Friday, March 26, 2010

Sticky Notes: The Courage to Write it

Jo March: Friedrich, this is what I write. My apologies if it fails to live up to your high standards.
Friedrich Bhaer: Jo, there is more to you than this. If you have the courage to write it.

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Read vs. Write

So many books, so little time.  What's a writer to do?? 

The way I read has changed over the years, in particular, since I starter writing seriously.

This month Peg Phifer at Go Ahead and Wear the Purple is discussing this very topic. She is featuring authors and writers who are learning to balance writing and reading.

Today it's my turn to post on Read vs. Write. I hope you'll stop by!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Planning a Writing Conference

Plans are well underway for the Maine Fellowship of Christian Writers Conference. It will be held on the coast again in beautiful Belfast, Maine on August 14th. 

Local and state writers conferences are great and provide an opportunity for those who might not be able to get to a larger, national conference.  Non-members are invited to attend and it might be an affordable solution for those who live in the region.

This year we are thrilled to have "the man behind the words" Cecil Murphey.  Cec has written or co-written well over 100 books and 700 articles. He will share his expertise in three sessions, one which will be "Ask the Expert".  We are working on lining up several workshops for the breakout sessions. I'll be teaching one on new media connections. We also expect to have one or two editors as well as authors as presenters.

I created the new logo (above) which will be featured on a new website that I'm designing for the group that will provide conference information and online registration. I'm also doing the marketing materials and other desktop publishing items. There is a lot of work to be done, but it's great being involved in the process.

Have you been to a writers conference? I'd love to hear about it.  Have youo ever been involved in the planning of one?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Writing as a Keepsake

Saturday I attended my writers group (MFCW). I taught the lesson this time and used this month's Writing to Distraction writing prompt as it's basis. "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon is a wonderful poem that incorporates aspects of her life into the prose.  It creates a wonderful writing exercise and as a result you end up with a keepsake that tells a little bit about who you are.  The benefits are numerous: it records your legacy, is clutterless, is good therapy, it's lot's of fun, and it gets the creative juices flowing for poets, auto-biographers, and even fiction writers.

To start the lesson off I brought a box filled with some of my own keepsakes, things that tell where I'm from. Then I asked the members if they would each share a few things that tell us where they are from. I was very touched by how much sharing occurred.  It gave us the opportunity to get to know one another better and share some special things about our lives. There were lots of smiles, laughs, and even some tears.

Then I read the poem "Where I'm From".  At this point I could see the writer in everyone emerge. You see, they already had shared. They already had something to write about.  So in essence, our time of sharing was a brainstorming session.  After this I shared some tips for writing our own "Where I'm From" poem.

We spent about 15 minutes or so writing, it's amazing how fast the ideas come once they start to flow.  We shared our rough drafts with one another. I think we were all amazed.  It was nice sharing something that wasn't all polished off either and for me, that was an exercise in itself.  I feel so much closer to the group now and more comfortable sharing what I've written. I also have a new keepsake that is meaningful to me personally and that I can share with others.

Here's Where I'm From . . .
I am from kings and queens, and the land of trolls, from crusaders, and pilgrims, and pioneers. I’m from Pinnacle Rock, Camp Marion, Mississippi moons, Endless Mountains, Snow Falls, Streams in the Desert, and Beulah Land.  I’m from Tak så mycket, pickled herring, and two bits. I’m from molasses cookies, stuffed quahogs, and steamed clams. I am from Lily of the Valley and Lady's Slippers.

I’m from my own little corner in my own little world, these are a few of my favorite things, and somewhere over the rainbow.    I’m from What Color is Love?, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Tell Me Why.  I’m from dandelion wishes and good night prayers.  I’m from family Bibles with worn passages.  I’m from “Jehovah Jireh” written into the front steps .  

I’m from wandering into the wardrobe, thinking outside the box, never ending stories, and the land time forgot.  I’m from exploring trails on horseback, chasing butterflies, and collecting precious stones.   I’m from ancient ruins, castles in the air, dream houses,  an era gone by.

I’m from the prison of hope, the valley of pain, mountains of praise, manna in the wilderness, crossroads of faith, rivers of joy. I’m from “Jesus Loves Me This I know”, “Precious Jewels”,  “He’s Everything to Me”, and "My Father's Eyes".  I’m from “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and “Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow”.

I’m from Lapis Lazuli, crystal tears, a stained glass heart, and vanquishing fears.  I’m from learning how to walk again. Knowing who I am. I’m from a garland of grace. I’m from love and faithfulness written on the tablet of my heart.  I’m from a jewel in His crown.  I’m from the God of second chances, and many more.

Remember, this is the March Writing Prompt & Giveaway.  Some of you have already entered. So don't be shy.  We'd love to read where you are from!

If you don't have a blog and would like a chance to share your poem, please email it to me and I'll post it here.

 Have you done any writing as a keepsake? I'd love to hear about it . . .

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Search & Rescue

Lesson learned: Even new kittens need a cat carrier.  She looks so innocent doesn't she? Now that she is all safe and sound she can afford to be cute.

Let me tell you what happened after we picked her up and were on our way home.  We had gone less than 2 miles when this little imp wiggled her way from my son's cuddle and under his seat he went. She made it to the back of the car and reversed the direction coming up under my seat. Before we could do anything she found her way beneath my brake, meowing all the while. I somehow managed to pull over.  And then there was nothing.  No kitten. No purring. No kitten!!

We parked the car and tore it apart, looking every where imaginable.  She wasn't in the car, or the trunk, or the engine. She was no where to be found.  Justin's brand new baby cat had barely made it out of it's former driveway and she'd vanished.  Maybe there was a whole in the bottom of the car and she dropped out. We walked back about 1/2 a mile scanning large roadside ditches. Nothing. When we returned, still not a peep.  We feared the worse, that the kitten somehow got caught between the dash and the engine and we had lost her.  For good.

We were devastated!  How could such a freak accident possibly happen? We were all happy about picking up Justin's birthday present and then within minutes it was a tragedy. We both felt absolutely sick inside.  About a half an hour had passed and we didn't know what to do.  Then a nice old farmer pulled up in front of the car, having seen the hood up.  He asked what kind of trouble we were having.  I explained our situation with much embarrassment and regret.  He assured us there were no holes in the bottom of the car.  He said that we should just drive home and put a bowl of milk out and the kitten would come out from hiding. We weren't so sure. We drove very carefully home. I felt like I was driving a hearse. We stopped to pick up the pizza we had ordered on the way home, but neither of us felt like eating. There was only one thing that could destroy my appetite for Buffalo Chicken pizza and that was it.  The poor little dear couldn't possibly have survived that drive.  We were certain that was the end. And the cat didn't even have a name.

When we got home my husband and other son were there and they both came rushing out. The
search and rescue mission resumed. Brandon climbed under the dash and low and behold a paw appeared.  And then he heard the kitten pur.  Our heart's lept!

It took about an hour and a half longer with much untangling, parts removal, coaxing and patience from all four of us before the traumatized feline would come down.  Justin was faithful to the end and finally won her heart, by talking to her and giving her drips of milk from his fingertip. They actually bonded over the experience and little miss kitty has a new name. At first she was going to be called Dasha (from dashboard), but alas she is Claudia, after a character from a book.

UPDATE: After spending a few days with her, the kitty is officially "Dasha"!

A New Pet

Today is kitty day.  My oldest son turns 23 next week and we are picking up one of his birthday gifts this afternoon. There were four adorable kittens to choose from all with beautiful markings (their grandfather is a Maine Coon cat and their mother is a smokey brindle).  After much deliberation and spending about an hour playing with the kittens, Justin finally picked one out.  It was the little orange one.  He always wanted an orange cat so I knew he would go with his long-time wish, but he was tempted by the white and and orange one's playful demeanor.  The orange kitten soon proved to be pretty and playful as well.

I hope this new pet is a good companion for him and an encouragement as my son suffers from Major Depression. Pets can be so healing.  I literally went through some of the darkest times in my life with my little spoiled cat, Briar Rose, and her purr warmed my spirits. 

It's been 4 days since Justin picked out his pet and no name yet. I picked out Justin's name when I was in high school and wrote a report on Morgan horses and learned about Justin Morgan. Who would have known by the time I had my first son, ten years later, it would be a popular name. My other son (Brandon) was named on the way to the hospital and I didn't even know he was going to be a boy. So this is driving me nuts - this is his baby! I've been trying not to nag him.  No wonder I had a dream that I was pregnant and trying to choose my baby's name. He says he wants to get to know his new pet and then decide on the name so the name fits her personality.  This might have something to do with his brother's cat's name evolving from Cinnamon to Tinny to Snafu. For now the wee one will be simply "kitty".

What if I had waited to name my sons according to their character traits?  I think I wanted them to grow in to their names, yet they seem to fit anyway.  Justin means just and he has always had a good sense of righteousness in his heart and wisdom.  Brandon means brave and he has always been my quiet yet bold adventurer.

That got me thinking. When I write a story I usually pick out names for my characters before I know who they are. I have even written characters, and stories too, based on their name alone and who I want them to be.  I often go to baby names websites and look for names that mean character traits that I want the character to have.  That might seem kind of strange because as a writer I can imagine any name I want and think up any characteristics I want, but somehow doing this seems to authenticate the name for me. At times I've changed names mid-stream, after I got to know them better. They might say, "Why do you keep calling me that? You know my name is really ____." Occasionally I've drawn a blank and haven't found a name until the very end and just gave them a generic name or called them "hero" or "bad guy". That is usually an indicator to me that the character needs more development, that they don't have a true identity yet.

What about you?  When do you name your characters?  How do you go about naming them?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Higher Realms of Grace

Everyone has their own experiences and circumstances they must go through in life, and writers are no different. I do not wish to use this blog as a platform for sharing my chronic pain, I only wish to be real and share with you along the way some of my joys and struggles of my writing  and life journey.

I'm still recouperating from my busy time of activity with my involvement from the women's conference we just put on at my church.  At the end of the conference we were each asked to lay down a burden at "the foot of the cross". A friend asked me later what I "layed down".  My answer - my body, my pain. So many would bear a delightful exhaustion from such an event - nothing that a foot soak and a good night's sleep wouldn't help. It will take me a good couple of weeks to ease my physical exhaustion, fatigued muscles, and swollen and painful joints. My condition is complex (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, benign joint hypermobility). My daily naps have consisted of 6 hours one day, 4 hours the rest, and my pain level is soaring. It's a price I seem to pay for doing some things that I enjoy. The spirit is willing but the flesh is so weak. My energy and ability waxes and wanes.  Oh, but the joy in my heart helps me bear it. Bear it in the vessel that was appointed to me - one that need not be crushed, but that needs to learn to bend.

This burden of mine few understand, but when I read my Streams in the Dessert tonight I saw that one Miss Mary Butterfield did. I do not know who this Miss Butterfield was, as I could not find any information on her, but her heart speaks to me - ministers to me - through the words she wrote long ago . . . " Our burdens are our wings; on them We soar to higher realms of grace."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Literary Crafts

Are you a crafty person? Give books a second life with these great ideas I came across on craft items you can make using old books.  Warning: This post contains the desecration of books which may not be tollerable to some viewers. 

There are many versions of book wreaths
all around the internet. (I even saw one at Novel Journey the other day.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Fling: Practicing the Art of Encouragement

On Saturday the women's ministry at my church put on a conference.  It was attended by 165 women, many dressed in our color theme of pink, black and white. We were there to learn "The Power of Positive Linking: Practicing the Art of Encouragement" with international fashion designer and speaker Martha Fellure. It was such a blessing!

Getting ready for such an event is a monumental task that requires months of preparation. It truly is a labor of love for the conference team and volunteers who helped (45 in all) with pulling of such an event, but we all agree that it is well worth it.  My role was to plan the theme/decor and destop publishing/marketing. I'm still pretty achy and exhausted and am learning
some lessons about my limitations and do plan to delegate more next time. I'm good at the creative part, but my body doesn't cooperate very well.  I'm so thankful for good friends who work so well together.  At 9:30 pm the night before the conference (second night of set up, after most of us worked during the day) and we were still at it. A friend came in to give us who were still there a much needed boost of help.  She even brought some cookies and therapeutic neck rolls to ease some of our achy necks and shoulders.  That was a true encourager!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sticky Note: Determination

I have been called off at least a dozen nurse the baby, then into the kitchen to make a chowder for dinner, and now I am at it again, for nothing but deadly determination enables me ever to write: it is rowing against wind and tide...the spirit moves now and I must obey.

- Harriet Beecher Stowe

Thursday, March 4, 2010

March Writing Prompt & Giveaway: Where I'm From

Since my first Writing Prompt & Giveaway got off to a slow start, I thought I'd try something slightly different for March. I hope you'll find this theme to your delight!  Please see official rules here.

George Ella Lyon isthe poetess of the famous poem "Where I'm From".  In this same format (found on her site) write a poem telling where you're from. There is no word count suggestion for this one. A random winner will be chosen from my basket of entrant's names who will receive the writer's gift box prize.

I'm a genealogy enthusiast and keeper of many of our family's Bibles that have been handed down to me. Tucked between the pages of my paternal grandfather's Bible was this postcard from Trollhatten, Sweden, sent to him only a few years after he emmigrated.  Unfortunately the whole message is in "Svenske" so I cannot cipher it; although I hope someday I can find out what it says. This was the region that both my father's parents came from.  Trollhatten is taken from Swedish folklore and means the land of trolls.  Is that where I come from? The land of trolls? Oh, there, but so much more! This clue reveals only a few threads of the tapestry of where I am from, which metaphorically includes so much more.  So where are you from? You have until March 31st to post your poem right here on Mr. Linky.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hannah's Legacy

I'd like to thank and congratulate Southpaw (Holly Ruggiero) and Sonia Parham for entering my first Writing Prompt & Giveaway!  Southpaw is the winner of the writer's prize box and a writing prompt book goes to Sonia Parham.  I hope you'll visit their blogs to read their entries which were both very imaginative! I think you'll enjoy them as much as I did.

And now a little "back story" of the photo of Hannah's gravestone. . .

I came across this tiny little family cemetery in Vassalboro, Maine along the side of an old country road. From what I can deduct I have discovered the following: Hannah was the infant or young daughter of a Lieut. Benj. Williams (who died at age 33 on Sept. 9, 1829).  Her mother's name was Mary, as indicated on the possible marker of an older (deducted from the med-lg size of this marker) sister named Mary who died in 1825. Hannah also had a brother who died in April of 1829, he was listed as the son of Benj. Williams, his name also Benjamin, it appears he was 6 years old. I learned that her father was a member of the Maine militia and served in a local regiment during the war of 1812 when he was only 16 yrs. old.  It is possible that his father was a John Williams who served in the Revolutionary War. The large stone in the center appears to be the mother's marker, which is not legible except for the last name and a short first name. Another very small stone is set near the mother's grave which very likely did not have or need room for a name. Often "infant" was all that was given and a date.  In Hannah's little life there was apparently much death and mourning as represented by the identical weeping willow tree symbol on each of these family graves. 



Now that I have this information for my story, which I apologize I did not get to before, I've found my inspiration for a little tale I'll call "Hannah's Legacy".

        Near the edge of the wood lay a small plot of land dotted with a half dozen modest gravestones.  An old woman’s shiny hand palmed the images of weeping willow trees that were etched on the top of all six markers. Death. Mourning. “My years have been too long, and yours far too brief, my loves.”  She crouched down and with a feeble finger traced the letters on the grave of her namesake . . . Hannah.

       "Come Grandmother." A young woman extended a hand and helped this dear one to her feet - the woman who had had raised her and taught her to stand on her own.

       "I brought no flowers today to remember them by." 

       "Aye, but I have brought seeds with me."  Her granddaughter sprinkled seeds of Lupine in the damp soil and pressed them in to the ground with the toe of her boot with a gentle reverence.

       With glassy eyes Grandmother Hannah beheld the only survivor of the illness upon illness that had ushered most of her youngest son’s family into glory nearly two decades ago. “My how you take after my Ben, and not just in looks, dear.”  A smile lit the woman’s face and her eyes danced as if true scenes and not merely memories dallied before her. “I imagine Hannah would have looked near the same, though she seemed to favor your mother some.”

       The older woman’s arthritic thumb caught the tear that slid down Grace’s cheek. “Your twin would have been proud of you, for you are living your life well. It is an honor to you both, and a credit to your own name.”

By the way, genealogy research has lead me to some fantastic places to get interesting information on life in various time periods.  I find that censuses, military roles, etc. are an excellent source for names. Sometimes a mere name will capture my attention and create an image in my mind for a character. Often true situations, places, and events, as well, can produce some great ideas for writing.  Real circumstances have incited songs, hymns, poems, biographies, and novels.

What prompts a writing idea for you?  A picture?  A theme? A word?  A bit of news? Research?