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Monday, February 28, 2011

Ever Written An Unsent Letter?

The editor of one of the writer's newsletters I subscribe to talked today about keeping two journals. Every day, write in one about something you are grateful for on that day. And in the other one, write those rants and raves you wish you had the guts to do in person. Tell off the rude clerk or the man who cut in line. Sounds like a good way to relieve a bit of stress. The gratitude journal's not a bad idea either.

There's a website where you can rant and rave if you like and have it published and even get paid for it. That's a winner all round, isn't it? The site is Unsent Letters  ( ). The name pretty well explains itself. Go to the website to read the writers guidelines and read several samples of what they've accepted. No doubt you can come up with a letter of your own. And no, you do not have to publish it under your own name. You can do so anonymously. You're given that option.

The unsent letter can be something that has bugged you for years and you want to get it off your chest. Or it can be like the positive journal I mentioned earlier--a letter thanking someone for something. Take either path, it's your choice.

Payment is $10-25 per letter, possibly more if a picture accompanies the letter. And if your letter is selected to be put in the anthology in works, payment can go as high as $250. There is a note at the top of the Writers Guidelines and Submissions page that says submissions are closed until January 2011. Since this is February, I would go ahead and send something and see what happens. Do take time to read the guidelines and some of the letters on the website to get a feel for what is accepted.

Even if you don't get accepted, you might feel better for writing to whomever for whatever reason. Even if they never see it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Incorrect and Misspelled Words

Something has been bothering me a lot lately. It's the horribly misspelled words I see in newspaper headlines and on TV news shows that run written messages on the bottom of the screen.

This morning, I heard a TV news reporter talking about a tragedy in a Kentucky town where four children were swept away by floodwaters. The man said at the end of his report, "This community is all shooken up over this tragedy."  I actually cringed when I heard him say shooken.

Last week, a sports writer in our local paper wrote an article about our basketball team's win of the previous day. The headline, in large bold letters, was Wildcats Ceased Control....  I looked at it and looked at it wondering what in the world he meant since they'd won the game. Then, it hit me that the proper word for that headline was Seized  I read the article and turned to an inside page to finish it, and there it was again, the same headline with the same incorrect choice of words.

The one error that I see over and over is the incorrect usage of your and you're. I have a hard time understanding why that one is missed so often. One is possessive and the other is a contraction of you are.

Another that I note frequently is losing and loosing. The first is to lose something, while the second is to loosen. They mean totally different things.

I'm well aware that many people don't have the love of words that I do, nor do they work in the writing world where words should be spelled and used properly. I can give those people a by, but I have a really hard time forgiving the ones who are writing the news or reporting it or sending their writing to editors. They, of all people, should be doing it correctly.

Do Journalism schools require grammar courses? If they don't, they should! Do people proofread their work? If they don't, they should.

There! I've had my moment to rant about something that irks me. Maybe it doesn't bother others as much as it does me. When you write a story, article, or poem, do yourself a favor. Use spellcheck and make sure you've done it the right way.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are You In A Submission Rut?

Writers who find success with a publisher or website editor tend to continue to submit to them. That's fine. It's good to establish a presence with an editor. If they like your work enough to accept it once, chances are they'll do it again. It allows us a comfort zone and who doesn't go for that?

But be careful. You don't want to find yourself in a submission rut. I've been blessed to have stories in eleven Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I often find myself writing a piece of creative nonfiction with them in mind as a market. A monthly newspaper for seniors in Springfield, MO has accepted everything I've sent them, so of course, I'm going to continue to submit my work there. I'd be a fool not to.

It's important, however, to seek other markets and to submit to them. Step out of your comfort zone and do a little market research for publications new to you. Network with other writers to learn some good places to submit your work. When a writer friend mentions that an editor was especially nice to work with, I'm more than willing to send them my work, too.

Even when you know nothing more than what the guidelines tell you about the publication but think your work might be a fit, take a chance and send it. What's the worst that can happen? A rejection, but you can select another publication and send it out again.

Try a new market soon. You just might meet with success.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How About Biographies?

What's your take on biographies? Only a select group of writers write them, but a great many readers devour them. It's got to be the curious side of the human nature that creates interest in other people's lives.

Granted, most biographies are written about a person who has celebrity status of some sort. Whether it's in the entertainment world, the arts, history, or politics, the subject of a biography is someone others would like to learn about. Occasionally, you run across a biography of a lesser known individual, but I'm guessing they seldom sell many copies unless they have a fantastic marketing plan and something about the person being written about sparks interest by readers.

I enjoy reading biographies but I admit that I'm pretty selective when it comes to which ones. I need to have more than a passing interest in the person who is the subject of the book. Same with autobiographies. Whether they are written by the person himself/herself or a (supposedly) objective second party, the life story of someone can be slanted in any way the writer wants it to go. She can capitalize on the good parts of the person's life or feature the tough times, maybe even the distasteful times. Author's choice!

We assume the biography is a factual account of a person's life, but keep in mind that the facts can be turned to whatever slant the author wishes. Even so, learning about a person's life gives the reader a fuller view and perhaps changes the perception they have of that person.

Some of the people whose biographies or autobiographies I've enjoyed reading were about:
Barbara Bush
John Adams
Dwight Eisenhower
Katherine Graham
Amelia Earhart
Frank Sinatra

There are many more that I might have listed above. I'd like to know what some of your favorites have been. Ulterior motive here--I need to select a book for my Book Club to read in April and I'm looking for suggestions.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Stories From Grandkids

We had a great day with Jordan, 7, and Cole, 4, on Monday. We dropped our car off to have some maintenance work done on it, and picked up a loaner. The kids thought that was great fun. Then it was off to do some shopping.

Next came lunch, and we went to a very nice Italian place Ken and I like a lot. The children like eating out as much as all of the grown-ups in our family do. They behaved very nicely so it was no problem. While we were waiting for our lunch to arrive at our table, we talked a little bit about manners.

The conversation moved on to other things, and lunch arrived. They ate nearly all their lunch which doesn't always happen with children in restaurants. As we waited for our check, Cole looked at me with his blue eyes wide open. What he said left me biting my lip so I wouldn't laugh.

"Grandma," he said in a very serious tone, "next time we go out to eat I'm going to bring my real manners."

I wondered all day what kind of manners he'd been using since the real ones were coming with us next time.

Little quips like that are great to file away for use in a future story. I think we need to write them down, though, as they are too easily forgotten.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Grandmother Time

Our two youngest grandchildren are off school today because it is President's Day. Mom and Dad still have to go to work, so Grandma and Poppy to the rescue. We arrived yesterday and will stay until tomorrow morning when they head back to school.

Jordan is 7 and in the first grade. Cole is 4 and goes to pre-school and an in-home sitter. It's fun to spend some time with them. I find lots of story material just listening to what they talk about.

Last night, Jordan was cuddled up close to me and she reached out to rub my neck. She frowned and said, "People your age have this kind of skin, don't they?"

"You mean wrinkled?" I asked.

She nodded her head.

"Well, people get wrinkles when they get older," I explained to her.

Quick as a wink, she shot back with "I didn't use that word.O-L-D."

Quite diplomatic for a 7 year old to refer to it as 'people your age' and I love her all the more for being so thoughtful. But it is what it is. A wrinkled neck!!!

We're going into Kansas City with the kids today to do some shopping and have lunch. Looking forward to some Grandmother Time. And maybe a new story or two.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Writing Styles Change

My Book Club is reading a very old novel this month. Theodore Dreiser wrote Sister Carrie in the final months of the nineteenth century, and Doubleday and Co. published it in 1900. According to notes at the end of the book I'm reading, the top two editors at the publishing company had disagreed--one wanted it and the other was vehemently against publishing the novel. The novel did get published but there was no push to market it and sales were abysmal. Later, it was published in England and did far better.

The writing style is all telling with a miniscule amount of dialogue tossed in like scattering birdseed for robins. Over a hundred years later, writing books push showing rather than telling a story. An author of a short story or novel of our century makes good use of dialogue and actions to show the reader what is happening. I doubt that a novel like Mr. Dreiser's would ever have made it to publication now.

Look at the differences in lifestyles for a reason the writing styles have changed. In 1900, people's entertainment came in quieter modes than what we are accustomed to. Readers today are conditioned to action. We see action on movie screens, TV screens, YouTube on computer screens, electronic games, iphones and more. We expect things to move at a rapid pace, and we want our novels to follow a similar pattern.

Writing styles change with the times and so must writers. That said, I do enjoy reading novels published long ago once in awhile, but I often feel bogged down by the slow pace and long-winded descriptions as well as the tremendous amount of telling. Even so, there were some great stories written in yesteryears so don't turn away because a book is old.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is It OK To Nudge An Editor?

Is it OK to nudge an editor when you haven't had a response in a reasonable amount of time? You might get different answers to that question depending on whether it is directed to an editor or a writer. As a writer, I think it's alright to do so sometimes. I wouldn't recommend making a habit of it or the editor just might cut your name out of her list of writers. Try to look at it from their side of the fence. If 9 out of 10 writers make inquiries, it could be rather aggravating, or if one writer does it habitually, same reaction.

I had occasion to do this yesterday. I'd sent an article to an editor of a writer's newsletter. She's purchased several of my articles dealing with the craft of writing, and she's always been one to respond quickly--unlike many editors. When I hadn't heard from her in a couple of weeks, I got to wondering if I'd sent the submission to the proper address. She has several addresses and I thought maybe she only checked certain ones for the submissions. So, I wrote her a very brief note explaining that I only wanted to know if she had received the submission I'd sent due to the address issue.

I heard from her in minutes. She had not received it, and then she qualified that by saying that perhaps she had gotten it and it was on the bottom of a pile she'd yet to attack. "Please send it again," she finished.

I immediately copied and pasted it into the e-mail and clicked Send. Within twenty minutes, I had an answer. She liked it. She wanted to use it. Would it be alright with me if it was not published until the August issue?

In this case, if I had not sent that little note of inquiry, my submission may have been lost forever. So, do nudge on occasion. Don't do it frequently, don't do it in anger or frustration, don't do it because of your own impatience. Have a valid reason. Some editors respond fairly fast while others take what feels like forever. As you work with them, you begin to know how each one works.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Molly Samuels--Guest Blogger

Molly Samuels

When Nancy asked me to be her guest blogger today, my first emotion was dismay. After all, I haven’t written anything to speak of for over two years. Prior to that, I’d been an active member of an online critique group with two novels under my belt and a third in outline form.

Writing fiction came into my life later than most, although at the tender age of 8, I penned the first line of what I then hoped would be The Great American Novel: “Will the Boots and Saddles Club please come to order!”

Not knowing what came next scared me so badly, my next attempt fiction didn’t happen for another 40 years. As early retirement began to loom large on the horizon, it became obvious that if I were ever going to achieve my dream of writing novels, I’d better get cracking.

Over the next few years, my self-education consisted of “how to write” books, classes, critique groups, and sheer determination. Words would flow from my fingers, and I’d wonder in which crevice of my brain they’d been hiding. I was jaw-droppingly fascinated when my characters wrested control of a scene from me. Rejections came, the bane of every writer. I learned to accept them with resignation, or, increasingly, joy over a hand-written note from an agent. My last novel came this close to being published. All I needed to do was “make a few more changes.”

Then, in the middle of the umpteenth “final” draft, it all stopped. No ordinary “writer’s block,” the words simply would not come. The onset of this creative drought coincided with the death of my spouse after a long illness. I’ve since heard of other people whose creative flow dried to a trickle in the face of personal trauma. It happens. Some people find solace in writing. Some don’t. Apparently, I fall into the latter category.

I share this with you because some of you might also be experiencing a creative drought.  As of today, I want to assure you it isn’t permanent. After two years, my “how to write” books are calling to me again as I sit at my computer. The old excitement of putting words on paper is stirring awake. Will the long hiatus change the tenor of my writing? If so, will it be for the better, or simply be different? I haven’t a clue, but I’m eager to find out.

May you discover peace, delight, and many blessings in your own creative journey, no matter what obstacles you encounter along the way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Great Valentine's Day

I had a great Valentine's Day yesterday. My husband of 46+ years gave me flowers, chocolates and a simple but sweet card that brought a lump to my throat. He's a Keeper.

Next, I learned I had won an Honorable Mention in a Valentine story contest sponsored by a womens' memoir website.( )  They had four categorie of Valentine stories including Worst, Worst With Hope, Best and Most Humorous. The winners rode a carousel Read-a-thon yesterday. A new winning story was posted on the website every hour on the hour all day. I found myself checking in often to read the winning stories. I'd been alerted to the time of day mine would be posted.

The story I sent them is the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul story I had accepted. It's called "Love In A Box" and is one that has been published by Chicken Soup books in other venues and other countries. I still own the copyright, and the contest at the memoir site specified that they accepted already-published stories, so I sent it in. You can read the story at This site is running a new contest every month this year. Check their website for more details at

The third great event of my Valentine's Day happened last night when our K-State Wildcats beat #1 in the nation, the KU Jayhawks. We were there to see it happen along with another 12,500 screaming fans. Our team has struggled this year, so this was a huge win for them. Ken and I were so very happy for all those young men who have worked hard but faced many disappointments this season.

Yep, Valentine's Day 2011 turned out to be a great day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day--Perfect For Writers

This little guy loves chocolate. It must be genetic!

It's Valentine's Day--perfect for flowers and chocolate. A day to show those you love how you feel. It's not only for lovers, it's also a day to let your family and close friends know what they mean to you. Yes, Hallmark made it into a big commercial circus, but that's OK..Next to Christmas, it's my favorite day of the year. Yep, even better than my birthday. My husband went overboard this year with yellow roses and chocolates. He knows I love both.

My grandson, Cole, in the picture above is now four and in pre-school. He told me last night that he has a Valentine's Day party at school today. When he and his mom were buying valentines, he made it very clear that they needed Batman valentines for the boys and princess theme for the girls. He said he put a lollipop in each one, too. At age four, he's got it down pat, and he still loves chocolate.

This is a day for writers, too. You can put your talent to work on a handmade card with a verse written by you. You can pen a story about Valentine days of the past so that your children and grandchildren have a record of how you viewed the holiday or how you may have celebrated it differently than they do

If you plan ahead, you can write a Valentine's story for a magazine, newspaper or ezine. Or enter a contest that calls for Valentine stories. You can write about the best Valentine's Day or the worst. You can write about a humorous Valentine's Day or one that touched your heart. 

Yes, this is a perfect day for writers. Write and nibble on a piece of good chocolate for inspiration.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Internet Radio

I had a new experience Wednesday afternoon. Manhattan is getting ready to launch an internet radio station, and I was invited to record several of my stories in the studio.

Konza Radio won't be a music station like so many of the internet radio sites are. This one will be more along the pattern of the well-known NPR stations on FM radio. The new station will be operated via the University For Man program which is affiliated with Kansas State University. UFM offers classes open to the public that meet anywhere from one time to six or more times in a semester. Class participants pay a fee which supports the program.

The Director of the new radio station had heard about my writing through a mutual friend. She contacted me and asked if I'd be interested. It sounded like fun to me, so I quickly agreed. I selected six stories and we set a date to meet. Weather cancelled it. Set another date. Funeral cancelled it. Finally the third date worked.

The recording studio turned out to be on the third floor of the UFM building which was a fraternity house once-upon-a-time. We climbed the two flights of steep stairs the a room with sloping ceilings, bare walls and a hissing old-fashioned radiator. It was warm and light and filled with radio recording equipment and a long table with a microphone above it.

I've always enjoyed reading aloud--even back in first grade in my Bluebirds Reading Group. I read a variety of stories, including some memoirs, a personal essay, and a couple for children. Before I knew it, we were finished.

The new station launches on February 28th. I'll give you the address for the website when it's ready to go.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Memoir Or Autobiography?

The other day I wrote about a review I'd read of Donald Rumsfield's new book. I called it a memoir, and one of my Followers wrote a comment regarding using the word memoir for a book of this type. She felt this is more of an autobiography. She's a memoir writer and teaches others to write memoirs, so I respect her opinion.

I wondered if I'd goofed and used the word memoir on my own. So I checked the book on Amazon, and the title is Known and Unknown and underneath that it says A Memoir. I breathed a sigh of relief because I don't like to make mistakes and I especially don't like to make them publicly.

I kept thinking about it, however, so this morning I went to Webster to define memoir and autobiography. The dictionary gave me this for memoir:

Definition of MEMOIR

: an official note or report : memorandum
a : a narrative composed from personal experienceb : autobiography —usually used in pluralc : biography
a : an account of something noteworthy : reportb plural : the record of the proceedings of a learned society
and the definition of autobiography is:


 noun \ˌȯ-tə-bī-ˈä-grə-fē, -bē-\
: the biography of a person narrated by himself or herself
So it looks like an autobiography can also be termed a memoir. If you adhere to dictionary definitions, they might be used interchangeably.  My personal feeling is that an autobiography is  the complete story of a life. A memoir can be the same, or it can be just one slice of the pie. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Memories Of The Month

I've urged readers to start a book of memories by the month. Before you know it, you'll have a dozen memory pieces all set to be assembled into a notebook or a bound copy. What a gift for your family. If you close your eyes and travel back in time to your school days, you'll be surprised at what pops up. Think about February and what it meant in the place you lived. I find that one memory only triggers another. My effort for February school days is below. I've titled it Hearts and Heroes.

Hearts and Heroes
By Nancy Julien Kopp

After the exhilaration of the Christmas season in the 40’s and 50’s, January brought us little in Chicago but frigid days and icy sidewalks. Thirty-one days of snow piling up, indoor recess, and head colds passed around our classroom left us longing for some excitement.

As soon as our teacher turned the page of the big calendar on the classroom wall to February, the dreary days disappeared, and we had something to look forward to. In every grade, February 12th was celebrated. We attended Lincoln School, named for our sixteenth president. In those days, the state of Illinois recognized this great statesman with speeches in the state capitol, stories in the newspapers and on the radio, even running essay contests about Honest Abe for school children. At our school, we had Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday every other year. In the alternate years, we were given the day off on George Washington’s birthday, the 22nd of February.

Our teachers decorated bulletin boards with the red, white, and blue patriotic colors and information about the two men. One year we all cut out silhouettes of both Lincoln and Washington and placed them on the windows and walls of our classroom. Seeing them every day imprinted their likeness on my mind forever. As we got into the intermediate grades, we read about these two revered presidents. First, we learned the stories of their boyhoods. What a fascinating tale George, his axe and the cherry tree made. Hadn’t we all been confronted by a parent when we’d done something we shouldn’t have? And didn’t we learn something about truthfulness with this story? Who could forget the story of Abe Lincoln studying borrowed books by the light of the fire? Or the long, long walk he took to return a penny to a storekeeper who’d returned too much change to him.

We learned about their achievements as adults, the experiences that led them both to the highest honor in the land. We studied the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, always keeping the roles of these two men in mind. What a way to show us what could be achieved when we saw that a boy who cut down a cherry tree became the Father of our country. We gloried in details about the men, like Washington’s false teeth made of wood. Lots of the stories we’ve since learned were proven to be only “stories” passed down through the years. It doesn’t matter to me now, if they were all true or only partially true. The important thing was that the stories taught me a great deal about these two men, about life, and about my country.

Valentines Day was sandwiched between the presidents’ birthdays. We cut out hearts, we drew hearts, we colored hearts. We wrote our names in hearts, and as we got older, we paired our names in a heart with the name of the object of our affections. Whoever he may have been that week! How I loved the decorated boxes lined up in each classroom that served as our mailbox. What excitement to watch our classmates slip their valentines into the boxes, one by one. We opened our valentines while we munched on frosted cupcakes or heart-shaped sugar cookies and sipped red punch.

The shortest month of the year provided knowledge and entertainment and took our minds off the cold, snowy days of winter.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Memoir--Record or Revenge?

Memoir writing is big and seems to be getting bigger. Celebrities are writing memoir books and so are everyday folk like you and me. I read a review of Donald Rumsfield's newly-released memoir Known and Unknown, and the reviewer contended that while this memoir is filled with annotations and a historical record, it comes across as being more about revenge.

Revenge? Is this a valid reason for writing a memoir? The book is 815 pages. I'm beginning to think each memoir writer is competing for the longest book, and I wonder how many people Mr. Rumsfield is trying to pick on.  A celebrity who writes a memoir is trying to set the record straight. Here's what happened--it's from the horse's mouth. It makes sense that someone who has been roundly criticized for their actions and thoughts would want to set the record straight, but give consideration that they are looking at facts from a single viewpoint. They might be able to tell us what happened, but the why of the event is a single perception.

Donald Rumsfield is certainly not the only person who has written a memoir with revenge as part of the reason to do so. Nor will he be the last. But I hope that revenge is not the main reason for undertaking such a large project. I must say that I am only discussing this today because of what the reviewer wrote. I have not read the book myself.

I much prefer that people write memoirs to leave a record for their families, to highlight their lives and present a picture of the era in which they grew up, and because they want to share their stories with others.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fly Me To The Moon

A Book Review:

Did you know Amelia Earhart claimed three titles? She was a writer, a lecturer and a pilot. Most people only associate her name with being a fantastic female pilot in what was then a man’s world.

Lori Van Pelt’s biography, Amelia Earhart—The Sky’s The Limit, published in 2005, paints a vivid picture of Amelia Earhart, taking the reader from her difficult childhood up to the day she was lost somewhere over the Pacific Ocean as she attempted to set yet one more record. She aimed to fly around the world’s waistline—the equator.

Born in Atchison, Kansas in the early 1900’s, Amelia moved with her mother several times. Her alcoholic father figured sporadically in her life, and yet she kept in touch with him and made a special effort to visit him often when he was dying.

She fell in love with airplanes and the idea of flying one at the age of ten when she saw her first plane at a state fair. She never stopped loving planes and flew one after another in her adult life breaking record upon record. No sooner had she set one record than she tried for another. Had she lived in later years, she probably would have hoped to be the first woman to go to the moon in a spaceship.

To fund this expensive passion she wrote articles for magazines like Cosmopolitan and even full length books about flying. She urged women to follow their dream as she had done, and she became a national heroine.

This tall, slender woman with a mop of curls, an infectious laugh and a sparkle in her eye captured the hearts of Americans and many other countries, as well. People read about her in newspapers, saw clips of her in newsreels at the movie theaters, and eagerly looked forward to the articles and books she wrote. No wonder a nation mourned when she was lost at sea.

I’d recommend this short biography. Read it for a bit of history, to understand what women were up against in the twenties and thirties and to learn about a remarkable woman. It would be a good read for young girls as well as adults.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Passive Verb Surgery

Books that deal with the craft of writing nearly always address the issue of passive vs. active verbs. They do it for a very good reason. A story or article filled with active verbs makes for interesting reading and the ones with 90% of the verbs being passive sit like a dullard. 

Stories with lots of active verbs glow while those with mostly passive verbs appear gray and dismal. I think what often happens is that we write a first draft and the passive verbs come to us automatically as we strive to get the main idea of the story or nonfiction article across. That's fine, but we can't let it stay that way if we want to see it published someday. 

Let the piece simmer a day or two or even three, then go back and make revisions. To begin with, go through the draft from start to finish and mark every passive verb you find. If you're computer savy, you can set a program to find how many times you used was, is, are, went kind of verbs. But you can do it on your own in a short time, too. 

Then look for active verbs you can substitute for the passive ones. Be careful not to repeat them. Those repetitions stand out more than you think. Read the story with the new verbs, and I feel quite certain you'll find a far more interesting piece of writing than that first draft. Then it's on to other revisions. 

An exercise to help:  Take a sentence with was in it and rewrite it in as many ways as you can using active verbs. Sometimes, you may need to reverse the order, not just insert a new word.

Mary went to the store.
Mary ran to the store.
Mary drove to the store.
Mary strolled to the store.
Mary flew to the store.

In the first sentence, we have no idea of Mary's mood as she makes a trip to the store, but in three out of the next four, we have an inkling of what her mood is.  

Now try a sentence like this one:  John and his horse went over the fence. Find active verbs to show the reader how they went over the fence.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Winter Writing Exercise

A lot of people have amazing snow scenery on the other side of their windows this week. The massive storm touched the lives of over 100 million people in an amazing number of states. You can use the snow to good advantage by trying a writing exercise from inside your warm house.

Stand at your window and observe the scene before you. Don't just glance at it. Really study the entire scene. Look at the sky, the street, the houses or buildings across the street, your own front (or back) yard or steps. What comes to mind?

You might begin the exercise with these words:  On a snowy day, I see......        Then continue with the next sentence starting with: I see..........  and continue each consecutive sentence that way. Perhaps as a list rather than a paragraph. Try to use different descriptive words. Note small details as well as the overall scene.

For those who are lucky enough to live in a state where there is no snow, describe the winter scene outside your window. Even the warmer states look a little different in winter than during the lush green summers.

Some of us are more observant than others. Dig deep and use your powers of observation.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Color Me Happy Today

It's stopped snowing, and the sun is out in all it's glory. I've talked with both my children and know that they are victims of this massive storm whirling its way from Texas to the Northeast, but they're safe and warm. We'll all wait it out until normal routines can resume.

Some very good news has also made me unbelievably happy today. I have a dear friend whom I met in my first online writers group. Molly came to our small town mystery conference in Manhattan several years ago. She flew in from Atlanta and stayed with us. It was our first face-to-face meeting, and we had a great time. She came again for the next conference. Besides Molly, another writer friend and a publisher stayed at our house on that occasion. We four women had some fun pajama-time conversations after the meetings were over each day.

Molly and I both moved on to writersandcritters online critique group when our first one died. We've gone to the wac conferences together, and we keep in touch via e-mail. Molly writes mystery novels primarily, but she's also written a historical fiction novel. Due to many things in her personal life, she left our online group and even gave up writing to pursue another love--quilting--more fully.

To say we who are in the wac have missed Molly is a major understatement. We've missed her super-good critiques, her interesting subs, and her great wit when a discussion of any sort was floating through our cyberspace lives. She attended our last conference, and I'd though that might give her the inspiration to begin writing again. I listened as she gave an oral critique and had high hopes she'd return to the group. But, it didn't happen.

This past week, she spent a few days with Joyce, the moderator of our group. Joyce must have great powers of persuasion. Molly returned to Atlanta yesterday, and today she returned to our wac group. She says she hasn't written anything in two years so may be rusty. I doubt that.

Color me happy today because the storm has passed on and Molly is back in my online group. Maybe I can persuade her to make a guest appearance on my blog.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Running Water and Clean Files

You never fully appreciate something until it's gone. When the man up the street slid into the fire hydrant next to our driveway yesterday, our normal Monday turned into one of frustration and frenzy. We watched from our window off and on through the day as a tow truck pulled the car away from the hydrant, and the hydrant itself was removed.

Then, we saw men slip and slide on the icy driveway as they worked, a couple of them falling into the water that ran all over the street from the gushing hydrant. Next, a huge tractor arrived to dig a deep hole where repairs would be made and a new hydrant put in. Ken went out to talk to the men, and they told him our water might be off from around 11 a.m. to maybe 2 p.m. He'd already filled several containers with water for us to use in case that happened.

2 p.m came and went. So did 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Finally, around 7:30 we had running water once again. I didn't realize how many times a day I turn on the water--to wash my hands, rinse off cooking utensils, get a drink, wash pots and pans, rinse stuff out of the sink, fill my steam iron and more. We did have pitchers of it to use, but I tried to keep it to a minimum. I had to use one whole pitcher to boil the spaghetti for dinner!

The hole the man in the tractor dug was halfway to China. Another man went down in the hole at one point and all I could see was the top of his hoodie. Ken was fussing about them damaging the section of our irrigation system in that spot. No doubt they did, but it couldn't be helped. Looks like a spring job for our irrigation guys. And grass seed over the large area they dug out. They put the new hydrant back several feet from where the old one was. Maybe the next guy who slides off the street will be less likely to hit it. Our mailbox on the opposite side of the drive has been demolished twice in snowstorms.

I felt bad for the men who worked outside all day long and into the darkness. They used lights from a truck to see what they were doing as night arrived. But they are surely accustomed to working in such conditions and probably were dressed in many layers. Even so.....

This morning, the tractor is still out there with crime scene tape all around it and some orange cones. It stretches across part of our driveway, so even if I wanted to, I couldn't get my car out today.

In-between watching the show outside yesterday, I spent the day cleaning out files in My Documents, printing several to add to the big notebooks where I keep hard copies of my writing. And I organized one overly-full notebook into two. It felt like I'd really accomplished something, and while deciding what went where, I found some essays and stories I'd forgotten about. A good reminder to go through the notebooks now and then. There were two that I would like to enlarge on and maybe submit somewhere. A good job for a snowy day like we have this first day of February.

It's a joy to turn on the tap today and see water running from it. Look around you and appreciate the little things that make your life pleasant.