Thursday, October 31, 2013

Did I really hear that? Do that? Say that?

A strange thing happened yesterday when the Boston Red Socks won the 2013 World Series and sent our boys home. Still love our St. Louis Cardinals, though.

There was a message on our answering machine from an editor who has published my work in the past. This editor asked if I was THE ONE AND SAME Linda O'Connell who had been published in another publication where she had seen my name.

Editor #1 was interviewing editor #2. They both are responsible for my small "claim to fame." I emailed both editors and received personal responses. Editors are people, too, not just throne sitters.

They have as many problems as writers. Their end of the writing seems glamorous to the average writer, but editors have so much more to consider than grammar, punctuation, word count, page layout, advertising. In some cases dealing with individual authors is like having a classroom of students with diverse and special needs; everyone, including administrators, raising their hands at once making requests.

If you have doubts or questions pertaining to a publication, politely contact the editor with a brief correspondence. They are too busy for chit-chat and don't care what your weather is like. Be concise and professional. Always leave your contact information, do not assume the editor will automatically know your email address and hit the REPLY button. They are busy-busy-busy.

I have worked with many editors, and I've received personal messages from several that have motivated me to continue writing when I have been filled with self-doubt.

A male editor from Parent's Magazine telephoned me years ago when I first started writing and had no idea that I had to "pitch" an idea. I'd sent a snappy personal essay along with three articles. I didn't follow any of the rules, because I was naieve. He telephoned to say, although he was in my corner trying to pitch my work to the big dogs, my submissions were being rejected. He told me, "Do not stop writing! You have a  unique voice." He spoke those words to me. Editors seldom have time to reject your work over the phone.

One newspaper editor accepted a personal essay about one of my students who'd died. He emailed to tell me that he was moved to tears by my writing. I didn't intend to make a big guy cry.

One lit mag editor commented on my writing style and said, "We are amazed at the writing, but have never received a story like this where you kill off the protagonist. The protagonist?" I left him scratching his head. He left my work in the dust, but at least I hit a touch point. I was naieve, I tell you!

An editor from Texas called to say she and her staff were all crying as they read my story, Grandpa's Little Sugar. They each had blonde, blue-eyed little girls, who wore cowboy hats, too. She said they could visualize my little granddaughter singing the Barney song at my dad's gravesite wearing his western hat. I made a connection. This editor contacts me from time to time to see if I have anything for her Mother's/ Father's Day issues.

An East Coast editor telephoned and left a message on the answering machine. Her voice sounded like my aunt's, so I didn't react too strongly when she praised my writing, until she mentioned her name and publication. She asked if I would record one of my stories. So we rushed right out and bought a personal recording device, used it once and have never used it again. She did publish two of my stories, but not the audio version.

If you are like me, you cross your fingers and send your submissions off with a prayer. Just know that on the recieving end is a person just like you with his or her fingers crossed, too,  hoping your work will be the one.

Have you ever received a personal message from an editor?


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Believe it or not!

This is one of those unbelievable stories that really happened to friends.

She was recently selected as a contestant on TV game show, The Price is Right. She won a brand new Ninja motorcycle and paid taxes on it right away. It was delivered to her door with one mile on the odometer. Their plan all along was to sell this brand new bike because she needed a new car.

They put an ad on Craig's list. An interested party called and came by. The young man asked if he could take it for a test drive. NO! It had one mile on the odometer.

He then asked if he could start it up. SURE.

Could he sit on the seat to get a feel for it? OKAY...

And that's when the kid threw his leg over the seat and zoomed off.

"That SOB just stole the bike right out from under us!" Our buddy ran after him shouting.

They called the authorities who came to make a report. Our friend said to the police officer, "That Cadillac he left in our's OURS now, right?"

"Doesn't work that way," the cop said. "In fact, that car is stolen, too."

While our friends fretted and figured they'd never see the bike again, the police were out looking. Later that night an officer spotted it, lit up his red lights and watched the kid peel out and ride it into a pile of brush in an effort to hide it.

Our friends got the motorcycle back with minor scratches and 137 miles on the odometer. They could no longer sell it as a NEW bike. The kid went to jail, and he made his phone call. He called to ask if they would SELL it to him. Asked why he stole it, he said he wanted to take his girlfriend for a ride.

Needless to say, he didn't get the bike a second time. And my friend got herself a nice down payment on a new Chevy Equinox.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sharing the podium

If you could see my piled-high desk, my schedule, my correspondences, the looming deadlines, the family birthday schedule, our disheveled bed...and I always make my bed.

I apologize for not posting about the Columbia, MO Writer's Conference, The Write Direction. The week completely got away from me.

Linda Fisher is the editor of Well Versed, Columbia Writer's Guild anthology currently seeking submissions. Her smile lights up a room, sorry for the cliche` but it's true. Although she is an internet buddy, hugging her was like hugging an old friend. Thanks to Linda and Larry Allen, President of CWG.

Dianna Graveman and I co-presented on the topic of personal essays for anthologies. Dianna has the expertise; she knows the ins and outs, complexities, legalities. I am amazed at her stamina; she is a goal-oriented powerhouse of knowledge. She has her own business, Additionally she is a partner in Tree House Publishing Group.

Our presentations complement one another. She says I rouse the crowd and she brings them down with the business realities. But that is not the case at all. As proof, after our presentation attendees called us names: inspirational, motivational, helpful.

Lunch was delicious. We were unable to attend all of the wonderful workshops, but we did attend Larry Wood's presentation. He talked about publishing short, historical nonfiction. I've never considered  researching locals and pitching a story to a regional editor.
You'd better be able to write-tight in order to complete an essay in 500-1,000 words. But if you can do it, you can often sell it. Think of a colorful character from your area, and narrow your focus to one crises or event, then after doing your research, do a write up, revise, and find a market. Your pitch should be concise, so the editor gets a feel of time, place, who, what, why and where.
I encourage you to head in the "Write Direction."


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Still cutting up fifty years later

Saturday: Crisp fall air, great sunny weather, terrific hosts Ron and Betty-Kate, delicious food, good friends, music provided by country legend, Phil Sheppard, who opened for The Little River Band, and rock legend Chuck Kiel of CK Thunder. These guys have had their own bands for decades.


Entertainment (not the same as music) provided by the "boys" and "girls" — most of those in attendance first walked the hallowed halls of our alma mater, McKinley High School, fifty years ago.

HALF a CENTURY! How did we get this old? How did we make it this long? How did we lose so many classmates over the years?

Despite the fact that we are eligible for senior discounts, Social Security, and Medicare, we ditched our adult pretenses and reverted back to the kids we used to be. No bragging about our latest achievements, barely a mention of the kids/grandkids/dogs of which we are all so proud. A little complaining by the women about wrinkles and talk of desired face lifts. Overall, we all look good for our ages and we're all in relatively good health. That is a blessing.

We laughed until our cheeks hurt; told stories that took us back to the days of gas wars between neighboring service stations which drove price-per-gallon below 25 cents. Back then, we thought nothing of walking fifteen blocks to Cherokee Street, a four block string of independently owned small businesses and dime stores with candy counters that sold yummies by the pound, hot peanuts and fresh popcorn...patrons were assailed by the aromas and overwhelmed by the endless selections.

All afternoon we sat outdoors on a sunlit patio overlooking a gorgeous vista, autumn appealing to our five senses: artist palette of leaf colors, the aroma of wood smoke, a brisk breeze stirring us to pull our jackets closed, the sounds of laughter and music pealing across the hills, down the pasture and into the valley, scrumptious food and delicious wines to sample.

The spouses who did not attend McK were regaled with stories they've probably heard a million times, told from a different perspective. "No-no, that's not what happened. Don't you remember when...?"

Evening dropped like a drape and chilled the hills. Our silhouettes backlit with the pink and orange setting sun, we sat in a circle and sang everything from John Denver songs to the oldies and rock songs of our era, with the fire pit spitting sparks as brilliant as the stars overhead.

As we old timers hobbled stiffly to our cars, we could all agree, we were satiated... in so many ways.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Flapping in the breeze

Every day as I drive home from work, I am reminded of an event that happened many years ago, before cell phones, when people were less apt to shoot a stranger who banged on their door and asked to use the phone. My mom was with me in the car as I was driving down the highway. When my car stalled, I pulled to the shoulder and wondered what to do.

Only one thing TO do. I had to get to the nearest house and call my (then) husband. Mom, a nervous Nellie always expecting the worse, told me to be careful as I traipsed through the weeds to the chain link eight foot fence. She jinxed me.

Mind you, I was a lot skinnier then and could heft myself up and over with little difficulty. I managed to get myself up, and as I was coming down on the other side, I got hung up. Literally hung UP on the fence. The leg hole of my shorts got caught, and there I was in a state of suspended animation. I flailed, twisted, and eventually shook myself loose. I banged on the first door and was able to make that phone call, thank goodness.

I drive past that house every single day, and in my mind, I can still visualize myself flapping in the breeze.

I am so busy co creating Not Your Mother's Book...On Family, but as soon as I get an extra minute, I want to tell you all about the Columbia, MO writer's conference. Please come back tomorrow. I will post a picture. Thank you for the congratulations.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hocus pocus alamagocus! The joke was on me!

I love little gifts so I was delighted when I read my granddaughter's text:
When will you be home? We have a little gift for you from Oktoberfest :)
It was dark at 6:30 p.m. when she and her husband pulled into the driveway.
I just knew there was a cute bracelet or pair of earrings inside this little four inch cloth bag.
 I opened it and thought, Aww, how sweet. I DO remember her first little trick-or-treat joke. I said, "Oh honey, I can still hear your toddler voice, 'What do baby ghosts wear on Halloween? BOOties!' This is my surprise?"
"Yes, and you can keep them at YOUR house for Lana (Lahna) or Liam William... William for Paw-Paw's namesake." Names, of course, are tentative right now.
I cried. I screeched. I jumped up and hugged her. Then I told her to sit down and be careful. Then I rubbed her tummy. I aksed when she found out.
"You won't believe it. We had stopped at Wal-Mart because we were going to buy a bottle of wine to take to the Oktoberfest party we were invited to. Justin saw an Early Pregnancy Test in the check out line and said, "Why don't you try that before we get to the party and drink?"
She went into the empty bathroom, peed on the stick and when it came back positive, half the store could hear her yelling. The cleaning girl came in and asked if she was okay. She screamed, "Yes, I'm pregnant. My husband and I have been trying for months."
The girl grabbed her hands and they both jumped up and down and cheered. Oh what a Wal-Mart memory! I think I'll call my great-grandchild WALLY.
I love being a grandma. This is going to be GREAT!
This was the best Halloween surprise ever!

Friday, October 18, 2013

A sight for sore eyes

I can't get the image out of my mind's eye. The elasticity was completely exhausted.
Okay, I'll admit it, I have stuffed my size 14 backside into a size 12 pair of pants, left the zipper partially undone, and worn a long shirt so no one could see.

But what we saw this evening while grocery shopping made me wonder what some people are thinking, or if they even look at themselves in a full length mirror. For goodness sakes, plate glass windows reflect images! Are people no longer body conscious? Do they not care?

This very obese woman, old enough to know better, wore a crop top shirt with a pair of black leggings that were stretched tighter than an overstuffed sausage casing about to split wide open. They were made of light-weight material, so the more they stretched, the thinner they became, until it looked like she was wearing black pantyhose and you could see her skin. Her white hip hugger underwear were suffering under duress, but the leggings were screaming for relief. It's not like she was holding anything in, so why didn't she let it all hang out? She was exposing everything anyway.

I am not prejudiced or making fun of anyone's weight. Goodness knows, if you were a block away from me you couldn't tell my butt from my gut, and you wouldn't know if I was coming or going. But this was jaw dropping ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We did survive!

Oh what a voice! Gloria Gaynor can still belt it out; she travels the globe and appeals to multi-age crowds who attend her sold out concerts. She has a dynamic personality and a heart of gold. I know!
I met her.
 Her words, "At first I was afraid, I was petrified..." spoke to me and many others back in 1980. Her words became our mantra. We survived and overcame adveristy. We are ready to share our stories.
Stay tuned for upcoming news regarding book promotions. There are four regional authors published in this anthology, Cathi Lamarche, Alice Muschany, Lynn Obermoeller, Linda O'Connell... and we are preparing for multi-author booksignings. If you or someone you know is interested in interviewing us or promoting the book, contact me Our first event will be at Barnes & Noble, St. Peters, MO on December 7th. Mark your calendar, and please come see us. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On the road again

Amber, Cory, Dexter

You really never know what you are going to see at Wal-Mart. Nothing really surprises me anymore. But this sight pleasantly surprised me at 9:00 a.m. I had to find out more. First of all, we used to be avid campers, so the camper-style van piqued my interest when I spied it from a block away. It is not unusual to see large campers parked overnight on the Wal-Mart parking lot, but this was much more interesting. As we drove by, I noticed a young couple brushing their teeth outside the van. I begged my hubby to drive over to them, but he parked a dozen spaces away and said, "I am going into the store. You can go disturb their peace." He's proud of my writing, but he prefers the periphery.

With camera in hand, I apologized for my intrusion, explained that I am a writer/blogger, and asked if I might take a photo of their vehicle, write about them and post on my blog. With verbal you go Amber and Cor(e)y.

They are seasonal workers, and I don't mean crop pickers. They are from Montana, and just finished a stint working this summer in Glacier National Park. At a job fair there, they learned of a position open in the FLORIDA still my heart! They will be travelling North for a bit, and then they will eventually wend their way South to earn a
living as a bartender/cocktail waitress in a tropical climate in Siesta Key. Unencumbered, except for a cute lab puppy named Dexter, these free-spirited "kids" took me back to my youth, when I travelled vicariously across country in a VW bus decorated with peace signs, and danced in fields of daisies with my dog named Blue and other hippie peaceniks.

I said VICARIOUSLY. I never had the guts to do anything when I was in my youth, and not long afterwards, I married. A few years later I became a mom. My travel back then, 1969-70 was by plane to Alaska where I lived in a rural town at the end of the Alaska Highway. Now that was an adventure!

This congenial couple had a confidence about them that I never had at their age. You never know about individuals, but I did discover one thing about Cory. He's a serial killer. Oh wait, enlarge this picture  by clicking on the photo) to read the fine print on his T-shirt. Then you too, will know the truth about Cory. Get a close up look at that cute Dexter while you're at it.

Oh to be young, adventurous and free to travel. These young people were personable, educated, free spirits. I wish them success as they make memories and a few bucks along the way. Stay safe, and have fun. If you want, you can email me at, especially if I spelled your names wrong.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Frankie freaked me out!

 I took my students on a field trip to the pumpkin patch this morning on a (too warm) 80 degree, sunny day. It was so crowded, there were busloads of children of all ages and abilities. Frazzled teachers tried to keep up with their classes as the children ran through a corn maze, a spooky maze, a tunnel, onto the playground, up and down slides, and into the sand box.

The barn yard animals are such an attraction for city kids who've never seen a real pig, turkey or chicken up close and personal. The children were so excited when I "gobbled" at the turkey, and he spread his tail feathers and gobbled back. There were bunnies, and chicks, and ducks, and an old gray and black, overweight, slow moving dog named Buddy whose been around for a dozen years and still loves pats on his wiry head. All the kids had to stop and pat him.

The hayride out to the fields was bumpy and fun. The children saw how vegeatbles grow: corn on the cob, purple egg plant, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries, lettuce, cabbage and of course PUMPKINS! I asked if anyone liked tomaoteos and they alls aid, NO! I asked if they all likesd ketchup. Yes! I told them that before it's ketchup, it's a tomato. They didn't believe me.

There were all sorts of displays, from Disney movies, children's books and cartoons.
Everybody got a small pumpkin to bring home. Only one child refused to go into the inflatable fun house with balloon characters suspended inside. Oh the laughter and squeals as they came around a corner and saw  huge spider, or bumped into an inflated monster. As they exited, the cries rang out, "Can we do that again?"

So, of course, we did.

We walked through the covered garden center with all sorts of displays: gourds and squash in all shapes, sizes, colors and textures. There were purple pumpkins, warty green pumpkins, smooth yellow pumpkins in all sizes, orange ones, of course, most too big to lift.

Most parents accompanied us. I held the hands of two new students whose moms were a bit apprehensive to send their little boys alone on their first field trip. They trusted me to watch their children as if they were my own. Nothing will hurt them, I promised. So I held their hands most of the time.

Then it happened. We walked past one of the motion activated life-size monsters. When Franekenstein opened his mechanical mouth and shouted, Happy Halloween! the two little boys, one from Nepal and one from Bosnia, (so I am sure this was a first experience) nearly jumped into my arms. We were stumbling over each other, screeching, and finally laughing, especially when Frank started singing old time rock and roll songs.

My treat: the afternoon off and I bought three oatmeal butterscotch cookies, two for me and one for my honey. Shh! Don't tell.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Things that go bump in the night

"The dead won't hurt you. It's the living you have to watch out for."
"You know how many dead people are buried in that cemetery?"
"All of them."

Yeah, my dad, lanky as Old Abe, was a real joker. I really wasn't afraid of the ghosts in the cemetery across the street. Although Dad could sure tell some great ghost stories, spell binding stories with amazing sound effects, it was the THING under my bed I feared most. I just knew that thing would grab my foot. That THING made me shiver on the hottest days of summer and tuck my feet under a blanket. That was before air conditioning. In the daylight, I looked under the bed. I knew there was nothing there. But still, that primal fear raged in my terrifed body each night.

My former brother-in-law used to wake up during the night when he was a little boy and scream bloody murder at the THING in the bathroom...which was actually laundry his mom hung on the shower curtain rod. Night after night, he awoke terrified. Night after night, I went to bed terrified.

Even to this day, I have a slight unrealistic fear of hanging my feet off the bed.

What makes you jump with fright? BOO!


Monday, October 7, 2013

Just jabbering

My daughter made it home at 4:00 p.m., and I am so relieved. She says she will never board another bus again. I can understand that.

When I lived in Alaska at age 20, we military wives would ride the rickety old Army bus into Fairbanks. The mountainous, two-lane Richardson Highway had no guard rails and sheer drop offs. The bus driver was a young medic from the dispensary who drove like a maniac and told us pregnant women childbirth horror stories. He'd say weird things like, "Did you know that when I take your blood pressure, I could possibly pump that cuff up so tight I could blow your veins?"

I took my students on a field trip last week to a nature center. On the way I noticed a car with Alaska license plates. Coincidentally, the driver's husband was stationed in Fairbanks. We chatted briefly. She said she was one of the last women to deliver her baby in the old hospital where I delivered my daughter. I told her about my horrific experience. She said she completely understood, and that not much had changed. She said they had torn down that hospital and had rebuilt a new one on base. Although it was four decades ago, sometimes it seems like only yesterday I was walking the gravel road to the general store in town. I cocooned in winter darkness.

Tonight there is a meteor shower. I think I'll go take a peek. The weather has gotten a little cooler, which makes for good sleeping but is not good for my appetite. I made zucchini bread with walnuts and blueberries, and also Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuits from a package, and they taste just like them. I had three (OMG 3!) with vegetable beef soup. Winter isn't even here.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Leave it to a woman

Forget Uncle Sam; leave it to Old Mom. My daughter and her room mates were accidentally locked out of their rooms for a while today, making life even more miserable for them. The group was hungry, running out of rationed individual snacks that they had brought on their bus trip. Hungry women, hoping to arrive at hotel with meals included, hadn't eaten since Friday morning at 5 a.m.
The monster South Dakota blizzard dumped 33 inches and blew ten feet snow drifts, brought down power lines and closed interstates. Their bus driver headed for the nearest Air Force base yesterday afternoon, and got stuck. Big Dog equipment got them out, twice. They ended up in temporary housing, took a hot shower and waited for the expected hot meal at 5 p.m.  It never arrived. Lost power after dark, tried to sleep, woke hungry, hoped for breakfast. No food arrived. A military airman came by and shared what he had: two bottles of Gatorade.

I went on line and read the chatter: the dining facility on base had run out of hot food and was hoping to get some MREs for the essential personnel who hadn't been furloughed! The women had decided to WALK to the mess hall in a blizzard, but the airman advised otherwise. Power lines down.

I went on Facebook and sent requests to the Colonel, who was probably too busy with troops to be concerned with civillians. So, I appealed to WIVES of airmen. One responded. Coincidentally (or not) she had the same last name as my best friend, Sheila's maiden name. She offered to feed them, but neither she nor the women could travel to one another because of road conditions.

Some angel heard my plea and my daughter said an hour ago an airmen delivered a few MREs for the women to share. Not the roast beef they were craving. A couple of crackers and slice of meat to share will have to do them for the evening. They were expecting to be home Monday. Now they are saying they may not even leave until Tuesday.

I have always been a fixer, and won't take "no" for an answer when I set my mind to something.

I'm half as exhausted as my daughter, I'm sure, but I am ready for bed at 8:00 p.m. I hope she can sleep.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mighty Atlas, settle down!

My daughter, Tracey, was invited at the last minute to attend a church mission trip with one of her girlfriends. It was to be a 14 hour bus ride: leaving at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, arriving in South Dakota at 8:00 a.m. today, Friday. She called me the day the government shut down, all upset that she wouldn't be able to see Mt. Rushmore. That happens to be the least of her worries right now.

This morning she called at 5:00 and said they were stopping for breakfast, but heading into a blizzard with an experienced driver who said their destination was a couple hours away. At 2:00 p.m. the road conditions were so hazardous, and the projected 30 inch snowfall was threatening to close the interstate. They inched along.

Sometime later, due to winter super storm, Atlas, they were diverted to the nearest air force base, where the bus got stuck in the snow. The military sent plows and transported them three at a time to a barracks where they were able to set up for the night. Those who had forged ahead of the bus and made it to the nice hotel they were expecting to be in tonight, called to say that they had lost power. Ice, sleet and snow are pulling down power lines and trees. They also just received word that there are tornadoes wrapped in the blizzard, and they are in a state of emergency and have to stay put, can't even hoof it to the mess hall because of the sleetstorm.

She is glad she brought snacks: craisins, almonds and Mounds bars. At the moment they are sharing what they brought, as they haven't eaten since 5 a.m. I know that girl of mine wishes she would have taken a winter coat (like her mama told her), instead of a lightweight jacket, but I know she will survive and have a tale to tell when she returns. Please keep her and her fellow passengers in your thoughts and prayers. I will update as I know more.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dear Sheila, my best, oldest, dearest friend,

Click on the link to read my latest published story about my oldest, dearest, best friend. That is how I begin each letter to her.

I must tell you, there is another story being spawned, because on the day that I received an acceptance on this story, my friend's husband called to tell me her second brain surgery, 20 years after the first, was a success, and she has reclaimed her speech and is more cognizant.

If you don't mind, would you please take a moment and leave a comment on their website, also? Thank you for your continued support. Sometimes I think I must bore you all with my day to day meanderings. Then every once in a while, I find a gem to share with you such as this magazine essay. Hugs and happiness to each of you.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What did you call YOURS?

I am reading an anthology, For She Is The Tree Of Life, Grandmothers Through The Eyes of Women Writers, edited by Vakerie Kack-Brice.

The stories are fascinating and revealing, heart warming and heart wrenching... honestly capturing the essence of a family matriarch.

When I was little, I said it the way I heard it: "lawn-a-mower" and "GrammO." Her front porch steps were as steep as a mountain in my child's eye. When I drove by that house many years later, they were merely standard wooden steps leading into her kingdom, where matronly Miss Frances from the original Ding Ding School taught me lessons via televsion and Howdy Doody and his side kicks ruled. Where a glass of milk was always accompanied by two thick, store-bought, devils food cake cookies with that hard shell coating and a thin film of white icing underneath, or else two Hydrox cookies... no Oreos for GrammO.

Those towering steps led me to a woman who was proud to tell a stranger that I was her first grandchild. Sometimes she told me I was her favorite. Always, she told others. My mom's mother made me feel special.

Not all grandma's leave those impressions. My kids had two grandmas, one loving and kind and one unable to be. They both left their legacies.

Will you share with me a memory you have (or if you never knew her) have heard about your grandmother/s?