Friday, July 25, 2014

9 Links: This Week's Super Finds

discovery: woodland flower 2014
"A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind." --Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

The summer marches on and with it comes some pretty helpful information and a few laughs. Thought I'd share some of the latest discoveries I've stumbled across in the hopes that they benefit you as much as they have me.

1. Need help in managing your writing time? Check out How to Keep Your Writing in Your Over-the-Top Busy Life: Helpful Techniques from the Experts, by Mary Carroll Moore at How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book.

2. Along the same lines, did you ever wonder how Jerry Seinfeld motivates himself to be a productive writer (his specialty of course is jokes, but his technique could apply to any field)? Can you say calendar? You'll find Jerry's Productivity Secret at Life Hacker.

3. Stumped for ideas? Melissa Donovan shares thoughts on Questions, Curiosity, and Writing Ideas at Writing Forward.

4. When you are struck with that fantastic idea that lights up your life but you don't know how to go about developing it, why not start with an outline? 7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story, by K.M. Weiland at Writer's might be just what you need.

5. Along the same lines, Alan Gratz reinforces the idea on the Highlights Foundation blog with Why You Should Be Outlining .

6. While you're writing that next best-seller, you might begin thinking about your author bio. Do you have one yet? Ann Allen at gives great tips with her post How to Write an Author Bio When You Don't Feel Like an Author...Yet.

7. Next to finishing the next great work and dashing off the best author bio imaginable, you might want some insight into industry news for the writer. If so you don't want to miss Elizabeth Spann Craig's Resources for Writers--Industry News.

8. Want a quick review of history--in 17 syllables and 140 characters? Featured on we have a unique approach: History in Haiku, by historian H. W. Brands.

9. And finally, on a frivolous note but evidence of the power of social media? A lost sock was found at the Oklahoma City Airport and the word is out. Sound trivial? Why does it matter? Well, you see it was found by an avid knitter who recognized its value, a hand-knitted sock made with love and quality wool. Who was the knitter? Where was the sock's match? And could they be lovingly reunited? The plea has gone out on every social media site from the US to Canada to Europe (according to Andrea Vlahakis, here). Check out the whole story at Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's The Knit Signal. And be sure to read the resulting comment thread, especially the part about the banana. If you're like me, you'll get your laugh for the day over that one!

Ah, only on this thing called the internet. Entertainment abounds.

Any great web-surfing discoveries you've came across lately? And what about you, are you missing a sock?

Happy weekend, all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Things Change

"Grandma! I backspaced but it didn't erase!" --Angelica, 6 years old

Pulled out the old Royal manual typewriter the other day for the kids to play on. Remember when that's all we had to type our manuscripts on? Or are you too young to remember, too?

How things change! And, when it comes to typewriters vs. computers, it's a good thing for a writer, that's for sure.

Just thought I'd share. Hope you're having a great summer. What changes have you seen as a writer that you celebrate?

p.s. if you could peek at that piece of typewriter paper she's working on you'd see: my desk, magazines, hair salon (it's a game we play), Kristoff, Sven, Anna, Elsa...any idea what her favorite movie is?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

28 Things to Do in the Meantime

evening sky, July 2014

"Meantime is middle time. It is an intervening or intermediate period. We associate meantime with a pause, a hiatus, an interlude, a recess from strictly specified action." --Elizabeth Harper Neeld, A Sacred Primer

July is meantime month. With all the summer activities, family time, the great outdoors--where does writing fit in? Sometimes it doesn't! But that's okay. For, in the meantime...

So far in our neck of the woods, July's meantime for us has meant the Ft. Thomas, KY, Fourth of July 5K Firecracker Race/Walk. Hubby ran; I walked. He placed 2nd for males in his age group; I placed 3rd for females in mine. But don't give us too much credit--there were only six people in his age group, seven in mine! The highlight of the day was when our six-year old granddaughter, who was helping at the water station, handed cups of refreshing water to, among others, her grandpa and grandma. (btw, Ft. Thomas has lots of history, especially Civil War era. It's also home to the Blue Marble, a darling children's bookstore that has even replicated the great green room of Margaret Wise Brown's classic, Goodnight Moon. Want to experience a delightful youtube reading of the book? You'll find it here.)

July to this point has also meant a family road trip one state over to a quaint little pre-Civil War canal town, Metamora, Indiana. There we experienced a train ride, canal lore, antique stores, and a number of farm animals in the fields of a nearby farm. We also stopped in a used-book store where I found a treasure: Hospital Sketches, An Army Nurse's True Account of her Experiences during the Civil War, by Louisa May Alcott. This particular volume is a 1993 reprint of work originally published in 1863. I have a number of books on my shelf pertaining to the Civil War, but not one like this. I'm looking forward to a great read.

Ahead, July also means birthday celebrations, movie nights, family needs, and simple stop-and-take-stock moments. After all, we're right smack in the middle of the year. Half the days behind us, half ahead.  What goals have we made progress on? What might we re-evaluate? Maybe our writing has by necessity slowed down. Maybe the itch is there but not the time. Maybe...well, maybe we should just say in the meantime.

"In the meantime" (phrase): during the intervening time; until a later time."

What are some things we can do "in the meantime"? Consider the following 28 possibilities:

1. anticipate
2. abbreviate
3. accomodate
4. aerate

How about:
5. allocate
6. annotate
7. appreciate
8. approximate

9. calculate
10. celebrate
11. contemplate
12. cooperate

Don't forget:
13. decorate
14. delegate
15. deliberate
16. demonstrate

We could say more:
17. generate
18. illuminate
19. incubate
20. initiate

21. liberate
22. lubricate
23. marinate
24. meditate

25. percolate
26. punctuate
27. recreate
28. resuscitate!

But please don't exaggerate, frustrate, hesitate, infuriate, procrastinate, vacillate, or vegetate!

(see what a good rhyming dictionary can do for you?)

I dabbled in some wordplay in my meantime. What are some things you do in yours?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Off on Another Tangent

summer raindrops 2014

"Today's tangents will become tomorrow's arcs, and unforeseen connections will tie up your loose ends in a way that will make you want to slap your head and holler at your accidental brilliance." --Chris Baty

I started out on a morning walk recently under cloudy skies without a thought that it might really start raining. Before long, it started sprinkling. A light drizzle followed. Should I turn around for home? Hubby soon came along--a knight in shining armor not on a trusty steed but in the car--and offered to rescue me. But by then I had discovered something: I was enjoying walking in the rain! I turned down his offer and carried on (after all, it wasn't lightning or anything).

Well, of course I came home a bit wet, but for some reason I also returned with scenes from the classic movie My Fair Lady playing around in my head, especially the opening clip in which a sudden downpour brings together a wide variety of people and dialects: the theater-going crowd, 
the linguistic/phonetic expert Henry Higgins, and a lowly flower girl with a distinctive accent, Eliza Doolittle. Why do such things come to mind at unexplained times? I haven't seen that movie (based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion and filmed in 1964) for, um...50 years!

One thing led to another. First I found myself googling My Fair Lady to refresh my memory of the story. That led to a youtube link of the movie's opening which in turn led to an article on phonetics and dialects, things that played a big part in the story. From there I visited a Pinterest board that features Audrey Hepburn, the actress who played the fiesty and endearing Eliza. And THAT led me to learning more about the lovely Ms. Hepburn who exuded style, class, grace and warmth. In later life she dedicated herself to raising awareness about children in need as ambassador to Unicef. "People," she is quoted as saying, "even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone." She also said, "Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible!'" Just look at Eliza as an example of that.

Can you say tangent [tangent (idiom): "digressing suddenly from one course of action or thought and turning to another"]? I certainly went off on a number of those in this case. Was there any value in the scurrying down such a rabbit hole? Can I glean any arcs, pull together any unforeseen connections, tie up any loose ends from it all? Will I marvel at my accidental brilliance?

Maybe not. But I did enjoy my walk in the rain :-)

Any tangents you've gone off on lately? What movie classic would you choose to watch again?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Writers' Notebooks and Maple Syrup

photo courtesy
"It takes forty gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Maple sap is mostly water. To make syrup you've got to boil off that water. Much of your writer's notebook is like that watery sap. You have to boil off lots of water in order to make the syrup of your writing dark, thick, and sweet." --Donald Murray

Following this analogy, does it take forty notebooks to distill down to one successful book? Oh, my, I hope not. I'm certainly on my way, but no where close to that! Let's see. A notebook for my WIP, one for character sketches, those for ideas to develop, descriptions, fun word combinations, poetry, inspirational thoughts, tidbits I don't want to lose track of but don't know what to do with, various journals. Some I work out of regularly, others I haven't made an entry in for a long time.

Question of the week: do you keep a writer's notebook? What does it look like? Do you maintain more than one? Do you have one that's sticky with maple syrup?

Want to see what others say about the writer's notebook? You might check out:
Writer's Notebook, on Pinterest
Keeping a Writer's Notebook
Never Be Blocked

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Symbolism and the Scottish Thistle

on walk, June 2014
"All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower 
wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind." --Abraham Lincoln

And I thought it was just another weed...

My walk the other day was just what I needed. Warm, but not too warm. Light breezes... jays...

...sunshine on pastures...

But it was the regal crown of a flower atop a spiky thistle stem that caught my eye.

As is often the case, something of interest sends me off on a journey of discovery (hmmmm, shouldn't I be writing?) and I wanted to see what I could learn about this plant.

Turns out "regal" is an apt choice of words. Many might already know this, but the thistle is the national flower and symbol of the country of Scotland. The Order of the Thistle is Scotland's highest chivalric order ["chivalric" (adj): pertaining to chivalry; "chivalry" (n): the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, justice and a readiness to help the weak" from]. Prince William as well the Queen of England and Prince Philip are knights in the order. The thistle appears on silver coins and other numerous objects including jewelry, soaps, and tea-towels.

Legend has it that the thistle was named the symbol of Scotland way back in the mid-13th century when soldiers from Norway tried to spring a surprise invasion on the people of Scotland. According to lore, the Norsemen came ashore at night, shed their boots, and advanced barefoot so the noise of their movement would not be detected. The plan backfired when those bare feet came down on the Scottish thistle--and they howled in pain waking the sleeping Scots who then subdued them. Whether or not the story is true, the symbolism of the thistle (ahem, sorry for the pun) took root and is honored to this day. 

Other facts about the thistle include that it is a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to complete its life cycle. It reseeds easily. It's a combination of beauty and ruggedness. It has a spreading, invasive root system, hence its classification as weed.

It also attracts the cheery goldfinch and fritillary butterflies. Oh, and was a favorite food of Eeyore in A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner--although Tigger found out it was his least favorite!

I'm feeling an affinity to the thistle. Maybe because my great-great-(how many greats back?) grandfather, John Young (1764-1854) came from Path Head, Scotland. And because I think it's a fitting symbol for a writer. After all, it's beautiful but tough, stubborn yet resilient. It flourishes despite all obstacles in the way. Its seeds (words?) sustain others.

Yep, I have more respect for the thistle. I might even adopt it as my signature writing flower. 

If you were to choose a plant that represents writing to you, what might it be? I'd love to hear your choices.

(and for a real treat) Explore Thistles on Pinterest

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Words of Wisdom from Laura

photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons
"To laugh and forget is one of the saving graces." --Laura Ingalls Wilder

A Collection of Laura's essays...
I rediscovered a gem of a book on my shelf: Little House in the Ozarks, A Laura Ingalls Wilder Sampler, Rediscovered Writings (edited by Stephen W. Hines). From the flyleaf: "Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) began writing, at age 65, a series of eight children's books about her life in the pioneer west--the Little House books--which we all know and love. Yet, twenty years before she even started these books, Wilder wrote articles for regional newspapers and magazines. Little House in the Ozarks is a collection of these articles..."

Rocky Ridge Farm
I'm not sure exactly where I stumbled upon this book, but most probably I bought it on one of two very special trips--either the time we visited Laura's Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri in 2001, or the Laura Ingalls Wilder home in DeSmet, South Dakota, which we toured in 2003. Both memorable events.

A sample of essay titles in the book reveals a wide range of topics that interested Laura, including:

When is a Settler an Old Settler
How to Furnish a Home
We Revel in Water!
The Great Woods Have Been Destroyed
I Don't Know What the World is Coming To
Are Your Children Confident?
Fairies Still Appear to Those with Seeing Eyes
Life is an Adventure
What Became of the Time We Saved?
Daily Tasks Are Not Small Things
What Women Can Add to Politics
The War, the Terrible
Pies and Poetry
Laura and Mary Quarrel at Thanksgiving
The Things that Matter

The one essay, however, that made me chuckle is titled: If Only We Understood, December 1917. An excerpt:

"Mrs Brown was queer. The neighbors all thought so and, what was worse, they said so.

"Mrs Fuller happened in several times, quite early in the morning, and although the work was not done up, Mrs. Brown was sitting leisurely in her room or else she would be writing at her desk. Then Mrs. Powers went through the house one afternoon, and the dishes were stacked back unwashed, the bed still airing, and everything at 'sixes and sevens,' except the room where Mrs. Brown seemed to be idling away her time. Mrs. Powers said Mrs. Brown was 'just plain lazy,' and she didn't care who heard her say it.

"Ida Brown added interesting information when she told her schoolmates, after school, that she must hurry home and do  up the work. It was a shame, the neighbors said, that Mrs. Brown should idle away her time all day and leave the work for Ida to do after school.

"Later it was learned that Mrs. Brown had been writing for the papers to earn money to buy Ida's new winter outfit. Ida had been glad to help by doing the work after school so that her mother might have the day for study and writing, but they had not thought it necessary to explain to the neighbors..."

In this essay, Laura went on to make the point that 'the things that people do would look different to us if we only understood the reasons for their actions," and that we should be understanding. "A genial attitude toward the world and the people in it," she says, "is a better way."

Point well taken, but I can't get past the fact that almost 100 years ago writers were a curiosity to some. What, your house isn't orderly? What, you just sit idly and appear to be doing nothing?

Is there anything new under the sun??

Just thought I'd share a different side of Laura. She was one very interesting lady with a lot to say!