Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Madness From The Front Lines of NaNo

Writing 50,000 words in less than thirty days is pure madness on a good month when life is going like you want. Ah, but how often does life go like you want it? So far my total for the first five days is 20,459 words.

This is totally amazing to me considering what has been taken place here on the home front. First, I have my granddaughter with me. So, I’m mom to a lively toddler again, and she has a cold. Second, I volunteer at the local school every week. I read for three hours. Talk about exhausting. But I so love reading to the kids. Third, I have accepted book review assignments for three new books not counting my reviewing I do for a New York Publisher. But these new reviews were offered to me by publishers where I reviewed before. In other words they requested me. It is hard to say no when the books are so important and come from smaller literary presses that are sending important writing voices into the world. Plus, I am exposed to some of the finest writing in the country. One being Mary Jo Bang’s new book of poetry. You talking about beautiful.

So, what have I learned from the madness this year? I think I’ve learned the same thing I learn each year but need a reminder. I can do whatever means most to me. Writing and reading goes hand in hand. I learn tons about my own voice from both.

The word count of 20,459 is nothing to sneeze at. I’m almost to the halfway point. I think this is my best year ever if I don’t lose footing along the way. It is my goal to get a rough, rough draft of the whole novel.

Off to write and then a little walk.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day Two Of Nano

Well, I'm off to a decent start. I have written 12,306 words. Not to bad. I love allowing myself the time and space to write this many words. But as of now, I really don't have much more to say. ;) I'm saving it for tomorrow's word count.


Friday, September 18, 2009

So What's There To Say

I find it hard to write about life sometimes. How about you?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In The Space Of Five Minutes

In the space of five short minutes, one’s whole life can change. My friends, you think you this to your bone—I was sure I understood—but you don’t know. You can’t until you look the change in the eye.

On Wednesday August 26, 2009, around 5 pm, I opened my back door to make sure my daughter was playing next door. They small group played under the carport and I could hear my daughter laughing. All was well. I went to turn the TV channel, and then decided to put a DVD into he player. I chose the DVD and was placing it in the tray when I saw one of the little boys my daughter was playing with under the carport. He is four years old. I opened the door, not thinking too much about the visit.

“What do you need, Buddy?”

He smiled. “Ella is in trouble by the police.”

I laughed. Ella, a smart lively young girl, was not a child to be in trouble with anyone, especially the police. Becoming a police officer is on her long list of career possibilities.

“Tell her to come home.” I closed the door.

I went to the back door to make sure Ella was on her way. What I saw next is one of the two images that appear imprinted on my mind every time I close my eyes. A police officer was kneeling on one knee reaching to the ground. I knew. I knew. I knew. I screamed to my older daughter that I thought Ella had been hurt. I ran down the hill and realized I was screaming and sobbing. Then I saw the second image that floats into my mind just as I start to slip into a sleep. One of her sandals, with a strap broken, hanging to the side, torn, was turned on its side.

The police officer looked at me. “She came out of nowhere. I never saw her. I couldn't stop.”

From this point forward, I don’t have the courage, as of yet, to write about. I just can’t wrap my arms around the pictures that flicker in and out when I allow myself to be still. But in that moment that the police officer spoke to me, I became calm. I believe this calm came from God. I understood Ella had been hit by the police car. She was awake and not sure what had happen. I knelt beside the police officer and began to speak to my precious, panic-ridden child. I took her hand and began to speak in a calm voice. I talked through a throng of EMTs. I talked through an ambulance ride that seemed to last forever. I talked as needles were used. I talked as vital signs beeped and blinked on a screen. I talked through a battery of x-rays. I talked until the doctor came into the room with the best words I had ever heard. Only a mild concussion, badly bruised knee, and a deep cut under the eye. She could go home once the wound was closed.

I have been strangely silent, unable to speak of the personal hell I walked through. I couldn’t sleep and writing was a joke. I’ve always been able to write my way through problems.

My child was alive and healthy and I was overjoyed. Life was crystal clear. But at the same time I sunk head first in to the reality of the event. I have no control, none. This is a lesson I thought I had learned already.

Today I spoke to the investigating officer. I told him Ella was back to her normal fun-loving self. I ask him to tell the officer that struck Ella that we didn’t blame him and that we should all move forward and leave that day behind. But can I? At this point, I don’t think so. At this point, I think this experience has soaked into to who I am, transforming me once again.

When I hung up the phone, I was more at peace than I had been since this ordeal began. The images have not gone from my mind. Last night I began to cry to think I had to let go and send Ella back to school Monday. But all of this does not have the power that it held two days ago. Will it disappear? No. A close family member, who went through something similar, says the emotions can come back years later, but still we go on. We celebrate life and live it to its fullest.

And as you can see, I’ve been able to compose sentences again. God is good. Count your blessings today. In this way you honor our wonderful, dynamic little girl we call a miracle.

God Bless


Thursday, August 6, 2009

All I Wanted To Do Was Ride The School Bus

You know summer is almost over when you take your child for sneak a peek at school. This is where everyone is prepared for school on the first day. Mom and dad meet new teacher, see the room, and get their list of supplies. Well when I went to school--I know my kids are rolling their eyes right now--I walked to school on the first day and everyday, rain, sleet, and snow, by myself, armed with a class schedule that was surely wrong. My mother never--and I mean never--set foot into the school unless I was in deep trouble. I liked it that way.

I lived a quarter of a mile from the school. No big deal to walk, unless the walk was along the main bus route to school. Yes every bus delivering to my Jr. High came down this road to drop of their kids.

I started my walk by praying that I could make it to school without one bus passing me. Fat chance. When a bus passed, it was a blessing only to have a knock on the window or the flattened face of some stupid boy against the glass. The dreaded response was a friend opening a window and yelling.

"Hey, Ann, walk a little faster!"

At those times, I hated my mother for moving so close to the school. When I brought the problem up to her, she only looked at me and frowned.

"Most kids would be thankful they didn't have to ride those horrible buses."

In what universe?

Not one of my four girls wanted to ride the bus. They thought it was the worst curse put upon them.

I always said, "If you had to walk, you'd hate it. Believe me. I know. Most kids would love to ride the school bus."

They only rolled their eyes and wondered in what universe?

Some things never change!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Did We Do Before All The Safety Rules?

What in the world did we do before all the safety rules came along? I thinking of one in particular.

Don't eat raw cake batter!

Understand I can see all the reasons for this warning, and as a mother, I enforce it with no exceptions. But as my granny used to say: What you don't know most of the time won't hurt you. It is the word 'most' we stress about now. Once of my best memories from childhood is mixing cake batter in my granny's small kitchen with my younger brother. Granny gave us all the ingredients--no box mixes for us--and stood back.

"Whoever runs the mixer gets to lick the beaters." I called out first, grabbing the mixer.

"I get the bowl," yelled my brother. Of course everyone knows that the bowl has more left over batter, but there was something about running my tongue over the beater, savoring the buttery tasting concoction. My brother would have to use a civilized spoon and not drip it on anything. Me, I would stand over the big kitchen sink licking my fingers along with the batter.

In all my years of cake batter licking, I never became sick, neither did my brother. And to be honest, in all my years of licking, I never knew anyone who became sick from cake batter. Why is that? Were we just lucky or was it a different time when our food was handled more carefully? Nowadays it breaks my heart to tell my nine year old daughter she can't lick. I'm a good mom.

But hey, when she leaves the kitchen, I have been known to hold a beater to my mouth and lick until my heart's content.

Are you a cake batter licker? Isn't it funny where our joy springs?


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Camping In The Backyard

Who said you can't have a vacation at home? We, like most of the country, are feeling the money crunch, so our annual short camping trips have been curtailed for a while. Ah, but does that defeat us? Nope. We set up camp yesterday in our big spacious backyard, complete with decent size kiddie pool, spacious tent, and the fire bowl.

We swam most of the day, ate dinner, and invited the neighborhood kids to make smores over the fire. At one point I had seven kids running through our yard, catching fireflies in the dusk. At that moment, I realized it's not where we go on vacation that makes the trip fun. We were making huge memories right there in our own space. Around eleven we went to bed in our tent that has a roof of screen. The sky never looked so beautiful. I fell asleep watching the stars. What could be better?

The neighbors want to know when we're going to go camping again ;).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Speaker and Teacher

I have been invited to speak at Scribbers Writing Retreat and Conference in August of this year. See information below.

Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference 2009

Literacy is our purpose.

Fulfilling dreams is our goal.

1-800-996-2904 (Registration/Reservations)

@ Sea Palms Resort, St. Simons Island, Georgia

February 12-15, 2009 - History Fiction/Non-Fiction/Romance

Elizabeth Blahnik, Ernest Gilbert, Pam Mueller, Kathy Kerr, Maggie Toussaint, Dr. Jim Outlaw, Lee Carter, Millie Wilcox, Monica Simmons, Roger Pinckney

May 14-17, 2009 - How To…

Dickie Anderson (F), Ed Ginn, Harlan Hambright, Holly McClure, Cappy Rearick, Dr. Ervin Williams, Constance Daley, Bud Hearn, Mary Wagner, Dr.William Rawlings

August 13-16, 2009 - SciFi, Fantasy, Mystery, Inspirational- This World and Beyond

Linda Armstrong, Charlotte Babb, Maggie Carter-de Vries, Nina Munteanu, Tom Dent/Andy Lamon, Jaclyn Weldon-White, Dr. Thom Brucie, Ann Hite, Victor DiGenti, Jack McDevitt

November 12-15, 2009 - Novels, Short Stories, Etc.

Chris Rumble, Lois Ruby, Len d’Eon, Cornelia Bailey, Prof. Richard Krevolin, Julie Grimm, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Patricia Patterson, Prof. Tom Williams, Gary Ferguson

Scribblers’ Retreat is a non-profit organization established with the goal of reaching writers of all ages to inspire and promote their hidden gifts and talents.

By involving the local community, authors, publishers, editors, journalists and all forms of the literary world, we are opening their minds and bringing hope where there was doubt.

Scribblers’ Retreat is not the typical classroom setting. It was designed to bring world-class authors, literature professors, editors, journalists, and publishers one-on-one with those who are hungry for the power of the written word. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for someone who has had a manuscript in a desk drawer for 40 years or who has an outstanding poem that simply must be read.

Scribblers' Retreat Writers' Conference

“Where “can’t” is not in our vocabulary.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

City of Victory

City of Victory

Anita Saran’s short story, City of Victory, is one of the best crafted stories I’ve read in a long time. She has a knack of bringing the setting to the forefront without intrusion. To call this piece of work a short story is an understatement. I find it to be more of a novella.

The story is set in sixteenth century Vijayanagar, a city in India known as Hampi today. Jehaan is a gypsy girl, who is forced to be one of the maids of honor to the queen. This gives her great privilege: jewels, fine clothes, and good food. But Jehann is not satisfied to be part of this glittering procession. She is an Egyptian and wants to return home to her father and estranged lover. She longs for the fresh air and earth, not a stone floor palace.

Meherbanu escapes a horrible life when she approaches the king and suggests that she care for his zenana (his group of concubines and the queen). He says that he will put her in charge because of her boldness. She becomes the mentor and mother to the women. But what happens to a group of women protected by one man, the king? The author handles this complexity with beauty.

City Of Victory had its debut as a broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2004. So many of the images haunted me and remained in my mind long after I read the work. The photos that illustrate the book are as interesting as the characters. I’m delighted to say I found this ebook a wonderful experience.

To purchase:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pinching Myself

I found out last night, in a weird way, that my novel, Beautiful Wreck, was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. I explained it this way to my nine year old daughter: Making it to the semi finalist is like being one of the last six couples in Dancing With The Stars before I got voted to go home. There were originally 10,000 entries. As a semi-finalist I did receive a review from Publishers Weekly that was favorable but pointed out the reasons they didn't pick my novel as a finalist. I'm on cloud nine. Beautiful Wreck going this far in the contest gives me a better chance of attracting a publisher in these hard times.

Now here's the weird part: I was under the impression that Amazon would contact me through my email if I went any further than the first two thousand chose from the original ten thousand entries. I never got an email, so I figured the book was lost in the shuffle of so many fine pieces of work.

Yesterday I was searching for a link to one of my essays online and ran across a link to my first three chapters published by Amazon. Now, I knew that only quarter finalists had their first three chapters published on Amazon. So, I started freaking out because yes, quarter finalists was great. I went back to the original site where I submitted my novel for the contest. There were two messages on my page. One informing me that I had made it into the quarter finalist round. The other telling me my Publishers Weekly review was ready, and my novel had made it to the semi finalist before it went down.

Because I never knew until last night, a day after they announced the three finalists, I couldn't view this as anything but a huge success. There was no disappointment involved.

Writers have to search those moments in their earlier careers that help them shine. This is one of mine!

If you would like to read the first three chapters published by Amazon just click on the link and download the pdf.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Documentary Film Festival On DVD

I watched a haunting short film documentary today. It is called Album and was made by Barbara Bird. The film chronicles a family with old 8mm home movies 1943-1975. Family members narrate in the background. When I first began watching, the documentary seemed nice and sweet. As the movie progresses, little bits and pieces pull together. It is a moving story of a family that falls apart through drug abuse, mental illness, and adultery. The results are staggering.

One brother ends up in a long care facility until he dies alone one night in 2001. Another brother dies in a construction accident ten years after the family breaks up. The remaining three siblings carry with them a legacy of addictive personalities.

Barbara Bird came to filmmaking later in in life. She was a nurse for a number of years. Further proof that women have so much to give!

The Album is feature on a DVD call Full Frame (Documentary Film Festival).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Listening Is Part Of Writing

I just finished listening to a podcast on Writers On Writing hosted by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. This show was an interview with Elizabeth Strout. Her book Olive Kitteridge just won the Pulitzer for fiction. It is an amazing book of short stories. The voice rings so true. Let me tell you folks: you know Olive Kitteridge. I'm providing a link to Writers on Writing so you can download and listen to the podcast.

Scroll down the page and click on the download for Elizabeth Strout, or go to the I-tunes store and subscribe to Writers on Writing. Then you can listen to all the great interviews they do on this show. It is well worth the effort.

Also remember my ebook Life on Black Mountain is still avialable for a free download. I'm not sure how much longer it will be available. I'd love to hear what you think.

click on download the pdf file.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Losing Your Child At A Church Dinner or Please Help Me Things Are Becoming A Bit Much

You may ask yourself how can a mom lose a nine year old at a birthday dinner at the church? A party that is taking place in a fairly small room? Well, I did and now it's even funny to nine year old daughter, but let's face it: I traumatized my child.

The evening started off rushed. Husband comes home and we make a mad dash to reach the dinner on time. We arrive just as the last person is making herself a plate. At this moment, I realize we will eat my pasta dish for supper the following night. Oh well, my chin is up. I'm looking forward to eating a meal that someone else has prepared. Ah, there is a catch. We are the last people to go through the food line and yes, most of the good dishes have gone the way of other dinner plates. But there was that yummy pasta dish that was brought by the family who was late. Once again I am determined to make the best of the situation. At heart I'm a idealist and search for the best case scenarios. I rarely admit defeat. We sit down and have a lovely dinner with my brother and mother in-law. I didn't allow myself to wonder why they wouldn't have called dibs on some of the better dishes in our honor. I would have done this for them. No, I wouldn't let my mind entertain this idea at all. I ate my canned biscuits--all the homemade ones were gone--and pasta. Oh yeah, I did score a large salmon patty--that's southern for salmon croquettes, breaded in cornmeal and deep fried. It was a treat. Two bites into the our dinner, the preacher's wife announced that they would sing happy birthday to the preacher and cut the cake. Husband began to shove food in his mouth so as not to miss a piece of the birthday cake. Ah, but I knew we had no fears. Brother in-law had purchased the cake.

Now, what you have to realize about brother in-law is when he buys the cake, the whole state of Georgia can attend. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter my table is blessed with cakes of all sorts. At Halloween we received three dozen assorted cupcakes, a mummy cake--this is a cake that looks like a a mummy's face--and a ghost cake.

At the church dinner, there was two huge sheet cakes, one chocolate and one strawberry. My eye was on the strawberry. After dinner I decided to socialize with a few friends. Socializing for a writer is rare. I spend most of my time here creating important blog posts for my followers. No seriously, I can spend days without speaking more than ten words to an actual adult. I'm not talking about Husband. So I go to another table and begin a wonderful conversation with a friend from high school. We both like to read and love similar books.

In minutes I realized I haven't seen nine year old daughter. Husband walks by and I grab his arm. "Where's our child?"

He shrugs. "She's not with you?"

"Maybe you should find her." There are several reasons I gave him this task, but the main one is: it was his turn.

I continued my talk and minutes went by with me glancing around the room to see if my daughter had appeared. It was around this time began to hear a loud bump. BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP! No one else seemed to notice, so I decided it was a bad frig or a furnace turning on. The sound continued. Husband walked by.

"Did you find her?"

"No, did you?"

My heart began to beat like that of a mother who has not been at her post as she should. The annoying noise continued.

"Where is she?" I tried not to scream at him.

"I'll look outside."

I refrained from pointing out he should have done this the first time. The noise grew louder. No one seemed to notice. I felt like I was in a bad horror movie. The preacher's wife looked up and went to a closet, opened it, and looked inside. She shrugged to herself and went back to her seat. The noise began again. I walked back to the hall where the closet was located. There was the ladies bathroom. I whispered to the door. "Are you in there."

"Gosh Mom, it took you long enough! I've been in here forever. The lock is broken. I can't get out! Where were you? Couldn't you hear me beating on the wall?"

Friends, take this as a lesson. Don't become so accustom to blocking out loud noises that you don't hear a cry for help! Oh well, Daughter is fine, even if she's not so sure about her mother's rescue capabilities. But I'd be willing to bet this will be one of those stories she tells her own kids. And as for me, I need a vacation. Anyone out there know where I can get a cheap writing retreat. Free would be great.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Excitement In A Rejection

First as I write this email a dear friend should be undergoing a liver transplant. It has been a long wait and she never gave up. So keep her in your prayers.

Second, I received the best rejection today. I never thought I'd write that. A year and a half ago I sent a story to a rather large magazine, knowing or thinking I would never hear from them. It's one of those magazines that has a story in each New Stories From The South anthology. It is a tough magazine. This morning I received an email about the story from so long ago. First they told me how sorry they were that their response took so long. It seems my story went into the hands of every editor and was debated. They loved the voice and style of writing, but felt the story wasn't right for the magazine. Then--this is the good part--they went on to say that they were so 'impressed' with my writing that they wanted me to take this email as an encouragement to send them more stories soon. Whoa, this is a magazine I never thought I'd hear from. This is a magazine that publishes the likes of Louise Erdrich, Ellen Gilchrist, and Amy Bloom.

So, now I just have to decide what stories to send. Wish me luck.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Writing Underwater

Up until this point in my life, I've never experienced the dreaded 'B' word. You know the word that all writers hate. Block. I have never had it in my vocab list. Why? Because I've always had a wealth of ideas and had no trouble acting on them. But since October of last year, I've dead in the creative sense. It's only when this opressive weight lifts that one can see the weight you were under.

My block built a stone wall around me and everything that wanted to make art. What caused it? Well if I knew that, by gosh I'd be a rich woman. I could point fingers, but honestly, I can only say that a combination of overwork, underplay, and refusal live my life a different way brought on this malady.

I had the ideas by the dozen. I would sit down to write, sometimes I would even write pages, only to find that I hated everything about the idea. My characters had claimed up, no longer speaking to me. My inspirations for essays went dry like a drought ridden river. I moaned: Why, why me. Is my writing over. I knew this couldn't be because I thought about it all the time.

And then, I had a dream that I was pregnant with a neglected baby. Hm. When I gave birth in the dream, I was told if I nutured the child it would grow, but I couldn't continue doing things in the same way I had before. I had to approach life in a fresh new way. I woke that morning sure it was a sign that I should revive some old work of mine. Nope not at all.

I began to look at me work and my whole approach to life. What was different? Well, by gosh, everything! But mostly I was different. I had blocked myself inside a shell of what I thought writing was supposed to be and it had caught up with me.

The first thing I did was go to the library. I hadn't been since October when I taught the writing workshope. I was surrounded by the workers when they saw me. Where have you been? We missed you? This warmed me. Then I began to choose books and books. More books than I could ever read in my alloted time, but took them anyway. Ten books and two audio books.

As I was leaving, one of the workers said, "Good to see you with us again." That's when I realized I had been living underwater. And folks, writing doesn't work well underwater.

The following week a new character came out of the blue and began to speak to me. I'm on a roll again, but I'm careful, careful not to caught up in what I think should be and just allow what will happen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thoughts On The New Year

Here we go. A list. Oh Yes a list. Things I want to accomplish this year.

1. To finish the first draft of my novel in-progress.

2. To read twenty novels.

3. To read twenty nonfiction books.

4. To spend ten minutes in stillness each day.

5. To continue journal writing.

6. To give. I want to be a part of a group locally that makes giving a must.

7. To spend more one on one time with hubby.

9. To spend more time with my brother.

10. Learn to say no. (Boy that is a big one.)

I could go on with more, but honestly lists sometimes defeat me, so I will stop here. What do you have in mind to do this year?