Friday, January 29, 2010

Evocative Writing

Multi-genre writing equals multiple personalities. Sometimes it feels that way. Most people know me as an inspirational writer because I have been published in ten Chicken Soup for the Soul books. But I also write and have published humor, poetry and my latest essay started out as feel good piece and ended up being mild horror. Sometimes I can't believe myself! The easiest, yet most difficult thing for me to write is personal essay. Not so difficult to write, but to let go of, because once I submit it, I risk publication of some personal nitty-gritty. But is that not a goal, to get my work out there? I have some ambiguous feelings about a strong piece I just sent to a literary magazine.

Everything I have had published in lit mags has come from deep within my family closet. It and has been expository. I am not going to allow fear to hold me back. How about you? As long as you do not defame another person's character, you have the right to write and publish your feelings and thoughts.

Try to write an evocative essay today about an event or topic that might feel uncomfortable at first. Just allow yourself to write, and watch the feelings flow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Face-sized snow flakes

About 2:30 today my students started squealing and cheering. "Look! It's snowing." In all my years I don't think I have ever seen such huge snowflakes. The kids were so excited, they ran to the door. The adult in me knew better, but the child in me took over. I opened the front door and told the kids to chase me. We ran in a small circle, laughing and shouting. We looked up at the sky and caught one of those face-sized snowflakes. Then we darted indoors to warm up and sing our snowflake song: I saw a little snowflake sailing through the sky. It winked at me and landed in my eye. I saw a little snowflake sailing south; it winked at me and landed in my mouth.

That spontaneous and relevant activity lasted no more than fifteen seconds, but it resulted in a delightful memory for all of us. Sometimes you have to give in to a whim.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Christmas anthology

Sorry, the last post didnt get desired results, so type in Christmas Miracles, Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson. Although the image is of the last anthology, the call out is for the new one. This link should work

The fine print claims that they will edit your story so that the book has a singular voice, so consider this if you don't want your story tweaked.

Christmas stories needed

Okay, surely by now you've packed away the Christmas decorations, haven't you? I saw a lit tree in a window yesterday, but that's their problem/delight, not mine.

Unwrap a few Christmas memories and start writing, right away! Your true stories are needed. There is a call out at A few days after you submit your work, you will receive an email stating that winner$ will be notified 9/15/10. Publication date 2011. Best to all of you.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Snickers and eavesdropping

Monday came and went. The most interesting things today were the conversations I overheard. The first was between a group of four and five year olds. The boys complained to one another that Mary A is too bossy. The girls gathered around and asked the boys, "How can you say such a thing about her? Yeah! how could you? You're supposed to be her friend!" One girl said, "Teacher, he's saying Mary A is too BOPPY!" Mary A smiled and stood with hands on hips, like I used to when I was her age. She's going to be in charge for real one of these days.

I went out to lunch and overhead two middle aged men. "My son called and said he was getting married and asked me if I had a down payment for his house. I told him to get a second job.

The other guy said, "My son called and said, 'Dad, I know you have a college fund for me, so can I have some of it to buy a car?' I told him, 'Son, the lawyer who kept your butt out of jail has your college fund; get a job.'"

I like eavesdropping; only problem is when I snicker for no apparent reason, people think I'm snockered.

I made second cut at Reading Writers. The winning entries have been narrowed form 388to 40. One week till the winner is announced. Good luck Donna and Cathy.

Eagle Watching

Why did Bill and I stand out in the whipping wind, freezing temperature and dreary weather yesterday? To view a dozen eagles perched on the patches of ice on the river in Alton. One sat on a crusted mini icefloe no bigger than a dinner plate. It was almost comical to watch. Others left their tree perches and soared, then dived. I don't go to church, but I felt the divine presence, and I prayed a thank you prayer and a please-please prayer.

With all the adversity in this world and the horrific images on TV, I had a glimpse of determination as this bird of prey latched onto the nearest thing to wait it out.

We all need something to clutch, something to sustain us, whether it is a fish in the belly or a friend who will listen when we feel precariously balanced, alone, floating adrift. Call someone today, smile at a stranger; it might be just the thing they need to bob up again.

Until the sun shines again (when???) you can be a burst of sunshine for someone else. My mom used to say, "Don't give up and don't give in." And my grandaughter used to sing along with Annie, "The sun will come out tomorrow."

Please sun, please. Thank you God. Bless those in need...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Write on!

Life's Little Instruction Book, by H.Jackson Brown,Jr. was written for his son who was heading off to college. He says he read somewhere that it is not a parent's responsibility to pave the road for a child, but to provide a road map. I agree.

It is the same for writers. Some of you are taking your first baby steps, while others are off and running. Those ahead create a path, a map if you will, for those who want to follow. Read, ask questions, attend lectures, learn all you can about the writing, submission and publication process. Although I have a long list of publications, sometimes it feels like I am still taking baby steps. You can't go forward if you don't take the steps.

If this quote doesn't send you right to the computer or for your pen and paper today, nothing will. "Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michael Angelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein."

Lecture over. Write on!

Friday, January 22, 2010

First Round Contest Finalists

I just received news that Donna Volkenannt and I made first round finalist in the Reading Writers Flash Fiction contest and so did Cathy C. Hall who announced the contest on her blog. Thanks Cathy! The stories had to have the word "snow" in them. I personally have had enough of the white stuff.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tell it like it is

I wrote a heartfelt letter to my son and daughter-in-law when they first told me they were expecting. I told them exactly what to expect: to take leave of their senses, their five senses. How many moms out there remember sneaking an extra jar of Blueberry Buckle or Apple Cobbler into the grocery cart (for yourself)? How many would agree that the smells stay with you no matter how old they get: the nape of your baby's neck, the sweaty tennis shoes? When a newborn arrives, our five senses change. We see only beauty in the wrinkled cone heads, we hear our baby above all the other wails, we goo goo when he toots. We touch one another as we lie belly to belly and heart to heart.

This letter has been accepted for publication by Sasee Magazine.
None of the above is excerpted word for word, but paraphrased from the original work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Battle of the Bulge

Battle of the Bulge (Conversations with myself as I drove to work)

You know you really shouldn't skip breakfast. McDonalds has breakfast biscuits for a buck.
No-no-NO Fatso, keep driving. If you pull into the drive through, you'll pull out with a cinnamon bun.

Darn that crazy driver. Now I missed my exit.
Don't worry Chunky Monkey, Schnucks is up ahead. Buy fresh fruit.

Fresh fruit, yes, an apple. Yum, a melt in my mouth apple turnover.
Butter Butt, did you look in the mirror when you stuffed all that flab into your pants this morning?

WHATEVER! I'm going to love myself the way I am.
The scale says there's more of you to love, Sugar Dumpling. Still want that apple tart?
SHUT UP you tart! I know I have ten more pounds to lose.
Kidding yourself again, Thunder Thighs?

Life is too short; I'm going to pull in and get that apple turnover.
Bimbo, keep eating turnovers and one day you won't be able to turn yourself over.

Listen I am going to love the skin I'm in.
Hey Hunk of Hiney, they make boa constrictor girdles to hold in the skin you're in.

Oh all right! I don't need that junk. I do need to eat better and less, a lot less. I'll be good and eat light and right.
That a girl! Hey Fat Butt...
I just wanted to remind you that if you do skip breakfast and eat a light lunch, there's a buy one get one free dinner buffet coupon on the kitchen counter.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Forever Letters, Forever Stamps

About Letter Writing
Published 3/09 Suburban Journals

Letters have been a life-line for my best friend and me for forty years. They bouyed our spirits and kept us emotionally afloat as we endured the crashing waves of life. Now, our letters are an anchor for my friend's receding mind.

Our friendship began when we were next door neighbors and wives of soldiers stationed in a remote Alaska town. We connected immediately. When it was time to return to our respective hometowns, we vowed to stay connected.

My heart skipped a beat each time the letter carrier deliverd a red and blue edged airmail envelope - it felt like my cherished friend in Boston was sitting in my kitchen. We shared the joys and frustrations of motherhood; we reared our children with swapped ideas and complaints, and we did it all through letter writing. Each ten page missive was like unburdening ourselves at the gossip fence. Although we were separated by fifteen hundred miles, we knew we had one another to lean on when we needed a boost or a kick in the pants.

As divorce loomed on my horizon, she was there to listen, respond and support me. When medical issues loomed on her horizon, she shocked me with an unexpected phone call. "Tumor. Brain. Malignant." I'm sure she said a host of other words, but those were all I heard. "So very-very sorry." I'm sure I said much more, but what I remember is we didn't cry. Verbal words of comfort failed me; all the while my mind was spinning a letter. When we hung up, I took pen in hand, poured out my love, encouragement and addressed our fears. I did this twice a week for the next three years, when her letters were sporadic or non-existent. Chemotherapy and radiation were her topics; teenaged children and daily living, mine.

Today her cancer is gone and so is her short-term memory. I write her weekly. She tells me her heart skips a beat when she sees a letter from me. Although she can not remember a moment ago, her long-term memory is intact. Every letter is a connection to days of long ago when we walked among the wildflowers clutching our swollen bellies, sharing hopes and dreams, wondering what it would be like to be a mother.
Forever more we will be two newlywed girls walking a dusty path towards yesterday in that remote Alaska town (Delta Junction).

As my friend drifts away, I vow that we will stay connected. As long as there are Forever stamps, I will forever write my friend a weekly letter.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Power of words

"Words, once they're printed, have a life all their own." ~ Carol Burnett

Words don't have to be "published" to be powerful. When you jot a note in a greeting card, or send a heartfelt, handwritten letter, your words linger long after the mail is tucked or tossed away. Who in your life is worth a postage stamp? (Not an email) Give someone the gift of your words to hold in their hand this week.

Today I met a new friend. This woman is bright, fun, funny, witty. She wants what all writers want: more time to write, and the fast road to publication. Everything takes time, and each of us must invest the time it takes to get the job done.

I just finished Life of Pi, a terrific read.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two strikes and a home run!

Ah! the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat...I'm sure I should be quoting some television show here.

This morning I saw a contest seeking short gardening essays. I penned a 250 word humorous true story this morning at 5:00 a.m. and sent it out. I received an immediate response. The editor really liked it, and then told me I had submitted to a members-only contest. (Always read the fine print. In this case it was glaring, duh!)

I was invited to join their guild or enter one of their open contests. So now, I ask myself, do I fork over thirty bucks to join another writer's association (GCWA)or submit to the open contest?

This afternoon I received a rejection from a literary magazine. Eh! It happens.

AND this evening I received an invitation to read my winning entry in San Francisco, California in March. Unfortunately, I'll be wiping snotty noses and teaching ABC's. I won HONORABLE MENTION in the National League of American Pen Women (Nob Hill Branch)contest, memoir category for my story, CLICK!

You can't win if you don't submit; if you don't win, still submit!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chesterfield Arts Reading Series

The literary event tonight at Chesterfield Arts was very enjoyable. W.E. Mueller read from his book of short stories, Peaches and Cream. Bill's stories are engaging, edgy, evocative, immediately drawing the listener/reader in. I can't wait to read his "16 Stories ... with Crime ... with Zach Bannister,P.I. ... with Humor & Love.

Likewise, Marcel Toussaint gave an excellent reading of his poems; many were from his book, Poetry of a Lifetime. He wrote a personal poem for a special woman in the audience. Kimberly, a personable flight attendant, was most appreciative of Marcel's poem. She shared a little insight with me about, From Logan to Logan. I'm still smiling.

Congratulations, SLWG Winners

Congratulations to fellow-members, Matt Sorrell and Jackie DeVey on winning the SLWG contest. Last night was Open Mic at Wired Coffee in Sunset Hills. The winners read their entries and others read their prose and poems. Seems like the theme among the open mic crowd was dog stories.

Send your story off to Chicken Soup for the Soul Books. They are also seeking stories about your dysfunctional relatives. Choose a pen name and write about the crazy people in your family. Check their web site, and you can submit on line.

We're off this evening to West County to Chesterfield Arts for another evening of literary fun. Marcel Toussaint and Bill Mueller are reading their work.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Life of Pi; Linda and Bill, Pat and Phil

Laughter has such medicinal benefits. Yesterday we spent HOURS cramped in a booth at O'Charley's with Pat and Phil, an out of town couple I went to high school with. Our chubby little waiter kid darted about and honed in so efficiently. I knew if he kept up at that pace, he'd wear himself out, especially given our history of staking a claim on a table. The church crowd came and went, the place emptied, and when he finally realized we were settling in, he supplied us with extra beverages and left us to our own laughter.

Pat and I are artists in our own right. She's famous; I'm not. She uses paint and canvas and produces beautiful paintings; I use ink and paper, write and blather. All four of us laugh like kids when we get together. Our husbands laugh at us and we at them. Then, if you get one of the guys telling a story we guffaw and snort. Maybe that's why the place emptied out.

In reading Life of Pi,a wonderful book by Yann Martel, I came across a paragraph that applies to writers, artists, anyone in any situation. My words in quotations. "Survival [writing] had to start with me. A castaway's [writer's] worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival [writing]starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one's life away."

Today is the day to stop hoping you can find more time to write. Get up fifteen minutes early and put 100 words on paper. About eight sentences unless you are as windy as I am; then it could be four. Don't worry about beginning, middle and end...just begin. If it doesn't evolve, go on to another thought, but go!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Is it my mole or the neon lights?

I have a tiny mole on my forehead which my bangs cover. I am almost convinced that it is a magnet for crazy people. No kidding!

I attended a St Louis Writer's Guild workshop today. Jeffrey Penn May presented on the difference between literary and commercial fiction. The writing exercises were fun and thought-provoking; made us dig deep. By late afternoon I was starved, so Bill and I decided to go to the "boat" for the buffet. We swore we wouldn't drop a nickel in the one armed bandits, but we lie to ourselves as much as we lie to each other. "I only lost ten bucks :) How about you?"

Anyway, we were enjoying our meal when a strange woman walked up to our table with a plate of food and standing before us, had a lengthy one-way conversation. "Even if they pass the test, ain't no guarantee they're going to get the job." She rambled on and on. "And them boys coming all the way from Missouri to Illinois at that!"

Now, the boat is directly across the river. Missouri is on one side of the Missisippi and Illinois on the other. We nodded at her and went back to eating; she moved on, no boys with her!

After our meal, Bill said, "I'm going to the bathroom. Meet me at the door." I knew better. After a five minute wait, I found him seated between two older caucasion women at a cluster of three slot machines. Their backs were to me. The white haired woman on the left leaned over and whipered in his ear. Then the white haired woman on the right leaned over and whispered in his other deaf ear. He nodded at each one, unaware of what he was actually nodding to, and he smiled at both. I walked up to let these old cougars know he was taken. The one on his left was about 67, toothless and wicked ornery. She looked at me hovering over his shoulder. She looked me up and down with disgust and shouted, "Is she your mother?" referring to the other woman. The woman on his right, who was about 77, looked at me and sweetly said, "I told her to be quiet! She's carrying on something awful."

Old Woman on left hit a small jackpot and squealed like a banshee. Old Woman on right, so irritated, imitated the other one's screech, and in so doing her dentures almost flew out. She shoved them in and spoke to Bill. "See what I mean about her?" Woman on the left screamed, "You don't have the right to talk to him about me or to tell me to shut up!" Old Woman on the right screamed in a gutteral voice that scared the crap out of ME, "I do too!You just shut up!" Old Woman on the left, screamed,
"You want to come over here and make me shut up!"

Bill's beady eyes widened and he shoved his chair back just as three burly security guards came to quell the two old battle axes. I swear, it's that little mole on my forehead. The younger securtity guard assured me it was the neon lights that draws them.

Not one word of this is embellished!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Classifieds Writers and Poets

Check out Classifieds Poets & Writers; they have a lot of new calls for submissions. I just submitted to I Can't Forget...subtitle, The Doctor or Nurse, for Better or Worse. I'm sure we've all had some memorbale medical "professionals" we could write about. Although my short piece involves an embarrassing incident and a doctor I'd prefer to forget, the memory hangs on like a kid I can't pry loose, and I am now willing to share it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two perspectives on this bitter cold

Two Perspectives
7:00 a.m. Woo-hoo, no school! Bill and I shoveled the driveway and a path to the mailbox. I cooked a big breakfast told myself I would take a shower sometime today and get out of my nightgown ... as soon as I finish this story; check these blogs, read these emails. One story and four personal letters later, the noon news was broadcasting the horrific events of today. I walked out to the mailbox hoping for good mail. Sheesh the junk mail wasn't worth the walk to the curb. I took a lukewarm shower because even the water is chilled. Bill said, "It's really-really cold." I acted tough and said, "This is nothing. I lived in Alaska. The winters were brutal, fifty below, my exhaled words froze like cartoon clouds. The wind whipped so hard it ripped the roll-out windows off the trailer we lived in." He rolled his eyes.

Today feels like one of those winter days. I have the furnace blasting, and an electric heater toasting my toes and I still can't get warm. Plus I've been munching junk all day.

7:00 a.m. Woo-Hoo no school! "Mom, what time is Dad getting home?" This phrase repeated a dozen times during the day. At four o'clock he and his dad, my son, knock on our door looking like arctic mountain climbers wearing plastic goggles and invite us to go sledding at Art Hill. "Come on, Nana,Pa-pa you'll have so much fun. I have three sleds and a ski board for you..."
I smile at him and say, "You and Daddy have a good time. Call and tell us all about it."

When did I get this old and cold?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Take time. Make time. NOW is the time!

I recently read the best writer's advice, but I can't remember if it was on line or in a book. "They say you can't take your treasures with you when you die. But your life story is the one treasure that you do take with you if you don't write it."

Okay folks, get busy. Take fifteen minutes out of your busy day to free write memories. Don't say, "If I only had the time." As Erma Bombeck said, "Time is fleeting." So make time, take time. Now is the time! The moment is all any of us actually have.
*If you only have an extra minute, use it to say something nice.
*If you only have an extra five minutes, write a love note to someone or yourself.
*If you have an extra fifteen minutes write a line or two about the day, your goals,your angst, your hopes and dreams. Seeing it instead of thinking it is a great motivator.
*If you have an extra half hour, free write about what is on your mind. When I was in college we had to turn in a class journal. One of my best entries went something like this: What does this guy want from me? My topics seem dumb; who writes about the grass? Then I proceeded to write about the greening up of my lawn and life. I never intended to write that. Stories evolve from aggravation not just inspiration.
*If you have an extra hour, GO FOR IT! Don't waste time, don't procrastinate. Write. Right now!

Monday, January 4, 2010

If I can do it, you can too.

An essay that I sent off on Friday is under consideration for a spring issue publication. Just when I was expecting a rejection I got a semi-acceptance (on spec). Don't let fear and self-doubt hold you back. As a famous publisher told me recently, "All they can say is, NO." Take a chance and get something out there this month.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Embark on Your Own Literary Dig

With the new year into it's third day, I believe it's time to dust off old musings, rants, poems, essays and start anew. I just spent an hour looking at my old files and stumbled across a few rocks that if polished could turn into gems. I decided to resurrect one that I thought I had long buried. At the time I wrote it the emotions were too raw, and boy did I write from the heart and shoot from the lip. By putting some time between readings, I have a different persepctive. Instead of viewing this as a vent piece, I now see it as a possible literary magazine piece. Before the week is over, I challenge you to delve into your computer, desk drawer, or into your old journals and notebooks, and embark on your own literary-archaelogical quest. See what you can dig up and at least rework one piece. Submitting might result in publication, so don't let it get buried again.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What a way to start the new year!

Happy New Year! This morning I really wanted to write something profound, something inspiring, or even humorous, but I think I will just quote a guy who makes me laugh without trying. "A new tube of toothpaste and a new roll of toilet paper, what better way to start off a new year?"~ my hubby, Bill O'Connell.