Summer News

IMG_3629It’s been awhile since I posted an update, so thought I ‘d share what’s been going on with me. I’m sure I’m not the only one to be whizzing through summer. It just gets faster and faster each year.

I went on vacation to Florida in June. We rented a house with some of my family across the street from the water. It was lovely and I took many sunset photos. My daughter and I got really burned the first day out – and yes – we applied sunscreen! That put us off the beach for a few days exploring the area, hitting several book stores. On the days when I did get to the beach, I was in my happy zen place emotionally and inspired to write. Hmm… I wonder if I can write that off this year, eh? A working holiday…oxymoron. You’ll be sure to see my beach inspired poems if you stay tuned.

For my birthday, my husband gave me more nights in a hotel for writing. It was amazing. I finished my first Christian Tompta book (Gnome on a Mission) and have sent it out to beta readers. I also started revisions for book 2 (The Journey Home) and wrote my first query letter. The weekend was quite the success, though I think in the future I’ll stick to two nights rather than three as I was pretty stiff walking out of the hotel. Several days in a confined space do not do a body well!

In July met friends in Cleveland to see the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time. We ate dinner at the Great Lakes Brewing Company and stopped by to see the house from “A Christmas Story.”

IMG_3692  IMG_3686

This month we are reaping the benefits of my hubby’s garden and our counters are overflowing with cucumbers and tomatoes. He has already  canned  peaches, green beans and cherries (my favorite). I made pickles and we are looking forward to canning squash and tomato sauces and soup. Yum! I’ll have garden fresh flavors in the midst of winter.

This is my daughter’s senior year of high school, and that will cause me great sadness. I love her so much and am excited to see the choices she makes for her own life, but my family will be entering a new change soon, so I am going to live in these moments with her as much as I can.

This month will bring more family and fun to our home. I’m very grateful for the many blessings God has bestowed upon me. I hope you all are feeling the blessings too ,and enjoying your summers.

Peace!

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91 (a Musing)

Today I was going to write my classic Tuesday poem, but I’ve been bombarded by the number 91 recently so thought I would see what the Internet had to say about this number.

In the last month two people unrelated to me have both brought me the message to read Psalm 91 and this morning my writing buddy has had 91 floating around her brain as well. These are signs.

Psalm 91 comes up as the first thing online when I Google it. The psalm is about keeping focus on God so that He will cover and protect me. I need that – yes I do.

A couple of restaurants came up when I googled the number, a Doctrine from the Mormons, a hotel company, a role-playing game, a magazine, a taxi company and this Wiki definition:

“Year 91 (XCI) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Glabrio and Traianus (or, less frequently, year 844 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 91 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.”

Only the Psalm seems to have much significance for me, but I am reminded about all the information available at a simple touch of the fingertips. It makes me want to Google all the numbers, and maybe the letters too! But I must keep reading Psalm 91.

Peace…

My Erma Experience

Last week I went to the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, an event I had been looking forward to since December. It is a place for humor and human interest writers to gather.

I began my time in workshops from Sharon Short on “Finding the Writer’s Voice” and Adair Lara on “Crafting Compelling Personal Essays.” The voice class was interesting in that we worked exercises in which we paired different writers’ points of view with  musical, artistic and literary options. This struck me as a little funny because the universe puts out the same idea in several scenarios at the same time, and I had just been writing about art and music. Adair’s class was fun because she gave us the tools to create the essay, and then took experiences from people in the class and showed them how to craft a great story.

Next, I sat in a panel called “Let’s Talk About Success…” with Dr. Nancy Berk, Cathryn Michon, Amy Ephron (lovely lady), Alan Zweibel (funny dude) and Cindy Ratzlaff who I will say impressed me so much that I changed my plans to take another class from her later. This session provided several bullet point notes such as: “writer’s write,” “publishers have no clue what is popular,” “let your idea tell you where it fits,” and my favorite line, “self-publishing can lead to traditional publishers and is becoming more common.”

My last class of the day was by Katrina Kittle, a local Dayton-area author, entitled “Skipping the Parts People Skip: Strengthening Description.” The room was hot and crowded but she managed to convey much useful information and gave us a rather extensive handout. My favorite line from her class was about revising the rough draft, “…corral and teach it manners.” She obviously loves horses.

I skipped dinner that night to go out to a fancy local restaurant with my hubby, so it turned into quite a nice date night.

The next day I took the session from Cindy Ratzlaff called, “It’s a Brand New Brand You World…” This lady currently works for Simon & Schuster so I intently paid attention. She gave and gave and gave excellent information. I’m still sorting through my notes on her session, but she gave this wise and sage advice, “Be Brave. Be out there. Be your best self.” She wins the prize for the most notes taken during any of my workshops!

The next fabulous session was by “The Book Doctors,” David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut. Their energy lifted the room, man. They teach on publishing, creating a great pitch and pretty much anything else you want to know about the writing/publishing industry. A quick funny story is that I actually met David in the elevator in the morning, but did not know who he was, so did not give him my “elevator pitch!” Missed opportunities make for learning adventures. They were great and were also on the judging panel for the later “Pitchapalooza” which was a lot of fun, even if I didn’t get called.

The only other session I attended was “Ask the Agents.” I was really happy to meet Brian Klems as he is the Writer’s Digest online editor and I see his face in my inbox often. The agents were Rachel Ekstrom Courage, Sorche Elizabeth Fairbank and Rachelle Gardner. They answered every question asked, even though many of the answers were “it depends.” I was a little sad to learn that agents really only like to see new work and that there weren’t any children’s agents, but it was very informative anyway. And, I understand.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you will have seen my many posts about the great speakers I heard. Cindy Ratzlaff and Kathy Kinney struck a chord in me as they talked about their forty year writing partnership and friendship. I’m hoping to have that with my writing buddy. Amy Ephron was very funny and kind as she told stories, especially about how she gave up being a psychic, even though when she signed my book I thought she was delivering a slightly psychic message.

I also heard Leighann Lord speak. This is one amazing comedic talent and a lovely person to talk to as well. These people made me very sad the weekend came to a close. I’m hoping to get into the next one, but there are wait lists and each year it sells out faster. Start praying for me now, the registration opens in December 2017.

I learned so much from this conference and met a few really good people. It definitely makes me want to do many other workshops. This year I’ve already been to this workshop and on a writing retreat. I am one lucky girl.

 

This Messy Life

Sometimes life gets messy. Dirty, stinky, messy. Negative vibes throw you into a tailspin and you wonder why it happens. The key to dealing with a stinky mess is to take one step at a time. Eventually you can trudge through the gray to emerge into the light on the other side.

So what’s in the light for me? As you read this post, I should be laughing my tail feathers off at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton! This is a highly competitive conference where for three days attendees are delivered helpful information by leading writers, editors and marketers. This year it sold out in only six hours and I am so very grateful to be able to attend. Since it is local I thought it would be alright to drive in each day, but my husband has generously offered me his hotel points so that I can stay downtown. I will just say that as I write this, I am so nervous and excited that I can’t sit still!

Also in new news, April is CampNanowrimo. This is a less strenuous exercise in writing where I set my own word/editing parameters rather than Nanowrimo’s intense guidelines. Last November (during Nanowrimo) I wrote a set of four children’s books that I have been rewriting/editing, and in April I hope to write the next rough draft set of those. I shall see how far I get. My goal is going to be slightly less than that of November at 1500 words per day rather than 1667, and I am going to be starting two or three days late because of my conference. Hopefully I can get three or four books done.

Writing has become a part of my blood. When I am not engaged in writing new stories, essays or poems on my blog or my books, I am editing, researching and/or educating myself. The internet contains a plethora of information that is ever changing. I have also been taking an art class in the hopes that I might be able to draw illustrations in these children’s books before publishing. I shall see how that goes as well. While I’ve continued to draw briefly in stints during my adulthood, it has been a long time since I drew consistently. As anything else, it is an exercise in practice and persistence.

I hope you are finding your way through life’s messes, one step at a time and looking for the light. Summer will soon be upon us with longer days and heat. I’m looking forward to it.

Peace.

The Elbow (a Musing)

What a weird thing, this elbow. Even the word, upon repetition, sounds awkward: elbow…elbow…elbow.

We all have one, but are they ever thought about? Not pretty, they look dry and scaly – unlike the smoothness of the rest of the skin.

Bumping the elbow creates a striking sensation in the funny bone, both tickly and painful at the same time.

People jostle with their elbows, but the habit can be picked up to return the jostle. Jostling and shoving does not feel good; and neither does a child using an elbow as a help-step to jump off a lap or climb a body like a jungle gym. Ouch!

How about a double-jointed elbow? Isn’t that a strange site to see when it can practically turn itself inside out?

A baby starts life with an elbow begging to be kissed, soft and supple and mom makes sure there are no boo boos. It grows with the child until it becomes a gangly club that knocks things off of counters, tables and walls.

When spouses begin to sleep with each other, used to sleeping alone, elbows bonk heads and awaken sleepers in the middle of the night. This may create a need for bed helmets if someone awakens angry. A need arises to leave bed until enough calm occurs to resume sleep. But where does the elbow lie during sleep? If it is slept upon, needles and pins tingle in it; if sleep is too hard, the elbow becomes stiff, not pliable in the morning.

Aaaahhh, to be an elbow: strong and soft, bendy and straight, scaly and tough.

 

Word Fun

This is just a fun exercise to say aloud fast… try it!

Riddle griddle fiddle middle

little missile whistle kissing missing

wishing dishing fishing fighting

writing kiting lighting biting biking

speaking squeaking tweaking leaking

bleating meeting greeting fleeting

flicky picky sticky hicky mickey

makey flakey bakey basty.

Retreat 2016

I just got back from a wonderful long and refreshing weekend with my writing buddy!

Our journey began when I picked her up at the airport and we headed off to Amish country, stopping to see three giant baskets along the way. The first was not actually a basket, but the Longaberger Corporate Offices, built in the shape of one of their classic baskets. Next, we stopped and saw a large apple basket at their homestead. Lights were on and a man was standing in the windows of one building so my friend ran and dipped through the bushes to capture a photo while I kept the car running. Finally, in Dresden, Ohio, stands the World’s Largest Basket. The pictures show the light fading, so I moved the car into various positions to try to get the best light, but it was difficult.

Giant Baskets

We stopped for dinner and finally made it to the hotel at about 8 pm. She brought a “Writer’s Toolbox” game/set and I brought wine and snacks, so we got busy working on timed prompts. We wrote, talked and laughed until past 1 am. I have now decided that writing games are the best games, and nobody loses.

The next morning we slept in a bit (only til 8ish) and then headed out to the Warther’s Museum where we saw amazing carvings. Mooney Warther carved only for hobby, but worked his way up from throw-away wood and beef bones to creating with ebony and ivory. He even used a bit of gold for a train spike! He discovered a way to make 32 cuts iinto a piece of wood to create a wooden pliers – no pins or screws or anything! The giant W made from three pliers connected was made by his son David, but Mooney made a sculpture of 511 pliers all together, creating a tree that folds up into what appears to be a church steeple. The guide advised us that the math and image just came to him one day in a vision. He went on to make knives as a business to support his family and they have an excellent reputation.

Warther_Museum

Though it was terribly cold outside, we also visited “The Button House” and the Warthers’ home. Mooney’s wife made mosaic pictures from buttons and as a creative person, I hold much respect. It was indeed interesting to see her work space. After our tours, we went back to the hotel for more writing exercises, this time taking our laptops downstairs to sit in front of the fireplace.

The next morning we woke up earlier and though the temperature said 5 degrees with a -1 windchill, we were off to investigate Amish country. Both of us were surprised at the commercialism of the area, but enjoyed the journey anyway. Besides the World’s Largest Basket, we also saw the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock. We shopped and toured an Amish quilt shop, a Christmas shop, an Amish grocer and a giant craft mall.

Amish Country

With so much to see, we kept busy until late afternoon when on our way back to the hotel, we veered off course to investigate a pretty multicolored building. It turned out to be a winery where we tested  local wines and bought some to share and some to bring home before we went back to the hotel to rest and write.

Retreat2016

On our last morning, we again awoke early and headed out for the three hour drive back to my house. On the way we stopped at Cottrill’s Sidewalk of Sculptures. Even though we were fogging up the windows in the car because the temps were so low, the art drew us from the car for an episode of photo-taking.

Cottrills_Sidewalk

Our last evening together, we spent chatting and planning a collaborative project. It was so sweet to see my good friend and writing buddy as it brought back memories of slumber parties, cozy nights by a fire, childhood reading, a crafting convention we attended together, good food and fun while also drawing out poetry and ideas for future stories.

Next up for me will be the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop this spring. Many good things are happening as I continue this crazy journey. I can hardly believe it’s already January of 2016!

I wish you the ability to keep warm, to cozy up with a good book and to have a peaceful winter…