February 28, 2010

Focus: Me and Rodney Yee

Today when I was doing yoga to Rodney Yee’s AM yoga tape, I was reminded of how much yoga is like writing. You have to keep focused on the yoga movements or the exercise doesn’t work. When writing you have to keep your focus on the words or it doesn’t make sense. Let your mind wander and you’ve lost the writing thread.
You know how hard it is to pick up a thread from the carpet. Try picking up a story once you've "dropped" it for awhile.

Yoga is an exercise of the body and mind.
Writing is an exercise of the mind and soul.

When I sit down to write if I don’t keep my focus on my characters and my plot I won’t be able to get the two going in the same direction. AND there’s trouble when plot and character do not work together. The story is out of balance. Your job is to create harmony. And when they DO work together it’s a miracle, a melodious symphony.

When sitting in seated meditation it takes willpower to focus on my breath. I use that time to be thankful and grateful. The meditation is energizing.

Yesterday I couldn’t seem to focus on my novel. I wrote a few lines and quit. Then last night when I got into bed the scene I’d been trying to write popped into my head. I ran to grab a pen and pad and sat in bed writing. My husband is used to this bounding out of bed to grab a pen and paper and then me writing in bed. He suggested I put “my tools” on the nightstand. I’ve always done that. But I’ve been out of practice lately. Now I’m back. I thank Rodney for helping me to learn to focus both on my yoga, my breathing, and on my writing.

Health Care Article

Here's the site where you can find my health care article.
http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/02/detailing_health_care_realitie.html

I'm sure anyone who is dealing with medical bills and insurances can identify with it.
My prayer is that we get decent health care soon.
Blessings to you on this Lord's Day.

February 26, 2010

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN WRITER AND READER

Writing this blog is fun. But even more fun after writing and posting a blog is to see who reads it and what dialog it creates. A piece of writing becomes a part of something bigger when it's read and digested.
A magical connection is formed between the writer and the reader.
The writing serves a larger purpose when the reader feels something - sadness, joy,an "aha" moment that he or she could have written those very words. A writer needs to have some of that back. It creates a bond between writer and reader.
Have you ever finished a book and wanted to "know" the writer? You want to learn everything you can about the writer and you read everything they've written to gain insight into his or her psyche.
I've felt that way dozens of times. How can a writer in London know how this middle aged woman is feeling here in this tiny town in Ohio? AND express it so eloquently?
This feeling is often without words - there's so much about writing that will remain a mystery. It just is. This week my good friend Liz asked - where on earth do you get these quirky characters and story ideas? I have no idea. They're just in my head.
Frank, Daisy, Lily and Jack are on their way to FL with a stolen dog named Tick. Lily has a secret as does Frank and these will be revealed along the way.
The title so far is IF YOU WON'T KILL ME THEN DRIVE ME TO FLORIDA. WHERE did that come from? I don't know. It just came and I'm thankful that it did. And I hope that something I've written will "say" something to you. Blessings!

Cut the boring...

It's been a crazy few days having my eight year old grandson, Chase Andrew, here while trying to get the article finished for The Plain Dealer, and jotting notes and scenes for the novel I'm working on.
Chase loves to read and write too so while I write he writes: letters to his mom, sister, and two brothers. Or he draws pictures. One day he drew a wonderful detailed picture of Batman and all the leading characters in the movie. It's on the refrigerator, though he tells me it's a gift for his mom when he goes home.
Chase is one of a set of triplets. He's highly intelligent and just as inquisitive. If I've heard, "But why Nanny, why?" Once I've heard it a million times.
Chase has all the attributes of a good writer. He's not satisfied with what satisfies everyone else. He wants to know more. He wants to dig deeper. He wants the whole picture. He wants to know the motive and he needs to know what's behind all the action. And that's what I want to know too when I write.
Right now I'm working on motive for each one of my characters and looking at why they've made the choices they've made - which is what sets a novel in motion.
I have most of the motives and have written several scenes. Now I'm laboring over my notes and deciding which scene to put in and which to leave out.
I think it was Elmore Leonard who said, "I try to leave out the parts that readers skip." How many times have you been reading a good book and come upon several pages of a description or information that is plain boring and you skip on to the next bit of "action?" In this story, I'm making an effort to leave out the parts that readers skip. I hope I'm successful.
The story is being told by an eight year old girl and I think that makes it pretty exciting. You never know what an eight year old will do. I'm learning!

February 24, 2010

Story Accepted for Publication

I spent yesterday writing an article on the issues we've had the last three months trying to connect the dots between our health care insurances and our health care bills. The article was accepted today by The Cleveland Plain Dealer and will appear in this Sunday's newspaper - a great place to have something published. The Bad News is they do not pay for unsolicited pieces. WHO KNEW? Last year they paid me for an article I sent in. This is another reflection of today's economy. To see The Plain Dealer reduced to this is sad.
BUT on a happier note I'll be thrilled to get the Sunday's paper and see the article. Plus I believe it's a well written article and will get the PD plenty of feedback in letters to the editors. If you can get a copy and read it. Let me know what you think.
The article should also be online Sunday.
That's it for now. Spent some time today on my new novel and I'm liking it more and more. Will share more on that later. Errands tomorrow. Blessings. B

February 23, 2010

Back When We Were Grownups

I ran across a book review I did online about the novel, Back when we were grown-ups, by Anne Tyler. Thought someone might be interested
"Like all Tyler's novels I want to live in them. I'm right there on stage with her characters living their lives, rooting for them, grieving with them. I find I often feel like "Beck" in Back When We Were Grown-ups. I'm having the wrong life. Surely the life I'm living can't be the one I'm meant to have. As Beck when she chooses one life over another and the question looms in her mind --- "What if I've taken the wrong road?" Aren't we all at some point in our lives faced with that thought? I couldn't put this book down. One cannot own too many copies of Tyler's books. Under "great storyteller" in the dictionary is the name Anne Tyler. Anyone agree? Disagree? Which Tyler book is your favorite. If you haven't tried one of her novels this is the time.

Visiting Patti in Greenbank Brings Memories

Last fall we went to visit my girlhood friend Patti and her husband, Steve, who live in Greenbank, WV. When we get together it's like going back to the late fifties. We went all through school together so share many memories. Mostly what I remember about those grade school years was the teacher constantly saying, "Patti and Bobbie, move your seats away from each other. AND stop that talking." We shared Girl Scouts, learning to put on make-up, cutting our hair, and trying to smoke, among other things.
Below is one of our many adventures.

PATTIE AND I BETWEEN THE AGES OF 8-10

Patti and I sneak out of her bedroom in the early morning hours into the parking lot of her dad's car towing business.
Several wreckers hold court on the lot as we creep along looking in car windows.
Our goal is to find the car that was brought in after last nights wreck.
We find the car and crawl around inside. Patti mostly wants to be the driver and steer the car. I'm intent on finding out about the people who own the car. The people who might have been killed or mangled in the very car in which we now sit. Shivers run through both of us as we tell each other stories about who they might have been. We have no idea if anyone was injured but we always imagine they were - the more tragic the story the better - we're sure that someone might have even met his death in the very car in which we sit.
We are not smart enough or old enough to learn the identity or identities of the people in the wreck. So we make them up. I imagine it is a young couple on a date, so in love they cannot contain their passion.
I open the glove box and find a red lipstick. I promptly pull the rearview mirror over to the passengers side where I am seated and manage to draw on luxurious lips with the creamy red stick. My real lips are pink and undeveloped. But now I am beautiful. Hollywood bound. Another Marilyn Monroe except my blond hair is cut in an uneven Dutch Boy. A bowl cut. I flick my hair back and pretend that it is long and flowing down my back.
I find a bracelet in the back seat. I imagine the guy in the car was preparing to give his girl the beautiful bracelet which I am sure contains diamonds and not rhinestones. I snap it onto my skinny girl arm which is covered with light peach fuzz.
Patti squeals for me to hold on. We are rounding a serious curve. Perhaps we too will meet our fate behind the wheel of the old blue Nash.
But she manages to pull us through and I continue my searching. My loot contains- besides the bracelet and lipstick- a pack of breath mints, one stick of Juicy Fruit, several pebbles underneath the drivers seat, retrieved by sticking my head under the seat on which Patti sits. She complains that I am pushing on her seat and messing up her steering.
Patti begins to complain she has a headache from the gasoline smell in the car and we decide to continue our adventures inside where we will pester her older sister until she lets us try on her clothes. We slam the car doors and break into a run when her mother calls us for pancakes.

February 22, 2010

Quote for the day

"Don't let the things you can't do - keep you from doing the things you can do."
By Helen Keller

Good advice for me today as I sit here listing all the ways I cannot write and all the authors that I cannot write like. Today's lesson. I need to write what I can write and not let the ways I cannot write stop me. Off here to write.

Trouble is Part of the Gift

I heard a story about a boy who gave a missionary a present as she was leaving his village. It was a seashell and she asked where he got it as the village was a hundred miles away from the sea. He said he'd walked to the seashore to get it for her.
She asked why he would go to that kind of trouble. He answered that the trouble was part of the gift.
Thinking back over the gifts I've given over the years and the ones I've received, I realize that the ones that were given with some "trouble" were the ones that meant the most - and they were the least expensive. Among my most treasured gifts are a used book given to me by a friend by a favorite author from a library sale, a rock from my grandson, a seashell from my daughter, a feather from another granddaughter, and a beloved but worn bookmark from a another friend.
Next time you give a gift don't try to give the most expensive gift. Give the one that takes a bit of trouble.
God bless!

February 21, 2010

Bookmarks: A Prayer and A Frog

My prayer on this Sunday morning is a simple one. It comes from a bookmark in my Bible: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." I'll bury those words in my heart so I can remember them during trying times - these days we all seem to have many.

On a lighter note, the bookmark in the book I'm reading titled, "Stately Pursuits" by Katie Fforde - borrowed from Lisa - reads, "Eat a bullfrog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day!" I believe I'll follow the directions on the first bookmark. Which will you do?

February 20, 2010

My Story for Redbook

I once had an obsession with REDBOOK. I was a subscriber for years and kept every issue. When we moved we paid to have the mover move a box of Redbooks five ft tall.I was sure that if I kept reading the wonderful Redbook stories I'd learn to write one.
In a Humanities class I was taking at the time our final assignment was to either paint a picture, compose a piece of music - hello - I didn't know one note from another - or aha! write a short story. Well I could do that and here was my chance to write my Redbook story.
I labored over the story honing and honing to make it a short short. It was brilliant.
I got an A. So I hurled it off to Redbook AND OMG they didn't recognize that it was written for them and they sent it back the very next day with nary a sign it had been opened. No handwritten note - no editorial coffee stain. I shrunk up to the size of a walnut - not really but I like that vision of myself - and put it away in my stuffed-with-stories desk drawer.
Next day I saw an ad in The Writer Magazine. CAT FANCY magazine was seeking short stories that featured a cat. Well, my story had a cat in it. I don't know why - I'm not a cat person - but my character Eve LOVED cats. Go figure. I jetted that story off to Cat Fancy posthaste.
WaaLaa. Sold!
So the moral of the story is - if your story does not fit the market you're aiming for - it may fit another.
Writing is as much about marketing as it is about writing - if you want to publish.
The short story form is one of my favorite forms of writing. If you love them too and want to write one, get busy. If I can so can you.

February 19, 2010

Write and Keep it simple

Below is one of my favorite quotes by J. Michael Straczynski. And to add to the quote EB White said, if there is a simple way and a complex way to say something, go with the simple. Decide for yourself.

"The more important the emotion is, the fewer words required to express it.
"Will you go out with me?
"I think I like you.
"I care for you.
"I love you.
"Marry me.
"Goodbye."

--writer J. Michael Straczynski

This morning I'm thinking about my new story. Yesterday was a good writing day. My characters Daisy, age 8, her adopted brother Jack, 5, her mother Lily, and old Frank Stutler are packed into Frank's 1985 Ford station wagon heading South to Florida. They're in snowy Beckley getting gas at a station near the Tamarack. Daisy wants to stop at the Tamarack but Lily has a reason to put miles quickly between herself and the small town in WV that they just left. Lily and Frank have no idea that Daisy has stowed away another passenger. Old Frank is unhappy as it is - he paid Lily to drive him to his FLorida home where he can hopefully die in peace in the sunshine, and the trip has become a nightmare with Daisy's endless chatter.
That's it for today folks. R has an appt in town and I'm the designated driver.
Be well. Stay warm and talk to you tomorrow. Blessings to you and yours.

February 17, 2010

Beating Myself In the Head & You Can't Trust a Donut

Wouldn't ordinarily write twice in one day on this blog but I have some things to say and nobody to listen. I hear R's snores coming from the bedroom where he's taking a nap after all his plowing and playing in the snow. I'm the one who deals with finances here - very scary actually. But we got a bill today from the hospital - for one of R's hospitalizations in Dec. The bill was for drugs he had while there. Medicare denied his claim. So I called them. They said he was not an inpatient but an outpatient. The reality is he was in the hospital three days and two nights that time. The person kept saying no he was not an inpatient, he was an outpatient. I stopped talking to him the third time he said outpatient and I literally beat the phone on the kitchen counter. I wanted to beat myself in the head with it. Then I called the secondary insurance which said of course that they do not pay if Medicare denies a claim. Soooo I called the hospital. The person in billing said yes indeed Mr. W was an outpatient during that time. He was under "observation." Which I now realize is observation = outpatient. Like he was being administered to out on the hospital lawn or something. I said no he was an inpatient. I saw him there on the third floor in an uncomfortable bed, hooked to monitors and machines. If he'd been outside I surely would have known it. Nope, she said. He was an outpatient. AND she said it was thanks to the physician for putting observation on the chart. How far will these companies go to keep us from getting what we are paying for? I could go on and on. I sent a prescription to our mail in pharmacy last week. The order came back with the RX and a bill for $227. I called and was told that my insurance this year had combined my pharmaceutical coverage with the medical coverage and the RX part was included into the medical deductible. I'd have to meet my $2500 deductible before I could pay the usual co-pay for drugs. She said I should have read the small and getting smaller print on the letter I received from the insurance Jan. 1. Wonder if there is anything else I've missed...We learned the end of Nov. 09 what the donut hole meant in R's RX coverage with Medicare. The donut hole means you are out of benefits. So before we got out of the donut hole we paid $300/$200 for two drugs.
I've always likened donut holes to something sweet and sugary. No more. The cold hard truth is you can't even depend on a donut anymore. As for me, I'm heading in to have a second piece of that good old cowboy coffee cake.

Cowboy Coffee Cake & Redbirds

We're still snowed in and it seemed a perfect day to bake a cowboy coffee cake. It's a simple coffee cake recipe with streusel topping and anything can be added to the cake batter or to the top. Today in honor of the redbirds at our feeder I added big fat red cranberries on top, pecans of course, and a small drift of coconut, representing the drifting snow outside the big dining room window. R has been cleaning the driveway with the help of Sam and her four wheeler. She made a path for him to the bird feeders out back. Quite a job running the four wheeler up and down to create a four ft. wide path. He has one feeder on a rope pulley so he can pull it down to tractor level where he sits and fills the feeders and then he hoists it back up into the tree and out of range of the deer who roam through the fields here very night.
They emptied the feeders when they were at antler level - now he has the pulley method and no more deer eating bird seed. I feel sorry for the deer but even sorrier for the beautiful birds that depend on our food to make it through this rougher than usual winter. We've had chickadees, sparrows, many redbirds, a few blue birds, doves, wood peckers - though I haven't seen any of those for awhile, and a variety of blackbirds. R's feeders are not open to blackbirds, he feels they're too plentiful and big enough to fend for themselves and he shoos them away. I can't say anymore on this as I feel he's a bird racist - I'm sorry R but you are! BIRDS ARE BIRDS IN MY DICTIONARY. God bless all birds.
The timer just rang so the cowboy coffee cake with cranberries, pecans, coconut and the orange zest I added at the last minute must be done. Yum. Must get off here and check it for doneness. I use toothpicks but do you know there was a time many years ago when I saw my grandma use a piece of straw from the kitchen broom. Sweep a floor then check a cake... I swear. Blessings, B

February 16, 2010

Jill & Designing & Pure Gold

Jill and I spent two hours this morning on the phone, she in Wisconsin, me in Ohio, as she led me through the trials and tribulations of adding templates to my blog page. Finally! Pay dirt. We got it right. I think it looks great. Comments welcome. Thanks, Jill. She is my go-to daughter when it comes to computers, new technology, and any other gadget that came out after 1990, including working the television remote when we first got Warner Cable. I used to call her at work - back when she worked at the Dispatch - and she would walk me through the steps to get the TV back on after it went out for whatever reason.I told her not to get married and move out of the house.Children. Adult children. Especially daughters. They're worth their weight in gold. And I mean that, girls...And grandchildren...don't get me started on what they're worth! Hope you like the site.
Honestly the snow is getting ridiculous. Piled everywhere - more drifting. Our house is in the center of a snow globe - and we're not even in Geauga County. This winter I've felt as though I'm wearing cement shoes - and creating stories and characters has been anything but easy. Each step is accompanied by much groaning and pain. My characters are as frozen as the pond on the hill behind our house. Yesterday I managed to get a page finished and then I found myself pulled to the dining room where daughter Susan was going through a box of old pictures - while the grandkids watched Stagecoach (John Wayne) with Papa. How can you not get dragged into looking at pictures of yourself wearing a hat the size of Illinois - Easter 1965.
And pictures of a handsome husband in his Navy uniform on Midway Island in the late 50's. Are those gooney birds at his feet??? Was he good looking or what...And then the faded photos of myself astride beautiful Pearl readying myself to ride out into the wild blue yonder....actually riding down the country road of Cross Creek with soon to be hubby beside me. The pictures don't show the terror in my heart as the horse shot out of the barnyard and down the road. But I quickly learned what the reins were for.
Finally I dragged myself back to the office and sat down to write but the sound of gun shots, wild screaming, and the roar of a racing stagecoach ended that session.
Where can I find a quiet corner in this small ranch house???

February 15, 2010

Watching wild turkeys in the field across the creek this morning - Feb 15, 2010. News has reported more snow for our area 4-9 inches. How much more can we get in one season? We have two feet of snow piled on the back deck and the driveway is snow packed and icy. I feel as though a sodden woolen blanket has been dropped over my shoulders - holding me down.
I'm going to hop in that station wagon that's headed to Florida and go along with the characters in my story. Maybe that will get me out of this sour mood.
When I started writing thirty years ago - it was on a whim. I told stories at card club every month and kept everyone laughing. A friend said I reminded her of Erma Bombeck and I should write the stories down. So I thought okay I will. I've always loved reading and writing and telling stories. Perhaps there was something to this.
The first story I wrote was published in The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland - and of course I thought, "I'm a writer." Ha. Little did I know - writing involved more than writing a 300 word essay on getting a tan in cloudy Cleveland. I enrolled in Lakeland Community College, going to the admissions office with a fist full of essays, a pounding heart, and sweaty palms - this little girl from a small town in WV who had a "hillbilly" accent that drove my friends to hysterics -and me to curl up inside and want to die - I wanted to sound like everybody else (I even emulated their speech but some words I just could not change- I'm thankful today I can still identify with that little girl from WV). At the college, I met Professor Margaret Bretschneider who held my hand and guided me along. I finally learned the things I'd missed in high school due to drive inn movies, sock hops, and a passionate crush on Elvis.
Many published credits for short stories and essays behind me, I finally wrote a novel. For five years agent Elaine English tried to sell it- while I tried to write a sequel. No luck with selling the first novel. It's still on my desk. And the sequel died a slow torturous death. Now I have three half finished novels in my desk drawer and another I've just started. The ideas that were brilliant in the beginning grew stale and ended in the middle of the story - the fire in my belly for each story was doused.
I haven't given up. Ernest Hemmingway said the only way to finish is to keep your butt in a chair and write on through to the end of the damn thing.
This losing faith in the middle of a novel isn't new. It happens to the best of writers. I know. I have many published friends who have the same problem. I can write a novel - I have one to show for it and people who have read it say it's good. (Not just the friends I paid.)
Now I have to pick up the threads of this new story and get busy. Who will go on this journey with me???

February 14, 2010

on producing soup and stories

So the question is - should you write some on your novel on Valentine's Day when your honey is home? The answer is yes! An emphatic yes. Right now my honey is in his favorite chair - napping. Yes, he gave me flowers. And some beautiful soft socks and he invited me to The Ridge Inn for dinner - set for another day. Who could ignore the delicious leftover spaghetti with meatballs, salad, and homemade bread pretzels that I made for his Valentine dinner yesterday. Complete with pound cake, strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Yum.
Honestly, my entire life does not revolve around food. But I admit - it's a big part of it.
For me writing and cooking complement each other. I love the process of making soup and I love the process of writing. Nothing makes me happier than to start with a few ingredients, say chicken broth, and start it to simmering. Add some chopped celery and onion, garlic, dash of dill, and a bit of thyme or sage. Next I might chop up a five inch stick of keilbassi and toss that in. Meanwhile I'm starting my story. I've got the characters embarking on their journey just as the smell of keilbassa wafts into my office. I head back to the kitchen and the stove and add three cans of white beans, drained and rinsed to the mixture.
I start tasting. This brings in my husband who has to have a taste. He's never met a pot of soup he didn't like. I decide to add in a sauteed green pepper and mushrooms. More stirring. More simmering. Back to my story which requires much more thought that the soup but the process of assembling the soup has started the process of ideas flowing and I have to stop blogging and work on the dysfunctional group that I have heading south in a 1985 station wagon of some sort. Very roomy but painted a very intense royal blue with seats that scratch the backs of my little girl character's legs. Later.