March 31, 2010

Celebrate the Small Victories...

This week I’ve been writing madly on my WIP wanting to enter the first two chapters in the West Virginia writers contest with postmark deadline today, March 31.

It was a lofty goal as the story idea was only two weeks old, in its earliest stages of life when I decided to enter it. I had pulled out old stories and just didn’t have the enthusiasm to do heart surgery on any one of them at this time.

This story with the working title, KILL ME OR DRIVE ME TO FLORIDA, is told from eight year old Daisy Dunn’s point of view. She, her mother, and her brother are driving old Frank Stutler to Florida in his battered station wagon. Right now the story is so new that details change almost daily.

However, yesterday, fearing that I would not have those last few pages finished for today’s mailing, I started second guessing every word, every sentence, even the very idea until I had myself convinced that I should trash the whole manuscript and be done with it.

I have a demon editor that lives inside me and fights me at every turn, especially when I write fiction.

So, I put on my hat of reason and responsibility. I know my idea is good because of the enthusiasm I have when I work on it, and while the story might not be ready for entry in a contest - that was my goal and so I would submit it.

This afternoon it’s going to the post office. The West Virginia Writers, Inc. needs my entry fee and I need the feeling of accomplishment that comes with taking the next step in the process of writing. Letting your work go.

I can do one of two things after the manuscript is gone. I can sit at my computer and bemoan letting the story go so soon. I can start taking the story apart and magnifying every error.

Or I can celebrate the small victory - the victory of letting it go. Of sending it out into the world to have someone other than myself and my critique partners read it.

I’ve decided to celebrate. It’s those small moments that make us the writers that we are.

We write. We toss it out to the world. We write. We toss.

Anyone with me on this one? Should we toss our work out into the world? Or hold it tightly in our arms for our own comfort?

March 29, 2010

Hyacinths to Feel the Soul...

Carved on a stone in one of the gardens at Lake Chautauqua are these words in honor of the beautiful hyacinth:

"If thou of fortune be bereft, and in thy stores but two loaves left, sell one...and with the dole, buy hyacinths to feed the soul."

The hyacinth is by far my favorite spring flower. It does indeed feed the soul. I love it not just for its beauty but for its heavenly scent. It reminds me that good things are to follow its blooming. Sunshine, summer breezes, picnics under the tree out back, more iced tea with lemon, the laughter of the grandchildren playing ball in the backyard, the house doors flung open to let in the smells and sounds of it all.

The poem about the hyacinth reminds me of charming Lake Chautauqua with it's sail boats on the water and the Victorian gingerbread houses lining the streets above the lake.

Being invited there as a guest to attend the Highlights Writing Workshop was the high point of several summers for me. Kent Brown always made us feel so welcome and even the visiting writers such as Joy Crowley from Australia were so approachable and kind.

On a porch overlooking the lake I first read my short story Vada Faith and Joy Ruth and asked the group if the characters and their story was enough to fill a novel. I got a resounding yes and before summer's end I had a rough draft of my novel, HUNGRY FOR CHOCOLATE. I'll be spending a few weeks this summer revising it and getting it ready for publication. One way or the other. I want to see that novel in print.

I look forward to shopping this week. I've had my eye on several hyacinths at the grocery. They aren't quite ready to bloom and that's when I like to buy them. Hopefully they'll grace us with their "blooming presence" on Easter morning.

Blessings! Thanks for stopping by.

March 27, 2010

Sweet Tea and Memories

I was wondering the other day when I was driving somewhere drinking sweet tea, if iced tea is sweet tea. A lot of my friends serve iced tea. It never has sugar in it. What's that about? How can you drink iced tea without sugar and a lemon slice on the rim.
When my mother served iced tea it was ALWAYS sweet. I was born and raised in Putnam and Kanawha Counties, West Virginia. We drank sweet iced tea either in glasses with a border of Dutch boys and girls or a border of yellow and red tulips. Of course, there was the summer when plastic glasses hit town and we had them in all colors, yellow, green, pink and we used those.

My good friend, Sherry, was born and raised around Delaware, Ohio and her mother always made iced tea without sugar - ever. So Sher drinks unsweetened tea.

My dear friend, Diana, makes iced tea and has simple syrup on the side for those who like sweet tea. Diana doesn't use much sugar in her food so I try to remember that when Sherry and Diana visit to make a pitcher of sweet tea without the sugar.

It seems we all have our own tea habits. And tea memories.

My most favorite tea memory is of my first writers group which included my friends Donna, and Liz. We were in Marcie Anderson's writers group that originated at John Carroll University in Cleveland. An adult ed class. From there we moved to Marcie's home in Pepper Pike. That was once a month so in between meetings Liz, Donna, and I would meet at each other's houses over tea, usually spiced warm tea, and discuss writing and our own projects. I'll never forget how sweet those days were. Donna was the baker and always had warm muffins to go with the tea. Or I'd pick up something from Hough Bakery, which I understand is no longer in Cleveland.

While those days are gone the memories still linger, strong and sweet like a good glass of tea.

I have a poem somewhere that I wrote during that time in my life. IT was about how a friend is like a good cup of tea. When I find it I'll post it.

Do you have a favorite tea? Or a favorite tea memory.

We have so many wonderful teas these days. Love Chia? I do. I love all of them.
Let me hear from you. Blessings, Barb

March 22, 2010

Monday, the Golden Snail, My Mother

It's been a crazy kind of day. Rainy and foggy. I've been hard at work on my Florida story - I'm having trouble getting the scenes down and the dialog right.

I realize all over again how very hard writing really is. I forget when I've been away from it for awhile. It only takes an hour of writing to remind me. Then it only takes one sentence to come together perfectly to remind me why I write. There's nothing like the feeling that embraces a writer when he gets it just right.

When I was having trouble pulling together a scene, I brought out my certificates and awards for contests I'd finaled in and spread them out across my desk. That's a confidence builder, believe me. I added the gold sparkley snail ornament my writing buddy Sherry gave me. It's to remind me that while the snail - me - is slow he always arrives at his destination.

Looking back on my accomplishments helps me to have the confidence to move forward on a project. To remind me that I can do the work.

We have to do whatever it takes to motivate us to do whatever our life's work is.

On my desk I have some things that make me feel good. I have a healing crystal that my daughter Lisa brought back from Sedona. I have an ordinary rock I brought back from the WV mountains from my friend Patti's property - I feel it's as healing as the Sedona crystal, maybe more so. I have a number of writing books that have improved my writing immensely.

I have a photo of myself and my husband. And I have photos of the grandbabies. Who doesn't feel better when they see a grandbaby? Or just a baby? I always have a quote or two. And then there's the photo of my mother who loved me unconditionally. Whether I wrote. Whether I sold. It didn't matter to her. She loved me. She's gone now but I still feel loved by her.

How can one not be successful at whatever he does when his mother loves him?

I didn't start this intending to end up here - with my mother. But my life started with her and this entry might as well end with her.

She gave me my wit and my way of looking at the world. Sometimes through a magnifying glass. Sometimes through rose colored glasses. Sometimes standing on my head.

Did you have a mother like that? Or not? What formed you? It's a good topic to blog about. Or not.

Blessings!

March 19, 2010

Writing Revising Cutting

It's been a busy few days. Yesterday I made rhubarb sauce from rhubarb I had frozen. I got it last summer from Mrs. Beachy, the Amish woman who lives down the road.
We get all our produce there in the summer and it's the best. Anyway, I took her a jar of the sauce. One of her daughter's answered the door. Her mom had gone to visit family in Michigan.
Then I puttered - I can putter an entire day away and never accomplish anything. Can you? Or am I the only person that putters anymore? I did some writing of my own and read more of Sherry's manuscript, ISLAND PASSAGE. I'm getting caught up in the story and not doing as much editing as I should.

Today I pulled together two stories to enter in the West Virginia Writers contest, deadline March 31. That's with a late fee! I'm always a last minute entrant.

I'm going to submit KILL ME OR DRIVE ME TO FLORIDA - I had to write a one page synopsis. Try to fit a novel into a one page summary. Nearly impossible. But I did it.

I'm also submitting SWEET BABY JAMES about a baby abduction. Baby James is the second novel in the series I was going to call SHADY CREEK - but the first book HUNGRY FOR CHOCOLATE didn't sell. AND it went out to every publisher on this earth.

Tomorrow I'll read over the two stories, I'm submitting about five thousand words each, and the summaries. I plan to send them out on Monday.

I always feel so righteous when I submit something.

I've had lots of feedback from the story that was in the Detroit Free Press. Many pros and cons on health care in this country. I'm not up for arguing any of the points. I just want us all to have the good coverage we deserve in this country.

That's it for now. Blessings!

March 18, 2010

My health care article in news again today

The Detroit Free Press used my article on health care today. I googled Detroit Free Press and my name. IT came up. They interviewed me over the phone and added some additional information that wasn't in the earlier version that was printed by the Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Hope you read it and respond if you have any health care worries. Thanks!

The sun is shining and I have lots to do today.

Everyone have a beautiful bright sunshiny day.

Blessings!

March 17, 2010

Kill Me or Drive Me to Florida...

Today I wrote a new scene for my story - titled so far- KILL ME OR DRIVE ME TO FLORIDA. A scene that lets the reader know why these people are all on the road together.
I hope it's as interesting as I think it is. AND I hope others like it as much as I do.
That isn't always the case when we write something close to our hearts. WE think others will see our characters as we do - feel their breath and hear their hearts beating. Not always so.

The scene today just flowed. I've been reading - again - BECOMING A WRITER by Dorothea Brande. An old book that's been revived. Her advice is so very good you must read this if you write. She says to do something mindless before writing. No reading of other books. No talking. Sit somewhere quietly. Go to a symphony - no words.
Then your own words will flow within your head, your heart.

Sometimes I talk my stories out and then have no enthusiasm for writing them. Don't make that same mistake. Hold your stories close to your heart as you would a lover. Selfishly. When you get to the page you can unleash them with passion and excitement.

I'm on a roll with writing and hope you are as well. Whatever you're doing - do it with enthusiasm. Blessings, Barbara

March 16, 2010

Total Sugar Breakdown

I had a total sugar breakdown yesterday at Walmart. I hadn't had sugar in the house for several weeks, other than one piece here and there. I completely lost what little sense I have. After I finished blogging I looked at my receipt and realized I was so caught up in my sugar high that the clerk did not take off the coupons I went in there to use. AM I insane or what? That will teach me to watch so lovingly as he loaded each sweet into my bags, lusting after each one. I should have been watching that he deducted my coupons.
Also after blogging I found the jelly beans and chocolate eggs, which I immediately tried for freshness and I'm proud to report that they are the ultimate in freshness. Of course it took three of the chocolate eggs to make sure. And several handfuls of the jelly beans. I love them all, even the black ones.

AND not a grandchild in sight so I can't say I bought the stuff for them. The little ones are in Wisconsin, though I must say the triplets would make quick work of all those snacks.

I think I lost my mind on that shopping trip. I - who NEVER make jam - yesterday bought enough frozen strawberries and the packets of stuff to make freezer jam. MORE SWEETS.

What kind of breakdown would you say I had?

Though I must say I love the red blouse and the silver necklace thingy.

Off here now to actually write on my story.

After learning this morning that I have to have a root canal and another crown which I intend to put off as long as I can, I must lose my self in the minds of my characters. They're surely having much more fun that I. At least I know little Daisy is.
Blessings!

March 15, 2010

Today I was going to write...

Today was the day I was going to write write write on my current story titled Untitled.
Instead I went to WalMart with Susan, my second daughter. I went to buy four things and to help her as she had a big grocery shopping to do. I ended up with a cart full of --- junk. I bought a bathroom rug since I spilled nail polish on the one in there on Sat. night. (I also had to discard my pajama bottoms that night and scrub the tile floor with Comet). Ok, I bought a cake mix to make a pineapple upside down cake, Smores Little Debbies, Chunky Chips Ahoys, trail mix - in I swear a five pound bag, a fruit and nut Cadbury candy bar - if you haven't tried these I highly recommend that you do, A Heath candy bar, a Dr. Pepper, and a bag of lightly salted rice cakes to eat in the car coming home. A box of raisin oat bars for R, and a box of macaroon cookies for the cookie jar. I also got out of there with a fancy silver wire looking dangly necklace thing, and a sharp red blouse off the clearance rack for three bucks. Did I do well or what?
The only thing I bought that might be halfway useful was liquid detergent. I had a coupon - buy one bottle and get one free. I'm so proud of myself and I only spent $80. Oh, I bought bananas, a bd card and a few other things.
That's why I haven't written on "UNTITLED" yet.
Also, I talked to an editor at the Detroit Free Press. She's planning to use my article that was in the Plain Dealer last week. She had a list of questions and might do some rewriting. I don't care as long as it mostly says what I said. I emailed her a photo. I was worried because the photo wasn't all that good. Then she told me it would be the size of a postage stamp. I can live with that. So that's my day. Hope yours went well. Blessings!
PS Uhoh! I just found the jelly beans and chocolate Easter eggs I bought.

March 13, 2010

Wringing the most out of a character...

As I look out the kitchen window rain hits the wooden deck at a steady pace.
Today I'm making tuna salad and iced tea in anticipation of sunshine and spring when I might take a tuna salad sandwich and eat it at the bench under the big tree in our backyard. I made a coffee cake from a recipe from Ladies Home Journal, Feb. issue, pg. 128. I put in extra walnuts and orange zest in honor of my mother who went through the depression and used not only the fruit but the peel whenever she could. Some of her frugality rubbed off on me - not all mind you but some. I zest every orange and lemon that comes into my kitchen, freezing it, and plenty comes in as we love citrus fruit.
I try to use every bit of food we buy and rarely throw anything away if it can be used. (BUT I don't like leftovers, go figure.) I cook shriveled apples and we eat them on homemade biscuits. I use the last potato in the bag. Okay I throw the really bad ones away. But I get the most out of everything I can.
Perhaps that's why I'm trying to wring everything I can out of the characters in my current story. I want to make them rise off the page and dance.
They haven't done that yet. But they are having a ruckus in the metallic blue bomb of a station wagon as they head South. Daisy Dunn my main character is only eight, but she's an old woman in a child's body. A big headed bald baby whose body has finally caught up with her head. Everyone in the car has a secret. Old Frank didn't give his wife her last wish before she died. Lily, Daisy's mom and driver of the car, has taken money - quite a bit of it - from her cheating boyfriend, and Daisy has taken a beagle named Tick without the owner's permission and has him in her duffel bag where he is sleeping off the "resting" pill Daisy gave him before leaving home. They can't get down South too soon. But I have a feeling it's going to be a long trip for everyone.
I'll let you know as we continue our journey. Blessings!

March 11, 2010

A quote and a broken promise

Vita Sackville-West said: "It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the
moment?"

When I don't write, that's exactly how I feel. That the moment is lost. That the day has slipped emptily by.

Today, unlike many days lately, I wrote. I didn't at all do what I was supposed to do. I had agreed - during March Madness Challenge - not to edit and to write write write on my new story. But every day I felt my words were falling into thin air as I wrote because my first chapter was shaky - the boards were loose and my words were falling through the cracks. When I write I must have a good foundation to hold my story. So I cheated and reworked the first chapter.

Now I feel as though my story can stand on it's own two feet instead of standing on mine - just as I did when I was a child and stood on a partner's feet to move around the dance floor. I no longer need to do that. And neither does my story. It's got its own footing.

No more broken promises this month, I promise. But then again didn't I hear that promises are made to be broken. That's a topic for another time. Besides I think it depends on what the promise is. And a promise to oneself I've decided is one that can be broke. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.

Blessings!

March 8, 2010

Dinner at the Buzz In Buzz Out

After a long day of meetings and talking, I came home exhausted. R was having no talk of leftovers when all I wanted to do was fall on the sofa and rest. He had heard from Charlie the tractor man down the road that the Buzz In Buzz Out had a new menu and he'd like to take me there for dinner. Before I could answer he was getting ready. How could I say no when I'd been off doing my thing all day.
So I crawled literally into the car after throwing on some lip liner - like anyone at the Buzz In would notice - and off we went. There were a couple of grubby truckers there.
R decided to try the new hot buffet - which had all of six choices and priced at $5.99 a pound.
I went for the personal pizza when the waitress wasn't sure she could get the pulled pork for a sandwich thawed in time for me to have my sandwich when R had his buffet meal. So, he came back with a plate of steaming mashed potatoes and gravy, a brat, some vegetables and garlic bread. He loved every bite. I ate a partially frozen mini pizza with banana peppers - the banana peppers being the best part of the meal. That and the A&W bottle of root beer from the cooler.
A long day ending at the Buzz In and Buzz Out. R was ecstatic. Thought the mashed potatoes and gravy was to die for. So, I'll just end by saying he may once more go to the joint down the street and I probable won't. For him it was a perfect end to a perfect day. Charlie the tractor man got his tractor running again. As for me, I'm happy when he's happy. It's been a good day.
Now off to watch the Bachelor marriage. Who says we're not high class? Blessings!

March 7, 2010

Sunday is Father's Day and my love for music

I heard a song years ago by Dottie Rambo titled Sunday is Father's Day. She both wrote it and sang it with her family of singers. Since then I've had the words to that song embedded into my brain. I used to drive to Willo Hill Baptist Church in Willoughby, Ohio in an old Corvair, (R bought it for $50 from a neighbor and bought $1000 worth of tools to work on it- it's a man thing) that smoked like a double chimney, with the kids in the backseat fighting, and I'd sing that song to the top of my lungs - sure that if the Lord came that minute I'd be taken up in the clouds with him. I'm sure I told the kids if they didn't stop hitting each other they would not be going with me. I am a singing fool and can't carry a tune. I keep music going all day long, from soft piano cds, to the sound of the ocean lapping the shore, to Indian flutes, and Alan Jackson singing Precious Memories. Oh, and Kenny G. I love him too. And Aaron Neville. AND my ROD STEWART singing DOWNTOWN TRAIN. Well, you get my drift. I just love music and I love to sing. Why couldn't God have given me the gift of song. Instead he gave me the gift of gab- which is pretty useless if you really examine it. Gab. Who needs a gabber? Though a gabber does have an endless supply of words and that comes in handy when I write.
Today after church, yes, we made it finally, after two months of being stuck inside on Sundays, today, no snow or icy roads and the sun was shining. R can't walk on snow or ice and it's even difficult on wet pavement.
Well after church, I wrote a news release for our Spring Writing Event at the Bowen House in Logan. I'll be speaking about writing essays. Should be interesting. As I said, I know some gab. We'll have other "real" writers there as well. Plus my writing buddy Sherry Hartzler (www.sherryhartzler.blogspot.) I made her bread pretzels over the week end and they were delicious. Nothing like writing and cooking. Mixing words and stirring food.
Now I have to get the agenda ready for our writers meeting tomorrow. WRITERS HELPING WRITERS. Sherry and I formed it and it's really grown now with about ten writers - writing different genres. We meet in a coffee house - caffeine helps.
After the agenda I have to work on a flyer to post at area libraries about our event.
Actually I can see from what I've written it's been a pretty fruitful day.
R is making his way to the kitchen in his wheelchair, yes, he's part time in a wheelchair, and so it must be getting dinner time. Thank you, Lord, for leftover spaghetti and bread pretzels.
Please know how much I appreciate all who read this and your lovely comments.
I try to keep up with your blogs and lives as well. Keep writing. Or doing whatever it is you're doing in your part of the world. Your Sister Friend.

March 6, 2010

Writing Requirements...

Writing requires
Writing.
Reading.
Lectures.
Workshops.
Classes.
Memberships.
Subscriptions.
All impede writing.
Administer in small doses
The seat
Of the pants
On a chair,
Or a grassy knoll.
A pen or a pencil or the end of a burnt match.
A piece of blank paper, the back of an envelope,
A chalk board, or the living room wall
And the ability to move one's arm.
It's all the written word requires.
Don't let your most creative work
Be your excuses.

Find something else to occupy your time.
Saw wood per Mark Twain.

Moment of Success...

George Bernard Shaw said, "The real moment of success is not the moment apparent to the crowd."

I had to think a long time to figure that one out. Success means different things to all of us.

My moment of success...it comes with every breath. As I play with words - words that crop up from some Netherland, singing, traveling from deep inside me - down through my arms and out through my fingers - to the keyboard where letters form words form sentences form paragraphs form verse form stories form novels.

Ah, success, it comes with every breath.

March 5, 2010

My Memory

Not enough memory
The computer box read.
It was THE DAY
I’d come to dread.
I had more words
Than my system could handle
I kicked it hard
With my old brown sandal.
The message blinked OFF
Then, ON again fast.
I had to do something
My story wouldn’t last.
I saved it to disk
And hoped it wouldn’t crash
I did it quick -
Just under a flash.
The machine gave a sigh,
And it’s final good bye.

Then, I went to the store
And bought more and more,
Computers and hardware
And software galore.
I’d get myself going
I would - I swore -
Even if it took me
One hundred days
Or more.

March 3, 2010

Newborn Stage and finding the real story...

I'm in the newborn stage of my novel. Birthing is over- I have my characters and part of the plot - I'll learn as I go - about the characters, their motives, and their story. Right now it feels good, like holding a newborn with all the expectations of what he or she will be someday.

Today I wrote a new scene and am feeling good about my work. This isn't always so. I'm a huge critic and a ruthless editor. That's why I've done well with short pieces. I love cutting and surgically removing all the excess fat. Sometimes I have little left.

But my "baby novel" is so soft and sweet and lovable right now. I want this feeling to last forever. And it will, until tomorrow when I'll allow myself to read what I've written. Then the disappointment will set in. How could I have been so fooled by my own words. How could something be so perfect one day and so misbehave the next.

It's all in the writing - finding the real story that's hiding among the many useless words.

Off here to print the pages I've written today. Keep writing. And, blessings!

Here's to Lunch and Chia tea

Today's goal was to work on my novel. It's lunch time and I haven't started. Instead I talked to an editor at the Detroit Free Press about my article on health care that was in The Plain Dealer. She wanted me to cut it from 700 words to 550 and send it to her for consideration. So, that's what I did. Now that the essay has been reworked and sent I can move toward my novel writing.
Here's to getting out of my flannels, having lunch, and a cup of Chia first. Then to work.
What are you working on?
Anyone?

Even if you're not writing, you must be doing something. Anything? Reading a good book, drinking a Coke, cooking? Come on somebody. Respond....

Blessings on this cold Wednesday in Southern Ohio.

March 2, 2010

On Time...

Why does everything take so much time? Today I planned to start participating in the March Madness Challenge and work on my novel. With my grandson here it's been a challenge. If he isn't eating he's needing something else. Between his needs, his grandpa needs something. Toast. An apple. A bottle of water.
Something printed off the internet or something else equally important. In his eyes.

With the noise of cartoons in the background I'm determined to write before the day is over. I've had six calls that demanded my attention. I'm checking Chase's homework now. He goes home to Wisconsin this week end. We'll sorely miss him but then will I have more time? Somehow I doubt it. Time is slippery and can't be pinned down. I have one more call to make and then the day is mine. OF course it's nearly 2:30 p.m. and I've had these plans since 8 a.m. Soon there will be dinner to make.
No matter how well I plan every chore takes longer than I anticipated.
Anyone else have this problem. I'm off here to put dinner into the oven and write.
Papa is heading to the toy room in the basement with Chase Andrew. Now, maybe I'll have some quiet time. Blessings.

Setting Goals for March

In my quest to write for the month of March - joining March Madness Challenge - my goals are to 1- Write every day on my novel; 2- Without editing; 3- By March 31 have 100 pages of a rough draft.
I'm off here to start! Good luck to anyone who is joining me.

March 1, 2010

March Madness Challenge

For those of you who need to jump start a writing project - story, novel or whatever - you might want to join Denise Jaden's March Madness Challenge. I plan to use this challenge to help me get me moving faster on my new novel. I'm a huge procrastinator. Now, I've printed the instructions and plan to start tomorrow. Ah ha. A plan. Just what I need.

Learn more about it at her website -
http://denisejaden.livejournal.com/44479.html

I'd love for you to join me in this challenge. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Until then. Blessings.