Archive for October 2010

Tricks & Treats

October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Grin

Halloween is Sunday and sometime this weekend most cities and burgs in the US and elsewhere have designated hours for our little ones to gather up their treats. When I was young we always had 3 places in the neighborhood we made sure to visit. One place handed out home-made taffy apples to all the neighborhood kids.  We always made sure to help this woman with yard work, winter shoveling etc.  Tricks were never going to happen at that place. The two others always gave on the very best candy and the owners had the best costumes on when they greeted us.

It was much the same when I took out my sons. However, now we rarely have children seeking treats. Instead parents take them to schools for parties or just to family and friends and that’s done in the family car.

Because tricks and terrors happen these days. Times have changed. But Halloween will always be associated with that practice though it’s gone through many a metamorphosis through the centuries.

I’ve encountered some tricks and treats this week and I never needed to dress up or go out in search of them. They just arrived.  One had to do with weather and another with writing.

Weather Trick

Weather was quite a prankster this week.  It treated us first with incredibly warm temperatures. But we paid with extremely high winds, a tornado touch down just a few miles from us, more days of sustained winds of 30 + miles and wind gusts even higher.  The lake threw a major temper tantrum with waves bludgeoning the shoreline constantly; the noise sounded like those automatic jackhammers that break up roadways. After 3 days like that, our temps plummeted to the lowest we’ve had since May. The past two mornings I’ve awakened to see my neighbors who’ve left cars out overnight, scraping off frost from their windshields, another Halloween trick.

With writing, my muse treated me quite a bit. I’ve been working on a revision of an earlier manuscript and I knew I had to add a few new and critical scenes.  Each time I came to the place where I figured those scenes were needed, the words flowed from my fingers.  My characters were happy with what I was doing and they responded perfectly. However, nothing is perfect and in a section I thought would take very little time, I found myself wondering what tricks had made me write that in the first place.  I spent a whole day undoing that trick, sort of like a homeowner spending extra time in cleaning up the mess left from toilet papering hooligans.  My characters had literally TP-ed those pages.

My final point about tricks and treating has to do with my daily life and maybe yours also. Just this past week I’ve had some lovely treats: a special email from my son, a short note from a grandson, some words of praise about my writing from a few people, a compliment from my hubby about my pumpkin bread.  I realized as I was organizing my thoughts to put this together that these little items are treasures and we must hold them close for the times when life tricks us, sometimes so hard life skirts psychic vandalism.

While the two tricks I “endured” this past week may not qualify as psychic vandalism, they left me stressed and with a stomach ache. I realized as I was organizing this post I wasted more time cleaning up the messes those two tricks left me than I’d taken to treasure the treats I’d been given. Stupid of me.

So my message this week is enjoy the treats in your life, whether they’re Halloween-related or not. Walk away from the tricks but clean them up as fast as you can. While you’re doing that, allow the sweetness of the treats give the clean-up a faster beat. 🙂

Think About It

October 24, 2010

Ready for Autumn

This week I’ve been revising a manuscript. Each day I would set a goal for myself, and 5 days a week another friend and I send our daily goals to each other to keep ourselves honest. While I was writing my goals one day, I wrote a sentence that said something like this: One of my goals is thinking through how to put together a new scene.

Then I hit send.

But that sentence resonated with me. I realized I would take additional thinking time to ponder the significance of those words in relation to much more than that new scene. For example, when I taught writing classes, I stressed that the thinking time involved in putting together any type of writing took far more time than the actual writing. It didn’t matter if the assigned writing project was an essay, a letter, a honey-do list, or a research paper, thinking was involved throughout.

If a writer takes the time to think through his or her material before writing, the writing is more organized, more specific, more energetic. Words flow and make an impact. Thinking well keeps writers from facing writer’s block. My belief is that dreaded situation occurs when a writer hasn’t taken enough time to gather her/his thoughts and determine how to handle the material.

See, that was my problem this week. I was adding a new scene. While I’d thought about the scene and where it needed to go, I hadn’t taken enough time to think through the hidden elements at work, such as which character’s POV should the scene be in for greatest effect for the story and my overall theme in this manuscript. Once I accomplished that extra thinking, the words flowed and the scene wrote itself—well with a bit of help from my fingers. 🙂

And that’s another point about thinking when writing. It’s never done. A writer thinks before writing, during writing, after writing during revisions and editing. Like breathing is necessary for life, thinking is necessary to write. Don’t ever forget that. If we do, then our writing stagnates. Or worse—we don’t write anymore.

Those were the thoughts I had about a simple sentence in an email I sent about my day’s goals. But I realized this sentence really reflected a truth we should remember as we go through our lives as functioning humans.  Because as I often do, I relate a writing truth to a life truth. What is that truth you ask?

Thinking with purpose helps us live better, more successful lives.  You’ve all heard someone say, or maybe you’ve said it, “What was she/he/they thinking?” After a few shakes of our heads, we realize whoever we’re discussing wasn’t thinking! That was the problem.

I’ll mention a few examples.  We see someone we know successfully accomplish some goal. How did it happen?  Sure, maybe some luck came into play, but if the person hasn’t thought about how to achieve it, set in place some steps to achieve it, thought about the time involved and figured how to use it, well the outcome likely would have been different.

Or another example:  We all face problems and situations in our lives which are stressful or difficult. Thinking about what comprises the problem or situation, why it stresses us, helps us to think about how we can cope better with the situation.

Sometimes free thinking (time we just let our minds roam) provides us with wonderful insights than can help us be more successful or happier in our daily lives.

A Thinking Place

What I’m saying here is this.  Taking time to think is never wasted time. The more we do it, the better we run our lives and feel more comfortable in meeting our challenges—because we’ve thought them through. When we stop thinking, we stop living in a real sense or find ourselves in situations that are really difficult.

Even better, thinking can be done while multi-tasking at other mindless chores or even while you sleep.  A technique I often use is to think over my problem just before I go to sleep. Sometimes I’ll wait a few hours later with the solution; if not come morning when I wake, I have my answers.

 

I leave you with these points. Think about them. Let me know what your thoughts are.  And Keep Thinking…It’s Good For You! 🙂

Sitting At My Window

October 17, 2010

  Fall has settled in here in Wisconsin.  Our nights here have temperatures dipping down to the mid 30s and the day’s are graced with seasonable temps in the 50s or low 60s.  The skies have been this incredible blanket of blue and the stiff breezes off the lake have stripped many of the brilliant leaves from our trees. 

From my Window

Late yesterday afternoon as I sat in my chair and gazed outside watching the squirrels chase each other on the ground and scamper up the trees, I heard geese honking.  From the sound of them, it was quite a large flock coming in.  Actually, several flocks flew in, circled around and dropped down gracefully to land in the lake.  I was reminded of those autumn trips my family and I would drive north to the Horicon Marsh to watch the migrating flocks of geese and ducks.

I wouldn’t be surprised if over a 1000 geese landed in those ten minutes or so.  And then the ducks came in. My hubby and I have discovered a truism in these last few years. What is it?

Well, I’ll share it with you.

Taking time to stare out a window and let our minds wander frees us to open our minds.  For me, I often do this as part of my problem solving process, whether the problem is a personal one, a family one, or a writing-related one. However, that time is never wasted.For example, yesterday I was tussling with a plot and conflict issues in my current writing project.  While watching the geese and ducks fly in and settle down for the night and noticing the elongated shadows and deepening hues of the late afternoon sky, I realized one of my issues.  I’ve set this book in northern California and while I’ve been there many times, I needed to refresh my connection with the setting.  This was especially important as my hero is a man deeply connected with his land and its weather.So I spent last night, pulling together more research materials and many photos.

I’m reading today to immerse myself in the setting.  I’m also keeping those photos around my writing spaces so I’m connected to my fictional setting as much as I am to my actual setting.Don’t say it.  I know what you’re thinking.  I should take another trip to California and reconnect.  Oh, how I wish I could, but such a trip is not in the stars.  So memory, photos, and research will have to make do at this point.

I will continue to “waste time” looking out my windows.  I look forward to watching the geese return to the lake tonight well fed from their chowing down in the fields west of us.  Giving ourselves permission to let our minds wander is a good thing as Martha would say.

I hope you take a few moments this week to stare out the windows in your lives.

Green Bay Book Fair

 

Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing

October 10, 2010

Young & In Love

One of my dearest lifelong friends celebrated a significant achievement.  Sandy and her husband Jerry celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, the golden one.

They are golden—as a couple, as lovers, as parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Their romance is the essence of what really does make relationships work. These two lovers found each other as teens, married young, had six children together, and took a number of pre-adoption children for many years.  Their lives were never glitzy but were always filled with romance, love, music and laughter. 

They also had their difficult times.  Jerry often worked two jobs to help meet family expenses.  As with any large family, one child or another was having a crisis, sometimes major, but always demanding attention.  Both Sandy and Jerry came from large families and together they pitched in to help with ageing parents or disabled or ill siblings.

But during such times, their love deepened.  I could stop by and find them dancing in the kitchen, or sharing a cup of coffee or playing a game of dominoes while working out how to handle the issue.

They always were—all about family and each other.  Luckily for many of us, good friends became like extended family.  Which is why yesterday was so very special because this couple looked over a room filled with so many people who were part of their married lives.  Those who weren’t able to be there were in spirit or in photographs.

Sandy is the sister of my heart.  Jerry was my protector.  She may have insisted (when I wasn’t around) that he serve in that position, but I’ll never forget how during a difficult time in my life, Jerry was the male who was ready to fight my battles and defend my honor.  Of course, that situation never materialized but I knew he was in my corner. 

Wise & Loving

Marriage is never easy.  Partners have to work every day to make it successful.  You’ve got to give the best you’ve got at any given time.  Sometimes you have to shoulder the work of two because of circumstances.  Both partners have to allow for the growth and change which will occur over years in tandem.

Sandy and Jerry married very young.  Statistics weren’t on their side.  But their love and determination and willingness to fight for what they felt for each other brought them to yesterday.  They took the vow “to love and cherish, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, in good times or bad, till death do us part,” and lived it, displayed it, worked at it. 

All those who’ve been part of them are better for their example.  I count myself lucky to be one of them.  Some writers I know write romance.  If a couple is lucky the romance part of love glows bright despite the challenges of each day of happily ever after and not so happily ever after.  Sandy and Jerry pulled together to get through illnesses and deaths of parents and siblings, challenging times with children and with their own health.  Still that glimmer of romance would bubble forth.  I saw a hint of that yesterday when Jerry pulled Sandy into his arms and they danced close and dreamy.  Everyone there knew this was a dream they both had.  It was also a dream that illness in the past few years has threatened.

Always Time for a Kiss

A love story with many splendored threads—that’s the marriage of Sandy and Jerry.  Conflict, drama, tender moments, character growth—their love story should be told.  It’s worth of a Life time movie, a Hallmark special, the applause and appreciation of all those who’ve watched from the sidelines.

Well done, Sandy and Jerry.  I love you both.

 

 

 

Fairy Tales and Busy Weeks

October 2, 2010

And She's At the Gate...

Last week I promised I’d talk about my Kenosha Public Library presentation which I did on Monday evening.  I’ve never competed with a Packers/Bears Monday Night Football game before and Dancing with the Stars, plus all the myriad tasks people are committed to doing.  Why even my ever-supportive hubby couldn’t make the program because of a meeting.  However, sweetie that he is, he showed up toward the end of my talk to help take down and schlep materials I’d brought with me out to the car.

Because my competition was so stellar, I didn’t have the number of people show up I’d hoped for, but those who came were perfect as they were interested in my program and in what I had to say.  They asked great questions and fed off my answers to ask additional questions.  That’s all a speaker can hope for: a responsive audience–so the size was perfect and the result beneficial for everyone.

The reference librarian, Linda Marcussen, gave me such a great introduction I wasn’t sure she was talking about me.  Her words set the stage beautifully for what I intended to do which was discuss my personal journey in getting my first book published and things I’ve learned along the way.  I geared it mostly for an audience of readers.  But writers are readers also and I added enough to offer them some kernels of wisdom.

Of course, I had help.  My talented sister did an excellent job using her artistic talent to display my books and awards to their best advantage.  Thank you, dear sister.  I may not have a village to get me through life, but I’ve the best family.

My Credibility Display

I gained so much during that hour and a half—not the least of which was realizing once again what I loved most about teaching.  And what might that be, you ask?  Oh those times when teachers hold their students with their ideas and presentation.  We see the spark of questions bubble up within them.  Appreciative audiences are to be treasured.  I treasure Monday night for that.

Monday night was a perfect pitch high note; however about midweek, the article which emerged from the interview I mentioned in last week’s blog got posted on the web.  The article was well done, thank you, Colleen Kappeler, and it also has garnered good responses.  If you haven’t seen it, I believe it’s still up on the web at http://exposekenosha.com/2010/09/29/another-kenosha-author-makes-it-big.  And thank you all for your comments.

But the week wasn’t busy enough or complete.  I achieved another goal.  I’d talked a bit about goal setting during Monday’s program and told the group I was determined to finish my revisions by October 1st.  Actually, I finished on September 30th and sent the manuscript off to my editor on October 1st.

As you can see this past week has been eventful and busy.  This coming week will be more of the same.  I’ll be spending two days in Green Bay participating in a Meet Local Authors Book Fair, sponsored by one of the largest corporations in Green Bay.  It will be open to its employees and families.  After that, I’ll attend the meeting of WisRWA’s Green Bay chapter.  Once back at home on Thursday, I’ll have to polish my next newspaper column which is due on Friday.  With that completed, I’ll start revising another book.

Finishing Up

It’s been a year since Black Ribbon Affair was published–an amazing year.  Last  year at this time I never anticipated a week like last week or the coming one.  I feel like a seasoned and wise Cinderella.  But glass slipper and glittery carriages aren’t for me.  I’ll be wearing comfortable flat shoes and drive a trusty SUV to get where I must go in this, my personal fairy tale.