fly home the next morning. It just wasn't going to work, so I flew back to Kansas City but even had to wait two full days to get a flight to do so. Others who came to that conference flew there from Shanghai, Dublin, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Canadian cities and all points in the USA with no problems. I was the only one who didn't make it.Disappointment is putting mildly for what I felt.

Eighteen months ago, the second conference was held, and I made it. It was a wonderful experience to bond personally with the women I'd known for so long only in the cyberworld. The conference speakers and presentations were excellent, and the food, wine, and friendship surpassed any conference I've ever attended.

Next week, our critique group is meeting again in the same state park as before. Cabins in the woods, decks backing onto the Potomac River, hiking trails, deer walking through the area, golf course, pool and more. Just a perfect spot for around 25 of us to spend some time together. I'm going to be on a panel that will be about blogging. My plan is to fly to Washington, DC next Tuesday and return on Sunday.

One of our members is to fly from England this Sunday, but the problem with the volcanic ashes spewing through the atmosphere from Iceland to many points in Europe and the UK could change her plan. This will be her very first trip to the USA, and she's been so excited about it. I have a feeling she is not going to know if it's a go until just before she boards. Meanwhile, she has to pack and prepare as if it is all going to work out. I'm crossing my fingers for her.

And I'm wondering, too, about two friends and their husbands who were to fly yesterday to Paris to begin a three week trip to Normandy, England and Ireland. I have a feeling they didn't make it as so many European airports were closed, again due to the volcanic ash problem.

Travel troubles! Even with all our technology and scientific knowledge, most of us have to deal with problems when we journey afar once in awhile. Even though totally beyond our control, we have a hard time coping when such things occur. I'll feel a whole lot better when I am on my flight Tuesday morning. The ashes are blowing toward Europe, and the weather forecast is for sunshine that day. So it's looking good, but I'll breathe easier once the plane takes off.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Long Wait

In January of this year, I sent a story to a small Canadian magazine that has published several articles and stories of mine in the past.  "The Long Night" was published earlier in an American ezine. It's fiction but based on the things I learned from my mother about her father's many years working in Iowa coal mines. It seemed like a good fit for this particular magazine.

I never heard from the editor of the Canadian publication so I figured he didn't want to use the story. Today, I received a message from him telling me he was looking forward to reading the story, and then a little apology for the delay. My story sat in his computer files for over 3 months, unread. It seems my story, "The Long Night" turned into The Long Wait (for me.)

And this is why I say over and over again that writers need to learn patience because there is no doubt that a writer needs that characteristic to survive in this writing world. If you don't have it when you start writing, work on it.

I'shouldn't be the one to give this kind of advice, because I have always been one of the most impatient people to walk the face of the earth. The writing world, however, has done much to force me to learn patience. Five years ago, the delay of the editor having even looked at the story would have driven me right up the wall, but even though I felt a bit irked when I got his message today, I took it more calmly than I once would have. It doesn't mean I like it to happen this way, but it doesn't upset me now like it once might have.

One more thought on waiting to hear from an editor--if it's been several weeks or a few months since you submitted your work, it's permissible to send the editor a short note inquiring as to the status of your submission. Sometimes, they need a littld nudge, and you need to know what's happening.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Backgrounds and Life Experiences

After going through some of my books on the craft of writing the other day, I picked up Eudora Welty's book titled One Writer's Beginnings with the thought of rereading it. She begins by telling about her childhood, parents and siblings.

It made me think about the many different backgrounds well-known writers have come from, and also those who are not well-known. Some lived at the poverty level. Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes comes to mind. Some grew up in middle-class families that had enough to eat but no true luxuries in their lives. Then there are authors who were raised in the privileged class, as it was once called. They were born with the proverbial "silver spoon in their mouth."  Lewis Carroll, author of Alice In Wonderland was born into a wealthy family.

Whether rich or poor, or middle-of-the-road, it makes no difference in the ability to write a story well enough for it to be published and read by others. Being wealthy might help in opening the doors to publishing companies a little more easily, but not in the ability to produce quality writing.

Life experiences are probably more important than what economic level we each landed in as a babe. While our economic situation plays a large role in our life experiences, it doesn't fit us into a permanent slot. A poor child and a rich child can have either loving parents who nurture with passion from day one, or those two children from opposite ends of the wealth scale, might each have parents who neglect them emotionally or abuse them physically. All our experiences as we grow from infant to toddler to grade school child to teen to young adult form our thought processes and our actions in life. For writers, these years are the ones that influence our writing.

I'm reminded of that old argument as to what is more important in forming personality--heredity or environment. For writers, it's what is more important-- economic backgrounds or life experiences. In both cases, I believe it's a combination of the two that creates the people we are.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Words Live On

A few months ago, I featured my good friend, Wanda Bates here as a writer I admired. It surprised and pleased her to have been selected. Wanda celebrated her 95th birthday in mid-January of this year, and one week ago today, she passed away at our Hospice House.

I attended her funeral celebration this afternoon. The wife of one of Wanda's grandsons read an excerpt from a novella that Wanda had written. Three Years In A Teacherage describes the time spent living and teaching in rural Iowa in the 1930's. Written with subtle wit, it's entertaining and also gives a wonderful picture of the times.  When the reading concluded, I have a feeling that those in attendance who had not already read this piece of creative nonfiction would have liked the story to continue.

Later, when the pastor spoke, she concluded by telling about an essay Wanda wrote on her 95th birthday. In it, Wanda said she hoped she'd be able to write about her 100th birthday. As strong and clear as her mind was, I rather expected that to happen. But it wasn't to be. The pastor finished by saying that Wanda would surely write those words at 100 in the New World we all hope to achieve.

I left knowing that as much as I will miss my friend, her words will live on. I can read her work any day of the week and bring her back. That has got to be one of the greatest benefits of being a writer. The body may fail, the author may die, but words live on forever. Rest in peace, Dear Friend.

Read more of Wanda's work at  Put her name in the search box at the top of the home page to find many of her stories and essays. Wars and Rumors of Wars is a three part piece that is superb.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Read A Book About Writing

This morning, I read a review of a book written by Stephen King about the craft of writing. Who better than he to pen this one? It's called On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft. Published in 2000, it's still filled with pertinent information for this new decade. I read it when it first came out but would like to do so again.

Beginning writers tend to read books about their craft and that can be only beneficial to them as they weave in and out of the ups and downs of the writing life. I sometimes think that being a writer is like riding a roller coaster over and over and....  Once you consider yourself an intermediate writer or a professional, you might toss aside the books and do it 'your way' and maybe that's all right. Then again, maybe even seasoned writers can benefit from reading books about their craft. To be honest, I don't think there is any 'maybe' about it. No matter how many publications have our name on them, we can still learn something. And even if you don't learn something new, there's nothng wrong in reviewing those things you do know.

With that in mind, here's a list of a few of the books about writing that I've read and found useful. When I first began writing, I started a shelf in my bookcase for these books only. And every now and then, I select one and read it again, or at least parts of it. And I watch for new books about writing in bookstores and my library. Now, for the list which is only a small sample. Do a little research and start a shelf of your own.

1. On Writing--A Memoir of the Craft  (Stephen King)
2. Bird By Bird (Anne Lamott)
3. Write Away  (Elizabeth George)
4. Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment (Nancy Pickard)
5. One Writer's Beginnings (Eudora Welty)
6. Writing and Publishing Personal Essays (Sheila Bender)
7. Writing and Revising Your Fiction (Mark Wisniewski)
8.  Self-Editing For Fiction Writers--Second Edition:  How To Edit Yourself Into Print (Rennie Brown and Dave King)
9. Writing For Children and Teen-Agers  (Lee Wyndham)
10. Beginnings, Middles and Ends (Nancy Kress)

These are only a very few to get you started. A writer must first be a reader!

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Balloon Is Leaking

I had a real Good News/Bad News experience yesterday. An editor of a website that deals in memoirs written soley by women notified me that I'd won an Honorable Mention in their memoir contest that had a food theme. The entry was to be accompanied by the recipe that coordinated with the story.

I sent a story I'd written a long time ago about my grandmother's date muffins. The editor took the time to point out some phrases in my entry that she particularly liked. Winning the Honorable Mention and receiving personal comments from the editor filled my confidence and accomplishment balloon quite nicely. The story will be published on the website in early June.

I clicked on the link to read about the first place winners (two people tied) and any other information about the contest. As I read, my balloon began leaking! There were only 7 entries, 2 tied for first place and the other 5 all received an Honorable Mention. I didn't feel like a winner any longer. I felt like the kids in the class whose teacher gives everyone a blue ribbon for their art project, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings.

Life is about competition. Careers are made or lost via competition. Kids in sports face competition. And writers enter contests with the hopes of rising higher on the ladder to writing success, passing up others who weren't prize winners. Even if there were only 7 entries, I would prefer seeing one 1st place and maybe 1 or 2 Honorable Mentions. The editor did stress that all the entries they received were worthy of publication, that all were well written. Even in a contest with hundreds of entries, you might find the majority well-written, but some should stand above the others.

Yes, that balloon of confidence and accomplishment sprang a leak, but it's still inflated enough from other contests, other publications. And best of all, I learned a lesson. All contests are not equal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Early Mother's Day

This morning I am giving a program for my PEO chapter. They request that I do a program using my writing in some way. A nice compliment, to be sure, and much appreciated by me. Since Mother's Day is only a few weeks away, I decided to use that as my theme and am calling the program "Mothers and Their Mothers."
She is nineteen in the picture at the left.

Loosely translated, that means I'll be reading stories about both my mother and her mother, my grandmother. When I started to go through my files to select which stories I'd read today, I found that there were far more about my mom than I'd thought. In my family stories, she seems to win the prize for being the star in so many of them. No doubt, there's a reason for that.

One story is quite short and details an experience I had close to Mother's Day two years after my mother passed away. It was published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul:  A Tribute To Moms book. I read the story on a TV show that same year, and the next day a woman from another town called me. She said her mother had passed away earlier in the year, and she'd been dreading Mother's Day until she heard my story. "Now," she said, "I think I can face it." The story is reprinted below for you to read.

With Us In Spirit

I stopped at a Hallmark shop the other day to buy Mother’s Day cards for my daughter and daughter-in-law. The aisle where the cards for this special day rested was a long one. There were Mother’s Day cards appropriate to send to everyone from your cleaning lady to your best friend. The colors were soft and spring-like, fitting for the month of May. I moved up and down the aisle looking for cards that worked for Karen and Amy, and suddenly without any warning, an ache started deep inside. It swelled and moved upward, hit my heart and pushed a tear from my eye.

The one card I really wanted to buy was one for my own mother, but she passed away more than two years ago. I could buy the card, write a special note, sign it with love, then seal and stamp it. But where would I send it? Heaven has no post office. A curtain of sadness dropped down and covered me like a shroud for a moment or two. My hand reached out to a card that I knew she’d love. It was lavender and purple, her favorite colors. I read the verse and smiled. This was the one I’d buy her if I could only send it to her. I slipped it back in the rack, picked it up and read it again, then replaced it.

I’m a mother and a grandmother of four, but I still miss my mom. I miss our long talks. She had little formal education, but she possessed a marvelous instinct and insight into human behavior. I learned so much listening to her observations. I miss the stories she told about her childhood in a coal mining town. She made me appreciate the differences in people’s lives. I miss the wonderful pies and cakes she made. I miss her terrific sense of humor and hearty laughter. I miss her hugs.

But as I look around my home, I see her in many places. I see her warm smile in photos carefully arranged in several different rooms. I see her every time I sift through my recipe box and finger the many cards with her handwriting, all so precious now. I see her when I use my rolling pin, once hers, now mine. Whenever I use it, I’m reminded of the day she taught me how to put just the right pressure on a pie crust with the heavy wooden rolling pin. I see her when I show visitors to our guest room, for the bed is covered with a quilt she made by hand.

On Mother’s Day I will be with my daughter and her family at a Mother’s Day Brunch. To spend the day with a child I love and her husband and children will give me great pleasure. It wouldn’t surprise me if we sense another presence that day, for my mother will be with us in spirit, spreading her love once more.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Should You Write Your Obituary?

Yesterday, a dear friend passed away. Wanda Bates was a writer whom I had featured in one of my postings some time ago. She was 95 and physically frail, but her mind was strong and clear up until only a short time before she died. I will miss her, but one comfort I have is that her writing will be with me forever. All I need to to bring her close again is to read the many fine essays and stories she'd written.

I couldn't sleep last night, and because death had been on my mind, I began thinking about obituaries that appear in newspapers and now online at funeral home sites.

I've heard more than one friend complain about the very long obituaries we sometimes see. You know the ones--they list every single group or organization the person had belonged to throughout decades of their lifetime. They list the hobbies and pet charities and more. They list every town the person has lived in.I've seen some that are several columns long. For some people, this may be exactly what they want to have, while others cringe at the thought.

If you want your obituary a certain way, then you should write it yourself while you're still of sound mind and body. Who knows you better? Who knows all your relatives? Your career info, your birth and marriage dates. One more reason to write your own obituary is that it will relieve your family of gathering all this information for the newspaper at a time when they will be under the stress of dealing with a loss.

Several years ago, a friend and her husband booked a trip to Egypt. She wrote both their obituaries before they left, then called her son and told him what she'd done and where he could find them. He immediately replied, "Mom, that's just plain ghoulish!" "No," she told him, "if something would happen to us while we're on an overseas trip, or any other time, you'd thank me for having done this." She died several years later, and when I read her obituary in our newspaper, I knew without a doubt that she'd written it herself. I could almost hear her voice in the words she'd written.

You don't have to be a professional writer to compose your own obituary. Make a list of all the information it should include and the order. Easy enough to do by looking at some already written in your local newspaper. Then write a first draft. Wait a few days and read it over to see if you want to change anything. Make your final copy, put it in a safe place and let a family member know where they will find it when it's needed.

It's not at all "ghoulish" as my friend's son said. It's a smart thing to do and a kindness for your family.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Book Recommendation

I read a reveiw of a book in the Kansas City paper a couple weeks ago, so I picked up Shanghai Girls by Lisa See at our library a few days later.

My Book Club had read an earlier book of this author titled Snow Flower and The Secret Fan. That book is set in ancient China and descirbes the life of two girls who grew up as friends in a world where footbinding was the norm, and women had no rights. The story was fascinating, the description of the footbinding process heartrending, and it held a veritable treasure chest of historical background.

Shanghai Girls is Lisa See's third novel. It begins in Shanghai in the 1930's. Pearl Dragon and her sister May are Beautiful Girls, the term given to models who posed for calendar pictures. Not the Playboy type, but pictures of pretty girls in different scenes of the Chinese culture of the time. The calendars were popular and used to decorate the walls of the poor peasant homes. The sisters, who were so different in personality, lived a good life in a home with servants and loved their Beautiful Girl job. Carefree and joyful as the young always hope to be.

But then dark days arrive as the father loses all in gambling debts. To pay off his debt, he arranges for marriages to an American-Chinese man's two sons. The girls, of course, are devastated, but they are forced to go through with the marriage, then are to follow their husbands and father-in-law to Hong Kong, where they will all sail for America. Even darker days arrive with the invasion of the Japanese, and the sisters and their mother flee Shanghai.

Through uncontrollable and tragic circumstances, the sisters finally end up in Los Angeles with their new husbands and a father-in-law who is strict and a pennypincher. Life is not as he'd painted for them back in Shanghai. Many events change Pearl and May as they become Americans but still hold Shanghai in their hearts.

The writing is beautiful and Lisa See does a masterful job in bringing us into a place with many sensory details. The story is a page turner, making it hard to find a stopping place as I read. It also gives the reader a picture of what life was like in the late 1930s and 40's for immigrants from Asia, and it's not a pretty picture.

Check out for editorial and reader reviews on this book and for information about Lisa See's other books. I think you'll find her work entertaining and enlightening.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It Only Takes One Person

We had a wonderful Easter week-end with our daughter's family. They live near Kansas City, so we stayed over one more night and went into town to do a little shopping before heading home.

One of our stops was at Costco where we stocked up on a number of items. I'm mostly a library user, but Ken is a slower reader, so he generally buys the books he reads. Costco has a good sized book section, both hardbacks and paperbacks, all at a nicely reduced price. While I was cruising the aisles looking for the things on my list, Ken spent a fair amount of time looking for a book. He ended up with one of the newer David Baldacci books.

Since time was a factor, I didn't browse the book section. When I get near a lot of books, I'm lost for a long time, so I knew I'd better forgo that pleasure today. And believe me, it was not easy. All I did was take a quick glance across the entire section. Certain bookcovers called out to me, but I stayed strong and passed them by.

But ast we drove home to Manhattan across the Flint Hills, I started to think about all those books. There were so many books and so many authors. Walk into your local library, the nearest Barnes and Noble, or scan through the Amazon site. Thousands of books, and each one came into existance because one person had an idea. One person had a driving desire to write a story that turned into a novel or perhaps a nonfiction book. One person plotted and planned. One person sat before the computer, or in years past--a typewriter, or some even wrote in longhand, but they all spent hours and hours creating the book that you can read in far less time than it took them to write it.

The authors of all those books are people of various temperaments as well as different cultures, religions, races and political persuasions. Some are young, some are elderly. Some are likable, some are not. But whomever they might be, they have written a book which proved good enough to be published and have provided pleasure, information or enlightment for thousands of people.

I'm still feeling the pain of not being able to browse through the book section today, so maybe tomorrow I'll head to my local bookstore for the afternoon and see what's new.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Thoughts

A slight diversion from the writing world this morning.

All this week, I’ve been thinking about Easter celebrations of my childhood years in the Chicago area. When Easter fell in March, we donned spring dresses and coats to walk to church in sharp north winds, even a little snow on occasion.

On one of those bitter cold Easter mornings, I had a new spring coat and hat that I’d looked forward to wearing. Mother told me it was much too cold to wear it. “You have too far to walk to church. You’ll freeze,” she said.

I begged and begged. “Please let me wear it. I’ll wear a sweater underneath.” Tears slipped from my eyes as I waited for her to give in. They were genuine, not a ploy. Wearing that new coat was a monumental need at that moment at age eight.

Mother relented, but I did have to wear the sweater I’d proposed underneath my lightweight, pastel colored coat. And I was probably very glad to have it as my brother and I headed to church to hear the Easter story once again. My parents never attended church with us. Theirs was a mixed marriage—Dad was Catholic and Mother Methodist, and neither ever gave in to the other. But we kids all attended the Methodist church and Sunday School. Dad polished our shoes every Saturday night so we’d look our best on Sunday mornings.

The Easter Bunny usually brought us a few chocolates, jelly beans and a new comic book. He also hid brightly colored eggs all over our living and dining rooms. Later in the day, aunts, uncles and cousins would join us for a special dinner. Mother usually fixed a leg of lamb or a big ham, glazed with brown sugar and mustard, cloves inserted in the scored top. Lots of side dishes weighed down the dining room table, scalloped or mashed potatoes, two or three vegetables, a jello salad, homemade rolls, pickles, olives and pickled beets, and a springtime dessert of some kind. Cream pies, berry pies, or a cake with whipped cream frosting.

When we were all too full to move, the dishes had to be done. No dishwashers, but all the women pitched in and they were finished in no time amidst lots of chatter and laughter. My cousin, Carol, and I were drafted for this work at an early age. We had to dry the silverware, a job neither of us liked. We hurried through so we could walk to the park to play the rest of the afternoon. No malls to go to in the 1940’s, and no stores open on Sunday. We played outdoors or occasionally went to a movie to finish the Easter Sunday celebration.

The rebirth of springtime flowers, trees and bushes still symbolizes the meaning of Easter for me. Christ’s resurrection created a rebirth for all Christians, and as He taught us to love one another, I also think of the love of family as part of our Easter celebrations of long ago and also of today. We will be spending this Easter holiday with our daughter’s family, going to church, having a celebration dinner, and being together. Not so very different than all those years ago.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Overblogged? Tell Me What You Think

I've found several blogs that I've wanted to follow, and I've also found some that are a one-time shot. Now that blogging has become a national pastime, I've found more and more ot them that I like.  I must admit I read some more faithfully than others.

There are a few that I check daily, and some that I pop in to read several days worth maybe once a week. The more blogs you follow, the less time there is for each one. So what's the best approach? Choose a few and follow faithfully, or spread yourself wide and read lots of them once in awhile?

It comes down to personal choice, as in so many things. But one factor that influences me is how often the blogger posts new entries. When months go by without a new posting, I'm outta there. Time is too precious to be constantly checking to see if that particular blogger has finally posted something new. They'll lose readers fast that way.

I'm going to be on a panel at my critique group's conference later this month titled "Blogging 101: Everything We Know" Three of us are going to discuss our own blogging experiences, how to start one, some tips on keeping readers, and anything else we can come up with.

You can help me by leaving comments here telling me what you like about blogs you read on a regular basis and also what turns you off in a blog? I'd really appreciate having some opinions on this so we know what thngs to address.