I live in St. Louis, MO, but my heart and soul hang out at the beach. I am a multi-genre, award winning writer, and speaker. I am a seasoned pre-k teacher, on line writing instructor, wife, mother, Nana to twelve. Hopefully, something I say will make you smile, further your writing career, or inspire you to write from the heart, too. email@example.com. Twitter, @WriterLindaO.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Make your reader smell your work
Here are a few more lines of my "olfactory" writing -using the sense of smell to trigger mommy memories.
Baby milk-breath, the nape of her neck;
his tiny toes, downy hair ~ good as it gets for mom.
Sick little baby, please don't cry; I'll sing you another lullaby.
Diarrhea filled diapers, vomit soaked sheets ~ the stuffy stench of motherhood.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, Jergens Lotion, No Tears Shampoo,
bubble gum pink liquid antibiotics ~ pain relievers of childhood.
Will you share a baby-scented memory with me?
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The 'smell' of a story
In one chapter he tells about filming horrific images and discusses the sights, sounds, smells and feel of war and hurricane zones. On his flight home, although he had showered and had clean clothes on, he kept smelling those 'images'. He thought he was hallucinating, and then he realized he was wearing the same shoes that had stepped in the mud and the blood. He claims that for him, "every story has a smell."
I like that description. Most of our 'life stories' have a smell too. So I jotted a few down. Since fall is in the air, I'll share this one. I remember being a little girl sitting on my grandparents' front steps watching Pappy burn the pile of leaves in the gutter that my cousin and I had just tromped and crunched through. Kids today wouldn't recognize that smell, but my frame of reference is a vivid sensory experience.
Crisp autumn wind snarks up my five year old nose, mingles with the smell of burning leaves and rushes to the pleasure center in my brain; the promise of Halloween and a sack of candy to last me until Christmas, a day away.
Think of any incident or time of your life and write a sentence or two using sensory detail and please SHARE. I will share more another time. Right now, it is off to work I go.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Since we recently took a field trip to the apple orchard, I used an apple theme in class. First, I set out a pile of apples and asked the children to 'guesstimate' how many. Then, I lined them up and we counted them from left to right. We did premath: 10 little apples sitting in a line, Abby took one, and now there are (she counts) nine! We sorted and classified by size and color. Then each child selected an apple and described every single detail about THEIR apple. This increases their obervation skills. Next, the apples went back into the pile, and each child had to find their own apple again. Amazing that they all did, too. Then, we read a book, From Apple Tree to Apple Pie, and each child retold the story in sequential order using six picture cards. Next, came the most fun, each child cut a round, red apple and made up their own recipe. Most chose to tell me how they would make apple pie, but several kids told me how to make apple pancakes or apple cookies. This is a fun and funny activity. They are learning about measurements and time, and learning to sequence. They answered questions such as how many? What else will you add? Where will you cook it? For how long?
This is what a typical recipe page looked like: their cut out apple with their name printed on it.
FIRST, get one, two, three apples or thirteen and smash 'em good. (crush, chop, cut, smoosh)
THEN, add six dribbles of sugar and some spinkles of milk and a spoon of salt and a cup water.
NEXT, cook it in the microwave/oven/stove for elventeen mintues/ twelve hours/ two seconds
LAST, you eat it and share some with ...
Now, after all that sweet talk, maybe you can see why I took my bag of apples home, warmed up my kitchen and made the house smell so good it made our mouths water waiting for our dessert. This cool weather makes me feel like baking. How about you?
Monday, September 27, 2010
Hubby has had a cold and so we've kept the airconditioner on to keep the mold and pollen outdoors, but last night I could not resist opening the windows. All the while I thought it was this pillow top mattress that has been keeping me awake at night. Loved it when we first purchased it, but a couple of years later, it is like sleeping in a foam ditch. So last weekend, I had Bill flip the mattress to the hard as a board side with no padding whatsoever. That gave me sore shoulders for a week. Last night we flipped the mattress back, I flung open the window and snoozed like a kitten curled up by a warm fire.
Friday I took my classes on a field trip to Eckert's Apple Orchard in Belleville, Illinois. Rain threatened, it sprinkled a little, then cleared as we arrived. The children rode a wagon pulled by a tractor to the orchard and picked their own bags of apples and carried them in their arms like a 'heavy baby'. They ate an apple in the orchard and they played in the various areas: trikes, mini golf, playground, petting zoo.
Fall, my favorite season, has arrived with glorious colors and wonderful weather. When the sun is shining and the trees are highlighted I feel spunky. I want to climb a mountain like I did 37 years ago, when I was pregnant with my son. Okay, it wasn't really a mountain, just a Missouri hill, but it seemed like a mountain when I was clutching my swollen belly wondering if my baby would be a boy or girl.
On Saturday, my school did a fundraiser, a Fun Run in Carondelet Park. Some parents and students participated in the 5K run, others did the mile walk, and cutest was the preschoolers who ran a mini-mile, little elbows propelling those 3-5 year olds down and around the loop near the lake and Boathouse, and then back again (about two blocks). They were awarded a ribbon, and wow where they proud!
The weather was gorgoeus for mass in the park and a gathering of friends.
I feel invigorated. I think I will put on my tennis shoes and take a walk this morning.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Inadequacies of a Writer
Many years ago back in the '70s when I was just beginning my teaching career, my professional organization, The National Association for the Education of Young Children did a survey. They polled teachers across the nation and asked how we referred to ourselves - our professional titles. Many members had full degrees, some had partial degrees, some had a few credits, some had no college but years of experience. Yet we all did exactly the same work. Only a few of us referred to ourselves as preschool teachers, even those who had advanced degrees. We called ourselves childcare attendants, teacher aides, child care assistants, early childhood educators, specialists etc. The theory was that society didn't view our occupation as valuable; they certainly didn't pay a salary commensurate with our multi-tasking capabilities. At that time, Pre K teachers were grossly underpaid compared to K-12 teachers. At a social event, when someone asked, "What do you do?" I hesitated to say, "Preschool teacher," because 90 % of the time people responded (& still do), "Oh, you do daycare." Or worse yet, "You BABYSIT."
I know a college instructor who is a fantastic published writer, but when asked her occupation, she prefers to tell people she is an English teacher. So why do we writers hesitate to refer to ourselves as such? I think it is because we think of ourselves as just FREELANCE writers, not full time writers who make a living at it. In my case, when someone asks what I do, I almost always mention my day job first; I think of that as my primary occupation, but more than that, maybe I have feelings of inadequacy… after all, I am just a freelancer, even though I have some notable publication credits. I do have confidence in my ability to write, but when I compare myself to 'real writers' like Stephen King or Maya Angelou I feel insignificant. After reading Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott, I realize we all must have these insecurities.
I received a pittance of a check the other day, a stipend (my brother calls it an insult) for a story and also a poem published in an anthology, and I want to brag that I received 2 publishing credits. The book is on the shelf, but the first thing I am inclined to say is that it's not high quality work. Why do I do that? It was publishable.
Do you ever feel like you are not up to par despite your publishing credits? Because of a lack of them? Do you consider yourself a writer because you write or because you are published?
What holds you back/ propels you on?
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
101 daily Devotionals to Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire Mothers.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Thin Threads, weaving life stories together one at a time
Even better news, my story, Dancing Down the Cookie Aisle has just been released in a SPECIAL EDITION, Thin Threads of Love and Romance.
There are several titles in these series: Thin Threads of Compassion and Giving; Thin Threads of Joy and Inspiration; Thin Threads of Recovery and Survival; Thin Threads of Grief and Renewal. These books are very affordable and would make great holdiay gifts. You can purchase books directly at http://store.thinthreads.com/
Now, here is some good news for YOU. Thin Threads is seeking stories for upcoming special editions. The first to be released in January is Thin Threads of Faith and Hope. You can submit on line http://www.thinthreads.com/, but you'd better hurry. Stacey Battat is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Kiwi Publishing, http://www.kiwipublishing.com/ Stacey is friendly and easy to work with.
Friend and fellow-blogger, Becky Povich, http://beckypovich.blogspot.com/ also received news that one of her heart-warming stories will appear in Thin Threads.
The next story published could be yours!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
The Eagle Soars
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Some guys not only tell whoppers, they are whoppers!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I looked like a spy in a 1950's cheap film when a neighbor came out his or her door. I'd raise my opened paper forehead-high and keep my head buried. I'd lower it an inch at a time past my eyes to make certain that Joe, the friendly, old scrubby Dutchman didn't notice me and shout, "Ahhh, goota mahning! When is your husband going to mow the lawn?" I didn't want the cop up the block heading to the precinct to wave and bellow louder than his car horn, "Moooornin'!" And that old gossip woman two doors up, well she was so nearsighted that she mistook a morning wave for a come hither motion, and once she opened her mouth, she did her best to tell the worst about each neighbor on the block. I avoided those early risers who could raise my ire, and my kids from their lairs before I was ready for them.
I actually mourned Erma's passing when she died from complications of kidney disease.
I came across a book recently by Alicia Alvrez, The Ladies' Room Reader, The Ultimate Women's Trivia Book, (2000) in which she claims Erma Bombeck wanted to keep us laughing even from the grave. She requested that her epitaph read, "BIG DEAL!" I'm used to dust.
Erma Bombeck was my hero. Did you read her columns, books?
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Decision making time
I have tried unsuccessfully for ten years to get this story 'out there'. Now the opportunity is here and I am wondering if I should give it away; compensation is a copy of the book in exchange for all rights. This goes against my better judgment, not the no stipend part, but relinguishing all rights. My heart tells me that this woman's story needs to be told. I know that her story will stop with me ( she is now deceased) if I decline to sign the contract, and I know that it will continue to impact others and have a wide reach if I release it. She was an inspiration to me, so in honor of Thurma Young, I think I shall sign the contract and allow her legacy to live on.
Thanks for listening late this evening while I reasoned with myself and wrestled with my conscience. Each of us has to do what's right for us. I work hard at my craft and I know that my words are valuable, but sometimes, money isn't the only payoff. How do you feel about this?
Sunday, September 12, 2010
My Beloved Dusty
you froliced in open fields
and feather pillows,
and legs of wooden tables.
the kids dressed you up.
In winter, you shed your thick coat, you sweet, confused Spaniel-mix.
Now, as you snooze through old age
may you be blessed
with a field of dreams to romp in,
the wind always blowing against your face,
Friday, September 10, 2010
Queen of the Last Frontier, published by High Hill Press
Queen of the Last Frontier, the biography of Emily Viaene Keaster, as told to Linda O'Connell, published by High Hill Press, is now available on Amazon.com. $15.95
Emily and I met in Delta Junction, Alaska in 1969 when my former husband was stationed at Ft. Greely Army Arctic Test Center. Her husband, Walt, was a civillian who worked on post with my ex. The Keasters were pioneer homesteaders who battled the hostile environment, wild animals and the land boss.
This book chronicles the life of Emily from her birth in the back seat of a Studebaker to the present. Queen of the Last Frontier evokes a range of emotions. Readers will discover how Emily reared children and raised cattle and hell in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Emily Viaene Keaster has made numerous contributions to the town of Delta Junction. She continues to reign supreme over her homestead.
Publisher, Lou Ella Turner at High Hill Press, Cottleville, MO did a wonderful job on this book. I would highly recommend this small press publisher. My experience was pleasant and positive.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Group hug on the writing track
I can't attribute the quote, but I can certainly relate. Where would I be without my writing community, blog friends, other women who have been where I am now? Supporting one another, whether it's in letter form, in person or on line is like an arm around the shoulder, a buddy hug. I so appreciate ALL of you, whether you are readers who haven't signed on, or regular followers.
Together we can!
At preschool two little boys were at the train table fussing over the same engine. I gave them each a differn't Thomas the Tank engine and they went merrily on their way in opposite directions pushing their trains along the track. And then, the inevitable happened. They came face to face and their trains collided on the same track. They each stood their ground, used their words instead of their fists, and I couldn't help but laugh when they started belly bumping. One said, "Scooze me." The other one, "ESSCUUUSE me!" This continued for about five belly bumps and increasingly more vocal scooze me's. Then I stepped in and showed them how to get around the bend. Sometimes that's all any of us need is a conductor to reroute us, redirect us. So, excuse me, if you have been making excuses, get back on track, the writing track.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Not a poet? Think again.
I am a wordy essayist, a long-winded letter writer, a jabber jaw. But one evening I heard a poet read aloud at a St. Louis Writer's Guild event. I was amazed. His poems, mostly free verse, sounded like greatly condensed versions of my essays. "If this is poetry, I can do THIS!" I thought. I hurried home and took a four page story I had been working on and pared it down to one page. I presented it to my critique group who were blown away by the short version, which ended up being a poem that won a prize.
So, you think you're not a poet? Try it, just take an essay and remove all unnecessay words. Write so tight it hurts, and then read the words aloud and amaze yourself. Tweak it here and there and then send it off. Let it take wing. It will either fly away or return to you.
Come on! You can do it, you don't have to worry about rhyming words, no sing song silly stuff. Just write from YOUR heart and chop it down to bite size.
Missouri Review http://www.missourireview.org/ is seeking contemporary fiction, poetry, essays, and they PAY $30 per accepted page.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Today, I challenge you to tell me about stumbling. Did you fall flat? Kick up a gem? Discover a truth? Sometimes our stumbles are stepping stones, eye openers, head clearers, ego adjustments.
Stumble over words? Stumble upon? Stumble down? Stumble into a person?
Give this topic some thought and then share with me, won't you?
Three decades ago, I stumbled into the wrong college class and sat in the empty classroom for ten minutes before I realized I was in the right room number, but the wrong tower building. Then, I had to slink into the real class, and wow! did I stumble upon a wonderful writing instructor and some talented writers.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Labor Day fun
Friday, September 3, 2010
It's all about the wording
If you are so inclined to overuse boring words such as "very" or "really", or other words that do not move your story forward, stop and think about this quote. It makes me take a closer look, and it helps me to write with impact.
I received an email today that illustrates this point. A little boy sat begging on a corner with his upturned hat and a sign that read: I am blind, please help. The boy received only a few coins.
A man walked by and turned the blind boy's sign board around and wrote: Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.
The blind boy received many donations.
There you have it: the first ingredient for a Chicken Soup for the Soul story. Both signs told people that the boy was blind. The second told people that they were lucky that they were not blind. It is obvious which sign was more effective.
Be creative, and innovative and your writing will be more effective. Write with impact and remember that your titles are as important as the content of your story.
This unattributed quote was attached to the email. Be thankful. When life gives you 100 reasons to cry, show life 1000 reasons to smile.
Will you tell me two things that made you smile today?
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Grandpa did WHAT!
Oh my goodness, what gems we found. I searched for my great uncle who was a big shot in the St. Louis Police Department in the '30s and '40s. I hit dead ends searching for his name, but hit upon Bill's grandfather who also a higher up, a generation earlier than my great uncle. His grandfather was in uniform, had a handlebar mustache, wore a star on his dress uniform jacket and wore a high rounded top hat. Bill's brother looks just like their grandfather. The likeness is incredible.
I discovered that my mom wasn't kidding when she said her grandfather was in real estate; the city directory listed that as his occupation back in the 1920's. I learned where my maternal great-grandparents lived and what my grandfather's occupation was: a lamplighter and he also worked at Mallinckrodt.
My greatest discovery: my paternal great-great-great grandfather (or uncle, I'll have to research the genealogy more closely) gave an eyewitness official report to an Indian battle in New Madrid, MO back in the early 1800's. Apparently, a neighbor had been entertaining three Native Americans and offered them liquor which was against the law. They got drunk, demanded the rest of the booze, did some whooping and yelling, and ended up killing the neighbor and another man and burning down the house. Wow! Those skeletons were rattling in my closet.
I had so much fun, I am sure I will go back for more. You have to leave your purse in a locker and use pencil only, but if you find an article or picture you want copied, they will photocopy for 25 cents, OR you can bring your camera and pay them $10 for an entire day of taking your own photos. This would be ideal if you are doing research for a book. You can also access information on line at http://www.mohistory.org/ and click on Archives or Guides and search their genealogy database. Have fun! You can't imagine what you'll find.
My high cheek bones should be proof enough that I am part Native American, but I can't document it yet although Dad and his folks always said we were.
A dumb man tells his wife to be quiet; a wise man tells her how pretty her lips look when her mouth is closed. ~Native American Proverb