Monday, June 26, 2017

Starting Is A Good Thing

Anne Lamott


The key word in the quote above should be stated in big letters. Like this:  start. Such a simple word with synonyms like beginning, onset, and commence. 

When you want to go on a walk, you start with one foot, put the other one in front and then do it again and again and again until you reach your destination. Simple, isn't it? Why can't we relate that to our writing? We make writing harder than it needs to be. 

No one ever said that first efforts would be winners. They are only the beginning, your first efforts. When writing anything, be it a short story, personal essay or a poem, it's necessary to get actual words written.  Don't expect them to be a finished product. They won't! But they will lead to a revised version that will be something ready for submission. 

How many times have you had a story idea mulling in your mind and it stays there? You don't sit down and begin to write actual words. You think about it for a very long time, work on other projects, get involved with family and friends. All the while, that idea is whirling like a spinning top until it begins to irritate you. What's the cure?

It's to begin writing. Write an outline, write an opening paragraph, write the middle or write the ending and work backwards. But, for Heaven's sake, write something. Don't let the idea percolate in your mind for so long that it finally fades away before you ever write anything. 

Try keeping a list of those ideas that come to you in the middle of the night or when you're at the grocery store or in the dentist's chair. Put the list where you can jot notes next to the ideas whenever they come to you. With that in mind, leave plenty of space between the ideas you put on your list. 
If you look at and add to the list often enough, you're bound to start writing. 

It doesn't matter if what you have for a first effort is pure drivel. The important thing is to get something written that you can read back and start revising. Not right away! Let this rough draft sit quietly for a few days. Then read it. Decide what is wrong and, also, what is right about that first effort. Keep what's good and you know what to do with what is not. Out! 

What keeps us from taking that first step and starting some new story, essay or poem? Sometimes, we fear that we can't do our idea justice. We know that it's going to be hard work--taking time and effort we may not want to give. We're not confident that we can take a good idea and turn it into a fine piece of writing. It won't be 'fine' in that early draft. It's much later that you can read your work and feel satisfied. 

This week, grab that idea that's been simmering in your brain for weeks and write a rough draft, then move on from there. It doesn't matter how awful it is. It's the bones of what will become a fully fleshed piece after some more work. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Write About COLOR

Color


I have a new writing exercise for you to try today and over the weekend. It has to do with color. Artists show color with their crayons and paints but writers must give a picture of color by painting with words. 

Color is a big part of life. We love it or we can't stand it. We try to add color to our wardrobe, our home decor, our party tables and more. We care about the color car we drive. We consider color when planning a menu. 

For each color below, write one or more paragraphs that will show the color. Try not to use the name of the color but show the color itself in the words you write. In our writing, we want the reader to see a hue like orange rather than be told something was orange.

Purple

Red

Blue

Green

Yellow

Black

Gray

You can share parts of what you wrote in the Comments section. I don't think it will take large amounts of writing, so keep it to a paragraph if you would like to share.















Thursday, June 22, 2017

Breathe In, Breathe Out



Today's poster made me think of professional athletes. A basketball player shoots thousands of baskets in a career and doing so is as natural as taking a breath to stay alive. Not having a ball in hand and aiming at the little round hoop ahead would make a basketball player very anxious if he went days without doing so. 

We're no different. If we want to become a pro at this writing game, the first thing we must do is to write and write and write. Every single day, or almost every day. We do have to take time out for emergencies, major events, illness and a few other monumental moments. If we aim at writing something every day, it becomes a habit. I believe that the more we write, the more we want to write. 

If you write only occasionally, it's easier to let inspiration slide on by. What if you're out on the beach and a family nearby creates a situation that makes you want to write a story? If you don't act on it soon, the idea pushes itself farther and farther back into the recesses of your mind. You might pluck it out someday, or you could leave it there, buried under several other 'put aside' ideas. 

If you have a regular writing habit, you're more likely to act on the inspiration of the beach scene early the next day, or day it occurred. If you happened to have a notepad in your beach bag, you could jot down thoughts to be used in your next writing session. 

I've found that, after every writing conference I attend, my muse strikes up the band and I want to get home so I can start writing. I've written in airports and on planes because the ideas from the conference are swirling in my mind and begging to be acted upon. And yes, in this kind of situation, I do get anxious if I can't write. 

I also get anxious if something prevents me from writing for a few days when I'm home and not all that far from my keyboard. Writing something every day is like taking that daily vitamin pill. I do it because I know it's good for me. (And also because I love it!) Writing every day gives me writing energy. Once begun, never done! 

If you are away from writing for a lengthy period of time--say weeks, or (gasp!) months, it might be harder to get back in the groove again. Or, it could work the opposite and you'll want to dive in headfirst and write in every spare minute. 

I do know, firsthand, that if you skip a couple days, it's pretty easy to pass by on that third and fourth day. Discipline yourself to write something every day. It doesn't have to be 1000 words. It can be a journal entry, or those Morning Pages we've talked about before, or a short poem. Maybe a paragraph or two doing a writing exercise. 

Write until you can't stand it if you don't write. Breathe in, breathe out and keep writing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Writer's List



A burning question today. If not now, when?

1.  When will you join a critique group?

2.  When will you finish your partially done works?

3.  When will you read a book about writing?

4.  When will you go to a writer's conference?

5.  When will you start a new writing project?

6.  When will you do some writing exercises?

7.  When will you submit your work to a publication?

8.  When will you stop whining about not enough time to write?

9.  When will you encourage another writer?

10.  When will you act as soon as inspiration hits?

11.  When will you study markets and guidelines?

12.  When will you write your family stories?

Now is the perfect time to begin!
      

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Our Wedding Day--June 20, 1964

Wedding Bells #clipart #wedding


Today is our 53rd wedding anniversary. I'm in our office at the computer and Ken is on the golf course. But this evening, we will go out for dinner to celebrate. I feel quite blessed that, in this day of many marriages not lasting, ours is into the fifth decade. Blessed yes, but I know that it takes some effort to keep love in a marriage for so long. Was it all champagne and roses? Not by a long shot. We weathered the tough times together and rejoiced in the many happy moments. 

Our wedding day with Ken's mother, his dad is next to me but got cut off somehow

We were married in Oak Park, IL on a hot, hot, humid day with no A/C in my parents' home or the church. Very few had anything to cool other than a fan. My dress was waltz length and I wore the in-fashion Jackie Kennedy pillbox veil. Ken didn't want a big wedding and I agreed, knowing it was easier on my parents. Even so, we both wanted a church wedding.

Our wedding was so small--only 20 guests--that we had no rehearsal dinner. Ken spent the night at his brother's. On Saturday, his parents and grandfather came to my parents' home for lunch--the first time the parents had met. I'm sure my mother fretted over that lunch. After we ate, I changed into my wedding dress and we all went to the church a few blocks away. I hadn't talked to Ken for a few days but I didn't doubt that he'd show up. 

We each had only one attendant, no flower girl or ring bearer. The ceremony was short and performed by a pastor who had been a boyhood friend of my dad's. My dad was raised Catholic and Mom was Methodist. I married a Lutheran and became one. How much more ecumenical can you get? Growing up, I always feared my dad would not give me away in a protestant church but he was there escorting me down the aisle with a big smile. 

After the ceremony, everyone went back to my parents' home for champagne and we opened our few gifts. We moved on to a place called Richard's Supper Club where we had a private room for dinner. It was the coolest place we'd been all day! Our wedding cake was a gift to us from Mom and Dad's next door neighbor who owned the neighborhood bakery. Instead of the traditional bride and groom to top the cake, I selected pink spun sugar wedding bells. 

There was no photographer but one of Ken's brothers took some pictures with his new Polaroid camera--all the rage then. The picture popped out of the camera in nothing flat, no waiting for days to have the film developed. Sadly, they are the only photos we have and over the years they have faded. Better the photos than a marriage! 

Ken had just started a new job so he didn't ask for any time off for a honeymoon. Married on Saturday and he went back to work on Monday! I didn't start my new teaching position until the fall. We did have a delayed honeymoon in Glacier National Park 2 years later. We stayed at the historic main lodge where people 'dressed' for dinner. Maybe it was even better to be there on our second anniversary rather than immediately after the wedding. 

After we'd been married a week, I talked to my mom and asked her if she'd saved the top of the wedding cake in the freezer so we could have it on our first anniversary, as tradition states. She was not aware of any such tradition. She said, "Save it? Your brothers ate it all that night after everyone had left!" Well, what can you expect with brothers who were then 21, 17, and 9? 

Wedding memories are meaningful to each couple and to their families. Everyone should write about their wedding, the good and the bad. There are always little glitches in weddings, some pretty funny--after the fact! Your children and grandchildren will thank you someday.

Just a few weeks ago, Ken and I appeared in an online article about keeping love in a relationship. What fun it was to be interviewed and to see us along with 7 other couples who work at keeping romance alive. Read it here.  The longer we've been together, the stronger our love. 

Here we are after 53 years together



Monday, June 19, 2017

Writers As Individuals


It's probably not news to writers that this is also true of them. We're individuals and what we write is unique. Maybe not the basic content, as ten writers could write on the same topic and come up with ten different stories written in ten different voices and ten different angles. It's the way we each write that sets us apart from one another.

You are you from top of your head right down to your toes. Even identical twins differ in some ways but we singles are a copy of one. In our family, everyone comments about how much our grandson and my husband are like--in looks, the way they walk, stubbornness and more. Yet, they are very different in many ways, as well. 

When the writer dips his 'pen' into his own soul, he paints his  nature into the words he writes. We are merely artists who paint with words--ones that come from deep inside of us. Why are we all unique in this world of writers?

Writers are of different ages, or stages of life. We come from various backgrounds--rural or urban, small families or large, religious or not, political or not and so much more. We're introverts or extroverts. We smile a lot or frown much of the time. All these things make us the people we are and helps form the writing voice we each have. 

How boring if we were all the same and wrote exactly the same way or if all artists painted in the same style. The variety writers offer readers is what makes those people return to the libraries and bookstores over and over again. It's why screen writers have the power to bring people into the theater to see a story they wrote brought to life by producers, directors and actors. No two screen writers are alike either.

Many times, a writer strives to emulate a writer he/she admires. Instead, he/she should cultivate his/her own style and be thankful for being a one-of-a-kind person, and writer. 

So dip into your soul and write from your heart. Relish being a unique individual. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Who Will Tell Your Story?

Goldilocks and the Three Bears - Mary Engelbreit's Nursery Tales: A Treasury of Children's Classics

I had a conversation this week with a writer about a story she'd written. I liked the story a lot but it occurred to me that telling the story from a different point of view might make it even more effective. 

Before we begin writing a story, we usually know whose point of view will be used. Our hero--or heroine--is usually the one whose eyes we look through. But what if the villain in the tale is the POV person? Or an outsider? There is no one correct way. It's good to experiment a little and then choose the character you feel most comfortable with. 

What if the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears  was written four times from four different points of view? There is a quartet of characters in the beloved story we all were told and then read as children. Wouldn't Papa Bear see the story in a different manner that Goldilocks or Mama or Baby Bear? He's the man of the house, ready to protect his family. 

Mama Bear might have mixed emotions. Here is this girl invading her home but who seems to be hungry and tired. Mama's nurturing nature might lead her to scold Goldilocks all the while making sure she had something to eat and a place to rest. 

And Baby Bear? He might look at this girl who came to his house as a new playmate, not as someone to fear.

The twists and turns in a story will change depending on who you choose to use as your POV person. An interesting experiment for you to try is to take a story you've already written, maybe one published, and rewrite it using a different POV person. How does the story change? How is it going to affect the reader's outlook? You might be surprised at how your story appears with this second writing. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Scratch That Itch



I haven't written any new stories or essays for longer than I'd like to admit but that itch of literature cited in today's poster arrived this morning. 

All of a sudden, I had ideas for two different personal essays swirling in my head like a whirlpool in a rushing brook. I'd been pondering about writing something for a Chicken Soup for the Soul book for several weeks but hadn't been able to come up with a credible topic. As I was reading an essay in a newsletter earlier today, a flash went off, or maybe it was my muse kicking me in the head saying Wake up, Honey! The subject was mine if I wanted to pursue it. And I do!

A few days ago, a younger cousin passed away after a difficult battle with numerous health issues. Something I read in her obituary notice triggered thoughts that would be worth pursuing in a personal essay. A couple of sentences that I might use flitted through the video screen in my mind. I knew I needed to write them down somewhere or they'd be lost. I didn't do it and now, I'm struggling to find them. I think, once I begin writing, that they will come back to me. 

Triggers of this kind create that itch of literature, just as the quote above tells us, the only cure is to write. I do love the phrase nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. Obviously, we don't write as much with a pen now, although some writers still swear they write better in longhand than typing on a keyboard. The majority of us tap, tap away instead of writing with a pen. Even now, the pen is ballpoint and doesn't scratch like those old 'dip in the inkwell' kind. 

That just triggered a memory of grade school desks with inkwells in them where a bottle of ink was placed so that students could easily dip their pens and write with them. We usually wrote with a lead pencil in grade school but occasionally we were given the pens and ink bottles to write something special. I don't think it was often but I do remember the 'scratching' of the pen. A nice sound.

That itch of literature comes over us when we least expect it. When it does, we'd best pay attention and act upon it as soon as possible. Wait a day or two, or more, and it's gone. Sounds so easy but you and I know that life gets in the way of our best intentions. It's up to us to figure out how to work it in. You can do it if you're passionate about your writing. Go ahead and scratch that itch!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

An Interview With Author, Gloria Zachgo--Part 2



Gloria Zachgo
Author, Gloria Zachgo 
I'm pleased to present part 2 of my interview with Gloria Zachgo:


6.      Do you belong to any writers’ groups? Why or why not?

Yes, I’ve belonged to several. About a year ago, when we moved to Wichita, I had to leave my original writers group. I miss the weekly challenges it provided. I am still able to meet once a month with my novelist group. They supply invaluable feedback, criticism, and encouragement. I might be able to write novels without them, but it would be a lonely trek and not nearly as much fun.

7.      Of your three novels, which one is closest to your heart?

That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite.

The Rocking Horse was my first. It started me on this journey of writing novels and gave me the confidence to write more.

Hush Girl is where my heart took me the last two years.

However, Never Waste Tears is probably closer to my heart because I write about the area where I grew up. I see my grandfather every time I write about Carl, and I’m hoping to go back to that prairie one of these days.

8.       Do you write every day or when the mood strikes?

I would like to say I’m disciplined enough to write every day, but I’m not. When the mood strikes I’m miserable if I don’t write. I can’t say that’s always when I do my writing though, because “the mood” can strike at the most inopportune times.

9.      What prompted you to write Hush, Girl?

I know someone who has been affected all her life because her mother left her when she was only a child. Once I started developing the story of a child whose mother left her, she became real. She became Nicki. I simply wrote what happened to her, embellishing the story to make a suspense novel.

10.       Any tips for other writers hoping to publish a book?

Self-publishing has worked for me. I’ve learned that even with traditional publishing, an author is often left to do their own promotional marketing. There are so many new books coming out every day that it’s hard to get noticed as a novice author.

If you decide to self-publish, you must believe in yourself and your writing. Re-write. Re-read. Re-read and re-write again. I’m learning from my mistakes every day. Make your manuscript as perfect as you can. Get critiques from others if possible.

Talk to other authors. Most tend to want to share their experiences. Find out what works for them. There are a lot of different avenues one can take today. Explore several before you take the voyage.

I write what’s in my heart. I write because it’s my passion. I go on journeys with my created characters. I find pleasure in telling their stories.

I find even more pleasure when my readers give me feedback on my novels and share their thoughts with me.





Tuesday, June 13, 2017

An Interview With Author, Gloria Zachgo--Part 1



The Rocking Horse       Never Waste Tears       HUSH GIRL : It's Only a Dream

Gloria Zachgo graciously agreed to an interview. Part 1 runs today and Part 2 will be posted tomorrow. Gloria's answers to my questions will give some insight to what is involved in writing and self-publishing a novel. Her three book covers and her thoughts her might entice you to read the books. Check them out at Amazon.

An image posted by the author.
Gloria Zachgo


1.      How long have you been writing?

A little over ten years. Unlike a lot of writers I’ve met, who have been creative writing since they were children, I started later in my life.

2.      Are you a self-taught writer, or have an advanced degree in the Fine Arts?

My formal education was from a business school, so my creative writing is mostly self-taught. I joined a writing group about ten years ago to improve my communication skills. Little did I know how it would change my life.

             
3.      What inspired you to write novels?

When I first started writing, I found it therapeutic to write a few memoirs, but it was when I experimented writing short fictional stories that I found my true passion.

I attended a workshop given by mystery author, Nancy Pickard. Driving home from that workshop, the image of one of my short stories kept popping into my mind. I wanted to find out what happened to Julie, so I challenged myself to develop her story into a novel. I wrote a scene at a time, sending each one to a writer friend for a critique. Once I had all the scenes written, I put them into chapters and wove them together into a finished manuscript.

4.      You have self-published 3 books. What made you decide to publish this way?

Each week at my writing group, I read a chapter of my manuscript, The Rocking Horse. The encouragement I received led me on a quest to find an agent. I queried about eighty agents over the next six months. The rejections were kind but plentiful.

I could have put the manuscript in a drawer and forgot it. Instead, I chose to follow through with the dream of having a debut novel. So, with support from family and friends, I began exploring the self- publishing world. My research led me to CreateSpace, where I invested in one of their self-publishing packages offered at that time.

After learning the basics of self-publishing a print-on-demand book for my first novel, I decided to use CreateSpace, doing most of the published work myself on Never Waste Tears and Hush Girl.  It’s worked well for me.

 5.      Do you have your manuscripts edited professionally? Or do it on your own?

I’ve done both – with mixed results. Most people in the writing world will advise authors to never do their own editing. One of my books is a perfect example of why. Following, are my three experiences...

The Rocking Horse was professionally edited. Even though it won an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest 20th Annual Book Awards and received great reviews, I’ve still received criticism on its editing.

Never Waste Tears was self-edited. Ironically, I never heard the editing criticism that I received on The Rocking Horse. Never Waste Tears received an indie B.R.A.G. Medallion and was a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review competition.

Hush Girl: It’s Only a Dream was self-edited. It was an economic decision, as professional editing can get quite expensive. It’s a time-consuming, difficult task. I thought I had done a fairly good job when I first published Hush Girl. I received some great reviews on the story itself. But, I was also told I had some editing problems. When I re-read my manuscript, I was shocked at the errors I found. I was so disappointed in myself because most of the mistakes were simply a matter of careless proofreading.


After beating myself up for a few days, I decided to learn from the experience. I’m currently trying to amend some of the damage done. I loved telling Nicki’s story, and many of my readers have told me they loved the story too. So, I’m once more putting on the editing hat and I will re-publish as soon as possible. It still won’t be perfect, but I will try to make it the very best I can.  

Part 2 of the interview in tomorrow's blog includes Gloria's advice to other writers. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Reviewing A New Mystery

HUSH GIRL  by Gloria Zachgo

Isn't this an intriguing book cover? The title made me want to read the book. Who said those words? And to whom? Under what circumstance? Titles are of great importance; they either make you stop and ponder or are such that you slide right on by. Kudos to author, Gloria Zachgo on title selection. 

This self-published book is a mystery but could be classified in women's fiction. Nicki is married and mother of two children. She experiences panic attacks and nightmares about her childhood. She was the youngest of three children and only five when her mother left the family. A woman named Sharon moved into the house. She loved Nicki's older sister, Cindy, but made life a living hell for Nicki and her brother, Brian. Years later, Nicki still does not understand.

At the urging of her understanding husband, she seeks help from a therapist. Because she is incapable of verbalizing her fears and dreams, the doctor has her start a daily journal and a notebook where she records memories and dreams that haunt her. Nicki makes slow progress but then is terrified by a woman who stalks her. 

As bits and pieces of her childhood terrors return, the unknown woman continues to make life frightening for Nicki and her sister, Cindy. Nicki puts the puzzle together piece by piece, even as the woman becomes bolder in her assault. 

Gloria Zachgo has given us a mystery that will keep a reader's interest. I did find that the farther I read, the more hooked I felt. My interest level was not high at the beginning but definitely continued an upward trend. The author has captured the feelings of a person like Nicki who is living with so many unanswered questions which leads to her panic attacks and nightmares. Her secondary characters are well developed, also. 

Tomorrow's blog will feature part 1 of an interview with Glroia Zachgo who has self-published three novels and has a fourth swirling in her mind. Look for Hush Girl It's Only A Dream at Amazon. Right now, only the ebook edition is listed but the paperback will be available quite soon.

Check back tomorrow for part 1 of my interview with Gloria Zachgo. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Use The Simple Word 'Said' In Dialogue



Other things to say instead of “said” | ELA in the middle:



Look at all the words today's poster gives a writer to use instead of the boring old said when writing dialogue. Wow! You could go pages before having to repeat one of them. You have a bundle here to choose from. They're all pretty words.

Guess what? I'm firmly against each one. There is nothing wrong with the supposedly boring said. You don't want to distract the reader from the actual spoken words by tossing in all these descriptive words instead.

Using words like yelled, whispered, shouted tell us how the speaker delivered his/her words. That's right--they tell us and we all know that showing is better than telling. If necessary, you can add a sentence after the dialogue to show how the words were uttered.

Said is nothing more than something to aid the reader in determining who said what. When a lengthy conversation occurs, readers can get lost as to who is saying what. All you need is a simple she said or John said. When a reader is concentrating on the dialogue itself, their brain registers who said what but not always consciously. We scan the said part but pay attention to the spoken words.

Blogger, Justin McLachlan has a post about common mistakes writers make. He lists the said issue as #1. "Your characters grouse, whisper, bellow, and ejaculate their dialogue. Said. That's all you need and most of the time, you shouldn't even need that. Dialogue attributions are just markers to help orient the reader."

If it's a question, the simple asked works in place of said.

Writers are taught not to repeat words, especially in the same sentence or paragraph. That recommendation gets lifted when writing dialogue. Write said as often as you like. If you're writing a lengthy bit of dialogue, you only need to use the he said or she said every few statements to keep the reader aware of who said what. Writing the attribution after every single statement gets irritating to the reader.

There appear to be two schools of thought on whether to use said or one of the many choices in our poster above. I've stated which side I'm on and why. If anyone lines up on the opposite side and would like to defend their position, please use the comments section to do so.

As for me, I say that said is not dead.




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Writers--Aim For The Positives





We all have favorite books that were read to us as children or that we read on our own. Children tend to read the most loved books over and over again. Young readers find something so appealing that they want to enjoy the story and the feeling it brings multiple times. It doesn't matter that they know the outcome. There is no surprise ending when it's the twentieth reading.

1899 Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Gilbert McKibbin - Shop Ruby Lane #RubyLane:

Travel back to your own favorite stories in your growing-up years. What were your favorites? We can all create a list. I loved the Nancy Drew mystery series and the many Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read the Bobbsey Twins books again and again. As I got older, I didn't repeat the readings like I'd done as a fairly new reader. There were too many more books waiting to be read! 


Nancy Drew's character first appeared in 1930.  The books have been revised over the years to fit changes in American taste and culture.   Over 80 million books sold; published in 45 languages. I read everyone of these books between the ages of 10-12.:

Take some time and think about what it was that kept you interested in the books you liked the best. What elements did they have that made you want to keep reading? Why did so many of the children's books stay popular over many decades?


Hardy Boys Digest Cover Art

Make a list of answers for the questions above. Add to the list as you ponder more on the questions. Make another of the themes of the stories, the kinds of characters and more.

Now, when you write a novel or short story for adults, you'll use the same general elements as you found in those great books for kids. Whatever made you love Alice In Wonderland will also make adult readers want to keep reading the book that you write. The basics are the same while the vocabulary, length and more intricate plotting are used in an adult book.

You'll have a protagonist--hero--who has a problem to solve and an outcome that should be satisfying to most readers. Simple? Perhaps. There is so much more to writing that good tale. Consider the use of description, a sense of place, sensory details, tension and more. When you pay attention to all these things and come up with a story that people will want to read, you should be very proud. This writing business can become very complicated and anyone who can do it successfully is to be admired.

So, if you've had any fiction published, no matter where, pat yourself on the back. You earned it. Remind yourself now and then of those books you loved long ago and aim for the same positives they had. 


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Look Ahead, Not Back




What do you do the day after you receive a rejection after submitting a query or a manuscript or short piece? We know what you probably did on the day that slap in the face arrived. You most likely deflated like a pin-pricked balloon or maybe you ranted while storming around your house. You might even have cried, especially if it was not a first-time rejection for that submission. 

It's quite alright to react in a way that helps you absorb the hurt. The disappointment and disgust--oh yes, we often feel disgusted when a rejection arrives--show that you're normal. No one in their right mind would accept a rejection with glee. 

Our poster for today has good advice. Those broken pieces of yesterday need to stay there. Don't carry them with you into today. The new day is a new beginning. Start by checking your list of places you had planned to submit to. What? You don't have a list? That means you need to take time to find multiple places where you can submit your work next. 

No one ever said the first editor you approach is going to swoop up your submission, clutch it to his/her breast and exclaim "Eureka!" Every writer knows stories of famed authors who had to submit over and over again before their work was accepted and published. Sure, we know those stories but do we apply that procedure to ourselves? Not always. Why?

It could be that it's a lot of work to turn to the submission Ferris wheel. It's also a surefire method to set yourself up for disappointment. There is no guarantee that the second time you submit your piece it will be taken. Or the third, or fourth or...  

In the writing world, very little is set in concrete. Our work is steeped in maybes. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. 

How passionate are you about getting your work published? Answer that question honestly. Then, ask yourself if you are willing to persevere until you find a degree of success. 

I think one of the hardest things we writers must do is to be honest with ourselves. When we soul search, we need to answer as objectively as possible. Easy to say, harder to do. 

Start each new day with the attitude that it is a new day and you're not going to sweep up the discards of yesterday and put them in your pocket to needle you. Look ahead with hope instead of backward with regret. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Are You A Lazy Writer?

Tiger, Lazy, Sleeping, White, Animal, Zoo, Cat

We're about to enter those 'lazy, hazy days of summer' as the lyrics of an old song puts it. That might be fine for kids out of school but for writers, it's not so great to lay around doing little or nothing. You might get away with a I'm thinking about writing while I'm lolling on the beach. But only for so long.

There are definitely writers who fall under the category of Lazy Writers no matter what the season. So, what defines these people? Check out my list.

Lazy Writers...
  • tell rather than show. It's so much easier that way.
  • use passive verbs rather than search for active ones that show.
  • use too many adverbs which translate to telling--quick and only one word needed.
  • don't study markets thoroughly before submitting.
  • skip writing exercises because they take time, too much work, and who cares?
  • don't proofread or do it so hurriedly they miss half the errors.
  • don't let what they've written simmer a few days or longer before submitting.
Test yourself using this list. Are you guilty of any of these things? Most likely, we all do some of them when we're in a hurry. That's going to happen. After all, we're humans who are not perfect all the time! The bigger question is whether or not you do them on a regular basis. If you find yourself answering yes to several, then you know which category you are going to fall into. 

Wouldn't you rather shed that label and change it to Successful Writer? Who wouldn't? The way to do it is to turn all the negatives above into positives. Hard work? Yes, but well worth it for the results it can bring. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Young Graduates Harbor Dreams




This is our second oldest granddaughter who lives in Dallas. She graduated Saturday with the other 1052 members of her class. Yes, that number is correct. She attended a large suburban high school. And yes, they all walked across a stage to receive their diploma as their name was called. We were delighted to be able to be there for her big day. Her long-loved bear is wearing an Arkansas t-shirt, which is where she is going to college.

We listened to short speeches by the Class President, Salutatorian and Valedictorian. It made me smile when one of them referenced Dr. Seuss books and another one based the speech on the Wizard of Oz. Books! Books that meant something to them. They all talked about the hard work done over a 13 year period and about the dreams of what might be ahead for each graduate. First, either entering the work force or heading off to college for further education, the next step in realizing their goals. 

It made me think about the dreams of the very young. How many do come true? How many work hard enough to make sure their dream comes true? How many will not pursue the dream with intensity and regret it later? 

As writers, we all have dreams, too. Dreams of being a success in the writing world. It doesn't matter if you started  when you finished high school or college or whether it was 30 years later. The important part is how you pursued your dream. How many times were you ready to give up but soldiered on? How often did you weigh writing time vs social time and skipped merrily off into the social world? 

We know that those big goals of a high school grad get sidetracked for various reasons. Our writing goals get pushed aside at times, too. Very often, it's for valid reasons, not just our yen to be a social butterfly. Life tends to set up roadblocks that we must either jump over and skirt around somehow. I know from experience that it doesn't always happen as quickly as we'd like. For me, it took many years to realize my dream of being a published writer because I allowed life to get in the way. But it did happen. 

Key to reaching our goal includes these things-- determination, perseverance, faith in yourself. There are others as well. Patience is one. Pure grit is another. 

Nothing happens if you sit around and wait for it to rain success from the sky. All those graduates we saw on Saturday worked hard for a dozen plus years to achieve the status of graduate. It was not always easy. The work was harder for some than others. So it is with we who write. It's easier for some writers to get published than others. With a few, it's pure luck but for others, it means they've worked very hard to become a published writer, It doesn't matter if that first publication is in a small local newspaper or a nationwide venue of some kind. Do it once and you'll know you can do it again. 

In some ways, I envied those young people Saturday for they had a lifetime ahead of them with great possibilities if they work hard. On second thought, it made me grateful that I'd moved past that period and had achieved some of my dreams. How about you? 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

So Runs The Water--A Book Review

Product Details


Tom Mach, Kansas award winning author and poet, takes us on a delightful journey in his newest poetry book titled So Runs The Water, subtitled life's journey, in verse. 

We learned in school that water is one of the four elements of the world, the others being earth, air and fire. Mr. Mach explores water in numerous forms. The book appears to be one lengthy, free verse poem but has been divided into sections. Each section can stand on its own but relates to water and how it runs through his life and ours; thus it is a part of the whole book.

A few of the myriad sections are clouds, winter, children, a fountain of ideas, pieces of past, and what if? There are many more, all of which the reader can relate to. Each section can stand alone but is also a part of the greater work. All feature water in some way. 

The poetry is of the real world but also spiritual. It is chock full of fine sensory details, lovely word choices, and appealing phrases. Read a few of my favorites: 

   Words hunger for the touch of a pen/held by drifting minds of poets

   Water also takes on many roles/in many forms of running,/pounding rain, scorching steam/thundering waterfall, angry ocean/But peace and stillness is its best role.

Ten-year-old Tom, waiting on a pier/for sunrise and fish

...and pieces of his past/drifted before his eyes like leaves.

Mr. Mach has achieved simplicity but also power in the words he has chosen to relate what water means to our world, to him and to us. There are memory triggers sprinkled throughout along with bits of history and literary references. The poet does take us on a life's journey as the subtitle promises.

The cover of the book, front and back, made me want to read what is inside. It appeals with amazing color, the photo scene and the title. Check out the full front and back cover at the poet's website. 

You can order the book from Amazon. I know this is a book I will read multiple times.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Remembering A Special Wedding

Image may contain: flower, text and nature


Today is the last day of May, one of my favorite months of the year. Spring flowers grace our yards and milder temps arrive. We celebrate our mothers and it's my birthday month, as well. This final day of May also has significance for me as it is my parents' wedding anniversary.

They were married 79 years ago on the 31st of May in 1938. No big wedding for them. No guests at the wedding, no bridesmaid or best man, no wedding gown, no cake, no gifts. They eloped and kept the marriage a secret for six long weeks.

Why did they elope and then tell no one? No one in my mom's family liked my dad. Not her mother, not her oldest brother, not the other brother either. That was one reason. Money was another. In those depression years, weddings were far more simple but theirs was super simple!

Dad picked Mom up in his little coupe as if they had an ordinary date. She came out to the car wearing a red linen dress. Not the kind of wedding attire most girls dream of. They had a license and knew where a Justice of the Peace lived. They rang the bell at his house and asked to be married. The J.P.'s wife acted as the witness. 

They had an interruption during the ceremony which gave them time to have second thoughts but they didn't change their minds. They stood in the living room together while the Justice answered a phone call and planned an early morning fishing trip for the next day. He returned to finish the simple wedding, finally pronouncing them man and wife. 

What is a wedding without a celebration? Theirs was with a guest list of two--the bride and groom. They went to a favorite bar and grill in the neighborhood to have dinner. Mom ordered a plate of spaghetti and Dad said he wasn't hungry, he'd pass. When the steaming pasta arrived, Dad watched Mom eat and then picked up a fork to take a bite now and then. It was much later that Mom learned that her new husband only had enough money in his pocket to pay for one meal. He had a job but it didn't pay much.

After they ate, Dad drove Mom to the apartment where she lived with her mother. Daylight still reigned but she went to bed early as she was up in the wee hours of the morning to go to work at her mother's bakery. An unconventional wedding, an unusual wedding reception for two, and a wedding night apart. Mom had to hide the gold wedding band etched with scrolls that had belonged to her new husband's mother. 

Weeks went by and they told no one, although Dad tried to convince Mom to fess up to her family so they could start living together. She tried but she couldn't manage to get the words out. When over six weeks had passed, she and her mother were taking a tea break at the bakery one morning. They sat at a long table covered in a light green oil cloth, the aromas of baked goods surrounding them. Her mother looked her in the eye and said, "You're married, aren't you?" 

Mom probably blushed and stammered out her yes answer. She knew an eruption would soon follow but all she heard from her mother was "Then, you'd better go live with your husband." Next came the silent treatment which felt almost worse to her than if there had been a tirade. 

Later, her brothers were the ones who exploded over what she'd done. They refused to talk to Dad. How easy it must have been to blame him for claiming the sister they loved. Mom worked with her mother every day and one of her brothers at the small neighborhood bakery her mother owned. The anger and disappointment ebbed slowly but surely toward Mom but not Dad. He was still the culprit.

That ended with my birth, two days before their first anniversary. Mom told me about it being one of the happiest moments of her life when her mother, brothers and Dad were gathered in her hospital room. The brothers stood on one side of her bed and Dad on the other. My uncles reached across the bed to shake Dad's hand and congratulate him. From that day forward, he became a member of the family, finally accepted by his mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law. 

Why did the family dislike Dad so much? They thought he was a ne'er do well kind of man who would never amount to anything and probably not be a good provider, husband or father. He proved them all wrong as he and Mom traveled down life's pathways together for 57 years before he passed away. 

My mother was a wonderful storyteller and the one about her marriage and that difficult first year were related many times. As a teen, I thought it terribly romantic to have eloped and to be married secretly for several weeks. Looking back, it wasn't so romantic at all. I think my mom spent those weeks worried sick about being found out and Dad spent them yearning for her to be with him. 

What do you know about your parents' wedding? Write what you know for your children and grandchildren and those yet to come. Stories about your parents are a part of your family heritage. Savor them, record them, and share them. 
Mom in 1937

Dad with his car in 1939
                                         


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Reading and Writing In Second Person



I mention our writing journey quite often and today's poster reflects that journey we're on. There are also small paths that lead to and from the big road. I took note of one of them today when reading an essay that was written using second person--that is you rather than first person (I) or third (he/she).

The you, or second person, is probably the least used. Some feel that it's the adventurous writer who writes a story in second person. He/she wants the reader to feel as though they are living the experience, that they are the one driving the boat, making the decisions and more. The reader becomes the protagonist. 

Writing this way pulls the reader into the action and it feels personal. It's also a little tricky to write a full story this way. Most writing instructors recommend using second person in short stories but not in a full novel. Tedious for both writer and reader.

There are those who feel that reading a story or essay that is filled with you and your is annoying. Count me as one of those people. I find it irritating to read a plethora of you and your. It makes me want to say Stop! I would far rather read a story written in first person. When the writer uses the I and my form, I can transition myself to feeling like the protagonist. I don't need the writer to point out that you, meaning me, is doing whatever it is. Some readers feel that this way of writing is the author's way of manipulating the reader. Now, that is stretching it quite a lot but I suppose that there are some who look at it in that way.

Some readers like reading a story in second person because there is something fresh and new about it. I wonder how they would feel if 90% of what they read used this form. Then, it would be old hat. Some writers like to try the form to stretch their own abilities. If it is different from what they usually write, it could be inspiring to them. 

Sentence structure, when using second person throughout a story, becomes more difficult. There is not much leeway when most of the sentences begin with that one word you. It takes a skillful writer to write sentences with some variety instead of following what feels like a formula. 

Should you ever try writing using second person? I think you should give it a try and see how it goes. My recommendation would be to write the story twice. Write it in first person, then write it again using second person. Set both stories aside for a few days, then read them and see which one appeals to you more than the other. 

I think readers fall into two groups regarding this method of writing a story. Some will think it is just fine, maybe even love the form. Others, like me, will not care for it at all. As writers, there is no way we can please every reader. Do what feels right to you and you're bound to find plenty of readers who love the way you write.