Thursday, December 31, 2009

Louisa May Alcott

I caught the end of a PBS special on Louisa May Alcott the other night. What surprised me about her was that she earned a great deal of money - more than Herman Melville - by writing juvenile fiction. She wrote for a living and much of what she wrote, according to the documentary, she did not enjoy.

The money did not start pouring in right away. She wrote extensively for magazines and had her first novel, FLOWER FABLES, published when she was 22. However, LITTLE WOMEN became her first "best seller".

Louisa May Alcott did not have an easy life - even after she started earning a great deal of money. Actually, I don't believe anyone has an "easy" life. After overcoming poverty, over the years Alcott had to deal with health issues and the deaths of family members. She even raised her niece after artist sister, May, died.

Overcoming challenges and conflicts - that is what makes stories interesting. And, experience is a good teacher.

I hope that this coming year finds us in a season of peace and prosperity. So that we can take the time to frame our experiences and create stories that tell the truth, keep readers engaged and reflect excellence. Here's to the Louisa May Alcott's in the making.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Past, Present, Future

What will the new year bring? I think that's something that we all wonder as we head out of 2009 and into 2010. It's interesting that in the minds of people there is a definitive ending and beginning to years. December 30th is not distinctively different than January 1st unless you're looking at the calendar. One cold day of winter bears a close resemblance to the next. Where does the new year actually happen? In our minds only.

In church on Sunday, the pastor was talking about a new start that the new year gives to us. He gave us an acronym for how to begin the new year.


Stop making excuses for what we don't think we can do. (As we tap into God's ability that works through us, we don't need to excuse ourselves anymore.)

Take inventory can take inventory of what God has given us.

Act in faith: Put some action behind what we believe. That's faith. It doesn't just sit around.

Refocus: See yourself the way God sees you.

Trust: And finally, when all is said and done, trust God.

And then let the new year come. There's nothing to be afraid of in it when you remember that you have the power of the Holy Spirit alive inside of you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chestnuts and Christmas Greetings

My friend Ruby gave me a generous amount of chestnuts recently. As a child, she lived in upstate New York and her family had a chestnut tree in their yard. She has loved them ever since.

Of course, I was delighted to try them. After all, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” is a Christmas classic. Unfortunately, our fireplaces don’t work, so I had to use the toaster oven. And thus came about new lyrics for the old Christmas classic as Ruby and I wrote back and forth on Facebook:

“Chestnuts roasting in a toaster oven.
Kleenex for a stuffy nose.
Modern carols made up on the fly,
And laughter with people that you know.
Everybody knows some snowplows and some salting trucks
Help to make the season bright.
So spread the word,
Tell everyone what you’ve heard
And Merry Christmas to you!”

Despite what our silly little song would imply, Jesus is the reason for the season! The early Christian church was wise to set the date for celebrating Jesus’ birth at the darkest time of the year. Jesus is the light of the world. And, as Christians, we celebrate our faith with joy and lights and feasting especially in the darkest of times!

December is also the time for the Jewish feast celebrating light – Hannukah. This festival began about well before Jesus’ time when the Macabees rebelled against the Greeks who had polluted the temple. The temple lamp was re-lit and, although there was only enough oil for one day, the lamp miraculously burned for 8 days, until more purified oil was readied.

So let’s celebrate the light in the midst of darkness, laughter in the midst of stress and hardship, divine provision in a time of famine. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Genesis 1: 3-5 (Message) ‘God spoke: "Light!" And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark.’

John 1:1-5 (NASB) ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.’

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reeling from Reality

Christmas is a good time to reflect on how the busyness of life can take over life.

If you have time, that is.

I like Thanksgiving better than Christmas, as holidays go. Now, this isn't to say that I don't enjoy Christmas. It's just that for Thanksgiving, there aren't Christmas parties to attend, shopping to do, and programs to see. Thanksgiving is very much a one day event with a special focus on being thankful. I like that. Christmas, by comparison, is a hectic whirl that sweeps you away until you wake up on December 26th knowing that you aren't in Kansas anymore.

This year, after pondering this phenomenon, I decided that the wise men had the right idea. The way to make it through the Christmas season intact is to keep your eyes on that guiding star. By doing so, you will arrive at the correct destination. For the wise men, the star was physical. For us, it is Jesus. So take heart if life doesn't feel peaceful for you during this season. It's not about feelings. It's about focus. Jesus isn't the Prince of Peace for nothing. Keep your eyes on Him and you'll make it to where you're supposed to be.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One of My Favorite Things About Christmas

The tree, the lights, all the decorations are so beautiful this time of year. Watching the looks on the faces of children as they open up their gifts Christmas morning is pretty special too. The colors, the smell of cookies baking in the oven, snow falling softy outside your window while you sit with a cup of hot cocoa in your snug sweater by the fireside are wonderful thought as well. But one of my favorite things about Christmas arrests me every year. I can't help myself, it moves me to tears.

I wonder if this happens to anyone else. I wonder if anyone else thinks this way. I wonder how long this freedom will continue.

Each year I will enter the stores looking for just the right gifts. Suddenly, I am captured. I close my eyes and allow the tears to come. People are busy all around me. Different nationalities, sizes, and shapes. Different religious backgrounds. They are all present. Then the sound envelopes me like a blanket...

Fall on your knees, O hear the angle voices! O night divine, oh night, when Christ was born! O night, divine. O night, oh night divine!

Just the thought of it fills my eyes once more. This is the time of year when people cannot help but hear the gospel. I truly wonder, how many people are touched by the words of the music of Christmas.

God rest ye merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray. O tidings of comfort and joy...

So Happy Christmas to all! Next time your at the store I hope you will enjoy hearing the name of Jesus ringing through the speakers. May God bless us every one!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

As a writer, I love the phrase: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” It both empowers and encourages me. The phrase is taken from a play written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. Entitled Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, the play contains this speech for the character of Cardinal Richelieu: “True, This! Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword. Behold the arch-enchanters wand! Itself a nothing! But taking sorcery from the master-hand to paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike the loud earth breathless! Take away the sword. States can be saved without it!”

The power of the written word reflects the very power of words themselves. After all, God spoke the words and the universe was created. From the very beginning of the Bible until its end, its writers chronicle the power of words – for good and for bad. No one seems to understand this concept better than King David who wrote: “His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” Psalm 55:21. And, “Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words.” Psalm 64:3 (NASB)

Other biblical writers reinforce the power of words in the context of war and judgment. For example, the Apostle Paul wrote: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)

And the writer of Hebrews: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12 (NASB)

And the Apostle John: (from The Message Bible) “Then I saw Heaven open wide—and oh! a white horse and its Rider. The Rider, named Faithful and True, judges and makes war in pure righteousness. His eyes are a blaze of fire, on his head many crowns. He has a Name inscribed that's known only to himself. He is dressed in a robe soaked with blood, and he is addressed as "Word of God." The armies of Heaven, mounted on white horses and dressed in dazzling white linen, follow him. A sharp sword comes out of his mouth so he can subdue the nations, then rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the raging wrath of God, the Sovereign-Strong. On his robe and thigh is written, King of kings, Lord of lords.” Rev. 19:11

However, I love the words the Shakespeare penned because they reflect the saving side of words. This is the speech that I love so much. It is the first part of Portia’s speech in Act 4, Scene 1 from “The Merchant of Venice”:
“The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.”

It’s almost as if Shakespeare was interpreting Psalm 123, verse 1 (Message Bible) “I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help. Like servants, alert to their master's commands, like a maiden attending her lady, we're watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting your word of mercy. Mercy, God, mercy! We've been kicked around long enough, kicked in the teeth by complacent rich men, kicked when we're down by arrogant brutes.”

Words of mercy and words of power – they all come from the pen of a ready writer – a warrior for God.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Exciting News

Friday I received an email from an editor for a publishing company about my picture book manuscript, Melba Sue and the Cactus Kid. They are interested in it, and have asked me to make some revisions to see if it can become a good fit for their company. I was very excited to hear this, of course. but particularly pleased since this was the first editor to see this manuscript at all, since the other house I sent it to was not taking materials from non-agented authors. (Alas, incorrect information from a writer's market let me astray, but I don't grieve the lost postage.)

So now it is time for revisions to see what will come. No matter what comes, it is very encouraging, and I'm happy to see my favorite manuscript making some headway in the picture book market.

Who knows. If all goes well, maybe Melba Sue will bake me a pie.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Kindle, or Not to Kindle? That is the Question.

I recently read someone's comment on facebook about the greatest gift ever for this year being a Kindle. Not knowing what Kindle was I googled it of course.

It was familiar. I remembered a cousin saying she thought eventually books might become obsolete because of this new invention.

Here are the facts. Kindle 1 came out in November of 07 by Amazon. It sold out in five and a half hours and the device remained out of stock for five months. The original Kindle, retailed then for $399.

Now there is Kindle 2 and Kindle DX. Kindle 2 holds 1,500 titles, Kindle DX holds 3,500. Kindle 2 is 8.0 x 5.3 in., Kindle DX is 2 1/2 times larger.

I have mixed feelings about this new invention. I love to read. Books are more reasonable priced through this device and you get immediate access to newly released books. It DOES NOT read like a computer. The images are razor sharp and can be read in bright sunlight. After you order a book it is delivered to you in less then 60 seconds. You also have free access to some classics.

Why would you want a Kindle? That's up to you of course. The written word will never go away in my opinion. There is always your local library were you can order any book you want whether they have it or not. You just have to drive and sometimes wait for what you want. With Kindle, you buy it and supposedly it is your forever. No books taking up space in your house. No germ filled books from the library which have been previously read by who knows who with who knows what disease. (No I am not a germaphobe) I do wonder where a library book has been when I read it. Don't you?

There are many pro's and con's to this Kindle. I will probable break down one day and buy one. Once the price is more reasonable. My biggest reservation is I hate reading online. This is supposed to be unlike that experience and more like a real book. I'd have to see for myself.

I didn't mention that along with access to 350,000 book titles, you also can access newspapers, magazines, and over 2,500 blogs.

We all need to make up our own minds. This is not to sway anyone to the right or left, just to inform. In the spring Mac is supposed to come out with their own version of Kindle. I would definitely wait to see what they have to offer.

Until then, I shall return to my stack of library books waiting to be opened and devoured. Whatever way you take it in, the words remain the same, with the ability to wisp you off to another time and place, Kindle, or no Kindle.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


It was only four months ago that my eyes decided to start being bright red each time they wore contacts! I would try them again randomly here and there, every couple weeks. But I always got the same result. Now, after so much time off I'm able to wear them again. I'm not sure why I can wear the same contacts as before when earlier I couldn't. But now, it feels like I've gotten a fresh look at life through lenses that my eyes accept! I can see better and clearer with them.

I think writing is that way. I'll try the same story the same old way. But then after a few days or months away I am able to try it again with a new perspective some creativity and glows!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Missed Monday: Oops!

Somehow I thought life would become easier after Nanowrimo. After all, that 50,000 word behemoth is behind me now. (Except for the days of rewriting, of course.)

Life has not become not easier.

In fact, in some ways, it's become more difficult since I have to somehow make up for taking time out to do all that writing when I was supposed to be doing other things. Sigh. I just hate being behind. And I know better than to delude myself into thinking that I'll use my Christmas vacation to put it all back together. No, I get more done when I'm busy than when I am not busy. I have to strike while the iron is hot, and go on knowing that Rome wasn't built in a day.

So the other night, when I had a peaceful hour before bed, I tucked myself in with pajamas, the Physics book, pen and paper, and felt that I made some respectable progress before I fell asleep. (That was Monday when this blog was due.)

Now you're probably wondering what the point of this blog is. I'm kind of wondering that myself. I guess there is no point, but that I'm just mulling over some thoughts.

• If I just keep on and don't give up, eventually, I will get everything done (or mostly done).
• If I keep a list, I won't forget important things like calling the surgeon about having Kathryn's wisdom teeth out (like I forgot to do today).
• I have to try to do what I can before the holidays get me, because somehow, no matter what, I CAN'T SEEM TO GET ANYTHING DONE DURING VACATION, AND BY THE END, I'M SOOOO GLAD IT'S OVER BECAUSE I HATE BEING UNPRODUCTIVE.

Now that I have that out of my system, I'm going to post this blog which has very little meaning, but at least is a blog. That first point might just be a mom's delusion, by the way. I have this eerie feeling that you don't ever really get everything done.

Now let's all take a purifying deep breath. I feel much better now. Don't you?

Self Expression

Just as no two snowflakes are alike, no two human beings are exactly alike - not even identical twins. Nowhere do I enjoy seeing this more than in the evidence of self expression. I love seeing the manifestation of God's gifts inside a person through self expression whether it is writing, the arts, sciences, or service.

However, since I am focusing on writing, here, I confess that I am looking forward to reading what others have written in the last month. After writing so intensively for the last month, I feel like I am crawling out of a cave of my own making and am blinking in the intense light of day.

I was part of a group called Hidden Talent Theatre and our tag line was "What's inside of you?"

It's important for us to share what's inside of us - whether good or bad - in the right way. Self expression can be fun and happy, but it can also help us to dig out the bad stuff and expose it to the light. Ultimately, as a Christian, self expression in writing can be an act of service. By honestly sharing what's inside of you through story form, a reader may recognize or understand a truth or insight that applies to them. Jesus was the best of storytellers.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ella Enchanted

I just finished reading this Newberry Honor award winning novel.

I will admit, I almost didn't finish it. This novel has many similarities to the story of Cinderella and I love the character of Cinderella. No matter what her evil stepsisters or stepmother dished out she remained gracious and unselfish. This book paints Ella in a very different light.

Ella is a young maiden from Frell. As an infant a careless fairy bestows a gift. The gift of obedience. No matter what she is told to do, she must do. Whether it's scrubbing the kitchen floor, or chopping off her own head, she must obey.

Ella is funny and likable. However, she is strong willed in spite of the horrible gift/curse of obedience.

In this story Ella's ultimate quest is to seek out Lucinda, the inconsiderate fairy who bestowed the "gift" upon her. Ella befriends a prince, meets friendly elves, attends a wedding for giants, and almost gets eaten by ogres. There she discovers she has the ability to charm them.

In spite of my early reservations I thoroughly enjoyed this maidens tale of trials, perseverance, and ultimate happy ending. The resolution was very well done. It came through the power of unselfishness. It was definitely worth the reading.

NOTE- I also saw this movie after reading the book. The book is nothing like it. So if you didn't like the movie (like I did not) give the book a chance. It is worlds different.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Author Exhaustion

I just finished writing a novel in 30 days - and I had a one week break where I didn't write at all. Talk about a marathon! The bulk of the novel was written in the last 5 days! And, last night when I went to bed, my creative energy felt bone dry. But, I prayed for an infilling. I prayed that my brain would be like the jars that the woman rounded up for the oil that Elijah miraculously multiplied for her. I prayed and this morning, I felt like the story was writing itself!

I know the whole thing will now need some major editing. There are quite a few loose threads hanging, but overall, I'm pleased! The Dad Wars is a complete work.

Thank you, Beth and Christine!!!! And, NANOWRIMO, someday, I'm going to be able to give you buckets of money!!!!!

Monday is Blog Day

You know it's been awhile since you blogged when you're not sure what your password is anymore. Many of us from the Last Draft have been busy churning out our novels filled with suspense, intrigue, and adventure. I finished my word count close to midnight on the eve of Thanksgiving as the heady aroma of pumpkin pie baking in the oven wafted over my laptop. That was fortunate, because I've been pretty busy since then trying to catch up on everything I haven't done for three and a half weeks. But the story isn't quite finished, even yet. It will be over 51K by the time this first draft is entirely done.

Looking back, was it worth it? Yes. I doubt that I would have written a novel of this length in a month without the support of the those of you who did it too. In fact, being a picture book writer for the most part, I'm not sure I would have finished a novel of this length at all since I haven't up to this point. In that respect, it was very good for me to have done this with a group.

I would go so far as to say that I even recommend participating in the Nanowrimo to people who don't like to write, because writing isn't really about picking up a pen or typing on a keyboard. It's about sharing a story that is in you, that no one else has ever heard before. Everyone has a story on the inside of them somewhere. And I shudder to think of the many great stories that might never have been written if the writer hadn't been pressed into the writing, in some cases by financial need, nagging relatives, or encouraging friends.

So whatever the catalyst that propelled me to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, I'm glad that I did it.

And I hope that next year, you'll do it too. And finally, to give credit where credit is due:

• Congratulations to Christine, who finished before everyone in our group. Speed Racer Award.
• Congratulations to Laura, who is almost finished at this moment, and wrote under difficult personal issues. The Perseverance Award.
• Congratulations to Dwight, who had no interest in writing, but did it just for his wife. The True Love Award
• Congratulations to Kathryn, Susan, Nathan, and Carissa, who will be finished by Monday night and decided to do something they never did before. Awesome Young Writers Awards to you all!
• Congratulations to the rest of you, for putting up with all of us for a month.

See you next November!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

As others celebrate by eating large quantities of turkey, I will celebrate today by trying to get caught up in my NANOWRIMO novel. I have 19,000 words to write in five days. And, I will do it!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Off Track, On Track

As any of you who can log on the Nano site can tell, I have gotten a tiny bit off track in my pursuit of 50K for Nanowrimo. Do not be alarmed. We had to drive up to Wisconsin this weekend to get part of a cow and my mom (multi-tasking trip). Since my mom doesn't have internet service, I had to upload my count the next day. It wasn't that it didn't happen. I just didn't have the opportunity to do anything about it.

But the last 36 hours have been a different story. Helping kids with the end of their homework so they could enjoy their Thanksgiving vacation and catching up on grading, in addition to serving at church and having meetings afterward, I have had to sacrifice writing for a twenty-four hour period. I can't tell you how hard it was to hear Dwight's keyboard tapping a way and find out that he'd logged a substantial 5,000 by the end of a day in which I had had no opportunity to write at all. Somehow, it didn't seem right.

But today I've caught up myself, except for studying Physics, and I plan to get back into the swing of things for writing. I left my protagonist in a terrible spot, but I find it easier to get back into the story when I leave her in trouble.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Deep into the Writing

Having been out of the game for about six days, I am working madly to catch up with my word count. Therefore I am deeply immersed in the world of THE DAD WARS. Hopefully, I will emerge next week sometime.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I See the Light

What an amazing adventure this has been for me. I am referring of course to my first attempt to write a novel. It has changed me in so many wonderful ways. I am now more then ever committed to writing on a daily basis.

My writing journey is nearing its end. There have been many unexpected twists and turns along the way, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

Soon I will be able to sleep again and spend some quality time with my incredible husband, who has been GREAT about all the hours I have devoted to this.

I have less then 10,000 words left before I can cross over that finish line. I'm almost there! I can now see clearly the light at the end of the path. What a beautiful sight!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Just touching base

I'm writing a novel this month. What else do you need to know?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Closing a Chapter with a Cliffhanger

I've been enjoying my escape into the wonderful world of reading children's fantasy novels. Now that I am writing my own I understand completely why it is recommended to read what you write.

I have uncovered a fountain of knowledge to aid me in this 50,000 words in a month quest. (I'm over 25,000 by the way)

One thing in particular I've observed is the end of a chapter or scene generally leaves you hanging. I am especially drawn when it not only leaves you hanging, but it lifts you up and takes you somewhere new. The POV changes to reveal a different characters thoughts in a different cliffhanger.

My story is filled with them and I am enjoying this ride and learning a lot. I find my mind continually racing with what calamity my protagonist can dig himself into next. It can be quite a rush!

I was reading the blogspot of Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted.

She wrote: "About ending a chapter with a crisis, I've been asked by editors sometimes to end with the crisis plus my main character's reaction.

"Yes! That's what I've been doing. I don't think I would have ever come up with it unless I had been reading all those suspense and fantasy novels over the last few months.

So as I sit down at my computer and lull myself back inside my fantasy world where I left my main characters lost and alone in utter darkness trying to find a hidden door. I finally get to resolve my present cliffhanger. Which isn't as much fun as creating them, but I suppose it must be done.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Music and writing

I have been listening to some new music - new to me, that is. I think it opens up a new part of my brain. I certainly hope so. Hopefully, a little vacation time also helps. Because I'm going to need every bit of that new brain to get back on track with my NANOWRIMO novel! Or maybe I should take inspiration from the places I've visited here in St. Augustine, the oldest town in the United States:

Piracy certainly would be a departure...

Maybe I better get back to that music. Josh Groban has just appeared on my music radar. He has a lovely tenor voice and sings a convincing love song, "You Raise Me Up." A little romance with some inspiration would certainly be a welcome diversion in the story I'm working on. Ah, romance. Always an interesting path to take.

There, I have just gotten myself back into the place I need to be to write.

Monday, November 9, 2009

When The Going Gets Tough

The tough keep typing.

Right about now, it's getting harder to write. I think this is what they were talking about when I read No Plot, No Problem. There comes a time in your writing process where you have to let go and quit trying to make your story perfect, because if you don't, you won't finish the 50,000 words in a month.

Meanwhile, your inner editor is screaming at you from Cabo San Lucas, and she's really upset because she keeps on losing her cell phone signal. But that mental telepathy hitch hikes a ride on the jet stream and gets to you anyway. "GO BACK AND FIX THAT HIDEOUS PARAGRAPH ON PAGE THREE! AND THAT'S JUST THE BEGINNING!"

That's what inner editors are for, of course. They like to fix all the inconsistencies and continuity errors. They know you have great stuff in you, and they just want the best to come out. Your inner editor needs to know the secret to first drafts:

For everything there is a season.

Now, to be honest, I did allow my inner editor to do a tiny bit. It was hard for me to go on when there were some little tweaks that I knew would help out the story because of the foreshadowing they created. Since they only added to my word count, I went back and added them. But still, they slowed me down, and in my nicely consistent progression, they are a jog in the chart.

My plan for the rest of the month is to keep my notebook at hand and make notes about changes and additions for a later time. This should assuage my inner editor and keep me chalking up my daily 2000, enabling me to enjoy a pressure-free Thanksgiving Day before resuming any necessary writing. And then, in December, I plan to give my inner editor a one way ticket back from the land of fun and sun to the biting winds of Chicago. Because when it comes to writing first drafts, there's something that I know as well:

And this too shall pass.

P.S. Yes, Christine, in response to your comment, it would be a distinct advantage to be able to type over 100 words per minute, but I believe the biggest issues for a writer is not in how fast they can type, but rather in how fast they can compose the story. (Which is probably why Dwight blew us away in the write-in.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The World of Words

I can hardly believe it's Thursday already. A post is due and my writers mind is on a thirteen year old boy named Alex who is trying to defend the world against the evil Mulum.

It's day five of NaNoWriMo, so I'm not exactly ready to pour myself into a post so here are someone else's words.

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice... and just as the touch of a button on our set will fill the room with music, so by taking down one of these volumes and opening it, one can call into range the voice of a man far distant in time and space, and hear him speaking to us, mind to mind, heart to heart. -Gilbert Highet

Ah the power of the written word, it envelopes us, plunging us away from the busy chaos of our lives and reminds us there are beautiful places, unsolved mysteries, and happy endings all around us.

I have a very large list of books I want to read. Anyone else? I prioritize them now by what I currently want to write about.

Today I found a blog where the sidebar had a picture of a book along with, "must read" next to it. I googled the book. Upon finding many others with similar positive opinions, and intriguing content, I jotted down the title and author onto my reading list.

Now I am looming where great men and women have gone before, the incredible world of novel writing. I am enraptured by it. Why had I never done this before? Is this how most author's feel? I am obsessed with good books and what published authors have to say. I have crossed over. I will never be the same.

God gave us words for a reason, they have power. Power to build up, or tear down. To make you laugh, or make you cry. To lead you into a pit of utter darkness, or shine on you a light.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Okay to Be a Tortoise

Disclaimer: I'm too busy to proofread anything below, so read at your own risk. Apologies for weird grammar and typos up front.

So how did all of you Nano-writers out there do on your first day? The prize from our group goes to the ultra-competitive Christine, who has put in a cool 5,000+ already. I was astounded by my husband's 3,400+ word count also. He was pretty tired after our Fall Fest church function yesterday, but he got excited about what he was writing and burned up the keyboard! Meanwhile, I helped kids with Physics, ran to the library, helped two young Nano writers, and only logged just over 2,000 words. But considering that Sundays are extremely busy days for us, I felt this was quite good for me. I have discovered that I am not the hare (although I am a speedy typist), but I am the tortoise.

I meditated for a brief moment on what good can come of being a tortoise.

1. Tortoises have protective shells.

Once December rolls around, that will be helpful. You have to be able to take constructive criticism as a writer. Note: you are not required to use all of it. You just have to be able to receive it without being crushed by the fact that someone other than you knows what you wrote wasn't perfect. Evaluate their advice as objectively as possible and don't let it hurt your feelings.

2. Tortoises keep on moving.

If you've seen any of the Bourne movies, you notice right away that the main character keeps moving, no matter what. This always works for him because, well, there's a writer out there making it work. But it is good advice for writers too, especially during Nanowrimo. Keep on writing. Eventually you will arrive somewhere, and if all goes well, it will be where you want to end up or even somewhere better.

3. Tortoises lay eggs.

You wrote a first draft. If it wasn't the golden egg like the one from the duck next door, don't be surprised and don't give up. Some very normal eggs out there can be turned into something golden with a lot of work. But the important thing is, you did it!

That's about all the philosophy I have time for today. (In fact, I think that used up my quota for the next month.) I have to go make some chocolate chip cookies for tonight's write-in at Christines.

Happy writing, and let it glorify your Creator that you are being creative too!!!!! (You're a chip off the old block, you know.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fascination with Fantasy

At present I am reading a children's fantasy novel, Mister Monday, written by Garth Nix. It is the first in a series titled, The Keys to the Kingdom.

Over the last few months I have been trying to find an author who writes the same type of book I am about to embark on. When I think I find a good one, I discover a dark realm to it that I don't want to dove into.

However, I accidently came across one that the wikepedia quotes, "appears to contain many examples of religious symbolism and references, particularly in Judeo-Christian tradition." So I decided to take a chance and get it.

So far I have come across two things that I didn't think were appropriate to put in a children's book. But it is well written, entertaining, and has some Biblical depictions.

I am enjoying it, and feel that it is preparing me for the upcoming nanowrimo novel that I plan to write.

It appears that bookstores are filled with books of fantasy for children. My life long dream has never been to write this kind of book. However, I feel a great need for a book of this type with a strong moral underlay, and achieving this without the center of witchcraft portrayed to be good if it's used for good.

So I have been busy outlining, time-lining, and character defining these last few days in preparation. I am very exciting. I have had this idea for months and wasn't planning on touching it until I felt better qualified to write a novel. So here is to, The Defender's Key, ready or not, here it comes!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Truth or Fiction?

Matt.10:26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, or kept secret that will not become known."

Fiction and truth – how can these two opposites possibly co-exist? How can a story with a made up plot and characters be truthful? Is fiction merely a fantasy and means for fleeing the truth, or worse yet, embellishing the truth?

Jesus didn’t think so. He used stories to reveal truths. Matthew 13:3-17 (Message) "What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

"Are you listening to this? Really listening?"

The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"

He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it. I don't want Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again:

Your ears are open but you don't hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don't see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won't have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won't have to look,
so they won't have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.

"But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance."

Who was the farmer? Was he a real person? No. He was a character in Jesus’ story. And the story itself told a truth. Obviously, that truth was not immediately evident to everyone who heard the story. However, did that stop Jesus from telling it? No!

In the same way, we as writers should not hesitate to tell our stories just because some may not understand. We write for different audiences and in different ways. But, we must write in such a way as to tell the truth. And then, our writing will not be in vain. Wouldn’t it be worth the writing if just one soul got saved as a result? Or if one family stayed together? Or one child said “no” to temptation?

I think it is worth it, and so I write.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Countdown: Seven days out from Nanowrimo

Seven days out from Nanowrimo's beginning is probably not a good time to hack a chunk out of the tip of your finger while chopping blueberries. (Like there's any good time for that.)

I immediately noticed that it is much harder to type with three bandaids wrapped around the end of my middle finger. (I tried four, but that was cutting off circulation.) However, without them, blood would be dripping steadily into my keyboard. Fortunately we care nothing for accuracy, so my new Nano-strategy is to stay on top of hitting the space bar at regular intervals, thus preserving my word count, if not my legibility.

This week I read a little of a book about being funny. I wasn't impressed with it because the author and I didn't see eye to eye on what is funny, so it's on it's way back to the library. However, he did make an interesting point. He said that comedy is truth and pain. I didn't entirely agree since my view of humor is filtered by the idea that humor comes from God (who is truth but not pain), so I concluded that comedy could be truth and surprise.

• Truth: Charlie Brown is going to try to kick the football. Surprise: Lucy is going to pull it away at the last moment.
• Truth: The three stooges have to carry a chunk of ice up flights and flights of stairs on a hot day. Surprise: When they get there, it will be a little ice cube.
• Truth: I chopped a chunk out of my finger tip. Surprise: We're all hoping that last bite of blueberry pancake didn't have a little extra protein in it.

So as you go forward into the Nano world, don't be afraid to put some truth into your books. And don't be afraid to add some surprises. (If you haven't done much planning, like me, the whole book will be a surprise.) For there to be a story, there must be a conflict, and not only can story be generated by conflict, but humor as well. (Richard Peck has many truth and surprise patterns in his historical fiction.)

Your inner editor, which will be on vacation in Cancun for the month of November, would not have you risk humor. Please do not take any emails or calls from him. Adults are notorious for being afraid to be funny, because they become accustomed to things going right and don't want to risk falling flat on their faces in the humor department. Throw caution to the wind. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, and although not everyone thinks the same things are funny, we all can develop our funniness if we aren't afraid to try.

So put on your "funny glasses" and practice seeing the funny side of life. Humor and joy are good for you.

Disclaimer: All goofed up words which made it through spell-check are the result of a pancake injury.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I have begun reading GREEN by Ted Dekker, and the book provokes me. I don't usually read this type of book. It has blood and betrayal and savagery and intrigue set in the realm of science fiction. In fact, I don't like this book, but I can't get it out of my head! In some ways, it reminds me of the Corrie Ten Boom story. She suffered so much at the hands of the Nazis, and reading about that horror challenges me.

When I heard that Mel Gibson was making a movie about the last days of Christ, I thought I would never want to see that movie. That was the horrible, unthinkable, unimaginable part of Christ's ministry. Why would someone make a movie exclusively about the passion of the Christ? However, I did go see it, and was much moved.

These hard stories have one thing in common. If you endure through the difficult parts, you are rewarded with the ending. I haven't gotten to the ending of GREEN, yet. But, I am certain that I will not be disappointed. Love always wins.

And, endure we must. As Christians, we must be prepared for afflictions so that we are not surprised or crippled by them. All faithful people of God will face trials. Being a believer doesn't mean you will no longer have trouble. In fact, the greater your faith is, the greater the challenges become.

Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthian church after hearing about a divisive group there who talked him down and said that Paul was not a true apostle of Jesus. How wounding that must have been to him! Paul had spoken boldly for Jesus and, as a result, had survived beatings, being stoned to death, and physical deprivation. He had also tenderly nurtured the Corinthians!

Paul says in his second letter to the them, "Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, 'I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help.' Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. Our work as God's servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all." (Message Bible)

I wondered why Ted Dekker's book was called GREEN. Although I have not finished reading it yet, I believe I have found my own answer in Psalm 1:1-3 "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers."

As writers, we cannot back away from the hard truths. Children and teenagers need to be equipped to deal with affliction as well. Our challenge is to write in such a way as to teach the truth, but provide the reward for endurance as well. Love always wins. In the Lord, we will always stay green and full of life.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Mother's Reflections

I have been spending much of my time buried in writing. Completing my last draft of my non-fiction article, and jotting down idea's, outlining, and completing character studies for the upcoming NaNoWriMo project. I feel spent.

I long for a place of tranquility. Away from screaming kids and barking dogs. A place of beauty, where I can calmly reflect on my writing goals, and write, undisturbed to my hearts content.

Then I get back to reality. The four children are hungry, they want a snack, they want to watch television, or play a game on the computer. For some reason they don't ever want to lock themselves away and read a book.

But this is the life I have chosen, and I don't regret it for a moment! Still a time of rejuvenation, and solitude can help me be a better wife and mother. If only at those times I could step out my door to a magnificent, lush, landscape. Where the sun is shining, flowers are in abundance, and a plush chair sits with my name on it. A girl can dream can't she.

So I will settle for the occasional, "Girl-Friends-Getaway", and my solitary escape to my local library or Panera. Where I can recharge and reflect on how thankful I am for my husband and children. Of course, only to return to laundry and dishes.

As my walls get dented, my carpet gets stained, and small toys find there way to every nock and cranny inside my four walls, it is still a small price to pay for the elation of hearing the words, "MOM" fill my ears!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Drop and Give Me 50,000!

Hi all. As you can see from Christine's post, Nanowrimo is bearing down on us with the deadly precision of a Mac truck. The post I had planned as we buzzed along back from the Wisconsin quadrant on our way to Chicago has flown from my brain. No doubt it was driven away by six loads of laundry that arrived with us. So you'll have to settle for the following for now. If I think of what I was previously thinking, I'll stick it along at the end.

Once again, I must remind you all that you need to participate in NaNoWriMo for the following reasons:

• Everybody else is doing it. (Not usually a good reason, but allowed in this case.)
• The Everybody else who is doing it are almost entirely not Christian. This is quite sad. You have an awesome message. Get out there and write a book about it.
• You'll always regret it if you don't.
• You'll always remember it if you do.
• Up until November 1st, I will do my level best to give you a cover for your novel. I've made one for myself (see under Beth Mac) and also Susan (on the Young Writer's site under Suzi-Q) and Kathryn (Young Writers under Curly Kate, but not posted yet).

If you still think it's utterly impossible to write a novel in November, then you need to go to the NaNo web site and read the post about the Marine serving in Iraq who couldn't bear to miss a Nano event and wrote her book under impossible circumstances, and even got her word count in by midnight by nothing short of a military miracle. That's the Marines for you. Makes you glad they're on our side. Here's the link, and don't blame me if you cry when you read it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Clock is Ticking!

On your mark...

Get Set...


And there off!

There are seventeen days until NaNoWriMo. I have the countdown set on my iphone.

I still have yet to solidify what I am going to write about. Kinda unsettling. It's like I am about to jump out of a plane without a parachute. Sure, realistically speaking I would jump out of an airplane, but NEVER without a parachute, what am I crazy!

My mind goes in so many directions on what to write. I have semi-committed to an idea in my head, but I am still lacking idea's for, conflict, plot, and climax. That's all, no big deal, just those three things. So other then that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

But in spite of all this, I am at peace. I feel confident it will all come together. Once I get an idea that I am passionate about, things will all fall into place. Right???

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jane Austen as Inspiration

I love Jane Austen and what her writing did for women. She faced many difficulties living in Georgian England where women had very few options. But, with her novels, she encouraged women by assuring them that marrying for love was a good thing, and that using intelligence, perseverance and common sense would reward you. Her characters are complex and fascinating, and, I think, reveal much about Ms. Austen's personality as well.

As a sign of her true insight into relationships and love, her novels have endured in popularity for nearly two hundred years. The novels have also served as the foundation or inspiration for many films and other novels. Her stories intrigue and entertain both teenagers and adults alike.

Jane Austen also inspired many women to write novels and to express themselves. And for that, she has my sincere gratitude. Following in her footsteps were some of my other favorites: the Bronte sisters, Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) and Louisa May Alcott. Each of these writers also possessed a clear, moral point of view. And all of them have had a part in shaping my own life and attitudes.

I like the little poem I once heard:
"The novels of Jane Austen are the ones to get lost in."

Monday, October 12, 2009

You Can Do This!!!

The Secret Life of Eleanor Blunt is beginning to take shape in my imagination. I've begun to carry a notebook and write down character and story notes. It really helped me to go to the Young Writer's Program and get their tips for the kids who are writing in NaNoWriMo. I like them because they are easy to understand. If you've never done the WriMo before, this is a good place to start:

These are the Young Writer's Notebooks that guide students of all ages through the NaNo experience. You can print them out or view them on your computer, and they will walk you through the planning process if you choose to plan a little. Lots of writers just sit down and start typing instead. Some plan and then abandon their plans after a few days. It's good to stay loose and not get too tied down to anything if you want to keep moving.

If you haven't decided to do the NaNoWriMo, it's PEP TALK TIME:

When you get to week two, scroll back to this post, because at that point, many writers throw in the towel.

You can do this!!! You can write a novel in one month. You have a voice that no one else has, and it's such a blessing that we still have free speech in this country and can write books. Take advantage of it to write a novel that you would never otherwise get around to writing. So remember...


If you do sign up on the NaNoWriMo website, you can ask to be added as my writing buddy by accessing my username, BethMac (there is no space between the Beth and Mac). This way you can keep track of my word count, and I can see yours.

Sign up before October 31st!

Whatever You Do, Don't Look Down

So far I have nagged at least five other people into doing the NaNoWriMo with me, and three or four others are reeling at the edge of the precipice. (I guess that means you could say the others have officially gone over the edge.) If you too are at the edge of decision, the best advice I can give to you is, don't look down. Just take that step of faith. You can write a book in a month.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Written Word

I am about to embark on something I have never undertaken, nor did I expect to undertake until further down the writing road. I will be writing my first novel.

A few days ago, I was reading the October 4th devotion in, "Daily Devotions for Writers". At the end of the authors one page entry is a thought to focus on.

The thought was, "Father, thank you for giving me the gift of writing to glorify you and serve others."

While meditating on those words I was granted more perspective. I enjoy writing, yes. I want to be published, yes. Perhaps even have it as a career. However, with every word that goes from my heart to the paper or screen before me, my desire is that it glorifies my Creator. That was my prayer that night.

The power of the printed word has changed the world throughout history. Thomas Paine wrote, Common Sense and significantly effected the beginning of America's Revolutionary War. In the year nineteen hundred and two, Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated the book, Tales of Peter Rabbit. It was the first time that a book with colored pictures was placed into the hands of children. Then there is the Holy Bible, written by sixty-six different authors, all inspired by God to bring us His promises and His Story. And so many more!

I don't know where this writing road will lead me, perhaps it will end soon, or keep twisting and turning before me. But I know I have a voice, we all do. The dismal reality is, there are many voices out there in print that are bringing lies and immorality to the masses. As believers we need to fight and take back the literary world that has succumbed to so much darkness. We are the light of the world! It's time to place that light on a lamp-stand and let it shine for all the world to see.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Peer Pressure

It's a good thing I'm writing for young adults as I have succumbed once again to peer pressure. Beth and Christine are doing it, so... I checked it out: NANOWRIMO. Okay, I signed up. And, joined the Chicago group... That was pretty simple. I'm in.

This experience feels high school when my friends and my brother told me how fantastic skiing was. The first time I went, I ripped my gloves, fell a million times, got soaking wet, drank a lot of hot chocolate, did all but one run on the bunny hill, and got hooked. I'm sure this will be much the same - maybe even the ripped gloves. So, hang on to your poles, take a deep breath and let's go!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Worth Doing Badly: NaNoWriMo

Just so you know in advance, every post I do from now into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) will be a goad to suck you into doing it too. Don't say you weren't warned.

Before you read the rest of this post, read this:

Robyn made some excellent points which immediately caused me to jump to several conclusions of my own. She said that she had heard it argued that some things worth doing were also worth doing badly as opposed to not doing them at all. Her point was that you could mop the floor quickly with less than perfection rather than not at all and give the extra time to bettering your writing. But I submit to you that writing poorly is also worth doing.

Enter: NaNoWriMo

Of the 50,000 words you produce in that month, and I'm speaking in faith that you will indeed succumb to my personal brand of peer pressure and participate, there probably won't be one inspired literary word in the lot. But the beauty of it is that you DO it. Driven by nothing more than a deadline, you actually WRITE a novel instead of just THINKING about it or PLANNING to do it. Also driven by a deadline, you abandon all ideas of perfection along the wayside and write a dreadful first draft. You'll be in good company with about 250,000 other writers or more doing the same. First drafts are like seed sown. You can't get the harvest without them.

In other words, it is so worth it for you to exercise your right to write a novel, even if you do it badly. There are hundreds of thousands of people in history that would have given anything to have that kind of freedom that we so casually pass off. Heaven forbid that we eventually lose that freedom in the USA, but it's possible.

Reasons to be a NaNoWriMo Writer:
• Because you like to write.
• Because you don't like to write.
• Because you have the freedom to.
• Because you have an obligation to capture your personal voice and ideas on paper in a way that no one else ever can.

In case you're thinking that you don't have time, it'll take you about 55 hours total if you're an average typist. Spread out during a month, that's not too bad. You'll even have a few free evenings here and there. If you do it like one writer, you'll get the first 12,000 words done in the first week, and the last 38,000 done in the final three days, plugging in the last at one minute before midnight on the 30th.

In conclusion, I think only real value of NaNoWriMo is the accountability that transforms an otherwise procrastination-laden individual into a writing machine for one month. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen

My wonderful husband and I had a very interesting conversation recently. What does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing! But I was extremely amused at my discovery and expressed to him my desire to share these words of wisdom.

Men and women are different, that's a given. The following has been commonly said by experts and commonly observed by myself.

When a wife approaches her husband with a problem, he will immediately try to find a solution to the problem. Most of the time the wife is not looking for a solution, but to talk it out, vent, or perhaps just have someone who will listen. Then be taken in his arms and told that everything is going to be all right.

Upon relaying a problem to my husband last night he proceeded to tell me exactly what I should do to remedy it. I humorously informed him ONCE AGAIN, that I was not looking to HIM to solve this problem. He couldn't understand why I would tell him something and not expect a solution.

Here it is. I just wanted to talk it out, to share what I was going through inside and have someone listen, and care. I explained that if I wanted him to help remedy the problem I would at the end of my pondering, ASK him for his help.

This was a breakthrough! I think he finally got it. Of course we will probable have this same conversation a month from now, but for now he understood.

Then the conversation lead down a different path.

Generally, when a women wants a man to do something say around the house, she will say, "Honey that chair leg really needs to be fixed."

"Okay, I'll get to it," he grunts.

Two weeks later, the chair leg sits untouched.

I was informed by my husband during this conversation, that I can't just tell him something needs to be done (even though he is the only one who can fix it). I must say something like, "Honey, could you please fix the chair today?"

We were in stitches over our discoveries of each other after almost fifteen years of marriage. The light bulbs were turned on and we had a better understanding of each others needs.

We have never ARRIVED, there is always something new to learn. We just need to try and keep the journey fun, and laugh at ourselves along the way. :)

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. - Ernest Hemingway

Men and women belong to different species, and communication between them is a science still in its infancy. - Bill Cosby

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. -Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Overcoming Terror

This has been a good week for me. I am overcoming a gut level, soul-shaking terror of the Lake County, Illinois judicial system, and this victory is very satisfying. Today, I walked the halls of the courthouse with no fear and this makes me feel incredibly light-hearted and hopeful. God's favor went before me, and I loved seeing it in action. A task that could have been complex and troublesome, was made easy with God's favor.

As a result of my experiences this week, I have to agree with those who have said it before me: "to overcome your fear you have to face it and walk straight into it." And, in my situation, the prayer and physical support of my brothers and sisters in Christ have made all the difference in the world. There is nothing on earth sweeter to me right now than the love of Christ as expressed by his body - the church.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Suffice it to say that once again, I didn't have this ready in advance, and since I'm teaching school, I won't be able to add much until the end of the day. But until then, I'll leave you with this thought.

The business of the storyteller is to ask questions, not to answer them.
—Joseph Conrad, novelist

Now I'm going to show that I really stay almost entirely in the genre of children's writing, because I don't remember who Joseph Conrad is. But I do find this statement from the Oxford Essential Guide to Writing interesting, and have been mulling it over. It was given in context in a section where they were talking about using natural endings for essays and papers. Their suggestion was to use discretion about making a final judgment at the end of the essay, and this was why.

Comments? Opinions?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just Around the Corner

Just around the corner from my regular daily route I discovered a treasure. Most (like my sister who accompanied me) may not call it that, but I'm just a sucker for quaint little restaurants occupying cute little historical homes in the middle of preserved 1800's towns.

The name, Benedict's Eggs and More. I know, not very romantic, but as Shakespeare said, "What's in a name?"

It wasn't just the fact that it was a lovely restored home. The food choices were wonderful. I had, The Waldorf Chicken Wrap. This flavorful cold wrap had walnuts, apples, grapes, and dried cranberries. A tasteful combination, served along with a cold, Orzo Pasta Salad, which turned out to be equally enjoyable.

Making this choice was not an easy task. Menu items also included, Smoked Turkey with Orange Cranberry Relish (sandwich), Cucumber Avocado and Gruyere Cheese Sandwich, and a Muffin Melt - Choice of chicken salad or tuna salad nestled on top of a tomato capped english muffin and finished with melted white cheddar cheese. Served with chopped salad and breakfast potatoes. These were a few of my favorite options, of which I had a hard time choosing.

I also enjoyed a cup of tea. The waitress brought out a wooden box filled with possibilities. My choice was Chamomile Citron. I would probable need the expertise of someone like Steven Knoerr (tea connoisseur and critic) to describe it, but I was pleased.

So if you ever find yourself in East Dundee and you are hungry for breakfast or lunch, I highly recommend this enchanting little spot to please your pallet and warm your spirits.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Unpleasant characters

This past weekend I watched the film "Where Angels Fear to Tread" based on the novel by E.M. Forster. I also saw the musical "Children of Eden." Although very different in many ways, the two had these things in common: unpleasant characters and no message of redemption.

"Where Angels Fear to Tread" is a story of Victorian England and its unpleasant, unloving, snobbish upper class. This movie was remarkable in that almost none of its characters were changed in any way by their experiences. And, two of the characters kidnapped a child, who was almost immediately killed in a related accident, but suffered no discernible consequences or life changes as a result.

The woman who kidnapped the child was portrayed as a religious Christian who read the Bible. And, the film implied that it was a Bible verse that inspired her to take the child. Another character, the daughter of a pastor and a woman who did charitable works, had also determined to come for the child because she was in love with the father. However, the pastor's daughter would never have married the man because he wasn't appropriate.

"Children of Eden" is an interpretation of the first part of the biblical book of Genesis. The musical portrayed God as a creative genius of a human father who wouldn't let his children grow up and punished creativity. The message of hope and redemption was entirely missing. And the meaning of love was certainly confused.

Although both of these works referenced the Bible in many ways, the writers didn't appear to have an understanding of God's goodness or his plans for his children. They didn't understand that God's is a giving and sacrificial love. They condemned and judged human beings, but didn't understand redemption.

What a thought-provoking time these two works produced in me! Because of them, I am trusting that God will direct my writing to be clearly understood, and to be rightly motivated.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Update: The Chick Is Out

This is a second post today, but I don't think anyone will care. The chick extricated itself from the shell while I was gone during lunch. Dwight got to see it. The kids got to see it. I did NOT get to see it. I'm trying not to be bitter, but somehow it just seems wrong. For example, I didn't miss even one of the births of my kids. Moms should be present at births. It may take extensive therapy including large quantities of twizzlers for me to come to grips with this.

In the mean time, I'll post pictures of the new arrival. It's snuggling with a small stuffed dog at present, having felt a little lonely when it popped out of the shell.

Birth Announcement: It's Official

I've been making blogs ahead and then setting them to post automatically, but this weekend I wasn't quite as organized as usual, so you get the late breaking news.

We are in the process of watching a chick hatch today.

Here's the lowdown. After ordering our chicks through the mail for the past few years, we finally got a chicken who actually wanted to set on her own eggs. This was very exciting for all of us, since it also meant that when the chicks hatched, the hen would take care of them herself. We knew from past experience that being the mother hen for a bunch of chicks was a lot of work, so we were pretty happy to pass this off on an unsuspecting chicken.

So after waiting breathlessly for 18 to 21 days, two little chicks appeared from the original four eggs. Just on the off chance that some of the eggs were not fertilized, we had belatedly added a couple extras to the nest about ten days later. Sure enough, when the first two hatched, we eventually discovered that three of the remaining four were not going to produce chicks. And unfortunately, as soon as the mother hen had to chase the new chicks around, she no longer wanted to set on the remaining egg that seemed to be a chick.

So we took a desk lamp and our chemistry thermometer, set up a little bowl with a towel, and put the egg in it. It has been a long ten days trying to keep it between 38º and 40º Celsius and flipping the egg several times a day. Talk about primitive conditions. But last night, all our work paid off.

Dwight heard the egg cheep.

Hearing an egg cheep is significant. It means that the chick is indeed alive and has broken through the inner membrane. This morning—more cheeps. And a tiny hole. Talk about a long labor. Once the first hole shows up, the chick usually sleeps for three to eight hours. We're still looking at another eight to 16 hours before it emerges completely at some point today.

So consider this an official birth announcement. Of the first two chicks, one is mostly barred rock, and the other is partial austrolorp. We are hoping that there is at least one rooster in the bunch, since ours is getting on in chicken years, and that the mommy will take over with this chick once it is old enough to hang out with it's siblings.

If any of you have little ones (or even big ones) who would like to stop by and see the chicks, try to soon. They grow quickly!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Realization and Retribution

Attention Laura and Beth. I am calling you on the originality of your story entries on our retreat.

Laura quote, "Her hair was bright green, and she lunged toward him, shaking her fist."

Beth quote, "'Look, Sal," he pleaded. "I didn't know that peddler was crooked. He said it'd make your hair black as a crow."'

I knew this sounded familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Ahhh Haaa! Your deep seeded plot to masquerade as classic novelists has been uncovered by yours truly. The secret is out, to be revealed for all the world to see. Your dastardly deeds are undone!

Here is the evidence, concrete and impenetrable.

Lucy Maud Montgomery penned this quote taken from, Anne of Green Gables, Chapter XXVII, Vanity and Vexation of Spirit.

'"But I didn't mean to dye it green, Marilla," protested Anne dejectedly. "If I was wicked I ment to be wicked to some purpose. He said it would turn my hair a beautiful raven black--he positively assured me that it would."'

I shall expect a written apology for this malicious, vindictive, threat against one of our beloved authoresses.

Now let us reflect on that skillful work of fiction Montgomery has bestowed upon the world with some memorable quotes.

"Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle."

'"Oh,, I don't like that name, either. I shall call it--let me see--the Lake of Shining Waters. Yes, that is the right name for it. I know because of the thrill. When I hit on a name that suits exactly it gives me a thrill. Do things ever give you a thrill?'"

"Anne's beauty-loving eyes lingered on it all, taking everything greedily in. She had looked on so many unlovely places in her life, poor child; but this was as lovely as anything she had ever dreamed."

Here's to the classics, may their words remain esteemed and cherished forevermore.