Monday, March 30, 2009

Writing personal essay pays off...

My husband has a feathered Fraulein; she's a birdbrain. I swear when he walks out the door, all he has to do is croon her a tune, and little Miss Flitter Feathers flies right to him. Bill swoons,"Look at her!" She whistles, "Big boy, here I come!"

His mockingbird has returned. Don't get me wrong; I like being serenaded awake by the birds in spring (where is spring?), but this chick is feathering her nest outside my window and putting the moves on my honey. Whether she's bathing in the bird bath or roosting on the fence, if I walk out with an offering for her she flies away. If Bill walks out, she flirts her way closer and closer, from the branch, to the fence, to the grass, to the patio, to his feet. Might have something to do with the boiled egg yolks he feeds her. Their relationship is now in its second year. It's been a long winter; once again my retired hubby has spring in his step, a twinkle in his eye. I ought to thank that little chickadee!

Chicken Soup for the Soul books ($200 per essay) is seeking submissions about birds. With pen in hand and tongue in cheek I pecked my way through a humorous bird story. You can do it too. Perhaps you were eagle viewing in Alton recently. Maybe you owned a bird as a child. Did your grandparents have a bird? Stories can be as tender as a chicken leg, as glorious as a hawk in flight, as humorous as a baby bird trying to lift off. Sit down, relax and let the words fly! If your story doesn't feel right, let it roost a day or two and return to it. If you sit on it awhile, a story will hatch itself.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Writing till it hurts...

When something sparks a haunting memory, a writer has a choice, either write about it or bury it deeper. Recently I correspondened with an editor who lives out West. It made me think of my dad who lived in Nevada. The memory that came to mind was his funeral. Sad as it was to remember my elderly father at the funeral parlor, it was devastating to ressurect the memory of a teenaged girl sitting in a closet-sized parlor, staring at her newborn in her coffin.

She sat
all day,
her milk dry
her womb shrink
and her heart die.

Fifteen years later, I regret not reaching out to her. To rid the vivid images from my mind, I had to put the images and feelings on paper. I wrote a poem. It is still a work in progress. I'll share with anyone who requests.

The most powerful writing tool you have is not your expensive pen or your keyboard and computer. It is your ability to connect on a profound level with your reader. The shared human experiences, even the painful ones, establish a relationship between you and your reader. So write on!

Friday, March 27, 2009

EVERYbody makes mistakes!

Whenever I make a mistake, I point it out to my students, because I want them to understand that mistakes happen to everyone. Mistakes are okay; they become learning experiences. Years ago, I made a literary blunder. It resulted in an even bigger mistake by the agent who responded to my query.

My friend's daughter, an author, journalist, radio/TV personality, gave me contact information for the agent who represented her best selling book. I penned a query and prematurely sent off my manuscript. I wrote:

Dear MR.___,
Your agency represents my friend, Michele___, author of ______.
My manuscript (synopsis)...
Linda O'Connell

I received the following reply.

Dear Michele ____,
I'm sorry, but your manuscript (name of her just released, best selling book!) does not suit our editorial needs at this time.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. This incident taught me several things. First, name dropping doesn't always get desired results. It's a mistake to presume an agent or editor wants to see your work before they request it. And never send your work out unless it is polished.

Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from yours, laugh and forgive yourself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

People come into our lives for a reason.

Every new acquaintance; every friendship fostered adds a single thread to the tapesty of our lives. Recently, I had two experiences that reaffirmed this.

I was at the dentist's office. The hygienest and I were talking about tough times, and our conversation turned to loss. A while back, several of my friends and family members died within a short period; like a stack of children's blocks toppling, they just kept falling. She made a profound statement that salved my soul. "Can't you see? YOU were in THEIR lives for a reason." I'd never thought about my contributions to them; I only knew that I sorely missed their contributions to my life. Thanks, Laurie for your insight.

Lisa has been in my writing organziation for years; her dynamic personality and outstanding writing ability draws people to her. Last night I read a very sad personal essay at open mike. Lisa and I talked about it afterwards. While dusting off our pasts, we mentioned names and discovered that we are practically related. The main character in my story is related to a relative in her life. As we connected the dots, we connected on a deeper level.

Many would consider these two incidents coincidence. Not I!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent~Eleanor Roosevelt

The first time I walked into a Writer's Guild meeting, I felt ill at ease. Who the heck did I think I was trying to fit in with all the professional writers? When someone told me they had just finished their MFA, I smiled and nodded but had no idea what she meant.(Masters in Fine Arts degree) When someone asked if I was planning to attend a conference, I shrugged and escaped as quickly as possible. Another person asked if I'd ever read at open mike. No way! Me at a conference, talking the talk, walking the walk with real writers? Uh-huh! I had no writing degree; I wasn't a writer. I was a wannbe. I had taken a few writing classes and spent a few Saturdays at a Barnes & Noble writer's group; frankly some of their lingo baffled me.I was too shy to ask what POV meant. But they did give me positive feedback on my work and led me in the "write direction". I built my self confidence, and I began to believe, not only in my writing ability, but in myself. I took the risk; I read aloud before a writer's critique group. I attended every meeting, workshop and guest speaker event sponsored by St. Louis Writer's Guild...the rest is history. I now read at open mike events, I've been published in numerous venues and I break all the rules. I'll blog about this later. Don't let anyone tell you you can't. Don't listen to the negative self-speak. If you don't believe in YOU, no one else will either.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Three Websites I Follow, C. Hope Clark's website has a wealth of information and is my favorite writer's site. Check out A Cup of Comfort, Colleen Sell's web page for an exciting call out from a major magazine. Thin Threads, Kiwi Publishing is an anthology website. If you can write an engaging true story in about 1,000 words, and you follow the guidelines at Chicken Soup for the Soul,you can select from numeorus titles for their books in development. Click on, Submit a Story, and read the pull down list. Seems like everybody is looking for the same topics. Write on!

Becky, Tammy, Theresa and I did a Chicken Soup for the Soul book signing at Border's in Edwardsville, IL. yesterday. I think our giggling attracts more prospective customers than the posted advertisements for our events.

Had a delightful time with Nicole, my 17 month old granddaughter yesterday. She likes wearing my jewelry and watch when I come for a visit. Her eyes widened at the sight of my sparkly blue crystal necklace and earrings. I said, "It's blue." She said, "Bwoo." Made my day! I also made hers when I fastened it around her neck and let her wear it. She strutted her stuff.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart~William Wordsworth

Writing personal essay is akin to running naked through the streets.
You peel the layers and expose stark images; it is difficult to bare
one's soul. Here is an excerpt from my essay, Sailing Stormy Seas,
published in Releasing Times, November 2006; Julie Gallagher,
editor & publisher

The women in my family have always stood their ground, ruled their roost and shaped the next generation like a proud admiral with his sailors' best interests at heart. My emotional ship is one of a family fleet headed by women who enjoy the challenges of maneuvering through choppy seas. Outside observers would consider us intelligent, educated, confident, strong-willed, opinionated go-getters...

When I consciously decided to head for shore, I discovered that getting a handle on a situation is different from controlling an individual, and unbridled freedom of expression impacts future generations. I am still exercising my freedom -to quietly drift or head to harbor when life's difficult moments prove to be uncontrollable. When caught in the sea of chaos, I now listen with the intent to hear and understand. I don't have to retort; I just listen. I'm finished sailing choppy seas. I like this dry dock feeling.
Linda O'connell


Welcome to my quiet corner. I can spend hours here, especially early in the morning when I do my best writing, from 5:00-7:00 a.m. You'll also find me here late in the evening. Some days the only exercise I get is when I jump for joy because I have finished a project or received an acceptance. My poetry, prose, and articles have been published in 10 Chicken Soup for the Soul books, 3 Ultimate Books and numerous other anthologies, inspirational,educational and literary publications, periodicals,newspapers, and Ezines. Recently I won a poetry contest; my poem will be displayed inside Metro Link trains and Metro buses in St. Louis, MO. for one year.

I have been an early childhood educator for 32 years and I still consider teaching my dream job. I also teach a senior citizen adult writing class.

I am more determined than dedicated. I write/submit 10-15 pieces per month.
I believe that we are all in this life together; there are no coincidences. I have more faith than religion and I firmly believe that we should help one another and share our gifts and talents.

My husband,Bill, our blended family of four adult children and nine grandchildren bring me abundant joy. Little things make me happy. I MUST write. I'd rather be outdoors hiking in the woods or walking on a beach. The ocean tugs on my midwest soul with the same intensity that the moon pulls the tide. I'm counting down to vacation in July.

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