Monday, September 22, 2014

Lead me on

Good writing keeps the reader interested. It’s about people; it touches emotions and uses sensory details: sight, sound, smell, hearing, taste. Good writing doesn’t TELL right away, it prolongs suspense. Are you up to the challenge? Will you choose one, or as many as you want,
and finish the sentence?

Tammy paused in the hallway when she saw (describe what she saw but don't tell what IT is)

Beth froze when she came through the door and heard (describe what she heard but don't tell what IT is yet)

Lynn cringed at the familiar smell of (Help your reader discover what IT reminded her of)
Sioux inched her way closer to the object on the floor (Help your reader discover what IT is without telling right away)

Thank you for playing along.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Who? What? Why? Where? When?

Any writer will tell you the five "W's" are the keys to a good story. I teach this to my pre-kindergarten students who dictate their imaginative stories to me, sometimes faster than I can transcribe. Then, I hang their stories in the hall and listen as parents stop and read aloud to their children. It is very rewarding for me as a writer.

Over the course of the school year, I am amazed at how proficient some of the kids become at storytelling, using their imagination and developing creativity. They add dialogue without being prompted. They learn about continuity, staying on topic, but most of all from an early age, they develop a love of "writing." No matter how scary, funny or horrific their stories, there is a common theme: mama to the rescue.

A high school student, once a very shy preschooler, came to visit me at school. She told me I had inspired her to become a writer. I am so proud of Jessica. I know I have influenced others; I taught school-age summer camp for 17 years and preK for 38 years.

Another of my former students, now in college, nominated ME as her most influential teacher. Speechless, honored and overwhelmed...that's how I felt when Abigail said, "I spent my childhood with you every summer, and you had the greatest influence."

We wrote stories, put on plays and talent shows. We had fun.

I will share my five "W's"; will you share yours?

Who inspired you to be a writer?  My dad was a fantastic storyteller, but my first grade teacher introduced the class to composition writing...we copied off the board and added our own information.

What is your genre? I prefer personal essay/creative nonfiction, humor, but I write poetry and fiction.

Why do you write? It is an outlet for my creativity. I love word play and hearing from others that my words have somehow affected them.

Where do you find inspiration? The past, the present, the conversations and behaviors of others.

When do you prefer to write? Early morning I am freshest in my thinking, but late at night when the house is quiet also works, if I have enough energy :)

Please come back next Thursday. I will be interviewing a high profile and well known author.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ceased or Deceased?

Beginnings are always more fun than endings. It is sad when it's time to bid adieu.

I heard this week that Ladies Home Journal folded. Is that true?

I found this link recently to ceased markets. I find it depressing. As a freelance writer always seeking new venues, I am saddened to see the markets continually shrinking. Is the print industry dying?

What do you think? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I'm no Yankee, but...

Yesterday I picked up a used copy of Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch, by Haywood Smith (2002)

I live smack dab in the Midwest. I don't consider myself a Northerner or Southerner, and I am certainly not a Yankee, but when I read the back blurb quote, I laughed and knew I had to have this book.

"Strong characters and...irrepressible wit...snapshots of Southern living will charm even the hardest-hearted Yankee." ~Publishers Weekly

I can't put it down. It is such a fun read. I get tickled at Southern humor. Maybe it's because I know some other real Southern belle authors: Cathy C. Hall, Lisa Ricard Claro, and C. Hope Clark, whose warm, witty writings trip my trigger.

Haywood Smith lives on the shores of Lake Lanier, near the small town of Buford, Georgia.
This line in her book made me think of "all y'all."

"You'd have thought I'd just slapped his mama and accused his daddy of working for the IRS."


Sunday, September 14, 2014

I did it at a grocery store

Tweak-tweak-tweak (not the same thing as twerk-twerk-twerk) is what I do when I write poetry. Mine is plain spoken, and it usually deals with real life. I was invited to read my work on Friday evening at Whole Foods Grocery in Town and Country, an upscale suburb of St. Louis. Acclaimed poet, Dwight Bittikofer is the curator, and I was honored he selected me.

I read several poems and one humorous essay. I left one of my most recent poems at home. I wrote it on vacation while the emotions were strong in my mind, but weak on paper. I kept trying to figure out how to portray a black roiling sky without using those words.

Started out like this as I sat on a balcony watching a storm brew over the ocean:
Cloud formations roil at midday and morph into black terror.
UGH! Too many words.

Then I tried this:
Puffy teddy bear clouds
morph into grizzly terror,
at midday, lightning rakes the noon darkness clawing terror...

UGH! I don't like the way it feels or sounds, so I will tweak it many more times before I decide to read it at an open mic.

There was quite a gathering at Whole Foods despite the gloomy and rainy weather. Here is the advertisement and promotion.

second friday notes presents poetry and music throughout the evening in the store's large cafe.  Music begins at 7pm, followed by poetry.  Food and drink available for purchase.  Open to the public.

Mazaré Rogers is a spoken word poet who hails from Durham, North Carolina. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina– Chapel Hill and has taught middle school English and Poetry Writing. Now, she is pursuing her Masters of Divinity at Covenant Seminary and performs her poetry at churches, conferences and concerts.   

Linda O'Connell is an award winning poet and essayist. She is a two time recipient of the Metro Arts in Transit poetry award. Her work appears in Mid River's Review, Grist Literary Journal, Flashquake, Mochila Review, Well Versed, Lucidity Poetry Journal, 22 Chicken Soup for the Soul books and more. She co-created Not Your Mother's Book...On Family. Linda blogs at

Music: Keyboardist, Bradley Ellebrecht is active in the St. Louis area as a professional pianist, composer, and educator.   He has a B.M. from Webster University and has played music in a variety of settings from church praise bands and choir accompanying to jazz and rock bands.

My take:

Mazare` a young, self confident and well spoken African American woman, refers to herself as a black woman. Her words grab listeners by the gut and twist. I experienced her work with all of my senses, and in addition, every time she engaged in word play, my brain zinged. I love when a writer can do that.

Brad, a hip, young musician transported me back to the French Quarter during last spring's jazz fest. His music is easy listening, mellow and moving, especially his own composed songs. WOW!

Linda, an old gal, stands at the lectern trying to suck in her gut, hide her double chin while gazing into the crowd. She writes from the heart and tells it like it is.

It was fun and enjoyable and I thank Sioux Roslawski, one of my critique partners and a multi published writer, and  Marcel Toussaint, a famous local poet, and everyone else for coming out to listen.

Favorite comment: "Your poetry is as strong as your prose."

Ten years ago I would not have been comfortable reading in front of strangers. My poetry and my presentations have improved because I practice, or tweak-tweak-tweak, also known as revising. Revision is such a big part of the writing process. Do you agree?

This is one of the poems I read.
published in Mom Writers (2008)
by Linda O'Connell
Chubby little legs stuffed like sausages in pink tights,
Itchy ruffled tu-tu cinched at waist.
She shuffles down the hall
Carrying her ballet slippers.

Takes the stage
In ruby red lipstick and grandma-rouged cheeks.
Bats her eyes, stomps her feet,
Twists, turns, twirls, swoops, sways and sings.

She pirouettes,
Spins further and further
Out of my orbit
Already on her way to independence.

One day she’ll dance on my heart
Shuffle-slide away and
Boogie all night long,
But for now, she’s my ballerina baby.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Did you feel THAT?

My friend had a successful elbow surgery, survived the anesthesia. While her husband was in the hospital bathroom, dietary brought her tray of food, and she nearly choked to death on a  carrot before he could get to her tray and chop her food small. They called a code blue, revived her, but said she has a DNR, do not resuscitate. Ugh, the decisions that have to be made. If she can get up and walk, she will be released today. Thank you all for prayers and concerns.

I have been in need of a good laugh. I can always depend on my funny honey.

We were in bed and my son's fat, lazy, cat who we're fostering, settled down on top the sheet, between our feet. I heard hubby's respirations grow shallow, or I should say his pre-snore breathing, an indicator that I can turn the TV volume down from 40 to 15. I reached over with my toe and tickled his ankle. I figured he'd move slightly, or startle thinking it was the cat. He didn't. I repeated my action (aggravation) a few more times. Concerned that his leg had grown numb, I nudged him and said louder than the TV, "Did you feel THAT!?"

He sat straight up, half asleep and asked, "How many magnitudes?"

"What? Magnitudes? What are you talking about?"

"I figure it would have to have been a 10 to feel it through this memory foam mattress."

I laughed and snorted until we were both wide awake.

"Did you really NOT feel it? Were you messing with me, or is your neuropathy creeping up your leg?"

"Feel what?"

"My foot tickling your leg?"

"Of course I felt THAT! I thought it was the cat stretching. What magnitude was the earthquake?"

I turned the TV volume up, laughed some more. He said, "I don't know what you think is so funny."

If you have to explain it...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Frick and Frack... that's what her husband calls us

Sheila and I have been friends for 45 years. We met in Alaska as soldier's wives. We baked bread together, and we walked narrow wooded paths with our arms folded over our distended abdomens, and we wondered aloud if we were going to have a boy or a  girl. We both had girls.

We have continued our friendship through letters, phone calls, visits, and shared vacations. When brain cancer robbed her of her ability to think clearly, and dementia set in a few years ago, I continued to send her a letter a week. As long as there are Forever stamps we will be forever friends. She loves receiving mail from me, especially if it's about my students and class activities.

I cannot explain how I know things, but I had a sense of foreboding, doom and gloom, something bad about to happen. I asked Bill as we were driving if he felt it. He said, "With the world situation, it's a matter of time."

"No, it's closer. This bad feeling is close and will affect us, me."

 The phone call came. Sheila's husband said she fell and is at Mass General with a broken elbow, and will have to wait till morning for a specialist surgeon. The elbow has to be wired.

She had a skin cancer removed from her face recently. The bad news: it is a rare tumor directly related to colon cancer. They scheduled her for a colonoscopy in a few weeks. Her daughter and I agree, WHY? Why put her through it? She fought the good fight 25 years ago when she was first diagnosed with brain cancer. Her quality of life has steadily declined and she is more confused than ever, weak and sleeps a lot.

I believe in the sanctity of life, but not of keeping a body from doing what is natural. It is harder to let go than to hang on. Her family is in pain and my heart is breaking, too. Prayers appreciated for my dear friend and her husband and children.