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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making Changes In Your Writing World

The quote above is so clear I hardly need to make any comments to go with it. But maybe just a few. I've been know as one who loves to talk since 'mama' first came from my mouth. 

As self-explanatory as the poster quote is, you might need to do a little pondering over what changes you would like to make in your writing life. What are you doing now that isn't particularly satisfying to you? And next, what can you do to begin changing it? 

Take submissions, for example.  Look back over your 2011 submission list. (please say you do have such a list) and count the total submissions. Would you like to make it a higher number for 2012? How about the consistency of submissions? Did you start out with a bang in January and February and then slowly taper off? Were there months in which you never sent anything out? 

How about the number of brand new stories you sent out versus old ones that you hope to sell as a reprint? Equal? Or heavier on one side? If so, which side? What can you do to change it? 

Assessing your submissions list is fine. Deciding what you can do to change it is even better. But don't stop there. It's time for action. Unless you act to make real changes, you'll not see a difference.

Isn't it sad? Darned near everything that will enrich our writing life and bring us more publishing succesess boils down to a single element. You! No passing the blame onto somebody else, even though we may try to do so once in awhile.

Take a walk through your writing world soon, then create a list of changes you'd like to make. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Revised Call--Reprints

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a call for submissions for a new anthology looking for dog stories. A few days ago, Kathleene S. Baker, co-editor of the planned anthology, has put out a second call. This time, the publisher is willing to consider reprints. So, if you have a good dog story which has already been published and is lingering in your files, send it in.

All this brings up the subject of reprints. Many guidelines specify that any submission must never have been published. They want to be the first to publish a story, article, or poem. Some will state that reprints are alright while others say absolutely nothing about it. I've always thought that, if they don't make a definite statement about no reprints, then it's okay to send an already-published piece. I do, however, inform the editor if that is the case in my cover letter. Then, it's their call.

It would be helpful if editors who do not want reprints would make that very clear in their guidelines. The other evening, I sent a story to a new anthology--the one on Life Lessons. I mentioned in my cover letter that the story had won a contest at a memoir website. An hour later, the editor e-mailed and asked if it had been published anywhere else. I fessed up and replied that it had been on a website where writers can post their work. Since then, I have not heard from her again. I'm hoping that means that my submission has been accepted for consideration in the book. Surely, I tell myself, they would have informed me if it had not. (One can only hope so!)

Occasionally, a writer will try to cover up the fact that their work submitted has already been published. Inevitably, they get caught. With the wide range of search engines today, it's pretty easy to find out if something has been published.

Some publications accept reprints but pay less than they do for an unpublished story. Others will pay the same. I've even read some guidelines that say "Reprints welcome" or "We accept reprints" which is all to your benefit. It's great to be able to get as much mileage out of something you've written as possible.

So, do read the writer guidelines carefully and do make sure you check the reprint policy before you waste your time in sending oen to an editor who won't use it. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Decison Time? Could Be!

All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us."  J.R.R. Toliken

I saw the quote above on someone's facebook page. It made me stop and ponder a bit. I

find an amazing number of interesting, thoughtful, and inspirational items on facebook. It's  

not a waste of time, as some would have you believe. Like all things, you can choose how 

much you want to look at or respond to. But back to the quote.

A few simple words, but look at the assignment it gives you. Not an easy one. The keyword 

here is decide. I can't do it for you. Your spouse cannot decide for you, even though you 

might like him/her to do so. Your friends can't do it because they know only surface parts of

you as a person. 

You are given 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks in a year. Will you fritter

them away with nonproductive activities? Or are you going to fill the hours, days and weeks

with something that will help you grow as a person, be of benefit to others, and also be

satisfying to you? 

As writers, we have to make the same kind of decision. What are we going to do with the

amount of writing time we have? Are we going to fill it with nonsense? Are we

going to keep on writing the same kind of story over and over because it's working so why

step outside our comfort zone? Are we going to boldly step outside that comfort zone and

try something new? Are we going to use some of it to increase our knowledge of this craft?

Will we fill our specified writing time with actually writing something? Or will we clean up

the area around our computer, dust the keyboard or some other task to delay the writing


The statement above sounds so simple, but we know it is not an easy task. Still it's up to

you to choose the path you want to travel in your writing world. The road may not be as

smooth as you'd like. In fact, there might be some major detours along the way, but if

you stay on it, you're likely to meet some success now and then. 

Decide what you want to do with the writing time given to you, or better put--the writing

time you make within your busy life. Toss in a bit of determination, and you're on your


Friday, February 24, 2012

Call For Submissions Times Two

Writers salivate at a new Call for Submissions announcement. This morning, I have two I'd like to share with you. Both are new to me, so I can't verify the quality of the publications, but they looked good when I read through the website pages. 

The first one is Write Integrity Press. They are looking for non-fiction stories of 1,000 words or less for three new anthologies. The titles are: Life Lessons From MOMS, Life Lessons From DADS, and Life Lessons From TEACHERS. They have had previous Life Lesson anthologies. Payment is $25 per story, a copy of the book, a byline and bio. One photo may be sent with the story. Deadline for submission is March 30, 2012. To read full guidelines, look here

You might want to look through the other pages on this website. In About Us there is an explanation of the type of publishing this company deals in. Besides the anthology submissions, this page may be of interest to those who have a book they would like to have published. 

Second call is from a new online journal called Northwind which publishes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. A writer friend alerted me when she discovered this market, new to both of us. Submission guidelines are lengthy but clear. They pay $150 for one story per issue. All contributors will receive a  dedicated page with their story or poem and a place for bio, link to website and photo. No cash, but that's still a help to any writer who is building a platform. 

Northwind accepts longer pieces than many other online journals. There appears to be a big trend for flash fiction and micro-fiction, but sometimes it's nice to settle down with a cup of tea or coffee and delve into a lengthy, entertaining story. Just remember to make everything in a longer story relevant, no adding a thousand details that are really not necessary to the story itself. 

Northwind requires that readers and those submitting register. There is a short form to fill in that is quick and free. Once registered, you have access to the full site and can send a submission. 

Spend some time reading the stories and poetry on this journal before submitting your own work. 

My next task is to send a submission to Life Lesson anthology. How about you?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughts From Older Writers

Kathe Campbell
I interviewed several writers I knew for this article which was published six years ago. The stories and insghts of these people is still relevant. I believe all of these writers who began writing after fifty are still writing today.

Is It Too Late?
Nancy Julien Kopp

"I'd love to write, but I'm too old now." Have you thought or said something like that aloud? Is it too late once you've passed through your forties? Can you learn a new craft later in life? Come along with me and meet several writers who took the first step when well into, or past, middle age.

Tragedy turned Kathe Campbell into a writer at the age of sixty-two. A wretched accident at her Montana ranch resulted in the loss of her right arm. Still in shock and feeling useless, Kathe held many a pity party. No one showed up but the Guest of Honor. Her son built a computer and urged her to practice using the keyboard with her left hand. Once a 120 words a minute typist, she played with the keyboard a little, finding it difficult but challenging. Kathe says "If any old broad ever needed confidence during this settling and coping time of life, I did. I discovered several writing e-zines on the internet and unabashedly submitted the wrenching story of my loss at the age of 62. The entire effort served as mental and physical therapy, jolting me right back into allowing my thoughts to spill over pages once again." Only a few years earlier Kathe had written her first story detailing a journey through her mother's Alzheimer's Disease. Cosmopolitan magazine published it. She never wrote another until after her accident. Now, at seventy-two, she turns out story upon story bringing folksy humor and touching warmth to readers at several website e-zines. Chicken Soup For The Grandparent's Soul recently published one of Kathe's true life tales.

Did Kathe Campbell start a writing career too late in life? She waited until she harbored a lifetime of experiences to draw from, until the goal of succeeding seemed less important than the fact that she enjoyed writing with every fiber of her being. In her own words, "Writing is such a lot of fun." Her accident became the catalyst for a part time career she'd never considered in her younger years.

Hollywood portrays young men writing the great American novel in garrets, outdoor cafes, or even at a kitchen table. They sweat, they agonize, they labor long into the night until that magical first sale turns them into Pulitzer Prize winners in a flash. Oh, that it might be that easy. Have you ever seen a film that portrays someone over the age of forty-five writing their first story? They don’t fit the stereotype Hollywood has invented, do they?

More than a few writers launch freelance careers in mid-life and beyond. Madge Walls, author of Hawaii Real Estate Exam Book, tried to write in her thirties but found the distractions of young children overwhelming. She shelved the writing itself but attended every workshop on the subject of writing that came to Maui where she lived. "I
knew I would write seriously some day and wanted to absorb all I could while waiting to get the little distractions grown up" Madge says. She feels the older you are the more wisdom and experience you have accumulated. At sixty-one, she believes her writing to be much richer now than it might have been years earlier. Madge is currently working on a historical fiction novel and has completed another novel based on her experiences selling real estate in Hawaii

A woman in her sixties, who prefers to remain anonymous, entered the writing world partly because of being a copious letter writer all her life. Letters filled with mini-stories were a medium of self-expression which, over the years, evolved into writing short stories and novels. She enrolled in a correspondence course to learn the basics, writing many articles and stories that never reached publication. Rather than give up, she signed up for several writing courses found on the internet. Many were excellent but left her searching for more. She needed feedback and interaction, which these courses did not offer. She wrote five adult novels, one for teens and two for middle grade children. An online critique group became an eye-opener, teaching her more than all the previous period. Nearing seventy, she is an active person who still works to support herself but also writes four hours each day. Her positive attitude and consistent hard work aid this writer on her journey to publication.

Dick Dunlap creates stories that bring both laughter and an occasional tear to the reader. Dick says that anything he wrote in high school was overlooked because of poor spelling and bad handwriting. In spite of that, he won second prize in a Woman's Club essay contest in his teen years. It was the first time he received recognition for his writing, and the excitement was never forgotten. Dick avoided writing through the majority of his life, being ashamed of its appearance. When over sixty, he submitted a poem to a newspaper. A Writer's Guild member contacted him, and he took a big step by attending meetings. Soon, he bought a word processor and signed up for a writing course for Seniors. He created a fictitious family called "The Nevers", writing story upon story about the folks who make up this bumbling family. Dick says, "I like what I write. I laugh, I get a tear in my eye, I live my plots."

"Will the Boots and Saddles Club please come to order?" That was the first line of a novel Molly Samuels penned at the age of 8. Molly says, "That was so horrible, I put my writing skills to work elsewhere for the next forty-four years. I never lost that desire to write a book, even though it was one of those "someday" dreams. I'm fifty-eight now and have been seriously focused on writing for only four years." At fifty-two Molly came to a cross-roads in her career. She realized that everything she enjoyed throughout her career related to writing, and a new door opened for her. She spends her free time turning out chapter upon chapter of a historical novel that has captured the interest of her online critique group.

Molly states her thoughts on writers who jump into the writing game at a later stage of life. "I really think we need to age a bit to get experiences, things to fill those wrinkles in our brain for our sub consciences to ferret out, for our writing to glow. I don't think the first fifty-two years of my life were wasted, even though I never wrote anything more scintillating than a survey analysis."

A teacher's criticism douses the spark of creativity in many cases. Shirley Lechter had an interest in writing all through her high school years. A creative writing teacher criticized her work mercilessly, adding a massive dose of sarcasm. Shirley did not write again for more than twenty years when she returned to college to pursue a master's degree. Professors complimented her on weekly essays she submitted. It wasn't long before she was publishing articles and getting paid. She writes in her free time and finds it exhilarating.

Leela Devi Panikar operated a lucrative pub/restaurant business in Hong Kong. At the age of sixty-six, her life moved in a different direction. She found it necessary to bring her elderly wheelchair-bound mother to live with her. Leela's care-taking duties are time consuming, but she is well aware that she needs something else in her life, too. In her precious spare time, she works on a novel set in Hong Kong.

I have a personal interest in the topic at hand. A desire to write occupied the recesses of my mind all through my growing-up years, college, career, and raising children. Too busy now I told myself, until, at the age of fifty-three, I landed in a small town that did not accept new people very readily. I was lonely and homesick for all we left behind when my husband made a job change. I plunged in head-first by enrolling in a correspondence course that promised to teach me how to write for children. I was hooked after Lesson One, and I've never looked back in the fourteen years since.

Middle-aged and older people who have never written before can learn the craft. Bumps and bruises await along the road to a writing career, but if desire is strong, and you practice patience and perseverance, satisfaction and success lie within reach. Draw from your wealth of experience to write that first story, then move on the the second one and more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Starting A Writing Career in Middle Age

I've been asked many times how long I've been writing. My mental answer is Not nearly long enough! but I usually tell people that I didn't start writing until I reached my mid-fifties. Kind of at the same stage as the people pictured above. 

My children were independent, my husband was still very involved in his career, and we were in a new community. My contacts were few and time hung heavy on my hands. I'd been use to a full, busy life up to then. The opportunity to fulfill a lifelong desire had finally presented itself. I could start writing!

Along with the desire came fear. Could I begin something brand new as I was speeding along to my senior years? Was it possible to learn something that required some skill in my fifties? How strong was my desire? These and many other questions swirled through my mind even as the wish to try grew greater. 

I took a giant step by signing up for a correspondence course to learn to write for children. I loved the assignments, finished the course in less time than the average student, only because of my enthusiasm, and plunged into the writing life. 

I thought I wanted to write stories and books for children because I had been a teacher before my children came along. But little by little, I branched out and tried essays, memoirs, short adult fiction and even poetry. I discovered that creative non-fiction was my strong suit. And along with that, I thoroughly enjoyed writing articles about writing. The old teacher part of me surfaced again.

It's been close to twenty years now since all that happened and my writing desire is as strong today as it was at the beginning. Do I wish I'd started writing in my twenties? Absolutely! But I have no regrets that I finally entered the writing world later in life. Far better then than to never have tried.

It's never too late to begin something new. Especially something that you've always wanted to do. If not now, when? Yes, there's much to learn, there's time to be spent, but the rewards and self-satisfaction are well worth all you give to begin a journey into the writing world. As with all things, you start small and grow as you go. There are so many wonderful sources for help in learning to write today. The internet is a goldmine of workshops, critique groups and blogs like mine. 

No, it's not too late to begin Tomorrow, I'll introduce you to a group of people who began writing after they reached fifty. You'll read how each one began and how they feell 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras Thoughts For Writers

Today is Shrove Tuesday, sometimes known as Fat Tuesday. And it's also the last day of the Mardi Gras celebrations. New Orleans comes to mind when Mardi Gras is mentioned, but other cities have the same kind of parades and revelry although on a smaller scale. You might want to read more about the history of the festival and some of its customs. 

Today is the final day of Mardi Gras and marks the end of the giant party. All this is done in preparation for Lent which begins tomorrow and is a time for reflection and sometimes sacrifice. What are you giving up for Lent? was something I often heard as a child. Many Christian churches today stress making a commitment to do something positive in your life rather than giving up a favorite part of your life.

So, what has all this to do with our writing world? How about making a promise to do something good in your writing life? If you commit to it from now until Easter, it could become a habit. And it might bring results.

Laissez les bons temps rouler! means Let the good times roll! So, what kind of good things might you commit to? Here's a partial list. Maybe you can add others. I'd love to see your additions in the comments section. 

You could: 
1.  Send out no less than one submission per week
2.  Spend a specified amount of time writing every day
3.  Read one book that deals with writing per month
4.  Connect with other writers in person or online
5.  Do a better job promoting yourself as a writer

What else can you think of for the list? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hearts and Heroes For February

Today is President's Day and last week we celebrated Valentine's Day. Below is a memory piece about the things we did in school when I was a child living in a Chicago suburb. I hope you are continuing to write your own memories for your children and grandchildren. Not all writing is for publishing, some is meant to be for self, family and friends.  Writing your memories can also be a good prompt for future stories.

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.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Patches or Potential?

Doll House

I ran across a quote yesterday that was definitely food for thought. Ellen Goodman, a renowned columnist, said "We spent January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential." 

That one small phrase--looking for potential--reached out to me. I also liked her use of walking through our lives, room by room. There's a lot of wisdom in her suggestion to look for future possibilities as well as patching up the old parts of our lives. It seems to me that works in our writing lives and also all the other parts of our lives. 

Self-analysis can be a helpful tool if we are honest, if we take an objective look rather than the old defensive, subjective view. What better way to increase our writing power than to step back and study what has been and what can be. 

Ask yourself where you might go in the future with your writing. Make it someplace you've never been before. Wherever you are on the writing path, there are choices. You can stay on the very same path you've been on and feel relatively safe. Or you can take one of the paths that branch off into parts unknown. Are you willing to take a chance? Why not? If you don't like the scenery on that path, you can always turn around and backtrack to where you feel safer.Stay there for awhile, and then take another of those branching paths and see if you like it better there. 

It's not too late in the year to walk through the rooms of your life to look for potential for the remainder of 2012. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sixteen Candles On Her Cake

Today is our oldest granddaughter's sixteenth birthday. Alexis was born in St. Louis but has lived in the Dallas area with her family for the past fifteen years. She's on the Dance/Drill Team at her high school. She's at a football game last fall in the picture above.

All grandparents are proud and maybe a bit prejudiced about the talents of their grandchildren, and we're no different. She's a good student, a kind and thoughtful person, and loyal to both family and friends. May she always keep those traits.

She was born on a Friday evening, and early the next morning we were in the car on our way to St. Louis. I knew it would be exciting to have a grandchild, but I had no idea of the overwhelming emotion I would feel when I held her for the first time.

I cradled her close and looked into her face as she fixed her eyes on me. Emotion rose up so quickly and with such strength that it nearly undid me. All I could think of was This is the child of my child. I spiraled back many years and thought of the first time I held her daddy after his birth. How thrilled I was and now here was that same great joy all over again.

There have been many happy moments and memories made when we've been with Alexis off and on these past sixteen years. The other day I wrote about creating memories with our two youngest grandchildren as we care for them this week while their parents are gone. Memories are one of the most precious treasures we have. Preserve them. Keep them in your memory bank and write those stories about your family memories so they'll be saved for others.

Happy Birthday Alexis!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Creative Minds

I wonder if a lot of writers were children who had imaginary friends. I didn't, but I have a feeling that many adult writers did have them. Certainly shows the creative side, doesn't it? 

My youngest brother, Jim--then called Jimmy--invented a fire dragon and her five baby fire dragons.  He talked to them, told people in our family not to step on them, and he often blamed his own misdeeds on them. Jimmy was born quite a few years after his three older siblings, so maybe he had a need for companions that he could relate to. Thus, the fire dragons! At one point, it got pretty frustrating as he was always warning us to "Watch out, you're going to step on my fire dragons!"

Many children fill a need of some kind by having an imaginary playmate, another child that is their best friend. Aren't writers much the same? We dream up imaginary people in our fiction stories and novels. In fact, we create dozens and dozens of imaginary people who live in our stories. 

The sign above rings true, doesn't it? When you're on the outs with those make-believe characters, you sit frozen before the keyboard. You have to bend over backwards and be nice so your story friends will tip-toe back into your life and start talking again. 

Be patient. They'll come back. If you're in a hurry, you might have to go searching in every nook and cranny to find them. But you will come across them again. Writers Block tends to be tempoary. Just don't step on the baby fire dragons!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love In A Box

Happy Valentine's Day. I'm posting a Valentine story that was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Fathers and Daughter's book a number of years ago. The story has been published a number of times since then and in several foreign countries. It's a very simple story, a childhood memory, but it has triggered some Valentine and family memories for readers. 

Love In A Box

By Nancy Julien Kopp

When I was a little girl, I found love in a box all because of a class assignment. On a Friday night I made an announcement at the dinner table. The words bubbled out in a torrent of excitement I could no longer contain. "My teacher said we have to bring a box for our valentines on Monday. But it has to be a special box all decorated."

Mother said, "We'll see," and she continued eating.

I wilted faster than a flower with no water. What did "We'll see" mean? I had to have that box, or there would be no valentines for me. My second grade Valentine's Day would be a disaster. Maybe they didn't love me enough to help me with my project.

All day Saturday I waited, and I worried, but there was no mention of a valentine box. Sunday arrived, and my concern increased, but I knew an inquiry about the box might trigger anger and loud voices. I kept an anxious eye on both my parents all day. In 1947, children only asked once. More than that invited punitive measures; at least in my house it did.

Late Sunday afternoon, my father called me into the tiny kitchen of our apartment. The table was covered with an assortment of white crepe paper, red construction paper, and bits and pieces of lace and ribbon from my mother's sewing basket. An empty shoebox rested on top of the paper. Relief flooded through me when Daddy said, "Let's get started on your project."

In the next hour, my father transformed the empty shoebox into a valentine box I would never forget. Crepe paper covered the ugly cardboard. My father fashioned a ruffled piece of the pliable paper and glued it around the middle. He cut a slot in the lid and covered it with more of the white paper. Next came red hearts attached in what I considered all the right places. He hummed a tune while he worked, and I kneeled on my chair witnessing the magical conversion of the shoebox and handing him the glue when he needed it. When he finished, my father's eyes sparkled, and a smile stretched across his thin face. "What do you think of that?"

My answer was a hug and a "Thank you, Daddy."
But inside, joy danced all the way to my heart. It was the first time that my father devoted so much time to me. His world consisted of working hard to support his family, adoring my mother, disciplining my brother and me, and listening to every sports event broadcast on the radio. Suddenly, a new door opened in my life. My father loved me.

 Monday morning, my mother found a brown grocery sack to protect the beautiful box while I carried it to school. I barely felt the bitter cold of the February day as I held the precious treasure close to me. I would let no harm come to my beautiful valentine box.

My teacher cleared a space on a long, wide windowsill where the decorated boxes would stay until Valentine's Day. I studied each one as it was placed on the sill, and none compared with mine. Every time I peeked at my valentine box, I felt my father's love. My pride knew no bounds. There were moments when the box actually glowed in a spotlight all its own. No doubt the only one who witnessed that glow was me.

Every day some of my classmates brought valentine cards to school and slipped them into the slots of the special boxes. The holiday party arrived, and we brought our boxes to our desks to open the valentines. Frosted heart cookies, red punch, valentines and giggles filled our classroom. Chaos reigned until dismissal time arrived.

I carried my valentine box home proudly. It wasn't hidden in a grocery sack but held out for the world to admire. I showed it to the policeman who guided us across a busy city street. He patted me on the head and exclaimed over the box. I made sure everyone along the way took note of my valentine box. My father had made it for me, and the love that filled the box meant more to me than all the valentines nestled inside.

From that time on, I never doubted my father's feelings for me. The valentine box became a symbol of his love that lasted through decades of other Valentine Days. He gave me other gifts through the years, but none ever compared with the tender love I felt within the confines of the old, empty shoebox.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Making Memories

Yesterday, we came to our daughter's home near Kansas City to begin a five day baby-sitting adventure with our grandchildren. Mom and Dad have gone to Cancun for a few days on the beach. They left on Friday, and the other grandparents stayed with the children until we came to start the second shift.

We met at an Italian restaurant to make the exchange. After dinner and conversation, we brought Jordan and Cole home and were greeted by Macy, the dog. We managed to get the bedtime routine done with no problems, thanks to Karen's many pages of helpful hints. They both went to bed on time and with no complaint. One thing their parents have given them is consistency, so they know what is expected of them. Good job Karen and Steve!

Jordan is in second grade and Cole is a kindergarten kid this year. The picture above was taken when school started in August. This morning, the driveway looked quite a bit different. It was covered with snow and Jordan went out to the bus alone at 6:45 a.m. with Poppy watching to make sure she got on the bus. It seems so early for a little girl to start the day. She wakes up to an alarm clock at 6 and gets herself dressed, fed, and ready for school. Cole still needs a bit of assistance in that department.

The bus ride takes about an hour by the time all the kids are picked up and delivered to Rockville Elementary School. It turned out to be too long a ride for Cole, so his mom or dad takes him in the car shortly after 7:30. This morning, Grandma and Poppy delivered him to school and walked him to the area where his classmates were seated and quietly waiting for the teacher to come to take them to the classroom. We were so impressed with the  look of the school.  The floors were so clean and shiny, and the walls were filled with child art and Valentine's Day decorations. We passed many smiling, happy children which gave us a very good feeling about our grandchildren's school atmosphere.

It's still snowing but should stop before noon. Wouldn't you know that, in a winter of next to no snow, we'd have it on our first full day of babysitting? Back to 40's for the rest of the week, and 50's for the week-end, so only one bad day to contend with.

The children will both come home on the school bus. They'll want to try out shiny, new spiral sleds when they get here. Christmas gifts that have sat idle in this nearly-snowless winter. Then, they'll help frost the heart-shaped valentine cookies I've made. Some are for Jordan's class party tomorrow, and the rest for the four of us to eat. Ken and I will go to school tomorrow afternoon to help at Jordan's party and then will visit Cole's class party for a little while.

This is a week of making memories for all of us. Karen and Steve on their vacation, Jordan and Cole having the full attention of both sets of grandparents, and for Ken and me spending this Valentine week with our two youngest grandchildren. I might even find some story material while these memories are being created.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Read A Good Short Story

Today, I'm featuring a writer, who is also my friend. Or is she my friend, who is also a writer? Either way, Lenore Skomal is a person I admire. She is a member of my online critique group (writersandcritters).

Earlier this week, a story of Lenore's was published at Fiction365. I hope you will read "Mother Dance" and take a look around this website for fiction writers afterward. They publish a new story every day of the year. I think Lenore's story will rank in the top ten of this year.

I say that because the story is filled with emotion, which is something I've talked about on this blog more than once. The author wrote from her heart, and the emotion comes through in a big way. As you read, notice that she doesn't tell the emotional parts. Instead, she shows the reader the emotion of what is happening. It's what all writers strive for but not everyone is able to achieve it. The other day, I asked you what a good book is. I can honestly say that "Mother Dance" is a good short story.

As you read, note the numbers at the bottom of the page. Click to turn to the next page. Note the submission guideline box on the right-hand side of the website. This is a paying market. Read a few more of the stories at Fiction365 to get a feel for what they like and then consider submitting to them.

My friend, Lenore, is an accomplished writer with 16 books to her credit. She is a columnist for the Erie Times News in Erie, PA where she lives with her husband. She was a professor of journalism.. Her daily blog, Gut Check, is listed in blogs I read on the right side of this blog page.

She's also one of the warmest, funniest, people I know as well as being a talented writer. And guess what? She loves shoes. Good writers are real people.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Your Librarian Is Not Extinct

A friend posted the sign above on her facebook page this week. She is, in fact, an ex-librarian, so I'm sure she was delighted when she found it. 

Cute but also quite true. Think back to the days when your school or local public library was your main resource. The technical world has changed that dramatically. Think of all the resources we now have to find information via the internet. Search engines, the wikipedia site (which comes with mixed reviews)), content sites and more have horned in on the librarians' territory. Even so, the librarian has not become extinct. 

Before the techie age, we asked the librarian for help in finding information. I don't ever remember one of these patient people saying "I don't know."  Most of the time they did know where to look, and on the slim chance that they didn't, they soon found out. Yes, it is their job to help patrons, but most of them like being able to help others.

Even with all the technological advances, we still have libraries who still employ librarians. Their job is not quite the same as it was a hundred years ago. The tiny file drawers in the card catalog are gone. There was no Technology Room or computer stations in the childrens reading room in 1912. You didn't have a section for DVDs or music CDs or large print books. There was no such thing as inter-library loans. Most tasks were done by hand in the library of a century ago. 

We still need librarians to help us in finding information and using the equipment to find it. I like having a smiling face to turn to in my library when I am not sure where to look for something. 

Your librarian is not extinct. She/he is a twenty-first century personal search engine who serves patrons with a touch of human warmth that google will never be able to match. 

Maybe we should consider thanking our local librarians. It's easy to take a service for granted. We all like to be shown a bit of appreciation now and then. So,next time you go to your library, stop and say thanks. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A New Market--Do You Have A Good Dog Story?

Kathleene S. Baker is a writer who is also passionate about dogs. She is the co-creator of a new anthology on canines.. Kathleene's call for submissions is below. She has written many stories about her pets and other people's animals as well. Visit her website, appropriately called The Yellow Rose, since she lives in Texas, although she is Kansas born and bred. As with all possible markets, read the guidelines carefully. It's a great book cover. Wouldn't you like to be part of this new book?

Call For Dog Stories
   Nancy, thank you for the opportunity to introduce your followers to a new anthology series!  I believe the following information will answer most all questions.  I encourage everyone to be part of something new and dig through your files, or write something new, and submit, submit, submit. 

Publishing Syndicate invites you to submit your non-fiction stories to a new ground-breaking anthology--Not Your Mother’s Book (NYMB). Currently, there are 30+ subtitles needing stories.  Stories are coming in rapidly so please get yours in as quickly as possible.  Subtitles are being added frequently; there is something for everyone!
I am co/creator, with Ken McKowen, for the book on dogs and would love to read some of your work.  It appears the dog, cat, and horse books may be some of the first to be published.  Submissions are coming in like wildfire...and we want yours.  Also, please share this information with your writer groups, etc.  Spread the word...we appreciate you doing so.
What makes this series different is that stories will be fresh, fun, upbeat and even edgy. No sad or death/dying stories in the NYMB series!
Payment: Royalties for one year and one copy of the book (or the option of 10 copies of the book, no royalty). And contributors can buy additional books at 50-percent off of the cover price.
Subtitle list and submission guidelines:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

So, What's A Good Book?

A facebook friend posted the poster/quote above. I read it and smiled, and then I read it a couple more times. I could not help but think that Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a wise woman. She lived in a time when books were higher on the list of things to occupy our leisure time than they are today. Simply because we have far too many other things calling to us--television, movies, DVDs, ipads, computers, and more. But she knew the love of God and the joy of a good book.

Can you make a list of your ten favorite books you've read in your lifetime? You obviously consider each one a good book. If not, you'd never have included it on your list. A writer friend, and faithful reader of this blog, posed a question on facebook recently. She asked what was a favorite book read in 2011. I could not list just one as I found several that came to mind when thinking back over my list of books read last year. 

Note that Ms Browning says good books. I fear there are more books that don't qualify for that category than we can count. Then again, what may be a good book to one person might classify as fodder for a trash can to someone else. I'd like to think that she meant books that are well-written, engage the reader, and are hard to put down. I hope she meant books that linger in our memory for a very long time. 

A good book might be one that warms your heart. Or it could be one that makes you cry or even laugh until you cry. A good book should bring emotion of some kind tothe reader. 

A good book is one that you want to read again someday. I consider a book good if I hate to see the end but want it to continue on. A good book can be one that makes you grow in some way--whether it's knowledge or perception. A good book is satisfying.

In summary, a good book is:
1. well-written
2. engaging
3. hold your interest
4.  one that brings out emotions
5. memorable
6. one that helps you grow as a person
7. satisgying

What good books would you recommend to our readers? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Words To Live By

The quote above is just another variation of If you're going to do it, do it right. As writers, we put a lot of time and effort into writing a story, essay, article, poem or a novel. Some have even said we do it with blood, sweat and tears. 

By sending our work to an editor in hopes it will someday be published, we take a big chance.  If our words are seen in print by myriad readers, we've put our soul on display. We're telling the world to listen to our words. This is who I am. If you write dark, negative pieces, readers will get a glimpse of your outlook on life. If you're always upbeat in your writing, chances are that's the personality you have. 

But it doesn't matter. There's a place in the world for both kinds of writers. There's a place for writers who choose one genre over another. Whether it is science fiction, horror, paranormal, romance, mystery, religious or humor doesn't amtter a twit. You should write whatever makes you comfortable. You should write about things that you know and understand. 

The one thing that does matter is that you do it well. Be a good one as the quote above tells us. Strive for excellence. If you do a half-hearted job in your writing, it will be very apparent to the world. You might even get it by an editor and see your work in print, but readers figure out pretty fast that it is not your very best work. 

More than once, I've read reviews that flatly declare that the book was not up to the writer's usual standards. If I were the writer who had been criticized, I think I'd squirm a bit (after I ranted for a few minutes in anger) but then I hope I'd ask myself if I'd done the best job on that book that I could. 

This is reminding me of something my mother often told me when I was growing up. She'd show me how to do some household task, then she'd leave me to try ti with a warning --"Do it right, or you'll have to do it over again." I heard it often enough that it's stayed with me through these many decades til now. 

Strive for excellence. Whatever you are, be a good one. Methinks they are good words to live by in our writing world and the rest of our lives, too.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Writing Prompt #5

This is the final writing prompt in the week-long series. We've looked at a picture to spur writing ideas, worked on characterization, written  about a situation and worked with colors. Today, the exercise involves verbs. 

We're going to look at action verbs. Forget those passive ones like is, was, and are. We know that active verbs create more interest and visual images. 

Look at the list of action verbs below and freewrite a paragraph or two for each one. What comes to mind for each one? Maybe something from your past will pop up. Or perhaps a limerick or poem. Maybe you'll start a story or essay with ideas spurred by the verbs in the list.  Do one each day or several--your choice. You can use present tense or past.

Action Verbs

1.  ski

2.  vault

3.  embrace

4.  slam

5.  shoot

6.  pray

7.  write

8,  cook

9.  run

10.  hit    

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Writing Prompt #4

Color is a part of our life that we sometimes take for granted. I'm old enough to remember the days when movies were done in black and white except for the musical extravaganzas which made them so very appealing. 

My friend, Annette Gendler has used a color exercise on her blog a number of times. She uses one color per month, but today, I'm going to give you a list of colors. For each one, list as many words as you can that indicate the color. Writers need to be wary of repetition. Why keep telling the reader something is blue when there are many other ways to convey that message? 

I'll add a couple of words for the first couple colors. See how many more you can add and then on to the other colors. Do them all in one fell swoop, or save the list and do one color per day.  Keep your list and add to it. Then use some of those many descriptive words in your writing.


1  Yellow

2.  Pink

3.  Black

4.  Brown

6.  White

7.  Green

8.  Blue

9.  Orange

10.  Purple

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Writing Prompt #3

The poster on today's blog has nothing to do with the writing exercise I am posting. It made me smile so thought I'd share it with our readers. 

On to today's exercise. Yesterday, you worked on describing characters. Today, I'm going to ask you to select a situation from the list below. Write a paragraph, an essay, or a full story, whatever comes to mind. Freewrite. Get it down as it comes to mind. You can go back later to edit and revise. 

You can make these fiction, creative non-fiction, even poetry. Free reign.

I hope you'll keep these lists so that you can continue doing the exercises from this week's postings.


1.  an old woman working in a bakery (Had to work in the poster picture somehow!)

2.  a young boy walking along a railroad track

3.  a sailor walking up the gangplank of a destroyer

4.  a politician preparing for a debate

5.  a man sitting next to a woman in a hospital bed

6.  a man carrying skis over his shoulder on a snowy mountain

7.  a woman blowing up balloons for a birthday party

8.  a young man accepting his degree at a graduation ceremony

9.  a fireman running to a fire truck

10.  a bride walking down the aisle at her wedding