lilacs in bucket

lilacs in bucket

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter's Maven strides in tonight, dressed in full white, a hooded cape masking her beautiful white face, snow flakes flurrying around her. She rakes her icicle fingers down Lady Autumn's back, a private signal for Lady Autumn to retreat in submission, to retreat back into the mysterious seasonal world from which she came. Gathering her green and gold wrap around her, Lady Autumn bows to the Winter Maven and walks quietly away. Her time is gone now and she retreats into the netherworld to gather her most comfortable things around her and to wait. To wait for her next season.

Our time now, this season, belongs to Winter's Maven. Here is how she is.

Winter's Maven is visceral and often unyielding; she is a formidable foe. Winter's Maven brings cold winds, feathery snow, snappy ice. She doesn't ask for anything, she demands, and her demands are huge. You must be on your guard with her for she will twirl you about until you're dizzy and she'll move you on uncertain ice at that, she will buffet you with fast, icy winds, and she will make you hungry.

So. Bring your wool-lined mittens, gather your firewood, salt your meat, put the bread dough out to rise, chop the vegetables for soup. Winter's Maven is hungry and she'll take what you have to give her, and don't be surpised when she wants more. Because she will want more. Winter's Maven is the most demanding of seasons and the most unforgiving.

Light your lamps, read by the fire, create your stews, casseroles and wonderful breads. Drink dark wine or other spirits, bundle up for the times you have to venture out of doors, greet your friends and loved ones during this time, and remember to rest.

Draw hearthside and snooze. It's a good thing.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

To New Friends and Wonderful People!

Good evening, folks. I'm sitting here, trying to think of a title of this post, and I wanted it to be something moving, something genuine, something glorious, and all I can think so say is...help your brother.

My family and I, we have a lot of stuff. You know, you have a lot of stuff too, and if you are honest about your stuff, you know you have a lot more stuff than you will ever need or want and there is no reason for you (or me) to gather even more stuff. Stuff will end up in a yard sale a year from now with a casual price tag of a dollar swinging off the item, and we're gonna feel good about selling the thing, whatever it is, but who needs that?

This year, my family and I said, it's ridiculous to keep this holiday season all to ourselves, we need to do something besides gather more stuff. We don't need or want any more stuff and there are people around us who don't have the luxury of saying, we have more stuff than we need. So, that's where it started, this feeling of let's do something for other people, people we may not know but people who don't have the ability to gather all this stuff.

I believe in charity work. I believe it in wholeheartedly. And so...

We adopted a family from Springfield Victory Mission, and I can say, it's been a wonderful walk with this family, such genuine, sweet people. Travis, Rose and Grace, in the middle of the photo there. These are our new friends, our new loved ones.

Merry Christmas, Travis, Rose and Grace!!! We are so happy to know you!!!

It's always better to do for others...it really is. This is the good stuff of life. I'm so pleased to have been given a part of Travis, Rose and Grace's life this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Christmas Memory

Look at where we find ourselves, December, the most glamorous month of the year. Savor the parties, the sparkling lights, rich food, shiny ribbons and bows! Viva la Christmas!

Well, sure. But let me share with you one of my favorite Christmas memories, and it's a humble one. It's sepia-toned, for sure, a little ragged around the edges but, nonetheless, here goes.

Here is what I remember. My father (the pastor) urged our church youth group to go Christmas caroling. He, of course, knew each and every address he would have our youth group to travel to; some were nursing homes (where we went inside), but, he also took us all around town in Worthington, Minnesota, to anyone he knew of who might be a shut-in, or unable to travel, or simply old and forgotten; any person who could not make Christmas memories on their own, that's where he had us go.

At the time, I was uncomfortable, standing outside in -10 degree weather in my parka and mittens, standing in my frozen boots with mounting winds assaulting my ears, pastering stray strands of hair to my face, and I wasn't happy about spending my evening being corraled by snow mounds, singing weakly to Christmas hymns for people I didn't know. That's youth for you. I really didn't understand.

I remember one house we stopped at; an elderly widow lived there. I'll never forget the tall, slender widow woman, gray hair gathered up in a bun behind her ears, how she stepped outside of her tiny home when she heard us start singing, gathering her sweater around her, dressed in a housedress and slippers, the warmth of her home silhouetted in yellow behind her and her closed screen door as she stood on her porch stoop and listened to us sing every Christmas hymn we knew. She would have stood there all night, I'm pretty sure, so long as we kept singing and she was so happy to have us there in the first place.

I'll never forget that moment and how much she appreciated hearing the songs she must have loved all her life. This, now, is one of my most treasured memories of this holiday season and I have to thank my father for forcing me through something I didn't have the foresight or the inclination to do at the time, but I now so appreciate.

It's best to do for others. Always.

What is your favorite Christmas memory?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Couple of....Rules


Rules.

Yes, sorry, writing rules, in fact. Here are a few ideas to make your work better, and help it stand out to agents and editors. Some of this may seem elementary if you've been on the road for awhile but, we all have our pitfalls and need to be reminded every so often of the things that will tank our wonderous work.

1. Show, don't tell. We show through emotions, through reaction to an event, through dialogue. There is no need, or not a lot of need, to describe a character through and through; certain choice glimpses into his character, needs, wants, emotions will work. Let your reader decide whether John Jones is anal by saying something like, "his shoes were shined just that morning," rather than going through an entire paragraph about his suit, his haircut, his attention to detail, his shoes. Also, suppose John Jones heard a noise in the hallway and decided to check it out. There is no need to document his every step to the apartment door and how he opened the door and scanned the hallway and then closed the door when he saw nothing occuring. He may have been startled by a noise, and then he may be mystified as to what he thought he heard but, you do not need to describe to your reader how he started for the door, took hold of the knob, pulled the door open, peered into the empty hallway, and then closed the door by the knob and went back to watching television.

2. Providing information the reader could just as well pick up through action or dialogue. This goes back to showing rather than telling. Nothing will insult your readership more than being given a blow-by-blow detail of your story as if they are not intelligent enough to pick up the details for themselves. Let's say John Jones is late for an important meeting. Do we say that or do we have him check his watch, something impossible is happening, he's sweating, he's dashing to the street, he's impatient with the cab driver, his impeccable suit is now wrinkled, his concern about being late to the meeting could be described as, Tugging his upper lip, he stared out the cab window at the passing street scenery. The cab wasn't moving fast enough. The mid-city traffic was clustered and stumbling, halting and then moving again. John stared at the back of the cabbie's head, willing him to hurry,  hurry, just hurry up already! Turning his gaze to the rear view mirror, he saw how wrinkled his suit had become in the morning humidity. He felt personally insulted, as if the day had planned this whole humilating situation just for him.

It's not great but there's some action there, some sense of urgency. Now. Here's another way. John Jones looked at his watch. It was 10:15 and he was almost late for his appointment. He went to the elevator and punched the button for the ground floor. Once there, he walked to the sidewalk and hailed a cab. He was impatient. He told the cabbie to get him to 101 52nd Street as soon as possible. He sat in the back seat. His suit was wrinkled. He was unhappy that his presentation would not go well because he didn't look his best.

Which sounds better to you?

3. Too  much exposition, not enough dialogue, OR vice versa. Your work should have a pretty even percentage of each. Too much exposition drags the reader down, and doesn't let him/her see or feel the characters for who they are. Too much exposition builds a wall between believability and your work. Your reader won't be able to bond with characters that seldom speak. Too much dialogue, on the other hand, is confusing and lessens the character for your reader, the blabbermouth syndrome.

Pages and pages of dialogue are not good. By the same token, pages and pages of exposition or narrative don't work well.  Balance it out. It's all about balance, seriously.

Just a couple of things to think about in your writing. I wish you well.

Finally, can you describe the scene in the photograph? What would you write about it and why?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Have You Ever Fallen in Love with a Town?


I'm here to tell you, I believe I've fallen in love with a town, irreversibly so, I think. I didn't mean for the photos to be at the bottom but, there they are, and I'm sorry you have to scroll down so far to see what I'm talking about.

I've lived in Springfield, Missouri, heart of the Ozarks, since 1995, and I never paid a lot of attention to it, except for the fact that I lived here and I had certain places I shopped and certain places I went and I worked here and slept here. Back then, I had no idea about Springfield history...and really didn't care. Springfield is a fairly young town as towns go in the United States and so, the history of it just didn't matter to me then.

So, I'm not sure where this thirst for history comes from but, for about two weeks now I've been obsessed with Springfield history. Okay, I can tell you where it stems from, if you're interested.

Six, maybe seven years ago, I was house hunting and I knew what I wanted. I wanted age, I wanted history, I wanted charm. And, thus and so, there was an open house listed for a property I'd driven by numerous times and wished was mine. The price was pretty good, actually, and I could have done it. It wasn't out of my range. And so, there was an open house and I went and fell completely in love. The place was on its last legs, seriously, having been neglected and abused through the years but the agent told me the house had been built in 1892 by one of the founding fathers of Springfield, and low and behold, there was a painting hanging over the fire place that had been done when the house was young and beautiful, and I loved it. I loved every inch of that place.

But, I was scared. What if it was a money pit, what if I wound up with more than I'd bargained for, what if, what if, what if? The day I made my mind up to put in a bid for the property, the agent told me he'd just sold it to someone else.

I was crushed.

Now, a couple of years later, the house went up for sale again. I hadn't been idle during this period. I drove by many, many, many times and watched the new siding going up, the new windows, the shutters, doors, etc., and I thought, I will never be able to live in that house. I won't be able to afford it. But, as things go in real estate sometimes, the current owners couldn't sell the house and I prayed and prayed and prayed it would not sell and that somehow, I could come to own it. Somehow. I prayed for a miracle. I even brought my parents to see it. My mother said, "I can see you living in this house. If you really want it, you have to make it happen."

Didn't happen. The owners finally auctioned the house off and someone with more money and clout than me won it.

I can't tell you how much that bothers me.

So, anyway, somehow when I was researching Springfield, one thing led to another and another and I thought, well, can I find out something historical on that property, the place I love (still) so much??? And so, I searched on that property and what I ended up uncovering was a treasure trove of history. So much history on Springfield, things I never knew and never would have known had I not snooped and searched and read all kinds of stuff.

I can say today that I've walked all over the Sheedy farm north of Springfield, and I've also walked the mysterious estate on Lake Springfield, and I've gone through the Pythian Castle numerous times, and paced old streets, stared into glazed window glass on Commercial Street, I've been all over this town searching for any remnant of that time gone by. I've read articles on family disputes ending in murder/suicide, I've read about Wild Bill Hickock, um, upstanding citizens such as the Phelps family and others, I've devoured anything I could find on this town. I said to my dad on Saturday, "Did you know Springfield had electric trains?" He looked at me as if I was speaking Greek but that's okay.

Did you know that my first law office job was in one of the most historic buildings in Springfield, The Holland Building??? I didn't know it was such a big deal.But I love it!!!

Have you ever fallen in love with a town or a place?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wake Up Barnes & Noble!!!

So disappointed today when I walked into Barnes & Noble and discovered all the big, comfy, reading chairs interspersed throughout the store have been replaced with a single row of uncomfortable wooden chairs placed under the big picture window...oh boy. Once I would have burrowed into one of those big chairs cradling the next best book in my arms and I would have whiled some time away, absorbing a new book, and maybe even listening to some great music, which B&N used to sell as well. I wish they still did. I remember buying Keb Mo's latest CD because I heard it playing, for the first time, on B&N's overhead. I mean, suggestive selling, of course, but it worked. No music at B&N now.

Come on now.

Today, to add insult to injury, a squirrel (maybe) caused a transformer to blow just before opening time, causing B&N to run on emergency power, which meant flickering lights, no cash register, no Starbucks; only that awful steel nook pod in the middle of the store seemed to be lit and even that was sort of a low, gloomy light.

One of the sales people who seemed to recognize me as a constant haunt, stopped me almost as soon as I entered the store, explaining and apologizing in her broken English, and just wanted me to know what was going on, and how it was all beyond their control but the whole situation was being worked on.

I located JK Rowling's latest novel, sat down in one of those wooden chairs and read several chapters. Good book; I want to read more but not in a wooden chair, thank you very much.

Okay, well, I can't fault B&N for the transformer blast but I can say to B&N: do you really think wooden chairs are sufficient for book lovers??? Do you really mean to invite genuine readers into your store with these things here, these spartan Puritan Sunday-go-to-meeting-ramrod straight-butt cramping chairs??? Who would sit THERE to read for pleasure? I mean, is there an answer to that?

I remember Walden, the Heritage, J. Dalton, Borders (of course), and a host of other bookstores that have fallen to B&N, and I know in business these things are bound to happen; however, B&N, do you see the wolf at the door, that wolf called Amazon??? Get with it, please. Competition in the marketplace is crucial to the entruenership that America was founded on. If you don't get up and fight, none of us who write and want to be recognized for writing have a screaming chance!

What is your perspective on Barnes & Noble? Do they need to change their strategy, their selling points, their "look?"

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September

Here we are, on the cusp on the autumnal equinox, barely a week away.

Lady Autumn stands by the gate waiting for the Mistress of Summer to depart her post, which in turn will allow the Lady to work her seasonal magic. See her now as she stands, dressed in emerald green and gold, her copper colored hair flying in the chilly breeze, oblivious to the rain drops landing  on her face, lining her white cheeks. In her arms, she carries butternut squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, leeks, thyme, rosemary, and brussell sprouts. Her eyes are incredibly blue right now, looking forward to backyard fires, roast vegetables, smoked pork and other beautiful food things.

She is the best of the best and she knows it, which is why she demands so much. She will bring mums, in every shape and color, straw bales, kale, and pumpkins...she will bring candle light and dark, sumptious wine. She will make you eat and drink to preserve your life for the coming season, for this is Lady Autumn, the spirit that comes before the dark, steely cold, dispassionate time that occurs in deep winter.

The winter season is hard in any case, in any venue, but it can be made easier by stocking your pantry with root vegetables, good stock, fresh herbs, carrots, celery, good wine and crusty bread. Surround yourself with guilty pleasures this season, leading into the next, more difficult season. Good tea, good hot chocolate, all the ingredients for a hearty homemade soup, and always, good bread and good wine.

And, believe me, this is important, an adequate supply of seasoned firewood.

Above all, remember, if you don't tell your stories, nobody else will.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dogged Dog Days

August is finally drawing to a close, and I can't tell you how pleased I am that we'll soon leave these torrid temperatures behind and maybe, just maybe, catch some relief. This particular summer drained me, left me weak, tired, uninspired to write or photograph or cook or so much of anything. I spent the summer watching the grass turn to crackly brown straws, seeing my beloved flowers dry up and disappear, musing that maybe next year, maybe next year it would be different.

I apologize for not posting all these months. That was wrong of me. I should have written something, if it only was I hate this!!! and I didn't do that.

Here's a little catch up, if you're interested after all this time.

Someone asked me to edit his 408 page manuscript. My first editing job. Sort of took me by surprise, actually, that anyone would ask me to edit their work. I took the job on and worked diligently for a month. I hope I helped. That's what I strive to do.

I found an interesting article today that I'd like to share with you. Here is the link: http://rockyourwriting.com/2012/08/the-slow-writing-movement. It's a great article, and so timely in this day and age of sustainable living.

I'll post again but in the meantime, write. Write like you mean it, write with your whole heart. Don't be afraid of the "judges." Just write.

Ciao!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fiction Writing

Someone, another writer friend, once told me that fiction writing is largely autobiographical. Although I realized that we based a lot of our character formations on things that happened to us, that affected us in one way  or another, it didn't occur to me that fiction writing is autobiographical. Now my friend is writing about himself as fiction and I see that's his perspective because his fiction work is largely autobiographical.

But. You know how I like to think about things and examine them and turn them over and over looking for clues on how it could  be.

J.K. Rowling came to mind at once. Are her characters simply extensions of herself, her personal view on the world,or is it just a fantasy she made up? What about other authors such as John Steinbeck, what about Jenny Cruisie, how about Deborah Harkness? Hmmm....so I'm turning the stones over and over again, following this line, peering atthat jagged blotch, and I'm realizing that some of my work is fraught with my own thoughts, foibles and views of the world.

Hunh. I suppose my friend would be right, if you know your ying and yang, if you are in touch with the light and the dark side of your personality, if you truly understand youself, then I think he may be right.

What are your thoughts on fiction writing? Do you believe your writing is an extension of yourself?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sometimes It's Just Hard to Write

Sometimes it's just hard to write. Sometimes the words don't come, sometimes the ideas are not there, sometimes even if the words are lurking about, the brain can't seem to engage the words with a plausible idea. Sometimes it's just hard to write.

Alright, and don't worry because I've been experiencing that very dark of night, when it's just hard to write, and I want to write, and I know I need to write, but, for some reason, the attic is filled with dustmotes, the so-called "girls in the basement" have gone on a cruise somewhere leaving me berefit and on my own, and nothing I see or overhear or sense has any bearing on my writing life at all.

Dry. Dry. Dry.

Well, here is a bit of information from that little book I told you about earlier, but maybe I should explain the James Taylor photo first so  you don't think I've completely flipped my lid.

James Taylor came to Springfield on July 17th, the day after my birthday by the way, and I eagerly went to hear him play. I've been a fan of his for something like 40 years, I don't know, whenever he came on the scene. Well, he played his new hit, on his new album, "That's Why I'm Here," and I thought, he knows so well why he's here and I know why I'm here too but, I'm having a hard time with the from A to Z process. I know why I'm here too, but I'm thirsty, dry, need a drink of water from the well, and I feel so guilty for all of that because I'm not producing as I should be. Nevertheless, Sweet Baby James delivered a wonderful, memorable performance, and it inspired me a bit, something I was in need of. Why I'm here, indeed...

Okay, so. back to "The Pocket Muse." Monica Wood. These are her words, not mine. "Writing requires discipline, but disciplined writers are not necessarily prolific. Most good work gets produced over time, sometimes many years, allowing the writer to grow with the material, to allow his world, his command over craft, and his psychological maturity to coalesce at just the right moment to produce something of value. This process often involves dreadful periods of not writing, or, worse, periods of writing very badly, embarrassingly badly. As time passes in a writing life, the writer learns not to fear these arid periods. The words come back eventually. That's the real discipline: to train the mind and heart into believing that words come back. I can think of a handful of writers who are both prolific and good: Joyce Carol Oates, Madison Smartt Bell, Anne Tyler. There is a certain genius at work in these cases, though; the rest of us normal writers have to suffer the droughts and hope for rain."

And then, Ms. Wood closes with: "Be willing to wait. In the meantime, write when you don't feel like it. If you can't write, read."

Again, her words, not mine, but they're golden. So for you out there, looking for a glimpse of rain, and for me too, grasp it, drink it in, and realize it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Early Morning Breakfast


Early morning is my favorite time of day, when most of the world is still asleep, and the sun is beginning to climb over the horizon. I never get tired of watching the sun come up, do you?

I also like early mornings when the house is quiet. The only sound I hear is the sound of my own footsteps padding across the kitchen floor to the coffee maker, to the refrigerator, the quiet of chopping parsley from my herb garden for a skillet egg-potato frittata, which is what I did this morning. Ella, the supercharged lab, was watching carefully from underneath the dining room table. She was fairly sure there would be something in it for her so she was content to wait.

Speaking of parsley, my gardens this year have taken a beating. Hot summers are nothing new to Missouri but this year, temps have hovered over 100 degrees for days on end, and no rain in sight. My heart goes out to our farmers, who are struggling this year more than most.

So, I took one russet potato, peeled and diced it, laid it in my little skillet, where 1 tablespoon of butter was already melted. A little onion, thyme, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Let that fry until the diced potatoes start getting soft and crisp on one side. I beat up one egg with about 1 tablespoon of milk, poured that over. Let it set up a bit, grate a bit of guyere cheese over, throw down the fresh chopped parsley from my herb garden, and once it's set, slide it out on a plate and devour with a homemade blueberry muffin alongside.

What is your favorite time of day?


Monday, July 9, 2012

The 2012 Springfield Writers' Guild 19th Annual Literary Poetry/Prose Contest is ON!


Okay, folks1 It's official!!! All you writers out there, whereever you are, whatever you write, check this out. Oh, and enter too.
The 2012 Springfield Writers’ Guild 19th Annual Literary Poetry/Prose Contest, with the Jim Stone Grand Prize Memorial Awards, is now open for entries. Former member, Mabel Taylor founded the contest in 1993. Lee Ann Russell, Honorary Life Member of the Guild, is the chairperson of the contest. She was acquainted with Jim Stone, a SWG member and well-known poet, who worked at the Paul Mueller plant. After Mr. Stone died at the plant from a tragic fall 1997, SWG initiated three memorial categories in his honor. Guidelines and fees are now posted on our Contest page. Enter as many categories as you wish. Our fees are reasonable and you never know, you could be a winner of one of the Grand Prizes! For details, go to www.springfieldwritersguild.org.
Entries will be taken until September 30th. Winners will be announced at our October meeting, which will be held the fourth Saturday in October, at the Heritage Cafeteria, corner of Battlefield and Fremont, Springfield, Missouri.
Thanks!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Pocket Muse

Hey, look you guys. Here is the neatest little book for writers - "The Pocket Muse" by Monica Wood. I picked this up yesterday thinking it would be a good door prize for the Springfield Writers' Guild and, after reading a few pages, I ended up pocketing it myself. Not to say I won't give it away later, but for now, I'm soaking it up.

This little book is full of prompts, ideas, advice and inspiration. "The Pocket Muse" gives you something to think about, a whole new perspective on looking at your work, what you are doing, what you need to do, what you should be doing, and how to go about it. It's not preachy, oh no, it's a clever combination of prompts, ideas, and quotes from authors who are a bit farther down the road than I am.

I especially love the last page, the quote: "Don't forget to be gratetful that you love words."

You know, all of us want to create a legacy, and that's what Alice Hoffman says on the next to last page. We may not want to admit this, but it's what we do want, some way for other writers and readers to remember us down through the ages. As Alice says, it's not about reviews or copies sold, and if you write it and write it well, it will last and you will leave something worth remembering.

Isn't that great?

Aren't you grateful you love words?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On Writing

I'm feeling somewhat timid, unsure even, about the current MIP. I'm seeing through the glass darkly,such as in the photograph above, but I'm looking.
Here's what I thought, when this idea was birthed in my mind, was that I was writing about a 30-ish woman, a new widow. What I thought I was going to do was explore her grief, her loss, her struggle and her ultimate triumph.
But, no.
Another woman, a much older woman, walked in and brought a much younger woman with her, and there I was faced with the idea of three, which appeals to me. I've done it before and didn't think I would do it again, but here these two are and they're usurping my 30-ish widow's place as the central character in the MIP, particularly the older one. The two younger women have taken risks, they've loved, they've lost, they've faced life head on because they had to do it but this older gal...now that I'm writing it down, I see her full on. She's older, 67 or so, and she's never faced a real challenge in her life. She's lived it safe. I have to wonder why she keeps trying to get my attention?
Hmmmm...
The ancients believed in the maiden, the mother, and the crone. I see I have all three here in my brain. Although I see this, I still feel mystified.
This manuscript is not going where I wanted it to go, or where I thought it would go, but I'm now thinking I'll let all three of these women speak and see where they end up. And I'll keep leafing through hair style magazines and fashion magazines and I'll investigate architecture and food, and farming and other things that will be equally important as I build a picture of these women in the reader's mind. I'll develop their history, their personalities, their quirks, their struggles, and I'll bring it to the page.
Fun times, being a writer.
Here's the other funny thing. You're not always in control.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 9, 2012. My first public appearance ever as the current president of the Springfield Writers' Guild. I spoke to the Teen Writers' Workshop at the Creamery, in Springfield, Missouri. My topic was, "Let Yourself be a Writer, Right Now."
My passion is writing. I believe in my writing, I believe in your writing, I believe that these earnest young kids are writers and have the same burning passion as those of us who have been down the road awhile. I listened to their voices on May 9th and I can tell you, these kids burn with enthusiasm, they have drive, they have a voice. It makes no difference that they're 17 or 18 years old; seriously, give me a break. These kids have voices and they're using what they have.
Therefore, as seasoned writers, we must encourage (not scare) these kids. We must mentor them, not threaten  or command them or act is if they will never be able to write unless they follow our directives.
Writing is subjective. As seasoned writers, we can guide, we can recommend, we can mold, we can teach, but we should never slap down the seed these talented young people are planting. We should never embarrass, strike or hurt their voice. We can only nurture, bolster, and bring their voices to the front line.
I am so proud to have been asked to be a part of these young writers' lives, for one night. There was so much I would have liked to have shared with them but I had a brief time with them. I do encourage each and every one of them to keep on keeping on with the craft. Keep moving forward, keep growing, keep moving.
It will come.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blueberry, almond, lemon cake

Pretty good eatin' at the Erwin hacienda tonight. Oven barbequed chicken, hashbrown casserole, Californa Medley (broccoli, carrots and cauliflower), and, for dessert, Blueberry-Almond-Lemon cake. How delish.

Okay, here goes for the cake.

Take 1/2 cup blanched almonds and 2 TBSP sugar and gring them together until fine. I cleaned my coffee grinder and used it for this. It worked well.

In a bowl, sift 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/4 teas. baking powder and 1/4 teas. salt.. Drop the ground almonds in and stir to incorporate.

Okay, in another bowl, beat 1 cup sugar, 1/2 c. butter and the zest of one lemon until light and fluffy. Beat in 1/4 cup lemon juice and please use real lemons and forget the reconstituted lemon juice stuff. Okay. Now, four eggs, drop in one at a time, and beat until well blended. Take a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean and drop into the mixture, beat until combined. If you don't ahve a vanilla bean, drop in 1/2 teas. of vanilla extract, and 1/4 teas. almond extract Add the flour mixture, beat until just well blended. Stir in one cup of fresh blueberries.

Spread the batter into a greased bundt pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 50 minutes, let cool for about 15 minutes, slide knife around to loosen, drop onto a decorative plate.

Enjoy!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Teen Writers' Group

This coming Wednesday night I'll be speaking to a small group of teen writers. Their instructor tells me she has some awesome writers in her group, and I'm excited to share the world of writing with them and hear the ideas bubbling up from their minds.
My talk doesn't have a title and I'm more of a Chicken Soup for the Soul lecturer than a format/grammer monger but I'm planning to talk to them about the mystical elements that make up writing. My intention is to share that writing is an act of hope, of celebration, of probing for truth, pushing the envelope and taking risks. I want them to own that their voice is important and needs to be heard.
Writing is hard work. Someone said yesterday it's long hours for not a lot of pay or respect sometimes, it's a lot of isolation while we're weaving the tapestry of a story. It's hard to adher to the butt-in-chair rule when there is laundry to be done or someplace you'd like to go. I want them to know that 80% of success in anything in life is just showing up.
What about you? What would  you tell a young writer to encourage, educate and inspire him or her?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Young Writers


I have to tell you, I am so honored to have been asked to speak to a local Teen Writer's Group here in Springfield. As of this moment, my presentation is scheduled for May 9th (Wednesday), so if anyone who reads this wishes to show up at The Creamery at 6:30 pm and heckle me, come on! It's going to be fun, I believe. More than that, I hope I can leave these young people with a love and inspiration to write. My hope is that they will hear something I say and grasp a good view of the big picture and return to their writing endeavors with renewed vigor.

From what I understand, the majority of these students are serious about making writing professionally a part of their lives and to that, I say, well done! It's a serious thing, really.
Our future generations of writers are so important. What's going on with the publishing industry today is really sad. Publishing houses, big ones, are closing all over the place, and those who aren't closing are merging with another house who can save them financially and reputation-wise. Little presses are emerging from the publishing wasteland. E-publishing, in whatever form, is thriving. There is hope for writers, even without the big houses.

There is hope for talented, dedicated writers. Maybe that's what these kids need to  know. Nothing is the same as it was ten years or five years ago. Getting with the industry as it is now is the way to survive and make it. Or make your own brand by publishing yourself online. It can be done.

So, I'm not really sure what I'm going to speak on exactly on the 9th of May, but I sincerely hope I can put these young writers on the path to realize their dream.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Contest! Ozark Romance Authors

There is still time to submit to the Ozarks Romance Authors' Weta Nichols Contest as the deadline is extended to May 1st. Winners will be announced at our 2012 Annual Conference, scheduled to be held June 23, 2012, in Springfield, Missouri. Winners are not required to be present to win. Winners who are not in attendance will be notified via email, and prizes will be mailed promptly. We will also post the winners’ names, titles, city, and state, on our website.

Final Round judges are: Lucienne Diver, Author and Novelist with Knight Agency, and Cori Deyoe, agent with Three Seas Literary Agency. The real prize is having one of these women read your work!

Follow the link below to enter:

http://ozarks-romance-authors.com/

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Some years ago, I said, out loud even, that I was not going to read another Nicholas Sparks book as long as I lived. I said it. I meant it. I did, although I don't take as much umbrage with Nicholas Sparks as I do with that Grisham guy, that guy, his writing is truly atrocious. I will give him the credit of allowing the little guy to win in the end, and that's good. I work for attorneys in my real life job, and so I get that angle. Other than that, hey dude writer man, you are not above being edited and if the reports I hear are correct, that your wife is your editor, well, you need to rethink that.

No, Nicholas Sparks, in my mind, writes the same book over and over again, the character names may change, but it's seriously always the same book.

But you know, Mr. Sparks is doing alright. Better than alright. Look at the movies his novels have wrought. Well, okay, I've swallowed my arrogant words, not that I think The Lucky One is such a great novel miracle, oh no. I don't.

What I was aching for when I picked up this book was, plain and simple, language that all of us can relate to. Easy, uncomplicated, unstuffy, common language. Stuff we would all say, language we would all recognize and relate to. It was an exercise of sorts for me, just to see again how Mr. Sparks writes.

What I found in reading this book, is that it's just so simple with him. Language is easy. No hidden agenda, no formalization, no fear about words, just write it out and let the words fall where they may and let them work. Easy, no big struggle.

Now, I'm reading and I am gauging it all; the words dropping out casually, willy nilly even, seem to work for Sparks. Yes, he has a dynamite agent, but still...

I have to tell you I am enjoying this book. It's not heavy; it's not burdensome, it's not overly-intellectual; it's enjoyable.

Hmmm...what are you reading this spring? Are you reading critically or for enjoyment or both?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Maintaining Your Writer Self

So, you've closed yourself in your office, put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, settled your rear end in the chair and you put your hands on the keyboard and nothing comes.
You look around for a minute and look back to the computer screen, little niggling thoughts creeping in. Did I shut the coffee pot off? Did I just hear the phone ring?
Something's off but you don't know what. Your fingers aren't moving. The works you know you need to do, it's just not coming.
Your well is dry.
I say this a lot, and it's true. As writers, we spend an awful lot of time in our own heads. We observe the world, dissect, listen, embellish, imagine, and generally carry our story arcs and charcters around everywhere we go. Sometimes it seems as if there is really nothing there.
When that happens, it's because external issues or pressures have locked down our internal workings. Juggling a job, kids, schedules, bills, worries about parents and other life concerns take over and wear us out.
Here are some ways to fill up the well again.
Take yourself somewhere you wouldn't ordinarily go. Motorcross? A Korean restaurant? An art museum? Wander in it, let yourself feel, smell, taste, every element of that activity. Take a little notebook, and write down what you experienced and how it made you feel.
Read. Writers tend to be readers. Read. Not only will you find it satisfying but you'll enrich yourn writing by seeing how others do it.
Take up a hobby. Photography, knitting, woodworking, ceramics, whatever it is, allow yourself to revel in it. Make it a big deal. Share it with friends and family, talk it up.
Join a charity and work. It will take you straight out of yourself and your life situation and make you more empathetic to the plight of others.
Exercise. Yes, exercise. Nothing can clear out the brain cobwebs and lift your spirits like a brisk walk. And walking is free!
Take time for yourself. Let the world go on without you for awhile and just rest.
Okay, let's get at it and fill up the well!

Friday, February 24, 2012


Well, I'm sitting here tonight, thinking I need to post something on my blog, something to catch up with you all since it seems that I haven't been here in forever.
I've been working really hard in my real-life job, and I've been obsessed with re-writing a novel I wrote some six years ago, and thinking about publishing it on kindle. I've done my taxes, I've been tending to the bare bones of my life. Uh hunh....
My life right now is sort of like the photo - all that stacked-up stuff in the attic, where I've been going with some regularity. The book has to get done after all, and the attic seems to be the place to find all the secret tantalizing treasures and beautiful masterpieces that will add depth and dimension to my manuscript. So, if you're looking for me at all, I'm in the attic, covered in dust and cobwebs. Send up some soup, if you take a mind to. I'll be here, pouring over old ribbon-bound memories and grainy black and white photographs, and I won't be coming down real soon. Not until I find that treasure I'm seeking.
What's your process? How do you write or where do you write the best?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February Musings


February. Beautiful, blue and white February.
When I think of February, I think of white tulips in a blue and white vase, blue hyacinths sprouting in a china cup, white plumes of smoke rising from chimneys, and food of course. When don't I relate food to any given topic?
Cinnamon rolls. My mother made the best cinnamon rolls ever, ever on the face of this planet and any other. I've tried to emulate her recipe but, after trying many times and not quite making it, I've found another way.

Wanna hear about it?

First of all, let's just say that rapid rising yeast is the breadmaker's friend. I love it. It takes a lot of work out of the equation.

I take one package of the rapid rise yeast and mix it with:
2 c. flour
1 teas. salt
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. soft butter (unsalted)
1 egg

Just mix it together, don't get too worked up about it. And then, add 1/2 c. warm water, and 1/2 cooled scalded milk. Mix together. Begin working in more flour, just a little at a time until you've added probably 3 1/2 cups.
Turn your dough out onto a floured board and knead, adding more flour, for about 5 minutes. Form into ball, turn into a greased bowl, greased side atop. Lay a clean towel on top of the bowl. What I do is I put my dough bowl in the oven and put a baking pan filled with hot water on the bottom rack.

Sauna time for the sweet dough.

Okay, let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours. Pull it out, punch down the dough, turn it back out onto a floured board and roll it out. Roll it until it's about 1/8 inch thick, and begin slathering with butter, and I do mean slather in the biggest slathering way. Slather to about 1/4 inch from the edge. Drop brown sugar all over your dough, a thick layer. Sprinkle cinnamon over, a lot of it. I sometimes will chase the cinnamon with smoked cumin but, warning, if you do this, don't inundate your dough with cumin as it will become bitter if used ad nauseaum. For once I am saying, don't be liberal. You don't have to use cumin at all, quite frankly. Sprinkle just a little white sugar over and now, it's time for the roll up.
Working quickly, pull your dough toward you and begin rolling up. Roll, roll, roll, til you're at the end. Seal these edges with a bit of water.
Slice the roll, about one inch apart, place rolls in greased pan, cover with clean towel and again, let it rise, preferably in a sweet roll sauna as described above, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, bake for 25-30 minutes and enjoy.

Happy days!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Guacamole



It really is all about the food sometimes. I love good guacamole. When it's fresh, made with quality ingredients, it just rocks, seriously.

So, let's talk about it, guacamole, that sort of mysterious green dip, the green stuff that sometimes looks more like what one would find in a baby's diaper than anywhere else.

Please now. Don't get mad about the reference to the baby diaper.

It's just that I don't do the pureed green upon green thing. I just can't stand that stuff. Here is what I do. I do the chunky version. Okay, see below.


Four, yes four, avadocos, Hass preferably.

Two roma tomatoes, diced

One fresh lime, or two, depending on your preference

One Jalepeno pepper, seeded and diced

Smoked cumin, to taste

Salt

Pepper

Red pepper flakes

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

Cilantro, rough chopped


Good salty tortilla chips


One large bowl


Scoop the meat out of the avocados and drop into a bowl. Chop carefully because the avacodos tend to bruise easily. Throw in the chopped romas, the jalapeno, the cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, the red onion. Squeeze the lime juice over liberally. Just before serving, toss with fresh chopped cilantro.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winter Memories


I'm giggling tonight, thinking about my childhood and how it all was when we were all together in the present life. I am specifically thinking of our family adventures in winter, adventures mostly having to do with ice-topped lakes, in Minnesota, my motherland.
My dad, well, he liked a little danger. If truth were to be told, my mother liked more danger than he did but she never showed it.
I'll tell you that when us kids were little, for entertainment's sake and because we had no money to do anything that required a fee, our parents would pack us into the big old wood-trimmed station wagon and away we would go...to the lake of course.
Now, if you are a Minnesota or Wisconsin native you know what I'm talking about. We got a lotta lakes up there in that area, every town's got one, and those lakes will freeze over and well, let's just say there are more than a few snow mobiles sunk at the bottom of those lakes. Other stuff too, including people sometimes. I know, plenty of stories there.
Anyway, I am giggling tonight remembering how my dad would drive out onto the ice and gun the engine and let the car swirl madly on the frozen ice. He knew just how far out to go and how long to let those hot tires graze the frozen surface before it got dangerous. I remember thinking, "Wheeeee!" and my stomach would drop in a big happy way. My mother would scream, "Oh Jerome!" over and over again, and of course, at some point she would have to point out that we were all about to die a certain death, a frozen one, and we needed to get out of there quick.

I also remember getting back home, drinking hot chocolate before bed and falling asleep thinking my dad was the biggest guy in the universe, and how fun the twisty curls in the car were, and how beautiful the moonshine and the ice was...I remember all this.

What is your favorite winter family memory?

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Brown Egg


I'm taking an artist's day today, and it's actually Monday. I'm taking a day to write, wander about with my camera, and of course, eat. To that last end, this morning I wound up on the corner of Kimbrough and Madison, at The Brown Egg.

I have to say I love restaurants. I love independently owned eateries because it seems to me that you find the best food in those places and, beyond that, you find character.

The Brown Egg is such a place.

Tucked into the corner of a strip mall, at first you might pass by it unless you're looking for it, which I was. I read about it in the paper recently and I've heard word of mouth that it's a good place to eat.

I mentioned character. This place has it. Dark wooden square tables, bookcases overflowing with all kinds of books, globes, musical instruments, other artifacts. The vibe is comfortable. The food is very good (I had biscuits and gravy) and of course, I have to mention the coffee. I had a medium roast breakfast blend this morning, which made me feel just a little bit pampered and special.

The bakery case is full of beautifully dressed cupcakes. The lunch special will be white bean chili (I see it written on a black chalkboard above the counter).

I liked that I saw a pair of elderly men dressed in heavy wool sweaters sitting at one table, while a younger college-age couple wearing their blackframed glasses and beanie caps sat at another and, a pair of Springfield Police Officers sat not too far from me. It was an electic mix of folks; good, I thought.

I left satisfied and happy. Bravo, Brown Egg! I'll be back.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

January



Here we are, smack in the middle/end of January. January, the first month of the new year. The month of bone-chilling winds, hot tea in pretty china cups, hearty casseroles steaming in bakeware and fur-lined snowboots, splotched from tramping through snow. January. The month of new resolves, goal making, organization and list upon list upon list of things to accomplish here in this new year. Lists of things we will DO this year, things to accomplish, goals.


We're goal orientated anyway, aren't we? But. Do we need to be?


Well, as far as I am concerned, about organizing your closets, which seems to be what January is about, you can do that any time. January just seems a good month to toss out old and not usable, and to put everything you wish to keep in order, from tupperware to sweaters.


But as writers, well, we work all year long. We organize, search through, find new, find old, we put things in boxes all year long. Writers have an interminable attic containing every thought, every character, every scene we can ever think of, in boxes in our eternal attic, to be pulled out when needed.


We have memories, we have photos, we have trunks and trunks of fabrics, and notecards of handwritten recipes and weather forecasts and Bibles complete with family trees. We have baby bibs and quilts and land owner records. Some of us may be lucky enough to have diaries, personal, hand written thoughts, impressions, real life happenings.


Allow yourself to revel in these things, allow yourself to think about what went before you. Relax. And then, allow yourself to reflect.


When you are ready, climb the stairs to your attic. Take a long look at that dress dummy in the corner. What is that dress dummy wearing? Sniff, smell, touch, see. Open the trunk you've always wanted to look into. Pull out the old letters (is there a hint of perfume lingering there?), the photos (who are all those people), the fabrics (how sensual), entrench yourself in the history entombed there.


Inhale the history, claim it. Aborb it.


And then sit down and write it all out. Come back and tell me what you found. Is it more than what you expected? I suspect so.




Friday, January 13, 2012

Adverbs


Are adverbs our friends?

Do you ever run crazily or scream loudly or maybe even climb mightily? Now, when I run, I just run. It may be crazy at the time to be doing it but, I run just the same. I seldom scream but if I do scream, take it for granted, it's loud. My climbing, which these days is limited to small ladders at my law office, trying to reach a file from the top shelf, is simply that. I climb up the ladder, retrieve the file, and I climb down. There's nothing mighty about it.

What do adverbs do to our writing? I believe, adverbs weaken our writing. The real action, the real strength, is in the verb.

Are you ever insanely crazy? I heard that one not too long ago. Okay, that's an obvious one. Let's move on.

Sometimes I think writers, and I'm talking to myself here too, simply like to hear the sound of their own voices. We love words. Spinning a weave of words is what we do, right? Well, sure. But what we really do is spin an idea. We sow an idea in the reader's head, a grain of a seed that blossoms into a plant and bears fruit and is the story we are writing.

Adverbs are pretty, sort of like a false promise is pretty. When you get below the surface though, it's all show and no substance.

I attended a writing workshop last weekend and part of the program included a critique session. I sat in and, it being my first time at this workshop, I tried to stay quiet and listen. We had a lovely lady bring her work; she read 19 pages aloud and although it was an intriguing and well thought-out story line, her work was filled with adverbs and trite cliches. I ended up writing her a note and I simply asked her to read through her manuscript and cut the adverbs out. She was confused and asked the question of the critique group, "Are adverbs bad?" Apparently, an editor somewhere told her to use them all the time, as much as possible. I don't think that is the trend but if it is, heaven help us. At any rate, I don't think she was satisfied with the answer she got (not from me) that, yes, adverbs are bad. They do not help your writing in any way.

If you have not read it, find horror writer, Stephen King's, book called On Writing. Mr. King addresses the subject of adverbs very well and listen, that guy, he's sold a bijillion books. He must know something.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Magic of Words



It's amazing to me sometimes, how I will be thinking of a particular topic and I will go online to other writers' websites (one in particular, dear Barb), and I will read my exact thoughts!


I have characters walking around in my brain and have had for several years, not all connected to the same story, but they're all having a cocktail party in my brain at the same time. I only hope they all like one another. I have images burning, I hear songs playing but not all of it is cohesive to one story. There are always more stories, more exploration to take place.


It's a demanding job, being a writer, seriously, it is. It's not about blithely weaving about with a crown of flowers on your head, wearing white guaze, dancing in a flowered meadow to Bob Dylan. Wouldn't that be nice? No. It's work. It's psychology and it's history and it's layers and layers and layers of being human and loving and losing and being debased to the lowest level and being the phoenix rising from the ashes, and becoming stronger only to be combatted against again and over. It's failure and redemption and finding love or some other positive trait, after having lost so much.


I am working on but having serious trouble, with JANO, the January sister of NaNoWriMo. I feel as if I am spinning out of control and this story line or that will dictate what I write next and I can't tell what it will be.


Maybe I shouldn't worry about it, just let it be (Beatles)...maybe that would be best. What about you?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Don't fear the Brussel


It's been another kitchen day for moi, the eternal cook. And I do love the brussel sprouts, those cute mini-cabbages...so green, so lovely. Oh my. What to do with them???

This is what I did with them. First of all, I have a pound of brussels, so. They were all about the same size, so I cut them all in half. I chopped a half onion, threw a quarter cup unsalted butter in a pan, and let the butter and onion get all happy together, threw in some salt, some pepper, some red pepper flakes. Let it go, The onions need to tenderize, the brussels, well, they need to carmelize. Let them get tender. And then.

Take the pan away from the heat for a second and pour in maybe two tablespoons white wine (dry or semi-sweet). Just enough to deglaze the pan. Once that is finished, I pour in a carton of chicken stock, a little half and half, and some salt, pepper, thyme and red pepper. Some corn starch, stir, bring to a boil, let it thicken, drop a quarter cup or so of parmesan cheese over...let it alone.

Very, very nice.....