Thursday, August 17, 2017

Writer--Don't Be So Hard On Yourself

For those who are regular readers of this blog, you've heard me say that lots of negatives in our writing life are good lessons for us. The one thing they are not is a life without pardon kind of sentence. Go ahead--make mistakes, learn from them and move on.

We learn from rejections, especially multiple rejections on the same submission. At least, we hope we learn something and we will if we give it a few days to rest and then go through whatever was written with an objective eye. Pick out the parts you think did not appeal to an editor. Maybe it was a lot of mechanical errors. Or perhaps the clarity factor was pretty low. It might have been a dull report without any emotion or sensory detail. 

Consider yourself fortunate if the editor returns your work with a note telling you why it was rejected. There is no question then as to what you must correct but not all editors take the time, or are kind enough. to do that. Don't let it be the end of your writing world. Move on!

What if you received a brutal critique from another writer? Ouch! It does hurt and any good critiquer will be fair and honest and deliver with a dash of kindness. However, not everyone is like that. You don't have to like what the person told you but you can learn from it. There is no need to back into a corner and put your hands over your eyes and let forth with a piercing scream while you contemplate your next step in life. Sadly, there are writers who have given up writing after an experience like this. Today's quote is perfect for them. It was one person's opinion and perhaps a good lesson. But you should never feel that you must quit over a singular incident such as this.

Did you ever have a teacher who scribbled cruel words across your essay or poem that you slaved over for your English class? I know people who have a mental block when it comes to writing because of just such an experience. Again, it's a lesson, not a life sentence. As a teen, it was probably hard for us to take that objective look and figure out what was wrong, what lesson was learned. But, now as an adult, it something like this still haunts you, put it in perspective. Don't let one person keep you from being the writer you wanted to be. An attitude of I'll show them! will serve you best here.

It's much harder to look at problems like these as a lesson to be learned than it is to give up. Giving up is easy; working at the lesson is a tough job but, oh, so beneficial. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Writer--Let It Out!

We all have some of that 'inner awesome' but we tend to keep it hidden deep inside instead of letting it out through our writing. It goes along with that fear I recently wrote about. Sometimes we are fearful of letting the awesome part of us surface. Somebody might judge us by what we write.

The point is that we need to. If we want our readers to react with emotion to what we write, then we have to open up the floodgates and let our own emotions flow. Don't be afraid to show your readers you care and that you are a pretty special person. 

If you want your readers to laugh, let your hilarious side spurt forth, or if that's not your style, how about opening the door to some gentle humor? It's there, buried somewhere within you but it's up to you to release it.

Unleash your joy and also your sadness. Writing a sad story in reporter fashion--this happened, then that happened, then this happened--is not going to allow your reader to respond with emotion. That old kid thing--you show me yours and I'll show you mine--is similar. The reader wants something from you before they can give back. 

Many times, I have mentioned the free write exercise my online writing group does on a weekly basis. We're given a word and we are to start typing whatever comes into our head for a full ten minutes without stopping. No attention paid to grammar, spelling or anything mechanical. Instead, we want to open up and let our inner thoughts out. And it works! There have been some amazing things written within our group for this kind of exercise. With no restrictions and only friends reading what we write, we do unleash our inner awesome

When we write stories or essays, memoirs or poetry, are we afraid to let our deep inner thoughts and feelings come through? Are we worried about how others might react? By 'others,' I mean editors and readers. Do you subconsciously think They'll see the real me if I let it all out? Maybe they should see the real you; maybe the real you is a better writer than the one who has kept all those feelings buried inside for a long, long time. 

Use your own emotions to show us how a character in a story feels. Let the way you felt in a memoir piece come through to the reader so that they have no doubt about the joy or sadness or terror of whatever happened evoked at the time. 

Sometimes, it hurts to bare those emotions but I have also found that it is one more step to healing. It can also be a joy to share the happy things with others. Our feelings and our inner awesome encompass a lot of territory--both good and bad. 

Work on unleashing your inner awesome and you'll be a better writer. You may even find you'll be published more often. You are awesome so why not let others know it?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Story In A New Anthology

I received my copy of a just released anthology titled Loving Moments compiled and edited by Yvonne Lehman. Under the title it says 59 Inspirational Stories of the Many Faced of Love. The 50 authors whose stories make up the book have donated the stories with no compensation to them. All royalties of the book go to Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief society.  The book can be ordered on Amazon for $12.99. 

The story I submitted for this collection of stories that show love in many forms is one that has been published several times under the title "The Perfect Grandchild." In this book, the title has been changed to A Lasting Lesson. No matter the title, it's is a memory from long ago that is still very special to me. Read it and share with others if you wish. 

A Lasting Lesson 
By Nancy Julien Kopp

Dad couldn't deal with handicapped individuals. He changed the subject when a special needs child became the topic of conversation. If you don't talk about it, you don't need to recognize children born less than perfect. He never voiced it, but his actions and attitude spoke volumes.
Ironically, I taught a class that included several handicapped children. Maybe his attitude is what made me so bent on helping these children. My dad didn't want to hear about them when I came home to visit. He abruptly changed the subject whenever I tried to tell a story about one of them. I hoped he’d see that they were no different than any other child. They laughed, they cried, they wished for special things, and they had likes and dislikes. 
When our first baby arrived shortly before Thanksgiving of 1966, our anticipation and joy turned to shock, for Julie was a spina bifida baby. Along with silver blonde hair, big blue eyes, and skin that shone like satin, she had an open spine and paralysis of her legs, bowel, and bladder. My husband relayed the sad news to both sets of grandparents. The message we received from three of them showed nothing less than hope and acceptance. My dad had nothing to say about his first granddaughter. He visited me in the hospital and pledged his support and love to me for rough times ahead. Sadly, his visit didn't include a peek into the nursery.
 Within days, Julie became a patient of a well-known neurosurgeon at a children's hospital in Chicago. He closed the opening in her spine and inserted a shunt to drain fluid from her brain. It was so much to endure by one tiny soul. I wasn't able to stay with Julie, as a difficult delivery, a slow recuperation, and distance kept me at home where I agonized over our separation and spent a great deal of time in prayer.
My mother and I spent our phone calls talking about Julie. I tried to live with hope, but sometimes hope is a fragile entity. Mom's positive words buoyed me up when I occasionally fell into despair. I spoke to the nurses daily, and we went to visit our little girl every weekend. To us she was perfection.
One night during the second week, my dad called. "I went to see Julie today," he blurted before even saying hello. My heart skipped a beat, and I clenched the phone. Dad went on to describe all he'd seen at the hospital, how impressed he'd been, and how beautiful Julie looked. His voice quivered more than once as he talked to me. Tears flowed down my face at the knowledge that my dad was beginning to accept a handicapped grandchild. I knew how hard that visit had been for him.
 It was the first of many such visits. Dad worked several blocks from the hospital, and he spent many of his lunch hours walking through the cold, rain, or snow to check on Julie's progress. His reports to me were descriptive and filled with love for both his daughter and granddaughter. I could detect a little more acceptance on his part with each visit to her. One evening he called, and I noted excitement and pleasure in his voice as he told in great detail of seeing Julie receive a Christmas doll from a hospital auxiliary volunteer. The woman tied the tiny doll to Julie's isolette within her line of vision while dad watched. He described the doll from head to toe as well as the red satin ribbon used to fasten it. They were words I needed to hear since I had not been present, words I came to treasure.
Dad's visits came to an end in the middle of January when Julie died. Despite our grief, I gave thanks that my dad had come to accept a less than perfect child as part of our family. Her time here was limited, but she taught Dad a lasting lesson, and the bond between my dad and me grew stronger than it had ever been. A loving God worked yet another small miracle using a tiny soul who worked her way into her grandfather’s heart, one short visit at a time.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Writing and Fear

In his sermon Sunday, our pastor posed the question: What are you afraid of? As we drove home, it occurred to me that we writers live with a lot of fear. Not a fear involving danger of any kind but fear that we often create ourself, something dangerous only to us. Why do we do that? And what kind of fears do we deal with?

We fear:
  • Submitting our work
  • Rejection
  • Public speaking (book signings and speeches to literary groups)
  • Writer's Block
  • Finding new ideas
  • Writing crummy stuff that everyone will hate
  • Success
There are others but this list covers some of the main ones. What do you do to overcome these fears? 

Learn to have faith in yourself. Easy huh? No, it's not. You have to work at it. Concentrate on the positives in your writing journey instead of dwelling on the negatives. Make being positive a habit. Believe me, there are many who make the black cloud hanging over their head a habit. If they can do that, you can certainly do the exact opposite. Will it happen in a day? No. Little by little.

Consider this--if you don't believe in yourself, can you expect others to believe in your writing?

I had some dates to put on my September and October calendar this afternoon. As I was turning the pages, I noted a saying at the top of each page. Curious, I checked all of them and I found four that spoke to me as a writer. Maybe they will reach out and touch you, too. Take a look. Which one do you like best, or relate to the most? 

Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

If you don't paddle your own canoe, you don't move.

Hope is the dream of the waking man.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Joy Of Being A Reader

Yesterday's post was a review of The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, which is a current 'must read' book. Where would writers like Ms Quinn be without readers who devour the stories novelists write? These readers don't only peruse books. A true reader is into short stories, creative nonfiction, essays, articles--almost anything in print. 

Readers are greedy--they always want to read more and more. Is it an addiction? Perhaps but, if so, it's certainly a positive one.  The poster above gives us one reason we love to read. Stories take us away from the everyday routine, stress, and to-do lists. I find reading my greatest form of relaxation.

No picture with this next poster but the words paint a vivid scene for us. And, if you're an avid reader, you'll be able to relate with a smile and a nod, whispering Been there, done that. 

I feel sorry for the person who never, or seldom, reads. They obviously don't feel like they are missing anything or they'd delve into the deep waters of the book world. I would love to be able to convince them that reading can enrich their lives in countless ways. I've heard many reasons, or excuses, from non readers. I don't have time. I like  to do physical things, not sit and read. I have no interest in reading; i hated it in school and still do. Who cares? Those of us who are voracious readers know that not only do we derive enjoyment from our reading but we learn so many things we might not have known otherwise. 

This final poster gives me a mental image of the non reader confined to a tiny little space on this planet arms at his/her side, eyes closed. In my visual, the reader has his/her arms spread wide and eyes opened, and a smile because of all the vicarious lives he/she has led through the myriad books and stories read. 

It's never too late to become a reader. Start today or tomorrow with a trip to your local library. Don't have a card? Well, step up to the desk. A librarian would be most happy to help you obtain one. Start scanning the shelves until a title attracts you. Read the frontispiece or back cover blurbs. When one piques your interest, check it out, go home and start reading. When you're finished, that library has thousands more books waiting just for you. Trust me on this--reading is a joy.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Fine Read--The Alice Network

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. When I saw The Alice Network by Kate Quinn advertised in Book Page, I put it on reserve at my local library. By the way, if you are an avid reader and want to know what's new in the world of books. pick up the free monthly edition at your local library (if they have it) or check it online. 

The novel is based on actual women who were spies in France during WWI but the story itself, while filled with real events and people, is fiction. Evelyn Gardiner lived in a time when women were rarely given an opportunity to do courageous, patriotic things. By chance, she was recruited as a spy by the British army. After training, she went to France and worked with a French woman, nicknamed Lili, who was the queen of spies at the time. She and her comrades became known as the Alice Network. 

The book opens in 1947 when Charlotte St. Clair, a 19 year old American is brought to England by her mother to take care of Charlotte, or Charlie as she prefers, 'little problem' in Switzerland. Charlie is pregnant, a not to be tolerated situation at that time. She is still suffering from the aftermath of her older brother's suicide after he returned from WWII fighting and the disappearance of a beloved French cousin named Rose. 

Charlie flees her mother and the posh hotel to search for her cousin. She cannot get money from her trust fund as she is a single woman--a sign of the times, so she pawns her grandmother's pearls, then heads to the home of Eve Gardiner, former spy with a name that she hopes will make Eve help her search. 

She finds a disheveled shell of a woman who is drunk more than sober, haunted by what happened 30 years earlier in WWI. Finn Gilgore, a Scotsman with a somewhat tarnished background, works for and watches over Eve. The three eventually team up and head to France and the search is on. 

The story moves seamlessly back and forth from 1915, when Eve was recruited to spy for the British, to 1947 when Charlie starts her search and tries to figure out what to do about the 'little problem.' 

The book hooked me right away. It's fast-paced, humorous at times and heart rending, as well. It offers plenty of tension making it hard to put down. Toss in a bit of romance and revenge and you couldn't ask for more in one book. The horrors of war are present throughout and perhaps not for the faint of heart. Kate Quinn has given us a fine story with a cast of memorable characters. 

This is a book that the reader will not easily forget. I give it 5 stars. I will definitely look for earlier books written by Kate Quinn.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Muses and Fairy Godmothers

Book and Fairy.jpg

In a perfect world, we'd all have a Fairy Godmother who could grant our every wish. The young lady above obviously has a manuscript sitting somewhere. Her wish is for nothing to enhance herself, such as a party dress. No, it's that deeply desired book contract instead. 

Where is our Fairy Godmother when we need help in our writing journey? And where the heck does our muse run off to now and then? Look all over and she's not to be found. It seems to happen when you need her most. 

You have an idea for a story but can't seem to sit down and start typing. You need your muse sitting on your shoulder, patting you and and smiling as she whispers Keep going, honey, you're doing fine. That little muse is a writer's best friend and worst enemy all rolled into one sugar cake. 

Some days she's smiling. Others she sits in the corner pouting. She can be loving. She can be mean. She can be helpful. She can be a major detriment. Face it--her mood usually mirrors yours. 

Where did this must thing get started? Go back to Greek Mythology to find these inspirational goddesses of literature, science and the arts. Today, it's any person who inspires a musician, artist or writer. Real or pretend?

Kids often have imaginary playmates but who's to say if they are a figment of the imagination or very real? Kids believe in them, talk to them, take them along to the playground, even blame their own naughtiness on them at times. So, why can't writers have a muse, imaginary or real, to basically do the same thing?  If we believe in them, it's between us and our muse. Nobody else! We sure aren't going to share her with another writer. Let 'em get their own muse. Right? 

A writer friend says she has lost her muse so she stopped writing for several weeks. That's too long for someone as talented as she is. She says she's looked everywhere for her muse but the darned girl keeps playing hide and seek. She pops in for a minute or two and then disappears again. My friend has decided to start writing again and let her muse decide if she wants to come along for the ride or not. I was glad to hear it. I think her muse will show up once my friend begins her next project.

How about you? Are you on good terms with your muse? Does she inspire you sometimes and then play the tease? Or is she always happy and helpful? If you have one like that, be glad, very glad. I get along pretty well with my muse most of the time. Now and then, she becomes a bit irritable and pouty. Then, I have to take a step back and wait until she's in a better mood before I start a new writing project. 

We may not have a Fairy Godmother that will wave her wand and produce a book contract for us but we do each have our very own muse who can help us achieve our writing goals. Maybe it's a book contract and perhaps it's writing for a magazine. It doesn't matter as long as she's there to inspire us. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Writer--You Are In Charge

WRITING as freedom

Until I saw this quote by author, Toni Morrison, I had never considered the issue of control in writing. The writer is in complete control of what he/she writes. Wow!

How many other parts of life are there where you are in total control? Not too many. We adhere to rules and morals and ethics as we go about our daily activities at home and at work. We have had to answer to parents, teachers, spouses, bosses, even our friends at times. 

But when you are writing, you are 100% in charge. Maybe that's one of the things that draws us to writing, even if subconsciously. 

As a writer, I can: 
  • manipulate the lives of fictional characters
  • create weather disasters
  • kill people
  • make people fall in love
  • bring on a natural disaster
  • be nasty
  • be lovable
  • make people angry, happy or sad if I write well
  • make things happen
  • turn a nasty person into a lovable teddy bear type
  • use words that I might not use in everyday conversation
  • make my own decisions
  • write as long or as short as I like
  • be erotic 
Yes, when I write, I am in control but once I start submitting my work, I lose control rapidly.

As a writer, I cannot: 
  • have a say in what editor will like my work. 
  • always write any number of words I want to 
  • ignore writer's guidelines
  • forget about the mechanics of writing
  • dictate to an editor or publisher
  • ignore reader responses
  • skip proofreading
So, maybe we writers have two worlds. When we sit at our computers, tapping our keyboards, we are in control. And it feels good. Very good. Once we step on the submission Ferris wheel, control dissipates like a handful of sand slipping through our fingers and those rules and regulations are back in play. 

We know nothing is perfect but enjoy the parts of your writing life that you can control. Then deal with the rest.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Day Filled With Stories

Only a week ago, I wrote a post about seeing story ideas while at a German Youth Symphony Orchestra concert. Every few minutes that evening, I saw a possible story to be written later.

Yesterday was much the same but in a different situation. Our daughter and her husband are on vacation with another couple. Their two children, 11 and 13, are being looked after by both sets of grandparents. We were on our way to start our half of the care giving time when I received a text from the children's Nana. It took my breath away! Our 13 year old granddaughter had passed out, cutting her chin on the edge of a counter top as she fell. Nana and Grandpa were on the way to the Emergency Room. STORY

Trying to remain calm, I called Nana to see if they wanted us to meet them at the hospital, wait at the house or what? We were only 15 minutes from our destination. She thought it would be best if we'd wait at the house and she'd let us know how things progressed. Modern technology allows us to keep in touch at all times. STORY

Of course, a hundred questions skipped merrily through my mind. Shortly after we'd arrived and been duly greeted by our two large granddogs, Nana texted that Jordan had her chin 'glued' and been checked out, ready to be dismissed. I texted back asking what they wanted to do about lunch. Our plan had been to go somewhere to eat, then back to the house for a small birthday celebration for Cole, soon to turn 11. Back and forth we texted trying to decide where to go. Decision made so we headed to the restaurant. STORY

Jordan told us that the doctor thought gluing was a better option than stitches and he explained some possible reasons for her fainting. She seemed perfectly normal which allowed Ken and me to breathe a sigh of relief. STORY

Next, we had a committee meeting at lunch as to when to tell the parents. We hated to disturb their vacation with this kind of news. Definitely would have had it been more serious. Mom and Dad facetime the kids late afternoon every day so it was decided to wait and tell them then. STORY

Still filled from a big lunch, we had Cole's birthday celebration when we got back to the house. He enjoyed being the center of attention after waiting patiently while Jordan was cared for at the hospital. And he also liked celebrating 2 weeks before his actual birthday. What boy wouldn't? STORY

Facetime with the parents arrived along with a multitude of questions with photos being sent from here to there. STORY

Nana and Grandpa left for home and we, Grandma and Poppy, took over supervising until Mom and Dad get home. We don't consider it babysitting any longer now that the kids are older. STORY

In the evening, the four of us played Monopoly. I cannot even begin to count how many years it's been since Ken and I have played that great game. What was so interesting was watching how each of the kids handled the money, bought property and negotiated to swap or buy more from other players. Turned out to be a very interesting evening with Poppy beating all three of us bigtime! STORY

Look how many stories there are in the things that happened in one day. Each place where you see the big, red STORY, a fully expanded tale could be written. Each one might be used as an example to begin an essay or a full family story to be saved for many years. I only hit the highlights here, but if you wrote the story, you would add emotion, sensory details, show a sense of place, some action and more.

As you go through your day, jot down notes about anyone or anything that could evolve into a full nonfiction story or something to use as a base for a fiction piece. Look for stories wherever you go, whatever you do.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Worthy Words For Writers

If you've ever sent in a submission to an editor and then sat back and waited, and waited, and waited some more, you know how frustrating it can be. Today's poster brings us a lovely picture and some worthy words. Let's look at the three pieces of advice it offers.

Believe:  To accomplish anything in this writing game, we do need to be able to believe that we can be successful. Many beginners start out with the attitude that they will write this and then write that and sell them and keep on going on the carousel where the brass ring awaits. Then, reality hits when rejection after rejection arrives, or worse--when no word arrives at all. It doesn't take long to deflate and sink into despair. At that point, it's time to step back and quiz yourself. Do you believe in yourself as a writer? If you do, you'll knock away those rejections and move on to a new writing project. If you believe in yourself, you'll forge ahead, not give up. One way to believe in yourself as a writer is to take an objective look at several pieces you've written. Try to trade places with your readers. How do see the story, essay or poem? Is it interesting? Is it error-free? Is it motivating, stimulating or inspiring? If you can answer yes to most of the questions, you can feel assured that you are truly a 'writer' and keep writing. If you answered no to some or all, it's time to work on those items. If you believe in yourself as a writer, you can make adjustments or improvements. If you don't believe, you can end up stuck where you are. 

Wait: Oh, how hard it is to wait and wait and wait to hear about a submission. If you've read books on the craft of writing, the universal advice on submitting your work is to submit and then immediately move on to the next writing project. Submit and write at all times. Keep the Ferris wheel of submissions moving. Submit one piece, then another and another along with starting new writing projects. A dear writer friend just finished her first novel. She announced recently that she has submitted it to a contest and three publishers. Now, she begins The Long Wait. She's a good writer and will get back to writing immediately. But even busy writing, underneath, she is waiting with butterflies in her tummy. I've often said that becoming a writer has taught me to be a more patient person. Nothing happens fast in this business. 

Don't give up: This is probably the most important of the three pieces of advice here today. If you become hurt over rejections, start doubting yourself, or become terribly frustrated with the waiting, it's quite possible that you'll decide to chuck it all and move on with your life. If you truly love to write and if you like what you write, stay the course. Don't give up! There are a lot of words that can be applied here-- words like patience, persistence, determination, stubborn, goal-setter, hard-working, passionate. How many of these labels apply to you? If you don't have some of these traits, how can you acquire them? Go back to the Believe part, then Wait and see what happens. Please Don't give up.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Story About Sisters

I saw this poster yesterday and it made me think of a story I had published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Sisters II book a few years back. I'd always wanted a sister but, instead, I had three younger brothers. So many nights, I wished on a star for that sister. My wish was finally granted in an unusual way. Here's the story:

Wish Upon A Star

By Nancy Julien Kopp

Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight,
I wish I may,
I wish I might
have this wish
I wish tonight
I wish..

I repeated the childhood poem on myriad starlit nights and finished with: "I wish for a baby sister." God would hear I told myself, for wasn't a wish like mine the same as a prayer? Perhaps God heard, but He chose to answer in a slightly different manner. When I neared four, He sent me a baby brother. At age eight, another brother joined our household. Even so, I continued to watch for the first star of the evening and repeated my wish. No baby sister arrived. When I'd nearly given up, my parents informed me there was to be another baby.

My heart soared with hope. Finally, my baby sister would be a reality. It didn’t  matter that I would be sixteen when she made her appearance. All through the months of waiting, I watched for the first evening star and repeated the same words "I wish for a baby sister." She'd make her appearance in May, which pleased me for it was also my birth month. In May, trees blossomed and grass showed a new spring green coat, the sun warmed us, and gentle rains urged tulips from their winter's sleep, the perfect time for my longtime wish to come true.

Dad called from the hospital to tell me that our new brother had arrived. Brother? My heart nearly broke. Three strikes and you're out--baseball or baby sisters; same difference. Though disappointed, I soon adored my third brother. I accepted the fact that I'd never have a sister. I even stopped repeating my wish whenever I spied the first evening star.

I loved my three brothers, but something seemed to be missing in my otherwise full life. Girlfriends held special places in my heart throughout high school, college, and newlywed years. But I still felt incomplete in some way. When I heard other women mention their sisters, a little pang rose within me. It couldn't be called jealousy. No, it was more a pang of envy. I chastised myself for feeling this way when I had a wonderful daughter and, as time went on, three beautiful granddaughters.

Once my children were independent, I pursued a life-long wish to write. Many of my stories found a home at an inspirational e-zine. Fan mail arrived from readers. Another writer wrote often to comment on my stories. It was a mutual admiration society, as I loved the folksy humor she injected in her stories, the way she taught life's lessons with amazing tales, and the manner in which she used words and phrases.  Pictures of her appeared in the e-zine, and I admired the sparkle in her eye and the broad smile she had. Our e-mails became more frequent. She lived on a mountaintop, raising donkeys and loving her family. I lived in a university town with neighbors nearby and no pets but also loving my family. Kathe often mentioned another writer who was also a marvelous editor. Before long, the three of us were good buddies.

In time, our three-way friendship grew strong. In an e-mail, Kathe said she had something serious to discuss, something for me to ponder upon. Would I consider being her sister since she'd never had one? I knew this was no joke, and I sat in front of my computer feeling stunned. A lump rose in my throat and tears threatened. Pleasure warmed me from head to toe as my childhood wish was granted in my sixth decade of life. But this would be no baby sister, because Kathe was seven years older than I. After all the years of waiting, I wasn't about to quibble. My fingers flew over the keyboard as I wrote a glowing acceptance.

Not long after, she wrote to ask what I'd think about asking that sweet Maria to be our younger sister. And so it came to be that we three are sisters of the heart. Kathe is the eldest, I am the middle sister, and Maria is our baby sister. Is it only coincidence that she is the same age as my youngest brother? The messages fly between us. We edit one another's stories before they are sent to an editor. We rejoice when they sell, and we commiserate when they don't. We bare our souls to one another.

I had the great good fortune to finally meet my older sister in the flesh, since my husband and I traveled through her state The long hug we gave one another sealed our sisterly bond forever. We talked nonstop for two days, the way sisters do. Late on the second afternoon, a phone call from Maria brought more chatter between the three of us. How wonderful if Maria might have joined us on top of Kathe's mountain.

One day, we three sisters of the heart will find ourselves together in a place where we can give hugs whenever we like. Meanwhile, the messages fly through cyberspace. Each one is filled with the love only a sister can pass along to another sister. Now, when I see the first evening star, I repeat the little poem to myself and just smile. My sisters were worth the wait.

Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Sisters II

Note:  Kathe Campbell passed away in November of 2015. I still miss our daily echats.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Never Too Old To Write

A writer I know just turned 80. She's still writing, still blogging, still getting published. Is she too old for all that? Not by a longshot! She's obviously passionate about writing and my guess is that she will keep writing until she physically can no longer do it Hopefully, that will be a very long time from now. I am very close to that same age and I hope I never stop writing.

What about senior citizens who have never written anything? Can they become writers, too? You bet they can. I firmly believe we are never too old to learn--just like today's poster says. Too many dream of writing for years and years, then they reach a point where they convince themselves that it's too late to begin. Begin today or tomorrow but begin! A writing journey is like all others--it begins at the beginning. If you start writing in your later years, your journey will not be as long as someone who sets out in their twenties or thirties but that's alright. 


I love this photo and quote. As long as we work at something, we're fine. Give up and it's a different story. There are great numbers of older people who are trying their hand at memoir pieces. Tackling a full book might be overwhelming but writing one story at a time is easily accomplished. What do seniors have to do to become a writer? They need to do just what a young writer needs to do--learn by reading about writing, brush up on grammar and other mechanics, maybe take a class and talk with others who've tried writing. 

Lots of senior centers or senior living places across our country now offer classes to help seniors write life stories by bits and pieces. One simple class like this could be the spark that sets your writing desire afire. Writing has no age limit. One does not need to be 100% physically fit to accomplish the craft of writing. 

Are you guaranteed to be a success? Of course not! That is only because no one is guaranteed success in the writing world, no matter what the age. You may not want to be published. you might have the desire to write only your life stories to leave to your family. What a treasure that would be for them. 

A senior writer has one big advantage over the very young writer. Summed up in one word, it's experience. Think of all the things seniors have done, have witnessed in their lifetime. 

You need to have the desire, the courage to try, and the will to jump in now. Not tomorrow or next week or next month. Now! 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An Evening of Music and Stories To Be Written

Ahrensburg Youth Symphony Orchestra

Last night, we attended a concert on the K-State campus presented by the Ahrensburg Youth Symphony Orchestra. In that word 'presented' is the word 'present' and, believe me, their performance was a 'gift' to the people in the audience. This orchestra, made up of 14-25 year olds from the Hamburg, Germany region, is on tour in the USA. They were so professional, so precise, and just plain wonderful. 

As the evening began, I quickly realized that there were many stories here that a writer could tap. The opening number was a combination group of the German orchestra plus members of our Manhattan High School Gold Orchestra. There had to be a story in the blending of the two.

The director of the Manhattan group is a professor emeritus at Kansas State University. It was announced that he would be retiring after this year. There was a story waiting to be told about Professor Littrell. 

The next series came from operas with a soprano soloist. She was introduced by the German conductor. He told about meeting her, admiring her and falling in love with her work. Another story to be written someday.

Another soloist moved her instrument to the front of the stage with a mover's dolly. She played the harp. At 17, she has won 1st place in German competition 4 years, beginning her journey with the harp at age 11. She mesmerized the audience but I could not help but wonder what she might have missed in her growing-up years with all the time devoted to her passion--the harp. One more story!

The German youth are here for 5 days and they are being housed in the homes of our Manhattan orchestra students and some host families from a church. How the students from two countries bonded with their common love of music would definitely be one more story. 

Another story I saw was in the selection of music the orchestra played. It went from classical to opera to movie themes. Who decided that? Which was the favorite? How did they select the individual pieces? 

I noted many families in the audience. Parents brought young children to perhaps inspire them to try playing a musical instrument. The silent message being--see what you can achieve with hard work. A story on parenting might be written using this example.

In a short two hours, I pinpointed many possible stories. So writer, look around you. There are stories galore. Use your writer's eye to find them. Take time to interview or talk to people involved and then start writing. I shake my head when writers say they don't know what to write about. There are stories swirling like a swarm of honeybees everywhere you go.