owl in winter

owl in winter

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Thought You Would Write Nice Stories...

Maybe I should have characterized this post as "Character Definition" or, more to the point, "Don't be Afraid of Your Characters." No matter. You will understand what I mean as you read this.

Here's the deal.

A few years ago, when I first revealed to my parents my intentions of becoming a published author, my mother said, "I thought you would write childrens' stories. I mean, I thought you were writing childrens' stories."

What? Had I ever given that impression?

I must have looked confused because, then she revised her theme to say, "I thought you were writing nice stories."

Nice stories?

I may have looked more confused at that point.

I asked her what she meant by nice stories. "Oh, you know, no cursing. No dirty stuff, nobody doing bad things, you know, nice stories. I like the movie, 'Sarah, Great and Tall,' you know, a story like that."

Uh hunh. Nice stories. I have never seen "Sarah, Great and Tall." Maybe I should. Maybe I would understand more if I did see it. But, I haven't and probably won't. Sounds a little, shall I say, pedestrian, to me? Well, you know, I understand my mother is 75 years old and so...gotta give a little leeway. HOWEVER.

Speaking about writing now. I said all that to say this. Don't be afraid of your characters.

Think about it. Your characters are as real as you are. You were born someplace. Your parents came from somewhere, whether it was from Europe or from across the road. Maybe you nearly died at birth. Maybe you were so huge at birth, your mother died. Maybe your parents were of a particular religion or creed with all its constraints and/or joys, and traditions. Maybe you went to parochial school and a nun didn't like you and showed it and it affected you later in some awful way. Maybe you went to public school, where you had your first crush. Think about this. Maybe your parents got a divorce. Why? Maybe your father was abusive. Maybe your mother was timid. Why was your father abusive? What made your mother timid? Were your parents uneducated? Is that why they talked like that or believed the things they believed? Why? Maybe you moved around a lot and never made a connection anywhere. Maybe you yearned for more out of life and never got it. Maybe you yearned for more and it was the catalyst to make you what you are today. One thing that has shown up in my stories time after time, is diversity. I grew up with color. I am acquainted with different types of sexual orientation. These things do not frighten me; they shouldn't frighten you in your writing either.

Pull it all in, folks. Life is about conflict. Without conflict you have no story. If all your characters are nice, if they only behave nicely, if only nice things come about, what is your story? Sorry but snoozeville here and probably everywhere else as well.

Let your characters be human; allow them that. They will get up and move and they won't always move the way you expect or plan or even want. They do have minds of their own, after all. They have backstory, they have had a life somewhere, one that you may not necessarily like or approve of, but one that adds to the layers of your story. Don't be afraid to go there and, take it all the way.

Cardinal rule right here. Be honest. Never, ever lie to your readers. This is paramount. Maybe this is why I have a problem with so-called "Christian Fiction." I know there is a big market for this genre right now and that is fine but, I just have to say my piece and let it go. Never, ever pretend that your characters are so noble that they can never say a bad word or behave in a less than noble way. Would not happen in real life, don't put your characters through it. Make them real. Make your people believable. If you can do that, you can produce a good story. A believable story.
And, seriously, that is what your readers want. They want something they can hold onto, something to identify with, to say, "yeah, I felt that way once," or, "that happened to me," or maybe to someone they knew but at any rate, they want to identify, to relate. They want to be able to absorb your writing, take it in by osmosis. Your readers want REAL.

Okay, go to the page and write. Tell the truth. Don't be afraid. Be real. Ready, get set, go!

It All Started So Well

It did. It all started so well. Even with the rain. Even with the falling temperatures. Even with the dimming sunlight. My oldest son's girlfriend, Kelcey, was with us, all aglow at the idea of having a big family Christmas, bless her heart. It was supposed to be perfect. The gaily wrapped presents were packed. I had packed the cheesecake and raspberry topping, we were ready to rumble for the familial Christmas Eve at my parents' house.

To begin with, you may have seen my quasi-rant on http://www.facebook.com/ about my family's Christmas Eve misadventure. After I posted it, as common sense would have it, I thought better of having done so but it was too late. Out there, for all the world to see. And I really wished I had not done it. It just seemed like the wrong thing to do, at least on that medium, which is all about sound bites anyway and the whole story probably never gets told. So, I felt guilty afterward and wished I could retract the whole thing.

The story is: As with every Christmas Eve, we venture over the highway and through the burgs to my parents' house, which is probably 75 miles from my front door. Right about the time we hit Mansfield, Mo, approximately 20 miles from destination point zero, the oil light came on and approximately one second after that, the knocking started. What the crap? I have been a pretty attentive car owner, yes indeed. I check my oil. I perform routine maintenance, or at least my mechanic does; point is, I'm on it.

Well, so we're knocking to beat the band. We pull off the highway, drive the car up to Lazy Lee's convenience store, and I am thinking, well, my brother lives not far from here, maybe we can get that far and hitch a ride with him to our parents' house, the car wildly knocking the whole time. So, we limp the five or so blocks over there. Nobody home.

The rain keeps pouring, the temperatures keep slipping.

We limp my Xterra back to Lazy Lee's where I go in to find a phone. "Is there a phone here?" I ask the clerk. She's not in a very good mood, this being Christmas Eve and she has to work. I'm sure she has other obligations and other interests at that moment and she probably is not real thrilled about having to work when she has so much to do. "No," she says without looking at me. She's looking beyond me to the next person in line.

Christmas Eve. No room at the inn.

I say, "Look, my car just blew its motor, I'm from Springfield, I need to use a phone. Have you got a phone?"

She hands her blackberry over to me, and I find I can't read the numbers on it because they are so small and the flourescent lights are glaring on it, and my aging eyes can't see squat sometimes, so she ends up having to dial for me and I call my parents. "We'll be right there," my mother says. I ask the clerk what I owe her for using her personal phone and she shakes her head and says, "nothing." Merry Christmas to you, unknown clerk at Lazy Lee's in Mansfield, Mo. There are angels everywhere, you know it?

Some 25 minutes later, my 75-yr old father pulls up. The man who's been my hero since I was born, here yet again, to rescue his now middle-aged daughter from yet another fiasco. Oh, the stories we could tell. But won't.

Long story short now because it's probably boring at this point - my car was towed to Springfield by my sister's fiance. I'll get it repaired, I hope, this week. The verdict seems to be that I must have run over something that punctured my oil line because the car still starts right up, and there was really no reason for the oil light to come on and then all go to crap in one instant unless I had indeed hit something. So, Christmas Eve, sitting at Lazy Lee's in the dark, rain pelting, all of us in my car with the windows all fogged over and just sitting there wondering how it would all turn out, waiting on my father, I remember turning to Kelcey and saying, "Are you sure you want to take any more road trips with us?" to which she laughed and said all was fine. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve at my parents' house and all's well that ends well. And it has ended pretty well. We live to tell the story, right?
We do indeed, and, here's my dad.
See ya.

Listening to the wind blow...

So, hey, it was a white Christmas in southwest Missouri this year. After returning from our disastrous journey to Mountain Grove on Christmas Eve, I dropped into bed and listened to the wind howl outside my window for hours before falling asleep. I remember hearing that sound every night of my life in Minnesota and I could imagine myself back there, huddled underneath heaps of quilts in my little blue bedroom with the two windows that faced north. Sitting here, right now, today at 1:26 p.m., Sunday, December 27th, I am listening to my wind chimes on the front porch, being bouyed and smashed together by the wind...It may be freezing out there but it is toasty in here.
This is what we have to chase the chill today.
Beef Stew
1 1/2 - 2 lbs. top round steak, cut into cubes
1 c. flour
2 teas. salt
1/4 teas. pepper
thyme, to taste
Combine the flour, salt, pepper and thyme in a gallon sealable plastic bag. Drop the meat cubes in and shake to coat. Heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in dutch oven or soup pot. Drop meat cubes in, reserving flour mixture, and brown well.
Beef stock
Carrots, chopped
Onions, quartered
Cabbage, quartered
Celery, chopped
1 Bay leaf
1 8 0z. can tomato sauce
Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt and pepper
Pour 2 - 2 1/2 cups beef stock into the pot with the meat. Since you've seasoned your flour mixture and since beef stock will have salt in it, there is really no need to add more (I know, sounds like I'm violating my principal rule of seasoning the layers, but I'm really not, this time). Throw in a bay leaf, maybe a little more pepper and thyme. Let that cook while you are getting your vegetables ready - the amounts are subjective, whatever you like. Drop vegetables in, pour tomato sauce over and stir. Cover, bring to boil and then turn down to simmer for about 2 hours. Stir in reserved flour mixture until soup thickens. Season to taste.
Sometimes, I will pour maybe a quarter cup red wine in while everything is simmering but if you don't drink, you don't have to put it in. It just adds another depth of flavor, in my opinion. About the wine, just make sure it is a wine you would want to drink so don't dump one of the cheapos in. A burgundy or pinot noir generally works real well.
Also, I know you can buy beef stew meat pre-cubed but I had a bad experience with that once and have not bought it since. Besides, I find it too fatty and not as flavorful as I would like so I prefer top round to anything else.
Well, I plan on sitting here, next to the fire, with a steaming bowl of beef stew, listening to the wind blow for awhile. Have a wonderful Sunday and I will see you on Sunday Musings very soon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And a Merry Christmas to All

I hope you and yours have a very Merry, prosperous, healthy, and joyous Christmas!

Will post again after this wonderful and riotous Christmas season! Don't forget me and please come back.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rituals, Respite, Refuge

So, here we are, bounced once again into the holiday season. For me, this time of year becomes a time for introspection; a time to consider where I am at this moment and where I would like to be next year at this moment. After all the celebrating, the shopping, the eating, the giving, yes, I do like to take some time and just be silent for a little while. I have some rituals, which provide me respite and which I take refuge in.

Having said that, I did venture out today to do some holiday shopping. Springfield has become Wacko-City, which it generally does at this time of year. If you like stalled traffic, horns honking, pushing, shoving, anxious shoppers oblivious to anything but their own shopping angst, well, this city is for you right about now. Me, not so much. I keep telling myself, next month begins tax season and that aint so much fun so, enjoy the moment now.

And I do love Christmas.

So, back to rituals, respite and refuge.

Since I was a teenager, every Christmas season, I've endeavored to set aside time to just be quiet and read or re-read something I really love. Years ago, it was The Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Rings trilogy. Read that every December, tucked into my Minnesota bed at night with the wind roaring outside and loved it. Isn't it funny how you can pick up on things you didn't read the time before?

The last several years, however, I've read and re-read Rosamunde Pilcher's "Winter Solstice."

Ms. Pilcher is in high esteem in my book. Her writing is rich, sumptuous, human. Who can resist a troubled young teen, a woman lost in love for a man she cannot have, and most of all, who can resist a years old-love story? If you haven't read it, you really need to.

I am in the midst of re-reading "Winter Solstice." These days, instead of tucking myself into my Minnesota flannel-sheeted bed, listening to the wind howl outside my window, I tuck myself into my Missouri regular cotton sheets, and I revel (another "R" word) in Elfrida Phipps, Oscar Blundell, Lucy, Carrie and Sam. It's a good Christmas read and a good ritual, a fine place for respite and refuge. Before the tax man cometh.

What are your rituals? How do you keep your sanity during this topsy-turvy, riotous holiday season?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Process, or Part of it Anyway

I spent part of my day today with a dear friend, who lives in a different town. Her husband recently lost his job and mentioned to me today that since he is out of work and has time, he has given a lot of thought to writing a book. He really wants to write a book. He has all these thoughts in his head and wants to do something with them. Bravo! Seriously, I wish I could have stayed longer, drunk some wine, and shared some thoughts I have with him but, as I had obligations in Springfield, I journeyed back home, only being able to share this with him before I departed, "Get the words out of your head and on paper. Don't worry about anything else, just get the words out."

We probably have, at some point in our writing careers, had somebody come out and shake the red pen at us and cry, "format, format, format!" I even know of one person who claims to format as she goes.

Well and good, I suppose. Formatting has its place, do not get me wrong but a first draft is all about getting the words out of your head and on paper. Creativity does not breathe in a box. I notice that when I start becoming concerned about formatting as I am writing, the process shuts down. It becomes mechanical, dry, passionless.

I don't want to write that way. Do you?

Now having said that, I don't want anyone to perceive that I don't know there is discipline in writing because I know there is. You have to do it often, every day is best, you have to push through barriers and keep your thoughts and stories alive. The point is, do not worry about having perfect sentence structure or proper margins or starting every new chapter halfway down the page. Do open your mind and let what's in your mind flow out onto your medium, paper or computer screen, whatever you are using. Let it flow. When the appropriate time comes, you can and should and will go back and refine.

Get the words out of your head an on paper.

Just do that and in time, you will find your rhythym.

Make sense?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Back to Work

I need to get back to work, the real work, the nourishing, cleansing work that has been so important to me the last four or five years. It's the nuts and bolts that I need now. I've languished too long, worrying about creativity, worrying about not having enough time, worrying about how to get it all done and just not starting it. I make a promise to myself to dive back into my passion with all my heart.

I haven't talked about the MIP much, which doesn't lend much credibility to me as a writer but a writer I am and not so much a teacher but, more of a cheerleader to you and other writers out there who need to hear the words, "you can write." So, before I go back to work on the MIP, let's link arms for a second and say, "we are writers. We write."

Layers. Let's talk about layers for a minute.

I can relate this idea back to cooking (of course). I know people who season in the beginning or who season at the very end of a dish but, neither approach is right. Season the layers. Think about those onions sauteing in butter. Go ahead, salt and pepper them. Throw a little garlic in, or thyme, or red pepper flakes, whatever gives you a kick, whatever moves the dish along. Maybe then, you drop in some flour, stir that around and then pour in your liquid. How about a little more salt, a little more pepper, a little more something-something to give it some jazz? You're stirring your sauce, it's thickened, it's almost finished. Pull out some nutmeg, maybe or a little more thyme, a little more red pepper flakes. Now you've got it.

It's the same sort of thing with our characters. We must give our characters life, we must give them energy (whether good or bad), we must provide them with depth. Where do they come from? What was their childhood like? Were they abandoned once? Did they witness a terrible act? What was their favorite vacation? What memories do they have of other places? Think about a joyful moment in their lives, something that will bear on the story you are telling. Describe it. Why does it matter so much?

So, when we're developing our characters, we pull from the pantry of our imagination the garlic, the cumin, the chives and we begin our layers, we give our characters depth of flavor. Let your characters speak to you, listen to their voices.

Does this make sense to you?

By the way, the photo above contains several books that I believe are useful to any writer. All of them can be found at Barnes & Noble. One is "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. Donald Maass's "The Career Novelist" and "Writing the Breakout Novel" are also featured, as well as an edition of "Writers Digest" with one of my favorite authors on the front, Anne Tyler. The purple print-out contains an article I wrote for a dear friend and it is actually the program guide to the Indian celebration she allowed me to be a part of this past spring. Go to http://www.amykitchenerfdn.org/ for more details on the Trail of Tears and the Weeping Waters Cultural Heritage Award.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Light to Come Home To

The days have gone short; dusk comes early. I have to go out tonight and run a short errand and I feel an eagerness to keep a lamp lit for my return. I want to see its yellow warmth spilling through my window, welcoming me home.

It makes me feel warm. It makes me feel as if I've not left at all.

In these shortened days, when twilight deepens to midnight blue before supper, what small comforts do you take for yourself?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken and dumplings but, more than that

A good friend of mine recently sent out a notification, via facebook.com, that she is a miserable cook and cannot make chicken and dumplings, specifically, dumplings.

Oh haha, come on now. Of course she can. And, she is not a miserable cook. Just review the dang tricks.

Suppose you've already gotten your chicken mixture on the burner; no need for me to reitrerate that here because that's all yours, whatever you want.

Now, for the dumplings:

3/4 c. flour

1 teas. chopped fresh parsley

1 teas. baking powder

1/8 teas. salt

dash nutmeg, if desired and let me tell you, I desire a little nutmeg.

1/3 c. milk

1 TBSP oil

1 egg

Okay, so mix all this up and drop by tablespoons into your chicken mixture. Your chicken mixture should be at a boil at this time. Let it go for fifteen minutes turning down the temperature - DO NOT LIFT THE LID. DO NOT GO THERE, BABYCAKES. I know, everybody wants to but don't. Wait it out.

So, then, your chicken and dumplings mixture should be good. Eat, drink and be merry on me!

Oh, the other thing is, drink good wine with this, maybe a pinot grigio.

Just saying...

At this point, I don't have a photo to share, wish I did but I don't. That doesn't mean there won't be one later on so, please check back.

Let me know how it went for you.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Olive Kitteridge

I finished "Olive Kitteridge" (Elizabeth Strout) this morning and as I set the book down on the coffee table, a lingering disappointment that I will not know what happens next in her life settled over me. I suspect I do know what happens next but, Olive will not be here to tell me whether I am right or not.

Set in little Crosby, Maine, where the natives don't waste a lot of words on newcomers, and marriages contain cracks and secrets are kept like glass jars of tomatoes in Grandma's cellar, "Olive Kitteridge" made me feel a part of the landscape for 270 pages. The writing is spartan, much like the speech patterns of said natives, but still exudes warmth and empathy. The book is actually a series of short stories about different townspeople, all woven together by one common element, that being Olive herself.

Olive Kitteridge is one of those people who are larger than life, bigger than the room, scary and overpowering but at the same time, suffering and sad. I was determined not to like her at first. Look at the way she treated her amiable husband, Henry, how she alienated their son, Christopher, the way she talked to everyone around her as if no one's feelings were of any consequence whatsoever.

But, Olive, she is a surprise. Olive is funny and perceptive. Her inner rantings and outer ravings are without a doubt, on the money. She can be suddenly kind, although I suspect she wouldn't want anyone to know that. Olive is deliciously enticing, like an exotic treat.
Here's the thing. What Olive doesn't know is that all those years she spent wishing for an end (a quick end) was wasted in that what she really wanted was a beginning.

I miss Olive, now that I have turned the last page and put the book down. I miss her a lot.

What books are you reading?

Pecan Bars


1 cup flour
1/4 cup softened butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teas. baking powder
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix the above ingredients together until a crumbly mixture forms. Press into an ungreased 11x9 pan and bake for 12 minutes.


4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 3/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teas. salt
2 teas. vanilla
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix at medium speed until well blended. Pour over crust, return pan to oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Store loosely covered.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A year or so ago, I wrote a piece for our Springfield Writer's Guild monthly newsletter, the Free Lancer, on "Getting Your Joy Back." Encouragement is something a writer craves. We all want to be validated as writers, of course. Sadly, we also can become discouraged and empty. So, I was looking for my draft of this article the other day wanting to share it with you, and I finally found it. As I was working through it again, I realized it was getting longer and longer and longer and well, I hope you don't feel provoked to glance away every so often wondering, "when will this woman shut up?"
Here it is. For you, the one in need, I hope you it nourishes you.

You are a writer. You used to rush to your computer or your notebook with such joy, such anticipation, ready to write the words that would set the world on fire and now, you procrastinate, you pause. You’ll do it tomorrow. You’ll get back at it when this is done or that is finished or, when you get the time.
That zing! feeling is not there anymore. The words do not come easily or at all, and you would just rather go cut grass than sit down one more time and try to write something. You take a deep breath and consider that pile of laundry waiting for you and then, you go work on that instead of your writing.
You have lost your joy.
The diagnosis is easy but, what to do about it? You are still a writer and the dream is still there. The words remain huddled under sheets in the corners of your mind behind the grocery list and the “to-do” list. How to get them out? How to shake off that cloak, that suffocating wool blanket of burn-out and get the fountain flowing again?

The world pulls on us. It moves so quickly these days. We have the so much to do, so little time syndrome. We become exhausted; we may lose faith in ourselves, the business, our lives.
So, quiet yourself now and think back to that defining moment when you first knew you wanted to write. Remember how wildly exciting it was? What was happening? Where were you in your life? What did you imagine a writing career would be like?
Here’s the thing.
Your only job is to show up. Someone said once, “Do what is yours to do today.” Do not put yourself under the pressure to succeed, to be a “real writer;” just immerse yourself in the story and characters you are creating. Give them a voice and let them speak to you.
Do not judge what you write, just write it. Do not worry about “the rules.” That will come later. Do not show your baby too soon. Be a little protective at first. Your work is like a beautiful soufflĂ© rising in the oven and then, one opens the over door a little too soon and it falls flat.
Be a mid-wife to your friends’ books. Cheer them on, read with them. Believe in your own brilliance.

But do the writing. Writing begets writing.

Here is something else to consider. What are the stories you tell yourself? What are the stumbling blocks you put in your road? Because, like it or not, that is what we do. You say, “I’d like to be a writer but …” What are your stumbling blocks? Once you identify those, you have taken the first step to getting back in the business of writing and you are also ready to think about discipline.

There is discipline in writing. I do not believe one can expect the Muse to show up and light the way to success if one is not willing to do the work. This statement is pragmatic at best, I suppose and maybe not all that profound but I believe it to be true. It may be helpful to schedule yourself writing increments. Maybe twenty minutes a day to begin before you pull up the internet, before your read your email, check your horoscope, or before you turn on the television. Write before the distractions start. You can increase the increment later on. Once you implement this strategy, I think you will find that the words flow much more easily, new ideas spring up (you will be surprised), and you’ll feel that blood pounding certainty once again that you were born to write.
You tell the stories you tell because you want to amuse people, entice people, create an escape or a sanctuary. I was asked recently, “Why do you write?” Now, I’m coming from the standpoint of writing fiction. You may write something else and so your response will undoubtedly be different. However, my response was that I want the busy, harried female executive who’s getting on a plane for a long business trip to be able to slow down for a little while by entering into the world of one of my stories. There is a young, suburban mother somewhere who wants a retreat for an hour or two while her baby sleeps. Whatever the greater power is, there is some greater power that’s instigated this drive to drop words out on paper and not because I think I’m all that and a bag of chips. I think of it as a gift to a disjointed world, which has been put into my hands to do.

Someone once told me: you do not have to be the judge to your work; you just have to be the conduit. What a wise woman! This is freeing in so many ways. It allows you to let go of the end result and concentrate on the immediate work. It allows you to make this page, or this chapter, or this paragraph the best it can be.

One last thing. What are your goals as a writer? Think about what they were at the beginning of your work and what they are now. Believe in great things for yourself. Others have done it, why not you? Perfect your craft, polish your work.
So, now you go and begin at the beginning. What was it like when you knew you wanted to be a writer? Identify your stumbling blocks then discard them. Permit, or order, yourself twenty minutes a day to write. Put the distractions out. Think about why you do what you do. Remember your goals. And then let go and allow the words to flow onto paper.
Let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New York Mega-Agent Donald Maass posted a blog on Writer Unboxed about an hour ago as I write this called "The Irresistible Novel." I invite you to read it and be inspired by it. You can find it here, on my blog page. You can also find Donald Maass at www.maassagency.com.

I met Donald Maass several years ago at the Pike's Peak Writers Conference. I was truly surprised by the man I met and I realize now that I was so completely awed by all the agents who attended that I had a vision of a much larger man, taller, broader, something. So, there he was, a slight man, not a lot taller than I am and I am not a tall woman but, oh, the energy! The light in his eyes! And the knowledge he has. I attended several of his lectures and every one of them was meaty and informative and just downright fun.

"The Irresistible Novel" tells me that I am just as entitled as anyone else to greatness and so are you. I can write better, not just better but gloriously. So can you.

So, go pour that cup of coffee and settle in, put your feet up and drink from the wealth of Donald Maass's cup. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Work in Progress

Here is a short bit from the MIP:

Jeanne’s discovery that spring left her feeling sad, futile. Why didn’t I see this before? She would come to ask herself the same question over and over again. Who is responsible?
For, just beyond the stone wall, the wall that divided her lawn from the woods beyond, Jeanne discovered a macabre and sad secret.
So tender it was and so unfortunate.
“Why would anyone leave it this way?” she wondered aloud.
In chasing after Jack, the new dog, having lost her old dog, Mallory, to some sort of cancer, Jeanne stumbled upon a tiny alcove of sorts just beyond the stone wall, built of stone, nearly the same stone as the wall itself and inside a tiny cavern, Jeanne discovered some sort of truth.
She drew her breath in sharply. “Jack! Jack!” she shouted. Finally, the black lab responded, only to nudge her arm with his nose. “Stay here,” she ordered, although she knew he didn’t understand and could care less. Such a free, uninhibited spirit. No, more like untrained dog. A brat dog. Jeanne shrugged and turned back to the stone shrine and looked again. Jack decided to lie down in the half-frozen grass beside her, panting, eyes fixated on her and what she might be doing. Would it prove interesting, that was all he cared about.
Jeanne drew the old, dead hay aside, the hay that covered the entrance to the hole in which lay a wrapping of some kind. She drew it forth and laid it in her lap. So small, so fragile, what could it be? She drew the cloth apart and shrieked. The contents fell from her lap to the ground.
“Oh my God!”

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Importance of Linking Up

Saturday, I attended our Springfield Writers' Guild meeting. I'm the secretary of the Guild by the way; shameful plug coming. We meet the 4th Saturday of each month, beginning at 11:00 am, beginning with a Mentor Hour, break for lunch at noon and then come back at 1:00pm for a speaker and business meeting. We meet at the Heritage Cafeteria in Springfield and fellow writers, published or unpublished, are invited. Let me give you the website for your perusal: www.swgsite.org. Come by! We'd love to see you!

This past Saturday, our speaker at the guild meeting was author and professor, Barri Bumgarner. I've linked her to my blog so I can follow her and you can too. She is an amazingly talented writer and speaker. Buy her books, folks. She is wonderful.

Now, here are my thoughts on the importance of linking up. Being a writer is a lonely road to travel. It is a solitary journey, being in our own heads. Most people, the non-writing ones anyway, don't want to walk around in there. In fact, they get that deer in the headlight look when you so humbly confess, "I am a writer. I write." They look at us as if we've suddenly burst out singing a Japanese opera. Should they call for help or just laugh? You know the look. "Don't quit your day job." That look.

The thing is, we are not going to get support, real support from anyone but fellow writers. So, as writers, we have to depend on one another for encouragement, for support, or for that kick in the ass when we are not as motivated as we should be. This is important. We need to link up, support each other, interact with one another. Be inspired by one another. Barri inspired me to start this blog, actually. My hope is to link up with other writers, agents, or publishers. See? She inspired me! Who's inspiring you?

It is critical to have a network. Writing groups are essential. Entering contests is a good way to elevate your confidence as a writer, whether you win or not. Just allowing yourself to step out there and turn your work over to other people for their review brings about credibility as a writer. Blog with other writers. Visit websites, leave a comment.

Think about that. Until next time...write with all your heart. Don't hold back. Believe in yourself. Believe in what you do. Join a group. Reach out to other writers. Submit to a contest. Know that your words to the world are important. If you don't tell your story, it won't get told and we're all waiting to hear it.

Most important, don't give up.


Sunday, October 25, 2009


Welcome and come in!

As you can see, this blog is "Under Construction" and I have to say right off I know so little about what I'm doing that I'm scaring myself silly. If any of you more experienced bloggers out there have some tips, they are most welcome.

I am a writer and a talker and a cook and an eater and eventually, the Plan is to have photos, writings and all kinds of good things here. So, hang in with me. I've never done this before. Send me back your comments, please! I'm hoping to have fun with it.