Monday, February 27, 2023

A backwards glance

Signs of spring are popping out all over. We've had a mild winter in the central Midwest. I am not complaining. I am thrilled and concerned with nature's confusion. What will summer bring?
These daffodils erupted a month ago in late January. The first two weeks of February they began to bud. I feared the occasional frigid nighttime temperature would be their demise, but these little toughies survived. Last week they began to bloom... in February! I filled the water bowl for small animals and birds and stood back and admired this premature gift from Mother Nature.

Reminds me of a floral surprise when I was in fifth grade.

 At dismissal, as school children walked home en masse, a gardener at the apartment building across the street stood in the midst of what looked like a multi-colored crazy quilt of tulips. He snipped bouquets of them and presented one to each student. It was the highlight of that sunny spring day. The older gentleman asked us if we knew about Holland where tulips grew and people wore wooden shoes. I couldn't imagine.

What a surprise to come to school the next day and realize Miss Kuntz was presenting a geography lesson on Holland. She even brought in wooden shoes. A coincidence or a teachable moment? Either way it made a life-long impact.

Our wrought iron patio chairs are uncomfortable without the cushions. The seat cushions are now in place. Hubby and I sat out on this mild weekend and watched birds flit from tree to feeder. Those bright red cardinals are busy boys. They share the perch with the brown females, royal blue jays, purple finches, sparrows, robins, mourning doves, and the gackles who try to nudge their way in, too. Bird seeds are scattered in a huge arc under the feeder near the shed, providing nourishment for the squirrels and chipmunks.

The promise of spring means I will soon be reading outdoors, observing nature, and listening to a symphony of birds. Soothing activities for my soul.

Speaking of concerts, Bill and I were flipping through the channels last evening and found a 1960s Pop, Rock, and Soul concert with original artists performing today on the Public Broadcast Station. Oh what a delight to listen to the soundtrack of our youth, sing along with familiar tunes, and sift through the memories in our minds. 

"I'm Henry the eighth I am..." Ah, for an  hour or so we were lost in time commenting about how old the artists now look. Unlike us, of course.   


Friday, February 17, 2023

Taking turns at work and play

I have no idea what this toy is called. Do you? I just know it was the best dollar I ever spent at the thrift shop. After sanitizing it and letting it dry, I put it on the table to let Charlie and Alex fight over it. I mean discover it. They shook it and listened to the clacking sounds.

At this age, unless they are hurting each other, I allow them to collaborate, negotiate, insist, and even demand. 

Young children want all of it, and must experience all of it before they can part with any of it. Learning to share means giving up something they deeply desire. It is a natural part of growth and development to resist. Be patient if you have a young one.

Several times this toy was removed without comment and put atop the fridge. Their protests fell on deaf ears. I did not have to say more than once, "We will not fight over this toy."

When they were calm, I placed a large spoon behind it, which depressed the individual tiny plastic sticks to make the indentation. They were amazed, and both squealed they wanted a turn when they saw the spoon image.

That's right, a TURN. Sometimes it is your turn and sometimes it's the other person's turn. They had a blast making inverted images. And then, Charlie took a chance and imposed his face into the gadget and laughed like crazy when he saw his image. So, of course Alex had to do it, too. This toy has been beneficial in ways unexpected.

We discussed how to be calm, wait, and be patient. I stated the consequences if there was fighting and yelling. They soon learned I meant business, and they also learned to cooperate. 

This is the way it is with writing. We are all leaving our legacy, our imprint, taking chances, toying and tinkering with our work. Attempting new and different. Discovering what works and doesn't.

And taking turns. Several of my writer friends and I contribute to the same publications that have limited space available for freelance writers. Sure, we are all in competition, but it is a healthy competition. We support one another, even if we are disappointed that our work was rejected. It is how the game is played. Mostly, we are happy and proud of our friend's contribution and publication success. 

The way I see it is it was THEIR turn. 

We can't all be in first place, but we can all participate in the game.  

Write on, my friends. Enjoy the weekend.

Check out Pen and Prosper on my blog list to the right side. Jennifer Brown Banks has a gift for writers.


Monday, February 13, 2023

This Rose is not just any rose!

Today is launch day! 

Introducing Pat Wahler and her latest release.
If you enjoy reading Historical Fiction, you will love this book!

Self-taught artist Rose O'Neill leaves the Midwest for New York in 1893, determined to become an illustrator in a field dominated by males. Mindful of her duty to the impoverished family she left behind, Rose’s obligations require her to yield to the men who hold the reins of her career.

 Yet despite the obstacles facing her, she excels at her craft, eventually designing a new character, the Kewpie. Her creation explodes into a phenomenon, but Rose’s disenchantment with the status quo fosters new ambitions. She must decide whether to remain within the boundaries dictated for her, or risk everything she’s gained to pursue the creative and personal passions that ignite her soul.

 The Rose of Washington Square is the story of a remarkable artist, writer, suffragist, and philanthropist whose talents lifted her from obscurity into one of the most famous women of her era.

                                 Pat Wahler

Pat Wahler is winner of Western Fictioneers' Best First Novel of 2018, a Walter Williams Award winner, and the winner of Author Circle Awards 2019 Novel of Excellence in Historical Fiction for I am Mrs. Jesse James. She has also authored a three-book contemporary romance series-the Becker Family Novels, and two holiday-themed books; all named Five-Star Readers’ Favorites. A frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, Pat is an avid reader with a special passion for historical fiction, women’s fiction, and stories with heart. She makes her home in Missouri with her husband and two rescue critters—one feisty Peek-a-poo pup and a tabby cat with plenty of attitude.

1.  What inspired the idea for The Rose of Washington Square?

I enjoy writing women from the past, particularly if they have ties to my home state of Missouri. Doing random searches on women from history in the Midwest, I ran across the name of Rose O’Neill. I knew she’d created the Kewpie Doll, but I really didn’t know much else about her. The more I dug into her numerous accomplishments and realized what a trailblazer she truly was, the more fascinated I became. Before long, I knew I had to write her story. 

2.  How much research did your book require?

As a writer of historical fiction, I always do a fair amount of research. I need to understand the era, culture, and events of the time period I write. Then there’s a deep dive into correspondence, journals, biographies, plus magazine and newspaper articles related to the specific person I’ve chosen. Next I construct a world timeline alongside a personal timeline to give me a sense of what happened when. If possible, I like to spend time at actual locations that were part of my character’s life to experience what they did. Finally, I plot and outline the story and then on to writing it.

3.  How long did it take you to write the book?


The initial research portion took around a year. During the time I began to put words on paper, there were additional pieces of information that came to my attention, so I actually wrote and researched in tandem for another year before I could even glimpse the finish line.  


4.  How did you come up with your title?


Oh, titles. They’re one of my most difficult decisions. I can’t tell you how many different “working titles” there were for this book. I had a page of possibilities, and over months I pared the list down to three. Oddly enough, none of them really grabbed me, until I had a conversation with my developmental editor. She came up with a suggestion that seemed so simple yet so perfect, I grabbed onto it. The Rose of Washington Square.


5. What advice would you give a writer working on their first book?

Make sure you have good editors and proofreaders who will help you shape your manuscript and polish it until it shines. If traditional publishing is your goal, pitch the manuscript at writer conferences. Submit it to agents or to publishers that don’t require agented submissions. Listen if experienced people in the writing business offer advice. Don’t fall for scammers who are interested in your money, not your manuscript. Many authors find great satisfaction in publishing their own work. Just make sure you have a professional quality cover and product to offer.

Finally, as Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never give up.” If you want to be a published author, make that your mantra.

6. What is the best writing advice you were ever given?

The importance of connecting with other writers. Join writing groups and get involved with a critique group. It’s a great way to learn, and I’ve found writers to be extraordinarily supportive. Plus, it’s kind of nice venting to people who not only understand your frustrations but help to celebrate your successes.

Pat: Linda, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog!

Linda: My pleasure. Congratulations and much success to you!
            Readers, check out Pat Wahler and her newest release, and                  please leave a comment below. Isn't that cover beautiful?

Link to the book:


Facebook Author Page:

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Amazon Author Page:

Bookbub Author Page:


Thursday, February 9, 2023

Should you stop or should you go?

Artists, writers, creatives, quilters, dreamers...
Did you ever set out with an idea in mind to create one thing and end up with something all together different? I think we all have. 

Four-year-old Charlie was painting at the easel when he started smearing all the colors. I asked why? He said, "Oh Nana, because I feel like I'm on a nature walk seeing all beautiful colors and things."
How do you interefere with that kind of creativity when it is flowing from the very soul? That expression on his little face is PRIDE!

Writers sometimes tweak until the original piece is unidentifiable. Do you think it is possible to tweak too much? I have tinkered with a story or poem that resulted in two pieces. Have you?

When is enough just that, enough? Do you know when to quit? Do you have an end in mind, or do you write until you run out of steam? Each to his or her own.

I have read stories and poetry that would have been stronger had they ended sooner. But in my opinion, when free writing, you should let the creative juices flow. 

Then go back and edit, cut, discover what needs to stay and what needs to go. 

Never say, "I can't!" Always say, "I can try." That was my class motto when I taught. One of my former students, now an adult, wrote to tell me she uses these words to motivate her children.  

 I had to put into practice what I preached for four decades when I attached these colorful, lightweight balls with masking tape to a cardboard. (The wall would work just as well. Masking tape doesn't leave residue.) I encouraged Alex and Charlie to remove one ball at a time USING ONLY THEIR FEET and place the balls into the basket. 

There were many protests of, "I can't do it!"  "I quit!"  "I am not even playing this game!" As fast as the balls were knocked off and rolling away, I retrieved them and stuck them back on.

When they began to slow down and have success, they laughed, cheered, tried and tried, even when their short legs could not reach the upper balls. I showed them how to scoot their bottoms closer to the wall and reach higher. More success! 

It is the same with any craft, nobody starts out a pro. Try, try again until you reach a level of success.


Friday, February 3, 2023

Coming up on 34 years together

Tripping the Light Fantastic by Linda O'Connell

 Published in Sasee Magazine February 2023 

My husband asked me recently, “Do you like yourself these days?”

“Not my crooked teeth, droopy eyelids, and flabby belly. Do you like yourself?” I probed.

Aware that Bill’s milestone decade birthday was hitting him hard, I said, “We sure could dance back in the day. We hardly took a break. Whenever a fast song played, I grabbed your large hand, and you flung me to and fro; our steps were synchronized. People used to clear the floor and watch us dance. I am ever grateful you taught me to jitterbug in middle age when we met.”

He looked at me as though I had hurt his feelings. “We had a good thirty years of boogying. There’s no reason YOU can’t still dance just because my legs and back are giving out.”

I didn’t want my husband to think I was making a negative statement about his physical health. 

“Oh honey, it’s not your legs and back that has put the end to our fast dancing. It’s my left knee. I couldn’t spin or pivot if I wanted to. And forget about you sashaying me under your arm and spinning me back and forth. For both of us, high kicks are a thing of the past. I can hardly lift my left leg high enough to tie my tennis shoe.” He smiled, relieved my comment was as much about my condition as his.

We returned to our television show. Then a commercial came on, an advertisement for a high-end hotel. The image was of a couple being served a plate of… nachos. Bill looked at me quizzically and said, “Well that’s a pretty common dish for an uncommon resort, don’t you think?”

I squealed with delight. “You might not be able to twirl me, but your observations and comments make my gray matter swirl, and I don’t mean my hair, because I still color my grays.”

“Well, there you go making me laugh!” my honey said. “And I wasn’t even trying to be funny.” 

I commented, “I have to hobble down the hall until my knee loosens up, and you have to use a cane for balance, but we are still ‘dancing’ together. We can read one another’s moves and signals. We are still in rhythm sitting right here on the couch. If I tried to shimmy it would be embarrassing, and if we even dared do the Twist, we would impair our hips. Whenever we feel the urge, we should just dance in our seats. What do you say?”

My thoughts drifted into the past when Bill first asked me to dance. I had to admit I didn’t know how. “I’ll show you. It is really easy, just a few steps, one and two, three and four, rock-step. I can lead your every move once you learn the basic steps.”

I was embarrassed and offered my girlfriend’s hand. 

“She can fast dance.” He led my friend to the dance floor and like a gentleman returned her to the table. As he asked again, I turned down his offer of an impromptu dance lesson. 

The next week when my girlfriends and I returned to the dance hall, I accepted Bill’s offer. He had so many competent and available partners willing to Jitterbug with him. Still, he approached me, the one who continually stomped his toes and scuffed his shoes. But eventually, we made it work. I got the hang of the dance steps, and he began to add new moves, which made me whine, “No, I can’t.”

“Yes, you can if you believe you can and you allow me to help. But you can’t lead. I have to lead you. Okay?”  So, I was doing the wrong thing the whole time? I knew it! But my dancing man didn’t reprimand me; he encouraged me.

I smiled thinking of our first dance, decades ago. Then I realized at our grandson’s wedding last summer, when Bill led me to the dance floor, he led with precision but allowed me to lead, so we would look as good as the family thought we were. We slow-danced; actually, we swayed in place remembering when we were vibrant, young, and had the stamina to dance the night away.

When our favorite fast song came on, my dear man, who usually wears jeans and casual shirts, looked like my prince dressed to the nines in a suit and tie. I felt like a princess when he smiled, presented his hand to me, and asked, “May I have this dance?”

With the same twinkle in his eyes, he led me to the dance floor and whispered, “This is for you, so honey, you will have to do most of the work.” 

My big, always jovial, Irish man stood on the dance floor using hand motions to cue me. So what if I did the footwork and turned myself around? I was charmed. Winded and moving slower than when we first danced to Bob Seger singing Old Time Rock and Roll, we returned to our seats and Bill said, “That was for old times’ sake.”

It’s possible that was our last fast dance, but it was as memorable as our first. Only this time I didn’t dance on his toes, I danced on mine.

My dance partner’s fast steps have turned to a shuffle these days, and slow dancing has taken on new meaning: leaning on one another, supporting each other so we don’t stumble, walking arm in arm.

I said, “You asked me if I like myself these days. I do. I like myself, probably better than anyone else likes me, even if there are things about me that I resent. My lack of mobility just means I’ll have to dance down memory lane.”

“May I join you? I like you, too.”