Come on, Stretch Those Writerly Brains

I believe in stretching myself as a writer. You know, attempting things that are outside of my comfort zone, tackling things I said I’d never do because “that would be boring … or hard … or ‘not my thing’.”

So in addition to fiction, which I thought was my “thing” but is the “thing” I’ve had the least success with so far, I also host a blog themed around abstinence and renewed abstinence. I write feature articles for a local magazine based on interviews with business owners. I provide web content in the form of weekly blog posts and monthly newsletters for businesses via their account with a marketing firm. I rewrite the basic information for business websites. And on occasion I edit articles written by others.

I noted, repeatedly, that I had no interest in interviewing people like my friend Kayleen does. None at all. But I’ve met so many interesting folks and discovered several “hidden treasures” among the businesses I visited.

I moaned at the thought of researching and writing articles on subjects about which I had little to no interest. Blech… But I’ve learned so much along the way. Many things that will benefit me when I begin marketing my own fiction in what I hope is the not-too-far future.

And because this is National Poetry month, I have challenged myself to compose poetry—one of my very least favorite forms of writing–for you, our faithful Scriblerian followers.

In the past, again to expand my writing skills, I have written poems for special occasions. I once attempted to write a poem each week related to the Sunday School class I taught. “It will be good for me,” I reasoned. That lasted two weeks. Well, actually one and a half as I couldn’t make it through the second round.

So without further ado, I present my poem–

In Honor of Spring

tulips 2

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

But the tulips of spring,

How they make my heart sing.

The grass is so green,

And my, how it grows.

So cool and so soft

Against my bare little toes.

The warmth of the sun

Surrounds the fertile earth.

As the wonders of spring

Fill us each with such mirth.

A confession I must make

Although it pains me so.

Only the tallest part

Of the lawn did I mow.

The day had been long and

Twas already past seven.

My bones were so weary

To rest–that would be heaven.

I’ll finish the job

Before the grass is knee high.

I promise I will

About that I would not lie.

Should anyone be wondering, this is not my attempt to prepare for Chip MacGregor’s famous Bad Poetry Contest held each May.

I challenge you to write a hasty poem, spend fifteen minutes max on it, and share it in the comments. Are you up to the challenge?

When This Life Ends

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in my hometown as recent events have driven home in stark reality the brevity of life.

Despite a diagnosis of bone cancer and through the rigors of the treatment that followed, Mrs. B. continued to teach 7th grade Science. When chemotherapy left her weak and exhausted, she persevered—even when she needed crutches to navigate the middle grade hallways. Over time she improved, grew stronger. And then a sudden respiratory virus hit her hard and she was gone.  The students she’d poured herself into, who’d cheered her on through her battle with cancer were devastated.file3291233869663.jpg
His prognosis good, M the custodian was scheduled to return to work in
seven days, following recuperation from a successful surgery to remove a tumor. His kindhearted, always-ready-to-lend-a-helping-hand presence had been missed at the school. Students and co-workers alike eagerly awaited his return. But his recovery was halted, forever, when complications from a blood clot ended his life.

Just one week after Mrs. B.’s unexpected passing. Again, students and staff struggled to understand and cope with the death of a mentor, a friend.

Miss S. was fun and lively. A 16-year-old, unashamed, committed follower of Christ. As she and her family came to grips with the recent diagnosis of a complex, chronic illness, she remained steadfast in her faith. And then a case of influenza turned deadly, and her too-short life came to an abrupt close. Waves of shock and grief swept through the community, hitting especially hard and heavy on her teen-aged friends and co-workers.

A mere eleven days after Custodian M’s sudden sojourn into eternity, the community gasped at yet another life cut short unexpectedly.

While we claim to grasp the reality that death is just a heartbeat away for any of us, actually, deep down, we expect life to go on and on. To not be snuffed out too early, too soon, or when we’re least expecting it.

Which is always because we never really anticipate or want death to come calling.

Except when we do expect it. And even accept it. .

Via Facebook I am, in a very backseat way, journeying through the last days of a 26-year-old cystic fibrosis patient’s life. His mom and I have an online, we’re-both-cf-moms-and-both-writers kind of relationship. Although I’ve never met any of them, their situation has impacted me deeply.

Both he and his family know he’s “end stage”. They’ve tended to the details that accompany this process of dying. The answering of “advanced directive” questions. The pointed inquiries about funeral and burial wishes. The tedious but necessary banking details. They gathered the family for an unforgettable day of togetherness complete with sibling and entire family pics.

And now they wait.P1050051

So many things about this situation have me exclaiming, “Wow…”

This guy is one astoundingly brave, mature, faith-filled young man.

DH remains upbeat, injecting humor into these truly life-and-death moments, repeatedly insisting that his family not be sad as his life nears the end. He’s oh so ready to trade his disease-ridden body for a heavenly one that will never tire or be ill.

He’s anxious to go home.

This family is incredibly inspiring and courageous.

They are not shaking their fists, railing against the fact that their second born child and beloved sibling will soon depart. They’ve accepted that soon this bold young man’s physical presence will no longer fill their home.

They know that this “end” is not final.

Their faith in GOD is rock-solid, and they credit HIS power and presence for sustaining them through this monumental experience. Their hope in HIM and HIS promises are stalwart. They rejoice in the promise of heaven and of spending eternity together. They long for their son and brother to be whole and pain-free.

And so they wait for GOD to take him home.

When the reality that this earthly life is simply practice for the next life—the one without end—is fully grasped, there is a profound peace and comfort that mingles with and surrounds and soothes the deep pain of loss.

Rest in peace, Mrs. B…. M the custodian…Miss S. May GOD’s peace and comfort surround your family and friends as they adjust to life without your physical presence.

And DH, may GOD continue to hold you and your family in the palm of HIS hand as you journey toward your heavenly home.

“Title Talks” or How to Beg Your Writing Partners for Title Assistance!

I can’t thank my incredibly awesome fellow Scriblerians enough for their amazing assistance in helping me choose both a series and individual titles for my realistic contemporary YA series that, if plans continue to fall into place, will launch this summer.

Pieces of a Life storyboard

the “storyboard” for my YA series

I’m terrible at titles and had resorted to referring to the stories by the dreadfully generic “Book 1” and “Book 2” labels. At one point, I had a decently respectable title for book 1, but as the story evolved, the title no longer really fit. At least not in my mind.

And then the series title? That really stumped me. I wanted this all-important title to “fit” the series, to have the right sound to the ear as well as to sound YA enough to appeal to, you know, young adults.

Several of the Scriblerians know my story line and characters almost as well as I do. That’s why I knew I could count on them to pull me through this crisis. A lot of good ideas were tossed out and mulled over via an in-depth conversation on our private Facebook page and then further hashed over during a monthly video chat.

girl reading

Now it’s on to book cover decisions. Oh, my…

“Cover talks” with my Scribs took place briefly last year. Again, there ideas were great. Now that the title has changed, some of the ideas aren’t as fitting as they once were, still they fuel my thought process.

Apparently, a good “fit” for both title(s) and cover are my goals as that word keeps popping up. I have to admit reading a number of books over the years that I did not find “fitting” to the title. Does that happen to any of you? You finish a book, flip it closed, peer at the front cover and think or mutter, “I still don’t know where that title came from…”file000739253401

The same thing has happened concerning covers. I shake my head and murmur,  “What does that have to do with this story?”

I’ve never lost sleep over either a mis-fit title or book cover. But when it’s MY book title and MY book cover, I want it to fit and appeal to readers and create interest in the story and fit and encourage sales and be memorable and … fit.

So what advice can you, our faithful readers, give me on book titles and covers?

  • What do you look for in a title or cover?

  • What do you stay away from in a title or cover?

  • What was your all-time favorite title and cover package deal and why?

  • Can a title OR cover give away too much about the story? Why or why not?

 

“The Best Day EVER!”

Don’t you just love it when the simplicity of a child’s thinking jolts your world?

It happened to me yesterday when a friend shared the extraordinary spin her five-year-old son placed upon a rather ordinary Saturday.child

The young lad awoke proclaiming the day was going to be “my best day ever!” He continued to announce it throughout the day finding joy in even the most routine of chores. At breakfast he orchestrated the family’s conversation, beaming and announcing again it was to be his best day ever. This continued as he helped his dad around the house, held the family guinea pig while his mom cleaned the cage and even while shopping at Costco. While being tucked in that night he said, “Thanks, Mom, that was the best day ever!”

The next morning he awoke and while snuggling with his mom on the couch, proclaimed, “This is going to be the best day ever!”

“What? I thought yesterday was the best day ever,” she responded.

“Yes, Mom, every day is the best day ever because I’m a kid and Kids’ Day is every day!” Smiling wide he continued, “Yep, it’s gonna be the best day ever until my brother and I are adults!”

Mom reflected on her sons optimism. As adults, wouldn’t it be nice to wake up each morning believing each day was going to be our best day ever?

Yes, my friend, it would be nice. No, actually, it would be amazing if we faced each and every day with such a positive approach.

I admit I often do not meet the challenges of each day with such a glowing attitude. My day can be progressing just fine and dandy and then wham! A phone call brings discouraging news. The mailman delivers unexpected turmoil. A sudden remembrance threatens peace of mind. A relationship clash saps enthusiasm.

I’m not talking about “death in the family” phone calls or “your home is being foreclosed on” notices. That type of news is truly devastating.

It’s the more mundane things that we allow to rob us of joy that this youngster’s chipper attitude spoke to, at least for me. You know, the annoyances, the frustrations, the he/she “gets on my last nerve” situations. The waiting for circumstances to fall into place. The needing-to-make-a-decision-but-can’t-quite-decide-what-to-do scenarios. The stuff of day-to-day living on this earth.

In a moment’s time, any number of things can threaten to ruin what only moments before had been a great day. Worry and anxiety and unrest reign where only minutes ago, everything was fine. And suddenly I want nothing more than to crawl under the covers and escape.have a great day

I think I’ll post a “this is the best day ever!” prompt on my refrigerator… and on the bathroom mirrors… and on the dash of my minivan… and on the computer screen. As a reminder not to let the minor bumps in the road steal the joy from my day. Even the instead-of-a-refund-we-owe-$600-in-taxes revelation does not have to ruin an entire day.

Thanks for the inspiring lesson, my five-year-old friend.

 

 

 

 

Odd, random musings for January 12, 2016

January 12As one-third of this the first month in 2016 has expired, I find myself suffering from a worsening case of the January doldrums. I usually sink deep into the relative calm that follows the holidays with a sigh of relief. But soon the lack of a thousand things on my to-do list lapses into an uncomfortable and awkward state of the blahhhhs.

All of my best intentions for accomplishing important tasks in the slower-paced days after Christmas got up and went somewhere far away. I bet it’s warm there.

Winter has finally arrived in my corner of the world in all of its brilliant beauty and force. Bone-chilling cold, ice, snow… the usual stuff for January. It’s pretty but cold. And the cold and I have a less amicable relationship each year.

clinton-community-garden-new-york-city-winter-january-2014-wet-snowOne of the tasks awaiting my attention is my email inbox that is in drastic need of major purging. I’m shamefully embarrassed about the number of messages in my email inbox. There are… umm…no, no, I can’t even type the numbers representing the sum of messages languishing innocently there. Fear of deleting something important, possibly even life-altering keeps me from deleting the whole mess with a one click.

So beginning tomorrow—or the day after that, end of the week for sure—I will spend five to ten minutes, two to three times throughout the day deleting messages that I no longer need. It will be so freeing to not cringe—or shield my eyes—from the growing number of messages. And THIS year, I do solemnly swear to keep a tighter rein on my inbox. file1711288976835

I made a small dent in the January blahhhhhs today.

I’m counting on a punching a bigger hole in these doldrums tomorrow.

There’s a whole lot of important, relevant  things I plan to tackle this year.

But tonight I may just sit by the fire and indulge in one more evening of non-productivity.

What about you? How is 2016 shaping up? What are you hoping to accomplish?