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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Writers--A Work In Progress

‎"A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are thier way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen thier souls. Story-tellers and poets spend thier lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And thier words make the souls of thier readers stronger, brighter, and deeper."

-Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin, quoted above, is a prolific author of novels, childrens' books, poetry, short stories and translations. This award-winning writer has a wide experience in the writing world which makes me pay close attention to what she said in this quote. I've highlighted the one sentence that truly stood out for me.

Ms. Le Guin states that writers care about words and they use them carefully. While that is true in the vast majority of cases, I fear that there are writers who do not put enough thought and fearinto the way they use words. Only by doing so can you show your work to the reading world with pride. 

That highlighted sentence was important to me in that it tells us that we're never done learning our writing skill or the art of using words well. As writers, we're a work in progress. Sometimes, we feel like we're stuck in a ditch with wheels spinning but eventually we pull out of the trap and get moving again. Look back at your writing life. How many ditches did you fall into? Better yet--how many did you leave behind? 

Writers get discouraged when success doesn't happen as soon as they'd hoped. Remind yourself that you are growing with each and every story, article, essay or poem you write. If you keep a file of all that you have written---start one immediately if you don't have one--take some time and read from the first to the last. If you're like me, you might blush a little at the quality of the first pieces you wrote. I see steady progess in my writing through the twenty years I've called myself writer. I hope, no, I know that my writing will continue to get better if I do what Ms. Le Guin says regarding using words with care, thought and delight. My soul, as she says, will strengthen and I hope my words will make the souls of  their readers stronger, brighter and deeper.

If you would like to learn more about Ursula K. Le Guin, check out her personal website.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Perfect Picture Prompt On A Winter Day

So many people are dealing with lots of snow this week, others with heavy rains, high winds and more. What could be more idyllic at a time like this than the picture above? My husband and I have this running disagreement. He loves vacationing in the mountains, but I would choose a place near water every time. It's the most soul-soothing place I know. Maybe those majestic mountain peaks soothe Ken's soul the same way that water does for me. Whether it's a lake, river, or ocean that I'm near, I have a tremendous sense of peace.

Last week, when we were in Florida, I found myself lingering with coffee or a glass of wine, depending on the time of day, on the lanai that looked out on waves rushing up to meet the beach sands. Over and over again, but even so, the scene itself was ever-changing. Sometimes there were lots of people on the beach while at other times, it was devoid of humans. Birds swooping down for fish in the water was a common sight. Sailboats slid quietly by off and on, and an occasional parasail appeared. The evening sunsets were almost too beautiful to describe with each one different from the night before, the colors in the sky changing so rapidly you dared not look away until the sun disappeared for that day.

Today, use the picture above as a writing prompt. Does it appeal to you? Or not? You could use this picture to write a romance fiction piece, an adventure story, a descriptive poem, or a creative nonfiction story. Even  an essay. Maybe this picture is not one that appeals to you. If that's the case, you can still write something about it but perhaps in a different vein.

Study the picture carefully. What do you see? What could it mean? Where do you think the picture was taken? Who is looking out the window? Ask yourself these questions and more, then start to write. Make it a paragraph or a fully finished story. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Looking For A New Market?

There have been several anthology series over the past few years. Chicken Soup for the Soul is probably the most successful with its name recognized in a flash by readers around the world. Cup of Comfort rode high on the success ladder for a number of years but quit publishing a year or so ago. Thin Threads published a few books which were just excellent but they, too, have ceased publications. Guideposts have had several series of anthology books with a Christian theme. There have been others, too, over the years that have published one or two books and then disappeared.

The newest series was developed by Ken and Dahlynn McKowen. Once affiliated with the Chicken Soup publishers, they decided to strike out on their own with a series titled Not Your Mother's Book... The rest of the title will be on various subjects. They wanted a book comparable to the Chicken Soup books but one in which an author could take a few liberties that other books might not allow, that would address subjects others didn't tackle. They wanted edgy, humorous stories. Don't worry--they aren't x-rated by any means.

As I told you yesterday, my story, There's A Small Hotel, is going to be in the newest release which deals with travel stories. I wouldn't consider this story to be edgy by any means, nor is it particularly laugh-out-loud humorous, but something appealed to the editor and I'm thankful for that. The book will be released on March 26th. Look for it on Amazon and in bookstores.

Check here for more about the NYMB series along with submission guidelines. Follow the guidelines carefully if you want your story to be considered. Read here to learn more about Dahlynn and Ken McKowen and the Publishing Syndicate they own.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

So Close To Home, But.....


We have been on the road the past two days on our  way home from Florida. 11 hours on Saturday and 10 hours on Sunday. Much too long for senior citizens to be driving. But we're trying to get home before a new storm blows across the Plains. Doesn't look like we will make it, however, without dealing with some wintry weather. 

The snow has been delayed until later on Monday and into Tuesday morning. that's the good news. The bad news is that freezing drizzle and a wintry mix will precede the snow by a good many hours. Ken says we are leaving here (Springfield, MO) tomorrow morning and we'll go as far as we can. It's a five hour drive from here to Manhattan, KS in good weather. He says we'll stop if necessary and stay somewhere. The problem is that HIS idea of time to stop and MINE don't always mesh.

I admit that I'm a real wimp when it comes to driving in bad weather, so I tend to be the more cautious one in our marriage. I'm hoping that either it will not be too bad tomorrow a.m. or that an angel will whisper in his ear and tell him to stop somewhere. If the angels don't whisper to him, I just may have to shout! Either way, we'll try to do what is the safest way. 

We're so close to home and yet so far!

On a happier note, I received notice yesterday that my story, There's A Small Hotel, has made the final cut and will appear in a new Not Your Mother's Book on Travel. Publication date is March 26th. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sand and Snow

Not sure how we did it, but it looks like we missed a huge snowstorm that rolled over Kansas the last couple days. Wichita had 14 inches, most in 50 years, and our town received well over 8. My daughter, south of Kansas City, estimated they had close to a foot. Her husband spent 2 hours making a normal 20 minute drive when he left his office at 11a.m. yesterday a.m.

Here, on the gulf coast of Florida, it is 80 degrees, sunny and a nice breeze. The water looks spectacular, lots of sailboats, birds diving for fish, even saw a dolphin pop up out of the water. The beach activity is fun to watch from the lanai as I sip coffee and whatever else is offered in the day or evening. Always a changing scene on the sands.

We're heading home tomorrow morning--a 3 day drive. But it looks like more snow coming across Kansas on either Sunday night or Monday. We hoped to be driving through Kansas Monday and arriving at home, but maybe not. Meanwhile, we must get through the southern states that have heavy rain predicted. I'm hopeful we can dodge the storms. Wellllllll, you knew I was an optimist.

I really do not like driving trips in the winter, and I've informed my husband of that so many times, but it does not seem to impress him one bit. He, who does all the driving!

I'm hoping to be able to post again on Monday. If not, you'll know I'm stuck somewhere with no wi-fi. The wi-fi in our friends' building is not working, so I am at their library writing this today. Missed yesterday as we were busy having fun.

Looking forward to getting back to a routine next week and writing about writing! Stay warm and stay safe.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Florida Beach and A Call For Submissions

We spent about 8 1/2 hours in the car yesterday driving from Alabama to Florida. It was long but uneventful. Not really a great deal of interest to see along the highways, other than a few flowering trees which always looks good to Northeners who travel to Florida in the winter months.

Our friends had remodeled their condo and have done a terrific job. It's lovely! They are on the 4th floor and have a screened-in lanai, or porch to many of us, that has a beautiful view of the beach and water. I saw many footprints in the sand this morning as I sat out there drinking my coffee. Also a few boats and many birds swooping down to catch their breakfast. Sunny and warm. The cold northern days seem so far behind, and yet, they are only a few days behind us.

I may not be posting every day as the wi-fi in our friends' building is not working and I'm writing now at the local library. Not sure how soon I can return here. So, this may be it for this week, or possibly can post again on Friday.

I wanted to let you know about a new call for submissions from Chicken Soup that I received the other day. I am copying it in full below. Remember to check the website for specific guidelines.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven
101 Stories of Eternal Love, Powerful Connections,
and Divine Signs from Beyond

After the success of our book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven, we are ready to make another book about your amazing connections with loved ones who have left this world, and the miraculous signs and messages they send from beyond. Although death takes away their physical presence, the connection doesn't die and we often sense our loved ones after they have gone

We want to hear from you if you have experienced the other side or received a sign or signal from a loved one who has passed. Has someone who has died come to you in a dream? Given you counsel or comfort? Have you gone beyond, but returned to life with new knowledge, insight, or awareness? Have you intuitively known the moment someone died? Share your true, touching, and astounding stories about love that doesn't die, messages from heaven, or your own experiences with dying and coming back.

This book is for everyone who has a story, whether religious or secular. Please note that since we see many stories about messages from heaven in the form of rainbows, bird, butterflies, and coins, we will only be able to use a few stories on those types of messages from beyond.

Here are some possible story topics, but we know you can think of more:

  • Words of wisdom from a loved one who has passed
  • Personal exchanges with a loved one who has passed
  • Signs from beyond from a loved one
  • Receiving guidance or lessons from a loved one who has passed
  • Omens or visions from beyond
  • Revelations from beyond
  • Apparitions from beyond
  • Knowing the exact moment someone passed

Please remember, we do not like "as told to" stories. Please write in the first person about yourself or someone close to you. If you ghostwrite a story for someone else we will list their name as the author. If a story was previously published, we will probably not use it unless it ran in a small circulation venue. Let us know where the story was previously published in the "Comments" section of the submission form. If the story was published in a past Chicken Soup for the Soul book, please do not submit it.

If your story is chosen, you will be a published author and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it.

SUBMISSIONS GO TO http://chickensoup.comSelect the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions.

The deadline for story and poem submissions is March 31, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Take Time for History

(Note:  This is Tuesday's post which I am putting up Monday evening so we can be on the road early Tuesday a.m.)

The friends we are visiting took us to the Port Columbus Civil War Naval Museum yesterday after a tour of Columbus, Georgia and lunch. Ken and I both enjoy museums. This one was of particular interest as I hadn't ever given much thought to the Confederates having a navy, but they most certainly did have a navy.

There were several school groups with tour guides in different areas today. I'm pleased that schools still take advantage of cultural and historically significant museums, monuments and similar places. It's important to learn the history of the country you live in.

Writers who concentrate on historical fiction, or nonfiction, must be avid museum visitors for research purposes. If you are going to attempt to write historical pieces, you should make every effort to make sure you are accurate.

Research done on the internet or at a library may work, but seeing the real thing up close has to be better.

We are driving on to Florida today. Maybe there will be another museum there to tour. 

Travel Time, Old Friends and A House On A Lake

Ken and I are traveling. We started our trip last Friday by spending a day at our daughter's near Kansas City taking care of our grandchildren who had no school that day. It's a treat to have the 6 and 9 year old kids all to ourselves. We shopped and went out for lunch and had a grand time. On Friday night, it snowed--huge snowflakes that came down fast and furiously. It didn't last long, so there wasn't a lot of snow. 

We woke the next morning to fog! Not the best way to begin a trip. I stood at the kitchen window and watched three little birds at a feeder. They perched on the deck railing--a male and female cardinal and a red-headed woodpecker. They were so content to sit on the snow-covered railing, while I was worried about traveling in fog and on slick highways. We had gone only about 5 miles when the sun broke through the clouds and chased the fog away. The main roads were good, only a few slick spot in the passing lane. I relaxed and decided to enjoy the scenery. We were in 5 states that day--Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. We spent the night in Olive Branch, MS, which is just south of Memphis.

Sunday we had only a 6 hour drive to Smith's Station, Alabama. We were looking forward to visiting old friends who have retired here. They built a lovely home on the shore of a lake. We had to take 3 county roads and a narrow dirt road to reach their place. They are surrounded by a forest of trees on three sides and a lake on the fourth side. The view from the back of the house is so peaceful. The guest room we slept in last night has two large windows on the lakeside. When I woke up this morning, the mist was rising from the water and the sun coming up. And yes, it made me want to write a poem! 

We spent last evening catching up with one another's lives, our children and grandchildren, the mutual friends we have and more. You know you are with good friends when the conversation keeps going as if we had seen each other only days ago, not several years. Chicken Soup has a book in the works on New Friends. They think that the subject is important enough to devote an entire book to it. Once upon a time, these old friends of ours were new friends. I sent a story about another new friend who quickly became a good friend, and finally an old friend. Still waiting to hear if the story made it or not. 

We'll spend today seeing some of the area here, not far from Auburn University and Georgia only a few miles farther east. Tomorrow, we are moving on to Venice, Florida to meet other old friends for a few days.

Traveling offers so many opportunities for new stories to write, poems to be pieced together, too. It's good to keep a notebook of some kind with you to jot notes for stories that you will have more time to write later. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pay Attention to Parts of Speech

The last post for this week on the things that will keep you from sloppy writing is about the parts of speech. Those words that have useful places in a sentence. Nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and more. You often include them in your writing without giving a whole lot of thought to their meanings and usage. 

Google parts of speech and you'll come up with an amazing number of articles to review using them. One I liked can be read here.

Strong is a keyword for all the parts of speech. You want strength in your verbs especially. It's all too easy to use those weak, passive verbs that are like limp spaghetti. Strive for as many actions verbs as possible. They will help show rather than tell, another important part of writing. 

Use one strong adjective rather than 3 weak ones. Overuse of adjectives is a common mistake new writers make. Watch the use of adverbs. Fewer is better than too many. Again, using too many adverbs results in more telling than showing. 

An entire article could be written about each of the parts of speech, but today I have two grandchildren watching over my shoulder as I write this, so I'm keeping it short. The main idea here is to be aware of the parts of speech and what they can or cannot do for the quality of your writing. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quotes and Quotation Marks

A discussion of quotation marks includes using quotes in your writing, so today, here's a little bit about both. If you want a full discussion on quotation marks, check out this article.

Quotes are used within the text to support an argument or to illustrate a point being made. Articles that offer advice or are controversial will benefit from quotes. Showing the words of an expert in the field further enhances the argument being put forth.

A quotation is a reference to an authority and should be used when accuracy is essential. That authority should be named. Quoting someone without giving credit verges on stealing their words. Beginning writers sometimes are not aware of this.

Quotes should be kept to a minimum. Quoting long, rambling paragraphs does not serve any real purpose other than adding to your word count.

There are two types of quotations-- direct and indirect. A direct quotation uses the exact words, and an indirect quotation paraphrases the thought expressed by someone. Both should make reference to the person who originally made the statement. Take a look at the example below which shows a statement made by mystery author Agatha Christie.

A. Direct Quote: Agatha Christie says, "The best time for planning a book is while
you're doing the dishes."

B. Indirect Quote: Agatha Christie thinks a writer can plan new books while doing
      mundane tasks like doing the dishes.

When using a quote, set it off by placing quotation marks at the beginning and end of the statement quoted. The final punctuation mark, whether a period, question mark, or exclamation mark, is placed inside the final set of quotation marks. (See sample above)

In closing, I would like to quote an English author, William Makepeace Thackeray, who wrote: "There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes." If you hope to pursue a successful place in the writing world, add these gourmet touches to your own thoughts as you write.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Lesson In Frustration

I'd planned on writing about using quotes today, but I'm at the library tech center again and time is running out on my session here. The new modem I'm waiting for has not arrived yet, so my computer at home is useless.

All these computer woes have been a lesson in frustration. I've let it stress me out and that's just plain stupid because the solution to the problem is completely out of my control. So, I need to sit back and wait patiently for it to get resolved.

Isn't it easy to say that?. The thing is I have to buy into it--really believe it. And I'm trying to do so. I know I often give advice to writers about the frustrating portions of the writing life. Sometimes, it's a lot easier to give the advice than to accept it and practice it. Even if the writers who read my advice practice a small part of it, I will be happy, and maybe they will be, as well.

I wrote an entire article on handling stress once. I need to look it up and read it again, then do whatever it says.

Life is filled with frustrating situations and no two people meet them in the same way. Some go completely berserk while others retreat into a quiet shell while they are churning inside. Then, there are some who are rational from start to finish. Maybe we all need to examine how we handle times like this and give ourselves a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Meanwhile, I'm going to listen to my own advice, give in to the fact that I cannot personally change any of this and wait for it to get resolved. Surely it will! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spelling and Punctuation Matter

I'm writing this in the technology center of my library. I got my computer back late yesterday and was all set, or so I thought. No internet connection when I got home. I called my server and had a most frustrating call about my username and password. I've had the same server, same username and password since 1999. The sweet young thing who took my call insisted that was impossible. She said all had changed a few years ago.

"Not me!" I told her. Round and round we went. She gave me a new username and password of her choice, then could not connect with that. After many technologic acrobatics, she determined that I needed a new modem. I am still not accepting that 100%. But they are sending me one in 2-3 business days. Up went my blood pressure! But what can I do but wait. I'm hoping it arrives before we leave late Thursday on a driving trip. If the cyber angels are with me, it will.

Meanwhile, today's topic is spelling and punctuation. They do matter if you don't want to be known as one who sends out sloppy writing.

Not everyone is a great speller but in today's computer world, we have spellcheck as a great aid. If you are typing like mad and come across a word that you are not certain as to how to spell it, use spellcheck or look it up in an online dictionary. Don't just wing it. If you send a story to an editor that is full of misspelled words, he/she will just hit the delete button in a hurry or dump it in the circular file if you have sent it via snail mail. It takes time to make sure you've spelled everything correctly, but it will pay off in the end.

Punctuation is also pretty important. Commas in particular cause problems for many writers. In my critique group, many excellent writers, still don't use commas correctly. I notice that many do not use one after an introductory phrase. That comma is there to give a little pause to the reader. If you read something aloud and there are no commas after these phrases, it's almost difficult to breathe. Look at the sentence below without the comma. Then look at the next one which is correct.

   Before she went to the park Nell put the stew on to cook then called the children.

   Before she went to the park, Nell put the stew on to cook, then called the children.

That's only one punctuation example. There are rules in using capitals, semi-colons, colons, periods, and more. Spend some time reading the rules and try to use them when you write. You'll be a better writer.


Monday, February 11, 2013


A few days ago, I thought I had my computer problems solved. Not so! The blue screen came to visit again only hours after I brought my laptop home from the tech hospital. The next morning, I called the tech guy and he told me the only thing left to do was wipe the whole thing clean and start over. I would then need to download all my programs, security, etc etc. Just as you would do with a brand new computer. It seemed redundant to me! I'd already done it when the computer was new.

Redundancy is what we're going to discuss today. Last week, I listed 5 topics that dealt with the mechanics of writing. They're all important if you don't want to be accused of sloppy writing.

Sometimes, writers tend to repeat themselves. Not necessarily with the same words but they say the same thing with another set of words. Why? I can think of two reasons. One, they want to be very sure the reader gets the point. And two, they seem to be assuring themselves that this is important and needs to be brought out in a big way.

As far as wanting to know that your reader understands what you're telling them--forget it. In a way, you insult their intelligence. Give the reader some credit. Say it once but say it well. They'll know what you're attempting to tell them.

The second reason, assuring themselves, shows a lack of confidence. It's far better to prove your point well once than to do it poorly three times. The stronger you write, the less you will find yourself repeating.

Another part of repetition is repeating the same word more than once in a sentence or even a paragraph. When you do that, it's the fastest train to boredom for your reader. When you do a self-edit, make yourself  look for repeated words. When we write a first draft, it happens, but we should pick it up when we revise and polish the piece. Even using those passive to be verbs can put you in the repetitious mode. Do a check to see how often you used words like was, are, have, is and similar passives.

As for me, I'm taking my computer in to be scraped of everything on it. The thought of the job ahead in re-downloading umpteen programs is daunting. Bear with me if things slow down here this week.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Clean Up Sloppy Writing

Some writers have great story ideas, spend lots of time working them out before submitting to an editor. They spend so much time working on the content that they become guilty of something I call sloppy writing. 

That's when little attention is paid to the mechanics of writing. You know what they are--those boring things your middle school, high school and college teachers tried to pound into your head. They're all part of what makes a good story a better one. 

Keep these things in mind when you write and self-edit:
  • Redundancy:  Say what you mean once and then move on. Don't keep repeating even if usuing different words. 
  • Spelling:  Use spellcheck even though it takes a bit of time. 
  • Punctuation:  Some writers toss commas into the air and let them stay wherever they land. Learn where to use them and where they do not belong. 
  • Quote marks:  There are rules for using them--reivew them
  • Parts of speech:  Nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives are all important to the way your story reads. Weak verbs add nothing to a story, too many adverbs or too many adjectives detract from your story. 
I could write a post on each of the points in the list above. In fact, I think that next week. I will do exactly that. They may not be of great interest but paying attention to all of them will enhance the quality of your stories, articles and even poetry. None of us wants to be accused of sloppy writing.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Little Late in Posting Today

I'm quite late with my post today because I had to take my computer to the hospital yesterday. I'd been dealing with an occasional blue screen problem and finally gave in to the fact that it needed some work to get rid of it. You've probably heard of The Blue Screen of Death. I'd tried to live with it by rebooting when it happened. It only occurred once a day and sometimes not for a couple days, but finally....

So, off to the computer hospital to see Mr. Bear. No, not a real bear, just the man's name. He's reliable and has done work for us in the past. Sure enough, he had it ready by four o'clock today. 

I was totally lost without the computer all day and evening yesterday, and again this morning. I thought of a dozen messages I needed to send and things I wanted to work on. Most mornings, I read the paper, then fix breakfast, and after we eat, I take my coffee into my office and get started on email and my blog post while sipping that nice, hot cup of coffee. This morning, I finished breakfast and was ready to head to the office with my coffee when I remembered that the computer desk was bare. 

Those of us who use a computer daily are so depnedent on it. We received a nice invitation in yesterday's snail mail to a resort on a special deal and we wanted to look it up and check it out. Oooops, no computer. Who would have ever believed 30 years ago that a small machine would be so important to us? 

If your computer is giving you problems, take a bit of advice. Get it fixed before it just plain up and dies. 

Back tomorrow with a regular post.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writers Need Writers

Charlie Brown is wiser than his years. He's got it right in this poster. For a writer doing them with the right people can mean that writers would benefit from spending time with those who have the same interest, the same passion in the written word.

It's one of the reasons to attend conferences, seminars and lectures in the writing field. You'll be surrounded by others who also write. You'll gain a lot by listening to the questions they ask those who are presenting a topic. You'll reap a golden harvest when you share a meal with several others or at the social hour. It's uplifting to listen to other writers talk about their successes, and it's comforting to learn how many of the same problems you have plague the others, too. 

You can't go to a conference every week, but if you have a local writers club or group, take advantage of having other writers close at hand. It's a great place to rant a bit when you have a writing problem. Your nonwriter friends really don't want to hear what you're going through, but other writers can offer a bit of comfort or point out a way to solve the problem. They'll also be almost as thrilled as you are when you sell a story or poem. They feel your joy just as they feel your pain. Empathy is the keyword here.

Spend time one-on-one with a writer friend, even if it has to be through email rather than sitting across a table eating lunch together. A good many of my writer friends live in other states, even other countries, so my long chats with them are only possible through email. What a blessing it is to be able to chat with these other writers through that medium. 

You need a life outside your writing world but it's also wise to increase the size of your writing world by fostering relationships with other writers whenever possible. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Keep Your Sunny Side Up

Today is our son's 45th birthday. Yesterday, I mentioned the day he was born in my post on February memories. Kirk has given his family many memories over the years, some not so hot, some hilarious but many very good ones. Far too many to mention them all. He's been a goal setter since he was a little boy and he's also an optimist.

He prefers to look on the positive side of things, whether it's a matter within his family, or in his job, or life in general. A couple of years ago, he called to give us the news no parent wants to hear. His number had come up when his company had to make a lot of job cuts. He'd survived many other times, but finally, his turn came up. Even then, he put the positive before the negative. How hard, I thought, for him to do that when he had a wife and two daughters to support. A few rocky months later, he found a new job which turned out to be a good one. I'm sure he had his difficult moments during that period, but he kept the sunny side up for all who loved him, and maybe it helped himself, as well.

It's what I urge writers to do, too. I know it's not easy to do when rejections pour in like water over Niagra Falls. Look at it this way--if you let the negatives feelings take over, you're going to sink deeper and deeper into the I can't pool. Climb out of the doldrums and give yourself a pep talk. Nobody can do it for you better than you. 

Make a list of the pros and cons of your writing life. The cons will pop up easily, but you might need to search a little harder to make your pro side of the list longer. You can find them. I know that because I've done it. My negatives popped up pretty fast when I made a similar list, and a lot of the pros did, too. But as I delved deeper into my wriitng life, I found a lot of hidden positives. So, don't look only on the surface. Dig deep. Make your list, then consult it on a regular basis to remind yourself of why you feel like you're beating your head against a brick wall trying to get published. 

Make a comment here and let others know about some of the positives in your writing life.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Memories of February

Here we are in the glorious, but short, month of February. It's rather a special month for me. My son was born on the 5th of the month in 1968. On the 4th, it was unusually warm for a Chicago February day. Good thing, as I had an appointment with my OB doctor and I could not get my coat buttoned over that large baby bump. Kirk arrived at 10:20 p.m. on that mild day. The next morning, the window in my hospital room was up a few inches and snow was piled on the windowsill. 

February also brought my first grandchild, born 17 years ago on the 16th day of the month. I was hoping she'd be a Valentine baby, but she was much too content to make her appearance until two days later. She's still my Valentine girl.

When I was growing up, the teachers in my grade school put up new bulletin board material each month. In February, we had some that were devoted toValentine's Day and others to two presidents. We celebrated George Washington's birthday on the 22nd and also Abraham Lincoln's birthday on the 12th of the month. I attended Lincoln School so Old Abe was pretty revered. We got the day off on an alternating basis--one year we got Lincoln's birthday as a holiday from school and the next year, it was on George Washington's birthday. Teachers incorporated these two honored presidents into their lesson plans for several subjects. We learned about their boyhoods, their terms as presidents, what led to them becoming a leader of our country. Sure, some of what we learned was later deemed to be legend rather than fact, but it still gave us enough information to be in awe of these two great statesmen. It felt more important to us than today's President's Day.

What kind of February memories do you have? How about writing about them for your Memory Book? What kind of Valentine parties did you have as you were growing up? What did your teachers emphasize in this month? Did your mom do anything special during February? What was the weather like where you lived? Did your family eat any special foods during this month? My mother always made heart sugar cookies and I have made them nearly every year since then. Sometimes with red sugar sprinkled on top and sometimes with pink frosting. 

It's time to put those February memories in print so your family will be able to read them someday. It's a short month so don't delay! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Dream and A Puzzle

stock vector : Stone bridge over river sketch

I've written here more than once about acting on something that comes to you in a dream. Either write it down on a notepad when you wake up with the vivid image still with you, or write about it the next morning if it is still in your mind. 

Last night, I had a strange dream that felt like a message of some sort, but I'm totally puzzled as to what it is. In the dream, Ken and I were seated at a very long banquet table with many people. Two women to our right were of the Muslim faith. Neither of us had ever met them before. We were having a nice conversation and enjoying dinner when one of the women asked me how long we'd been married. I told her it would be 49 years this coming June. Her face lit up with a big smile. She removed a bracelet from her wrist and handed it to me. "I'd like you to have this," she said.

The bracelet was solid silver. It had a tiny crown or tiara standing up in the center of the clamp-on bracelet. An inch or so down from that crown there was a heart with tiny floral etchings in it and the word Bridges. I accepted the gift and immediately put it on. For the remainder of the dream, I was admiring the bracelet but the one thing that kept catching my eye was that word Bridges

When I woke up, the first image that came to me was the bracelet and the word. To say I am puzzled is putting it mildly. What kind of message am I to get from this dream? I do believe that dreams have messages for us. Of course, many times, what is in the dream is a symbol of something else. 

Is it about a story I am to write? Or a trip I am to take? Or telling me that I can get from one side of the river to another easily? At this point, I have no idea whatsoever. But I'll keep the image in my mind and see what develops.

Not all dreams are clearcut, nor do they all give us a base for a new story or poem. Still, they are worth remembering and assessing. Maybe something will occur in my life tomorrow or next week or next month that will be related. When a dream is as vivid and memorable as this one was, I think it must have some meaning. 

So, what about you? Have you ever had a dream that you've never forgotten? Have you ever written a story after an especially vivid dream? Tell us about it.