A Girl With a Dream to publish a book

Welcome to June!

Many years ago, I was a young girl with a dream. Now I’m a middle aged woman on the brink of having it realized. My first completed manuscript is coming back from my editor with the first round of edits this week. I can see myself taking another step closer to my dream, to publish a novel. And it is pretty exciting.

This girl has always been an avid reader. The Little House on the Prairie series and Nancy Drew mysteries were books always found on my book shelf. But there has always been a creative writer inside of me. I started writing in diaries with thoughts about a day in the life of a young girl growing up. Secrets about who I liked and what I thought about things that went on in school, only shared with the lined pages of that little book with the lock on the edge.  I still have those diaries in my hope chest. I can see them in my mind. One green, one red and one blue.

From writing in my diary, the creative writing evolved itself into silly stories that were caught in my imagination and needed to come out. Being at the time before computers became common for all to have, I wrote them down in three ringed notebooks or on pieces of notebook filler paper. I have a few of those saved in my writing archives.

In elementary school, we had units on creative writing during English and penmanship class. I have a packet of poems and thoughts about Christmas a teacher put together from one of my classes in my archives too. In another grade we learned how to write in a journal. Our teacher had us start with basic facts about ourselves. Who is your dad? What color is your house? What is the name of your pet? This question was a hard one for me to answer because at that time my family didn’t have a pet, so I would have to write that fact in my journal. Kind of made me feel sad, or I guess feel different from the other kids. Then our teacher would have us write about a place you visited with your family on vacation to give us all an idea that we could write about. Little did I know then these activities would become a part of the foundation for the writing that I do now.

Then came all of the research papers written in junior high and high school. I really enjoyed researching different people and learning about who they were and their role in history. I also love researching historical events and finding out why they happened. I remember getting into mythology, the gods and their functions in the myths. I even put together a family tree to follow who was related to who. Not as an assignment for school, but because I was keenly interested. Abraham Lincoln and Charles Lindbergh were and still are fascinating people to me, so I wrote school papers about them. I believe some of the Charles Lindbergh research I did brought to light an interest in aviation and ultimately obtaining a pilot’s license. It also intrigued me enough to go visit his family’s home in Little Falls, Minnesota.

When I look back on it, my novel writing really started with a short story that I wrote in 1994 about a weekend I spent at a Bed and Breakfast over Memorial Day weekend. It was a last minute decision to take the trip, which isn’t like me to do. My experiences from that weekend worked their way into a WIP I started called Mentoring a Dream. That story brought many things I was dealing with personally and professionally together into a story. It was about what I was doing with my life, things that I wanted to do and dreams of mine at that time, written through a character based on me. It was like I was figuring out who I was and where I wanted to be through writing. I’ll talk more about my Mentoring a Dream WIP later on this month.

All of these writing experiences have brought me to where I am today, working hard to make my dream of publishing a novel come true. It feels so good that achieving the goal is getting closer to actually happening.

Writing and publishing a novel is not an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination. There is a lot of work involved. With all of the self publishing and promotion things added into the author’s work load these days, it isn’t just a writing journey anymore. Many publishers want to see an author platform and fan base before they will pick up a book to publish. So, building a social media presence has become a part of the writing journey an author must do to publish successfully, whether it is being published by someone else or self published. Add that to all of the hard work already done to write it and self edit it to get it ready to send it out to alpha and beta readers, it is a pretty heavy work load. Once it comes back from those readers, it gets polished up and sent out for a professional edit to tear it up and make it even better. This is where I’m currently at in my writing journey. When I get the suggestions back this week, I’ll clean it up and send it back for one more read through by my editor.

Now, I get to take a break, right? No. When a writer gets to a place where the story is finally working and readable, there is a cover design that has to be thought about and created. Until I started on the road to publish, I don’t think I was fully aware of all of the pieces that have to come together for the finished product, the actual book. I currently have a rough idea put together of what I want the cover to look like, but I may need a professional to come in and put that piece together for me.

It will be very satisfying to accomplish this goal. Working through each step of the process has given me a greater appreciation for all of the hard work it takes for an author to get a book published.

 

Memorial Day 2016

Two of the holidays we celebrate in May fall into a theme that May is known for, Military Appreciation Month. That theme leads me right into the final holiday to be celebrated in May, and my blog’s theme, Memorial Day. This year it falls on May 30th which would have been my Mom’s 77th birthday. Every year around her birthday, when Memorial Day didn’t fall on May 30th, she would say the real Memorial Day is supposed to be celebrated on my birthday. I thought she was just trying to make a point that it was supposed to be celebrated on her birthday for the sake of it. As I was researching the history of Memorial Day, I found out that May 30th was the original date that Decoration Day was celebrated starting in 1868. I guess that Mom was right!

According to The History of Memorial Day on the pbs.org website, Decoration Day was a celebration of the men, both Union and Confederate, who lost their lives in the American Civil War. It came out of a tradition of placing flowers on the graves of the soldiers who died in battle.

During its first celebration at Arlington Cemetery in 1868, the former Union General, James Garfield, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, made a speech before the 5000 volunteers who laid flowers at more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers graves. Here was a quote from that speech.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery
 

That event at Arlington Cemetery was inspired by what many towns and cities were doing for Decoration Day since the end of the war in 1865. New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to celebrate the soldiers who died in all of America’s Wars. Once it became a National Holiday it was celebrated on the last Monday in May. That decision made the holiday not always fall on May 30th, to my Mom’s dismay.

There are multiple military holidays celebrated throughout the year. I saw a post on Facebook this week that discussed the differences between three of them. Memorial Day is the designated day to remember those who have lost their lives while serving in our armed forces. Armed Forces Day, which I blogged about last week, is designated to recognize the men and women who are currently serving. And Veteran’s Day, which falls on November 11th every year, is the day to recognize those who have served, but are still living.

So, what does one do to celebrate Memorial Day? At Arlington Cemetery, volunteers place an American flag on every grave. The President or Vice-President of the United States will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During my research, this became an interesting story to me, one that is a big part of what Memorial Day is all about.

According to the ArlingtonCemetery.mil website, the tomb is a grave that sits on top of a hill at Arlington Cemetery. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified soldier from World War I to be buried in the New Memorial Amphitheater. On Memorial Day 1921, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from a World War I cemetery in France. Here is the story of how the one to be buried in the tomb was chosen.

Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat, highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal in “The Great War, the war to end all wars,” selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The chosen unknown soldier was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.

The Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, 1921. On Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

On  August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill to pay tribute to the unknown soldiers who died in World War II and the Korean War. The same type of ceremony that was done for the World War I tomb was done for these unknown soldiers. They decided to chose one soldier from each of the main battle theaters in World War II, the European and Pacific, and one from the Korean War. Here is the story of how the ones to be buried in the second and third tombs were chosen in 1958.

Two unknowns from World War II, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, were placed in identical caskets and taken aboard the USS Canberra, a guided-missile cruiser resting off the Virginia capes. Navy Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, then the Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War II. The remaining casket received a solemn burial at sea.

Four unknown Americans who died in the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle made the final selection. Both caskets arrived in Washington May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until May 30.

That morning, they were carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade.

The unknown solider from the Vietnam War was designated during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor on May 17, 1984. Here is the story of his burial.

The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day. Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.

The Vietnam unknown soldier’s story didn’t end there.

The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were exhumed May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant. The crypt cover has been replaced with one that has the inscription,

“Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

After the research I did for this blog, I have a better understanding about what Memorial day is really about. Many men and women lost their lives fighting for our country’s security. For some of them, we will never know where their final resting places are. The traditions found in the ceremony of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a somber reminder that not all who serve find their way back home after the war.

For Memorial Day this year, I’ll be saying a prayer for all of the soldiers that serve, have served and died serving our country and their families. I’ll also be going to visit my mom’s grave. She wasn’t a solider in a war, but it is still her day. Happy Birthday Mom!

Celebrating Armed Forces Day 2016

Many special events and days of recognition are celebrated on any given day. Some are on a specific day like the 4th of July and others always fall on say the second Sunday in May like Mother’s Day.

Each day has its own reason to be celebrated. Armed Forces Day is a day to thank our military for their service to our country.

Thank you to all of our

service men and women

for serving and protecting our country

On Armed Forces Day 2016, we buried Sam’s Uncle Doug in his final resting place near their family farm in Litchfield, MN. It was a very simple ceremony with a close knit group of family and friends. Even at our private service, a bugle player was brought in to play Taps in recognition of his serving in the army. Military families have had to lay their loved ones to rest in so many different ways. Some in very public ceremonies with color guards and rifles and some in private family services like ours.

Unfortunately, some soldiers are still Missing in Action (MIA). The location of their remains is unknown and a burial couldn’t take place in a traditional way. They may have a memorial service and place a marker in the cemetery, but they live not knowing where their loved one’s body actually is.

I have many friends and family that serve and have served in our military. What a sacrifice of time and life that these people make for our country. They put their lives on the line to protect us and make us feel safe at night. I’m thankful for that everyday.

Each branch of the military used to celebrate it’s own day of recognition. Harry S. Truman led the push to combine all four of these days into one day to thank all of the members of our armed forces for their service. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson made that happen. It was decided that the holiday would be celebrated the third Saturday in May annually, which this year was May 21st. The Marines continue to celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps annually on November 10th, but still recognize the combined holiday. The month of May is also considered National Military Month.

The day is set aside for civilians to thank those that serve and many other countries do the same thing but on different days. In the United Kingdom, they will be celebrating Armed Forces Day on June 25, 2016. In their honor, there are parades and celebrations where the servicemen show their country the tools they use to protect our country. In some places there are airshows or military equipment demonstrations. There is an assigned theme for the celebration in the United States every year. The first one held in 1950 was themed “Teamed for Defense”. And this year it is “Guardians of Freedom”.

Armed Forces Day allows us to recognize the sacrifices our military makes for us to protect us. That job has changed a lot over the years and it has become more dangerous because of new technology, new weapons, and new methods of battle.

On a side note…

Did you know May 21st had another significant event take place? It was the second annual National Readathon Day. It is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and Penguin Random House. It is recognized as a national day to pick up a book and read from noon to four, but it is also a fundraiser for the Every Child Ready to Read initiative. What a great cause to support. Might even be a good day for an author to promote their books as an option for the readathon. Be sure to look for the date of next years event at www.readathonday.com/about.html.

May Holidays continued

When I posted Monday’s blog about Mother’s Day I noticed that we had two weeks in a row with holidays. Whether they are national holidays or Hallmark holidays, it made me wonder what the weekend of May 14th and 15th could hold this year. I looked at a calendar and saw that the 21st is Armed Forces Day and the 30th is the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, but no big things were posted for this weekend. So, I decided to continue my search elsewhere.

When I typed holidays on May 15th into Google, it came up with some days that were declared to be on May 15th like Stepmother’s Day and National Chocolate Chip Day. As important as those days are, it just wasn’t what I was looking for to be the topic for this week’s blog. So, I looked at birthdays that fell on May 15th and I found one that interested me, an author. It was Laura Hillebrand, the author of the book Seabiscuit: An American Legend.

Not only am I intrigued by authors, but since the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby is in our recent history, it seemed appropriate to write about her and the horse that she based her book on. According to Wikipedia, Seabiscuit was a champion thoroughbred. He was foaled (born) in Lexington, KY on May 23, 1933. The mare (mom) was Swing On and the sire (dad) was Hard Tack. Seabiscuit was a smaller than most thoroughbreds with his height only being 5’2, ironically as tall as me.

Since he wasn’t living up to his racing potential at Wheatley Stable in Paris, KY, he was purchased by Charles Howard for a bargain. Howard left the horse in the hands of two men, whose job it was to make him into a better race horse. His trainer, Tom Smith, and the jockey Red Pollard, worked with him and brought him out of his shell.

He raced during the Depression as kind of an underdog and became a hero to the people at a time when people needed one. Due to the beating triple crown winner, War Admiral, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, he became the American Horse of the Year in 1938. After coming back from a ligament injury, he won the La Jolla Handicap at Santa Anita in 1940. He retired after that as horse racing’s all time money winner.

Sea Sovereign, one of the horses that Seabiscuit was a sire to, did some horse racing and was in a movie about his Dad with Shirley Temple called The Story of Seabiscuit in 1949. He took the role of this father in this fictionalized account about his life.

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Being an author myself, I’m intrigued with the writing journeys of other authors. It was fun to find Laura Hillebrand  through such a random series of things. The fact she had written a book I enjoyed made it even better.

Her book was published in 2001 and was adapted into a feature film in 2003. I remember going to the theater to see it with my Godson. I really enjoyed it.

But, I was sad to find out she suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She was diagnosed in 1987 while she attended college. According to an interview by Monica Hesse, a Washington Post Staff Writer on  November 28, 2010, Hillebrand says that she copes with her disease by detaching herself completely from any aspirations she would have for her own life.

According to Biography.com,  she loved to ride horses as a teenager. She was even considering the idea of pursuing a career as a jockey. Her interest in horses and history led her to write articles about horseracing and have them published in magazines. She did most of this writing while she was staying with her future husband in Chicago, where  he was doing grad work at the University of Chicago. While she was doing research for these articles, she came across the information about Seabiscuit. It was an unlikely story of a less than perfect horse finding huge success on the track. The perfect story idea for a book. This became the theme of what would become one of her best selling novels.

Unfortunately, when the book Seabiscuit was released, she had a relapse from her disease. From that point on, she was unable to leave her house or even meet with many people.

Aaron Gell from Elle.com did an interview with Laura on December 2, 2010 and asked her about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Here’s what she had to say about her writing process,

“I climb into these stories because I don’t want to be here,” she says, “I don’t want to be in this body and I don’t want to be in this place, so I’m on that raft. It takes a while to get my concentration to that level, and then I lose all track of time.”

Using research and writing as an escape is how she copes with her disease and still continue to write. I know that I run to my writing to escape real life sometimes. Joining the story with characters that I’ve created.

I was intrigued by her because I loved her book. Then when I learned more about her, I was even more intrigued with who she is and how she was able to write. By looking at her website, you wouldn’t know that she suffers from a disease with no cure that keeps her at home quite a bit of the time. As a reader, all we see is the end product. We don’t see the blood, sweat and tears that went into making that book. As an author myself, I read books from a different angle. I’ve been honing my craft for many years and am finally on the cusp of publishing my first book. But, after blogging about Laura Hillebrand, now I have another thing to keep in mind when I’m reading. What is the author overcoming to bring their writing and their story to the public? Is it a physical illness? An emotional journey? Or maybe trying to make it happen with life being a constant interrupt?

Even though I didn’t have a specific holiday to write about, the research for this week’s blog took me on a little different, but fun, writing journey.

 

Happy Mother’s Day 2016

Last week I wrote about May Day. This week the topic is Mother’s Day which we celebrated yesterday. I wonder how often it happens that May Day falls on a Sunday too? I suppose that would be a good question for Google, huh? O.k. I loooked it up, 12 times since 1910.

Mother’s Day is a day filled with mixed feelings for me. My Mom passed away eight years ago from breast cancer. I remember my first Mother’ Day without her. I was walking through Hallmark a couple of weeks before and I saw the Mother’s Day cards.  I started bawling in the store, knowing that I wouldn’t be purchasing one this year. My first reality check that she was really gone.

Since my Mom wasn’t in her final resting place yet, after walking in the Susan B. Koman Mother’s Day 5K walk for Breast Cancer, I went to a Japanese Peace Garden where her and I had gone many times together. My mom always loved nature and was a natural at gardening. So, as I walked through the garden, many things reminded me of her. The featured image of the waterfall was a picture from that day.

For Mother’s Day the following year, I did the Mother’s Day Susan B. Koman walk again with many breast cancer survivors and families that have lost loved ones to this disease. Afterwards, I went to Bachman’s to buy a single pink rose to lay on her grave. It was a little crazy to be there on Mother’s Day with all of the last minute shoppers who needed to get flowers for their Moms. But I knew it is what I wanted to do. I went to the cemetery, laid the rose on her grave and sat and talked with her for a while. It was a sad but very peaceful feeling being with her. My second reality check that she was really gone.

Many people celebrate Mother’s Day without their moms. What I have learned about the day is even when you think you aren’t going to be emotional about it, those feelings sneak up on me. My love for her wells up in my heart and tears fill my eyes. She is my angel in the sky.

There are many times in my life I wish my Mom was here for now. To be able to just pick up the phone and call her would mean the world to me. There are many life questions I never got a chance to ask her because I thought she would always be here. Or that she would always be here to seek advice about those day-to-day things a daughter would ask her Mom. For example, let’s talk about gardening. I really could use her help on raising plants. She was the one in our family with green thumb. I have a couple of plants that came into my home from her memorial service. They are philodendrons and I think  my Mom’s spirit is living strong in, since they grow and flourish. Then every year I buy some flower bulbs to plant and grow from scratch in her honor and as an experiment to see if I can do it. This year it is Begonias and Fresia. We’ll see how they do, or if they will need Mom’s intervention.

We spent this Mother’s Day having brunch with Sam’s family. It was nice to be together with the kids, Sam’s nieces, sister and of course his Mom and Dad. It helped to fill in some of the missing pieces of my Mom not being here. After feeling very emotional all day, Sam and I went to her grave last night just before sunset. I told her that I love her, thanked her for being my Mom and for always being the angel on my shoulder.

 ~~~~~~~

After my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I made a point of getting a mammogram every year to make sure that if I did have breast cancer, we could catch it early and have a chance at treating it. Every year at that appointment, I get a reminder of my Mom’s passing when I fill out the medical information form. They ask for my family history of breast cancer. There is a box by one of the questions that I have to check the yes box and fill in the fact that my Mom had the disease and passed away from it.

Mourning is a process and writing has been a big part of mine. I’ve been using it to express my feelings and to get my creative flow. Writing has helped me sort through my feelings and journaling has played a major role in my process. It gives me a way to get my real feelings out and communicate with my Mom in spirit. The creative writing helps to keep my mind moving forward with something that I love to do. And to help me to not miss her as much as I do sometimes.

I started my serious creative writing with a short story about a Memorial Day weekend trip I made to Duluth, Minnesota in 1994. Duluth is one of my favorite places. Last spring I worked on a lot of writing ideas between visits to places and hiking with my family. I love being there with the Northern Minnesota feel and the view of the harbor.

Just like the Japanese Peace Garden, Duluth is another place I can go to feel calm and reflect. Being there usually helps me to make more progress in my writing and finding myself. I know my mom would be happy about where I have been able to take my writing to. Writing a weekly blog, a few short stories here and there, and having a middle grade manuscript edited for publication are all big steps to making dreams of mine come true.

I miss my mom a lot. I wish she could be here to share all of the things that are going on in my life with me. I think of her a lot as I write. It makes me smile. I think about how she would be reacting to all of this, and I see her smiling too.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy May Day!

I was just notified that May 1st was my one year anniversary with Word Press. My blog has been a great way for me to keep honing my craft of writing but has also helped me to build a following and meet some really interesting people along the way. Thanks to all of my current followers and those yet to join me on my writing journey. What a way to celebrate May Day!

One other very important thing that May Day brings to mind is my friend Laura’s birthday. Happy Birthday dear friend.

According to Wikipedia, not only is May 1st May Day, a celebration of spring, it is also International Workers’ Day. The celebration of May Day or “Spring Day” for the seasons goes back to pre Christian times. In early European pagan cultures, February 1st was seen as the start of spring while May 1st was the first day of summer. So May Day was initially seen as a celebration of the start of summer. Now a days, we’ve defined the first day of summer by the summer solstice, which this falls on June 20th. Back in those pre Christian times, the summer solstice was seen as midsummer. Maybe that was part of the back story to the title of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Some of the traditional spring celebrations start on May Day Eve and include many flowers and picnics. There’s also the tradition of placing baskets of flowers onto people’s door knobs, ringing their doorbell or knocking on their doors, and running away before they have the chance to answer. The recipient opens the door and finds a bunch of beautiful flowers, typically in a cone shaped holder. Now, there is another type of door bell ringing activity that has evolved from that called Ding-Dong-Ditch. It is the same idea, but with no flowers or gifts involved. Another traditional part of the celebration included a wooden pole that was usually constructed in a prominent place in town. It was decorated with streamers and flowers and a dance would be done around it as part of the festivities.

International Workers’ Day selected May 1st as their day of recognition in the late nineteenth century. This is an international celebration of labourers and the working class. May 1st was chosen to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago on May 4, 1886. Workers were on strike fighting for businesses to institute a mandatory eight hour work day. One of the demonstrators threw a bomb at the police and they started to shoot at the group. Four demonstrators were killed. Other May 1st protests occurred after this. For the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair in 1890, international protests were requested and there were the May Day riots in 1894. Since it shares the date with the European spring celebration, some people choose to celebrate International Workers’ Day on other dates that are significant to them. In America, this day is celebrated the first Monday in September and has been made into a holiday weekend, commemorating the end of summer and back to school for most kids.

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I’m happy to report things are moving along with my writing goals. I submitted my short story, Found in West Branch, for A Journey of Words on Friday. It is a book of short stories from many different authors. Hopefully it will be accepted for publication! It would be my first published piece in the fictional world. My Middle Grade manuscript, The Hard Way, is with my editor as we speak. We’ll see what she has to say about it. She did the editing for my short story and that was the first time I had an actual editor go through something I have written. I’ve had friends and other writers read what I’ve written. I even had my book club read The Hard Way before it went to the editor. With that valuable feedback from my readers, I’ve made my writing better. Sometimes that input has given me a different direction to consider for a story line to go too. Those inputs are important to consider, but may not be the best thing to do. They are decisions an author must make to make the story a good one, but also  keep it their own.

Reading through the edits from my editor was definitely a learning experience. She was able to give me copy editing changes and some ideas on how to word things differently. I wasn’t aware of the fact that it was going to lead to more work for me before I’d be able to submit. I thought it would come back polished and ready to send out.

She showed me things I do well and things I need to work on. Writing is a craft, and has to be practiced over and over to make it better. I knew there would be things that I needed to work on, it is good to know what some of them are now. My editor suggested a couple of books that may help me. One is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browe & Dave King and the other is English Syntax by Dick Heaberlin. I’m looking forward to doing some studying with them while I wait for my manuscript to come back.

As I write this post, I realize how much I love to write. It has been a part of me since I started writing my thoughts and dreams in diaries growing up. Remember the ones with the little locks and keys? I still have a key chain with all of those keys on it. I’ll have to ask my Dad if I asked for the dairies or if my parents just tried giving me one as a gift and it caught on. It would be interesting to know, because it is part of what got the writing thing started in me.

Sometimes it is hard to get the time to write. I know that I’m not the only one that struggles with this. I read a blog today and he was showing his frustration over it. My day job is time and energy demanding and family things keep us moving. But, for something I love to do, I’m somehow able to get it done. Maybe it is in bits and pieces, but all of those small contributions seem to get the projects done. The hard work and dedication pays off when I’m able to submit the short story or get the Monday Morning Blog posted. It’s all a part of this writer’s journey.

Writing Prompt #4

Back at it again. I decided to pick another prompt from the book 642 Things to Write About. Here is the one for this week.

Write an anonymous letter to a stranger detailing the things you have you’ve learned about life.

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Selma and I have been on this earth for almost forty eight years now. When I received your question about what I’ve learned about in life, I thought about the many things I have confronted and observed in my life so far. There are many simple lessons learned, but here are a few of the bigger ones and my thoughts about them.

My right is not necessarily someone else’s.

We all place judgement on what we see. To me the color may be blue, to you it may be teal. We do the same thing with people, even though we don’t think we do. We see things through our own life colored glasses. The how and why we do something is based on historical knowledge and present facts. I’m the type of person who grew up always doing the right thing. I think I did it to impress people, but also so I wouldn’t get into trouble. From that angle, I think I learned that the right thing is always right. Other people have gotten to the same place I am on a different road. What was right for them may not have been right for me. And that is o.k.

Teenagers are going to make bad decisions.

As much as we want to direct them to do the right thing (or what we might have done), they are going to make bad decisions. Decisions are made from life experience. Most teenagers haven’t done much living to have a base to make their decisions from.We can all look back on our lives and see things that we could have done better or smarter. Sometimes when these things are done, we don’t have the life experience that we need at the time to make the best decision. Teenagers aren’t necessarily the only ones who suffer from that problem.

Accept and appreciate each other’s differences and what they have to contribute.

This is one is really showing itself in how we relate to people today.  I struggle with what slavery did to the black and poor endured servants. Even though we may have different colored skin or more money, doesn’t mean that anyone is better than anyone else. I see that the blacks in American experienced what most people shouldn’t be put through. Most of them were brought here as slaves and treated badly by many white slave holders. I think this has created a feeling of retribution and anger that we still feel today.

I wish that we could start talking and listening to each other more. Hear what bothers us and others and see what we can do to fix it. Instead, people are reacting to and perpetuating this anger. For example, when it seems that someone is killed just because they were  black, and not because they did something to be shot, the anger is only seeing one side of what happened. Or, innocent families are being killed because of this anger and the killer just wants to make them pay because they happen to be the other color. Not everyone feels this way. There seems to be a minority from both sides perpetuating this negative view of the other group out of anger and retribution. By talking and listening, I think we can try and make this better.

People can be mean.

What people say to one another can be hurtful. Kids and teenagers do this to each other all of the time, since they don’t have the nuances on how to say something yet or they think it sounds cool. There’s even a movie called Mean Girls that shows how this phenomena has been happening in schools. I was teased in high school and even shunned by my friends because they decided that they didn’t want to be around me. They judged me to be a lesbian, even though I wasn’t. They carved the word “IT” into my band locker door so that they could show the world what they thought of me. Were they trying to be funny? Maybe in some ways, since they didn’t know how this would eventually affect me. It happened during my senior year and forced me to find new friends to hang out with just before graduation. It changed the whole way that I thought my high school career would end. On a sad note. They came back to me a year later and wanted to hang out. I didn’t do it, I couldn’t figure out why they would want to. Guilt I’m sure. This is the same kind of story that goes on in kids lives everyday, and in some cases have led them to commit suicide. I still deal with abandonment and trust issues to this day because of what they did. It made a major impact on me and the way that I am today.

All of these lessons have something to do with how people are and treat others. I’m the kind of person who has gotten hurt by people by being too nice, not setting enough boundaries, and giving too much benefit of the doubt. I’ve kept the hurt to myself so that I don’t make others feel bad and out of fear that they will walk away from me, like my friends in high school. I don’t think that I would change the way that I am, but I wish that people would be able to communicate with each other, find out what is wrong and try to fix it. Don’t be mean just to prove that you can. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you aren’t sure what to do.

We all walk on different paths in life. The choices that we make and the things that we do are determined by our experience. We can make changes to make our experience either better or different. Don’t be afraid to do it if it can make things better.

Hope that this letter helped to answer your questions. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Have a great day,

Selma

Writing Prompt #3

Just an everyday writing prompt

So far this month, I’ve been using my own unfinished ideas and moving them forward for writing prompts. By developing those ideas, I may be able to add them to other ideas to make another story or a novel down the line.

Other writing prompts that are out there to give writers ideas to free write about. They come in the form of written statements, description of a scene, pictures or even songs. These ideas are found in books, online or in daily postings. These can be used as practice exercises or the start of something bigger. On some of my Facebook writing groups they are also referred to plot bunnies.

Writing Prompt – Writers Unite!

One of the Facebook writing groups that I belong to is Writers Unite. This is the paragraph that they created to introduce a writing prompt for the group. Usually it is in the form of a picture and it is used to start the creative juices going.

“We don’t put up prompts expecting a novel or even a novella. We put them up to get the creative juices flowing. All we ask is a paragraph or two to extend the prompt to what you see as the next step or the quick conclusion. Your imagination is like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it gets. So… give it five minutes and tell me what your mind comes up with.

This image is being used simply as a writing exercise and is not free to use for any professional purposes at all since we do not have the rights to this picture.”

I have a book on my writing shelf called 642 Things to Write About by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. I think I’ll pick that one up and randomly pick something and use it as a writing prompt. Here’s the writing prompt that I picked for this blog entry from 642 Things to Write About.

You wake up by the side of the road lying next to a bicycle with no memory and no wallet. What happens in the next hour?

Gingerly getting up from the ground, she looked around the ditch she was sitting in. She didn’t know where she was or how she got there, but it was on the side a two two lane country road. She brushed herself off and noticed some road rash on her shin. Had she swerved to avoid something? How did she end up in the ditch? She didn’t remember, but got up and picked up her bike.

As she pushed her bike back up onto the road, she was trying to decide which way to go. She looked both ways and saw a sign to her right that said Smithville 5 miles. She decided that it was a doable ride to get there, so she got on her bike and started to pedal. She looked at the area around her and still didn’t recognize anything. She hoped that once she got to Smithville that she would.

After about a half hour on the road, she saw the city limits sign for Smithville and a gas station just beyond it. She decided to stop and ask for some information. She was hoping that someone could help her with who she was since she didn’t seem to remember that either.

She pulled into the gas station and parked her bike in the bike rack. This place must know something about riders to actually have a bike rack. That made her feel a little more confident about all of this unknown around her. Walking into the gas station she headed right to the bottled beverages section, feeling the need for a bottled water. She didn’t know how long she had been laying in the ditch before she came to. As she walked up to the register to pay, she reached for a couple of dollars that she carried in the pocket of her biker shorts. She found it odd that she couldn’t remember where she was, but she knew where the cash was.

“Will that be all for you today?” the clerk asked as he took the money from her.
“Where is Smithville?”
“Why do you ask that? Don’t you know where you are Wendy?”
“My name is Wendy?”
“Yes, Wendy Wilson. Did something happen to you on the ride?”
“I must have swerved to avoid something and hit my head. I woke up and didn’t have any idea of where and who I was.”
“Are you ok? Do we need to call a doctor?”
“No, I just have a little road rash on my shin. I should be able to bike home. Where do I live?”
“You live in Smithville. A little place out by the lake. Been in your family for years,” the clerk replied, “let me take you there. I can put your bike on the back of my truck.”
“This is going to sound like a crazy question, but do I know you?”
“I’m Ian. I’m your cousin.”
“I’m sorry. I must have hit my head pretty hard, but I don’t feel any bumps.”
“Maybe something else happened to your memory. I’ll be able to take you home in about twenty minutes. I’ll be done with my shift. Can you wait until then?”
“I probably should anyway. Since I don’t seem to know where I am.”

She took a seat in a little eating area that was located next to the deli. She was relieved to learn that she was close to her home. It would have been harder to deal with this if she were farther away where she didn’t know anyone. Wendy was glad that she found Ian here, he seemed nice. She sat there drinking the water wondering why she didn’t recognize anything if she did live here. She smiled as Ian walked over.

“Are you ready?”
“Yes, let’s go and get my bike,” Wendy replied as they walked out of the store together.

They walked over to the bike racks and unlocked her bike. She followed Ian as he rolled her bike over to his truck where he put it in the cargo area in the back. After closing the tail gate, he walked over and opened the passenger door for her.

“Here we go,” Ian said and started the truck.

He pulled out on to the same road Wendy had come into town on. He ran through the middle of town and took a left where the road ran into a dead end at Lake O’Brian.

“What a pretty lake,” Wendy said.
“Yes. It’s a beautiful place.”
“Is this the lake I live on? You said that I live on a lake.”
“It is Wendy. You live there with your husband Joel.”
“I’m married?”
“Yes, you have been married for a long time. You guys just celebrated your fortieth anniversary last month.”
“Wow. I can’t say that I remember that. Now I feel kind of sad.”
“We’re almost to your place. You’ll get to see Joel in a minute.”

Pulling off of the road and turning to the right, they drove onto a gravel road. After a couple of curves on the path through the woods, a two story log cabin appeared ahead of them. There was a man walking out of the house towards the spot where Ian’s truck stopped. Joel walked over to the passenger side and opened the door.

“Did you go out on a little adventure honey?” Joel asked her.
“I guess that I did. I don’t remember where I was, but I made it to the gas station and found Ian.”
“I’m glad that you found him, I was a little worried about you.”
“Why don’t I remember?”
“You are suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s. You can remember things great sometimes and then times like this happen and you lose your train of thought or memory for how to get back home.”
“When did this start?”
“About six months ago, with smaller things. This is the first time you’ve taken the bike and not come back on your own though.”
“Do I like to bike?” she asked and started to cry.
“Yes, you do,” Joel replied in a very patient voice as he put his arms around her, “You love to bike all over.”
“Why can’t I remember it?” she asked through her crying.
“It’s a terrible disease that takes your memory from you. I’m sad about it too.”

And that’s how a random writing prompt works. I was able to come up with a short story that took this prompt on my own writing journey. Some of the inspiration for this was based on a book we just read for book club last month called Still Alice by Lisa Genova. And some of it is from a tough time that a good friend of mine is currently going through with her Dad and his dementia. She’s on my mind quite a bit lately, so that probably played a part in my experience with this one.

Writing journeys can definitely be affected by what is going on or has happened in our lives. It’s the experience that we can write from that can make our words more meaningful to us.

Writing Prompt #2

Snow White

Research for writing projects can become an interesting learning experience. Just like the act of looking something up on Wikipedia can turn into a two hour long journey starting with bears and winding up reading about Alaskan Explorers.

We are all familiar with the Disney movie, Snow White. I remember pulling the VCR tape out of the white box with her picture on the front. I wasn’t aware that it started off as a written story modified into a fairy tale, then into a Broadway Play and then into a black and white silent film before it even became the movie that I loved as a kid.

So, when I started looking into Snow White a little deeper, here are some of the interesting historical facts that came up. According to Wikipedia,

  • The original story of Snow White was published 1812 but the Grimms revision to make it more of a fairy tale came along in 1854.
  • The Broadway Play debuted on October 31, 1912 at Little Theater. Marguarite Clark played Snow White.
  • The seven dwarves were originally called Blick, Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, Whick, and Quee, who was the youngest boy with a thievery issue.

When the story hit Broadway, Snow White was played by Marquarite Clark, an American stage and silent film actress, who made her Broadway debut in 1900, but her lead role in Snow White ultimately defined her persona as an actress. The first film version of Snow White was released December 25, 1916 as an American silent romantic fantasy. Walt Disney was fifteen when he saw the Broadway show in his hometown, Kansas City, and made it the subject of his first feature length animated film in 1937.

Digging a little bit deeper into the subject, I started looking at Clark’s personal life outside of the movie industry. She married Harry Palmerston Williams on August 15, 1918. Once I started on this path, I found out that not only was her life and career interesting, so was her husband’s. After closing a lumber company he had owned, he was looking for other interests to pursue. First it was fast boats, and then it was airplanes. He was prompted by Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic to buy a Ryan Monoplane from Jimmy Wedell, who he wound up going into the aviation business with.

Her husband’s company built air racers along with other aviation enterprises.  Her last film in 1921 was called Scrambled Wives, a silent comedy film which she took part in directing. After which she retired to her husband’s plantation.When her husband died in a plane crash on May 19, 1936, she became the sole owner of Wendell-Williams Air Service Corporation. Ironically, the other owners of the company had died in plane crashes before Harry. She wound up selling the company in 1937. The assets from the commercial airline piece of the company (the New Orleans to Houston air routes) wound up being the founding pieces of what would eventually become Eastern Airlines.

She died in 1940 at the Leroy Sanitorium of pneumonia.

Wow! And their story is a part of the Eastern Airlines story. Never knew that there was a connection between Snow White and an airline did you? Funny how life works out.

I’m trying to remember how the research got started about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the first place. Was is on purpose? Or was it something I stumbled upon while looking into some other topic? Whatever the reason, it ended up netting me some great information to start writing about. As I look back at my notes, the Snow White information that I stumbled onto was originally going to become some additional family history for Mrs. Stockton, a character I have written stories about in a previous blog. She was the main character in an episode story that I created in July and August of 2014. That blog story became the inspiration for a short story that I wrote called  Mrs. Stockton’s Journey

The rough draft I started with those notes, talks about Shirley Stockton and her Grandmother’s love of Snow White. Her Grandmother had gone to New York City to see Clark at the Little Theater in 1912. At that show, she received a Snow White figurine from her mother.This figurine was handed down through the family and now sat on a shelf in the office in Mrs. Stockton’s house. She had placed it next to a picture of her Granddaughter Shelby when she had been Snow White for Halloween. She knew in her heart that Shelby would be the one to get the figurine when she passed away. With this draft, I even went so far as to figure out what years would work for my characters to be able to see the Broadway show for Shirley’s Grandma and the animated film for her Mom. The 1937 Disney Animated film was the one that she would have seen to make my timeline work for that part of the story.

On some other notes I found with with this same theme, I started a story about an elementary school English teacher, Mrs. Abbott. She was an older lady that lived outside of town. She was a cat lady who owned seven cats that she named after each of the seven dwarfs from Snow White. Mrs. Abbott named her cats after the original characters to stay true to the original story. She, like Mrs. Stockton’s Grandmother, had a love for Snow White and her class even made it her nickname.

Not all creative ideas are destined to take off into a story right away. Some of them just provide writing practice to see where the writer can take them with their current creative flow. And some of them will take on a life of their own at a later time and place. My writing mentor who passed away six years ago told me that sometimes the first manuscript that you write, never gets published. It winds up being a practice one for you to hone your craft with. It kind of shocked me when she said it. She saw the look if surprise that I must have had on my face and said,

“It isn’t a bad thing. It only helps you to become a better writer.”

I still have my first manuscript that my mentor refers to. It isn’t the one that I’m getting ready to have edited in a week. That one sits in a binder on my shelf with some good practice in it.

 

Writing Prompt #1

Happy Monday! For this week’s blog, I wanted to do a creative writing exercise, so I decided on a writing prompt. For those of you that don’t know, a writing prompt can be a statement, idea, picture or even a word that is picked and you just start writing about it. It is a great way to practice writing and to get the creative juices flowing in your head. I looked through a file of my own started story lines and picked one to work with. This one was titled Farming in Nebraska and was about a young girl wondering what happened to her Grandpa Harvey. This is where I took that idea for today’s blog.

Harvey

Harvey Knowlton was born and raised as a farmer. His father was a farmer and his grandfather was a farmer. Even though farming was the family business, Harvey’s son, Jacob, went to college in Lincoln, Nebraska and he became a banker. Harvey had hoped that his only son would want to be in the family business so he could hand the farm down to him to run. Jacob has two children, Robert and Samantha, so Harvey at least had hope that he could keep the farm in his immediate family.

Lately, he felt his body starting to wear out. He ran the farm with a couple of men he hired from a 4H event he attended just after Jacob went off to college. Working with Jack and Kurt was just like it had been when he was growing up. Harvey and his six brothers worked the farm together under his father’s supervision and it ran like a well oiled machine, his Grandfather made sure of that when he bought it and set everything up.

Ever since his wife Olivia passed away, just after Samantha was born ten years ago, Harvey had breakfast almost every day at Dolly’s Diner. He drove his light colored truck down the gravel road leading away from the farm, with the familiar sound of the crunching rocks under the tires. The truck always had a thin layer of gravel dust on it, which was never washed off.

After turning onto Main Street, he drove a couple of blocks down and pulled into Dolly’s. The parking lot was pretty full every morning, since it was the community meeting place to catch up on the daily West Branch gossip. He got out of the truck and headed into the diner and saw his long time friend Virgil Potter sitting in his normal spot at the counter. Virgil owned the gas station couple of blocks down Main from Dolly’s. It was handed down through his family like Harvey’s farm was to him. Virgil waved and Harvey acknowledged him with a slight wave in return and walked over to take an empty stool next to him.

“How are things today Harvey?”
“Good, Virgil. How are things with you?”
“Peachy, just peachy.”

That was the same greeting that has been exchanged between them every morning for years. Peachy was something that Virgil’s Dad, Stuart, always used to say.

“Coffee for you today, Harvey?” Claire asked Harvey, from the other end of the counter.
“Yes, please. Thanks Claire.”

Claire had worked at the Dolly’s since she was a teenager. She had grown up in West Branch, married her high school sweetheart, bought a house and raised kids here. Harvey liked the routine in West Branch, but was thinking it was getting a little bit boring. Or, maybe this was a part of why he was feeling tired lately. When Jacob announced that he had been accepted to the University of Nebraska, Harvey felt a little jealous. He had a great life here as a farmer, but hadn’t done much else or been many other places.

“Something the matter Harvey?” Virgil asked, “You haven’t heard a thing I’ve said to you.”
“Sorry Virgil, what did you say?”
“I was saying that the corn growers association meeting was really interesting last night, where were you?”
“I went to sleep right after dinner. Sorry I didn’t let you know.”
“No problem. I just wanted to make sure you knew that our farm rep was going to bring a couple of new seed samples before next year’s planting.”
“Thanks.”
“Is there something wrong with you?”
“No, I feel fine. Just doing a lot of thinking lately.”
“Well, you are coming to the Tractor Show on Friday, right?”
“I’ll be there to help you out Virgil.”
“I hope so, whenever we do the tractor parade there are a lot of people milling around. Another hand with the security detail sure does help out.”
“Glad to be of help. What time do you want me to be there?”
“Let’s meet at the Fairgrounds at 3:00.”
“It’s a plan.”

They continued the conversation over their normal breakfast selections, Virgil had the special and Harvey had ham and eggs. Afterwards they walked out to their trucks together and they each headed home to start on their daily farming tasks.

Harvey drove out of town and onto the gravel road back to the farm. He couldn’t explain how he was feeling right now. He felt very calm and reflective in thought. He was typically an easy going man anyway, but lately he has felt an additional level calm.

When he pulled the truck in by the barn, Kurt was walking out. Then as he saw the truck pull in, he started walking towards it. Harvey got out and started walking towards him.

“Good Morning!”
“Good morning Kurt. How are you?”
“Good. Did you just get back from town?”
“Yes. I just had breakfast at the Diner.”
“Sounds great. We finished tuning up the big tractor. And should be able to run it through the fields today.”
“Are you and Jack going to be able to get that done?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem at all Harvey. Did you have any thing else planned for us to get done today?”
“You know how it works around here, Kurt. But thank you for asking.”
“Then we’ll get the fields tilled. And meet you at the house for dinner tonight.”
“Sounds good. Are you guys planning on going to the Tractor show Friday night? Virgil needs help with crowd control and I’m sure he would love the extra help.”
“Yeah, I was planning on it and I think Jack was too.”
“I’ll let him know. See you at dinner tonight.”

Kurt went around the backside of the barn while Harvey walked back towards the farmhouse. He stopped in front and just stared at it. It made him smile as he remembered bringing Olivia to the farm the first time after they were married. His parents built a carriage house for them to live in until they both moved to the retirement home. Being the oldest, he was given first right to take over the family farm. His other brothers all moved out to their own farms or their wives family farms.

Harvey continued to stand there now remembering the day they brought Jacob home from the hospital, when he started to feel sharp pains in his chest. As he raised his hands to grab at his heart, he fell to the ground. When Kurt and Jack came in from the fields for lunch a couple hours later, they found Harvey laying on the ground looking up at the sky smiling.

|*|

Samantha couldn’t believe what had happened to Grandpa Harvey. He had been standing on the front porch the last time she was there and now he was gone. Her family had come back to the farm to bury him.

She wondered how was she going to find out where the keys for the truck were now? He would always ask her where they were and she would point to the pocket of the dark green overalls she remembered him wearing. While her Dad talked to Jack and Kurt, she walked into the farmhouse. As she walked through each room looking for the keys, it made her sad thinking that she had never met her Grandma. After walking back through the kitchen, she finally found the keys on a hook by the backdoor. Must be where he kept them when she wasn’t there. That is a memory of him that she will always hold dear in her heart.

Then she looked out the back door and down the gravel driveway and remembered how much fun it was running down it to the mailbox to pick up the mail. She would race with her brother Robert and he would win about 90% of the time. But the few times that she did beat him, felt great.

Her Grandpa Harvey lived and died in the place where he was born, West Branch, Iowa. He had never left the town except for a couple of trips to the Iowa State Fair for 4H, but she noticed that he always seemed happy here.

I don’t know whether this was the idea I had in mind originally, but this is the journey the writing prompt took me on today. Either I did learn a little about Harvey, or it was a story about him that was written today.