Saturday, July 23, 2016

What's In Your Picnic Basket?

photo courtesy google images
"For a slightly different approach, or for a Victorian picnic, you might refer to Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, in which she lists 'Things not to be forgotten at a picnic.' Our idea of essentials is somewhat different from Mrs. Beeton's in 1859..." --DeeDee Stovel, Picnics with 29 Seasonal Menus (Story Books 2001)

When perusing Ms. Stovel's cookbook recently--one of many cookbooks on my shelf that have in the past few years only gathered dust (!)--I came across this gem of the past. Ms. Stovel continues to quote old-time Mrs. Beeton:

"A stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint-sauce well corked, a bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper, salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers, wine-glasses, knives, forks, and spoons must not be forgotten; as also teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this last-named article cannot be obtained in the neighborhood. Take 3 corkscrews."

Ah, glimpses of life in the past. Interesting selection, wouldn't you say? A stick of horseradish? Mint-sauce? Where are the strawberries and watermelon? The potato salad and baked beans? Maybe some chocolate chip cookies?

All on paper plates of course.

So this glimpse into the past begs the question: what's in your picnic basket? How many teapots do you pack? And how many corkscrews?

Hope you're enjoying the summer. It sure is flying by fast!
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Monday, July 18, 2016

Voices of Our Pasts That Show Up in Stories

photo courtesy of Firefly Experience
"If you don't know what voice is, it's tough to define, but here's my definition: 'A writer with voice has the ability to illuminate the ordinary.'"--Kim T. Griswell, Boyds Mills Press Senior Editor

I've been thinking lately of summer nights--those nights as a child when we visited my uncle's place and played with cousins in the darkened backyard. There were the lightning bugs we raced to collect in mason jars, the games of hide-and-seek behind trees at the edge of the woods. "Ollie-ollie-in-free. Come out, come out where ever you are!"

Besides my cousins, I see grandparents and parents chatting away the evening in lawn chairs. I see the home I grew up in and how it eventually expanded from a four-room cottage to a four-bedroom sprawl. I see brothers when they were little, my sister and the room we shared.

History of Reynoldsburg
Some of this comes back as I go through a treasure that was just recently passed down to me--History of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, a compiled history of the town in which I grew up, written by a home-town gal Cornelia Parkinson. The book was originally a gift for my dad who had a stake in the history of the town based on his work with the school district. And now, with the responsibility of sorting through our parents' things falling upon my brother, he has passed it on to me.

And my, what treasures I find between its pages. For example, I didn't know that in the late 1800s (certainly way before my time!), a prestigious horse breeding farm existed just two backyards away from mine. And then there's a picture of a young and beautiful Miss Berry, my first grade teacher in 1955, when she was a beginning teacher in 1939! There are also previously unknown facts about the first Civic Club, formed in 1922, that not only established the first kindergarten in town but also the local library--both institutions I benefited from some thirty-plus years later. Club members even furnished the first teachers' lounge. Many years later, my junior high home economics class helped redecorate the teachers' lounge of its era.

Oh, so many memories, so many faces that march by in the mind. Long-forgotten voices speak.

Newbery Award winner Lois Lowry once said, "I wanted to say something about listening because...each of us has our own voice, and it is not only our own voice but it is made up of all the voices we've heard and been influenced by all our lives. For most of us these will be family voices or people to whom we are, or were once, married. I can hear these other voices in all my books.

"They're not consciously put in by me, but they come forward in various ways. I can hear the voice of my grandmother. Just sitting over there, a few minutes ago, I suddenly thought of her and the place in one of my books where she appears. And the voice of my older sister: a voice, long, long still from a premature death, that has become part of my own voice.

"The absence of my father has become part of my voice. He was a real Army officer who spent years of World War II in the Pacific. I find that that I have wonderful fathers in my books, and I think that's because my own wonderful father was a long time coming back to me. All of those things combine in your subconscious and are part of the voice that will emerge from you."

And so a book highlighting my hometown is helping me listen for voices that might whisper to me as I write my books. Home. Family. Faces. Memories. The life of a writer, although often spent alone in thoughts and words, is never lonely, is it? The voices of our past keep us company and revisit us in our stories.

I'm enjoying the process. Are you? What voices of your past have influenced your writing? Do they come to you easily, or do you have to sit quietly and listen for them?
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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Scattering Summer Smiles

June 2016
What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. these are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable." --Joseph Addison

It's the smiles on the faces that stand out to me after a busy month of June...

Our church hosted first a festival then a children's week-long day camp. There were rides, game booths, hamburgers and hotdogs, live bands, and a guy on stilts at the festival. Games and dance, songs and crafts, creative ways to share stories and lessons filled the camp. But overall, what impressions lingered? The memories of beautiful faces and big smiles.

Antonia, Ne'veah, Adam, and Anthony. Erin, Luke, Elana, and Michael. Nicholas, Andy, Gia, and Lily. Beaming faces of those I know and of those whose names now escape me. Fifty kids at last count, including a couple of grandkids--and their new-found friends. The welcoming, the inclusion, the team work, the enthusiasm--all stand out. A microcosm of what we'd like the world to be.

Can we build on this in families, friendships, community? In stories we write, in our books? Not ignoring or sweeping away the realities of the harshness of life, of course, but offering hope and a sense of caring? Can it all start with something so simple as a smile?

It seems like it's possible, especially when you read the evidence. Some examples:

The Day I Learned the Value of a Smile, by Maya Angelou.

Have We Forgotten the Value of the Smile?, Lynn Morrison

Researchers Measure the Value of a Smile, provided by Bangor University

The Value of a Smile, GetMotivated.

What has been your experiences with smiles? Does a smile--yours offered or one received--make a difference? What stands out to you in your summer so far?

Cheers to all. Here's to going forward on our writing goals as the summer marches on--hopefully with a smile.

But I think perhaps without the stilts?
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On Rainbows and Inspiration to Get the Job Done


May 10, 2016
"I really love writing, but I am very easily distracted: my two cats fighting, a rainbow, a TV show...
I have to use every trick to keep myself at the computer." --K.A. Applegate, author of the 2013 Newbery Award-winning The One and Only Ivan

Awesome. That's all I can say: awesome. While we rarely see one rainbow, in this past month of May we saw two. (Well, technically three since the first was a double). Awesome is often an overused word, but the images took the breath away both times. Where's the camera?!
May29, 2016
Like Ms. Applegate in the above quote, I may be easily distracted when I'm supposed to be writing. I may not always focus where I should focus. But I believe I'll always be in awe of rainbows. Super inspirational in my opinion...

Speaking of inspiration, here are a few links to articles, along with tips, that can help us stay focused on our writing (and stay at that computer!). I know they've helped me get back on track since the recently fantastic--but intensive--April A-Z Challenge 2016:

From 7 Tips to Write More with Less Will Power, by Joe Bunting: Make a plan.

From Write That First Draft, Six Ways to Generate Material for Your Book, by Lisa Tener: Make a schedule--an appointment--with yourself (and keep it!).

Recovering the Joy in Writing, Barbara O'Neal: Rekindle the wonder (think rainbows here).

Barbara Kingsolver: How I Write, by Noah Charney: Stay eager.

Can you identify with Ms. Kingsolver when she says (from above article): "My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it's because my head is too full of words, and I just need to get to my desk and start dumping them into a file. I always wake with sentences pouring into my head...It's a funny thing: people often ask how I discipline myself to write. I can't begin to understand the question. For me, the discipline is turning off the computer and leaving my desk to do something else."

Or do you see yourself in this quote from Psychology Today's article, Procrastination: Ten Things to Know, by Hara Estroff Marano: "Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don't take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure."

Or, continuing from same article: "Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, 'I'll feel more like doing this tomorrow.' Or 'I work best under pressure.' But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure...Another big lie procrastinators indulge in is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources."

What's the better choice: distractions and procrastination, or finding ways to stay at the computer? I have one more example of inspiration: my friend, Peggy Harkins, author of children's and YA fantasy. Peggy and I met a number of years ago at an SCBWI regional conference. She emailed me last week to share in her rainbow: all of her hard work has paid off and she now officially has an agent! I'm celebrating with her--and hope you do, too. It's been a long road to this point but, along with finding her own set of tips to stay at the computer, she has another strength: perseverance. Congratulations, Peggy! (Peggy doesn't have a blog at this time, but we expect to hear more about her in the future :-)

What tips can you share in the fight against distractions? Do you struggle with procrastination on your writing journey?
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Friday, May 13, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016, Reflections

A to Z Challenge 2016
I dragged my feet as is often the case with a new project. First there was some enthusiasm, a warming to the idea, a quickening that said, "why not give it a try?" But then the doubts crept in.

"I don't have anything to say." "What if I start and can't finish?" "Wow, what a commitment. When was the last time I produced that much writing in a month?"

"Tell me again, why am I doing this?"

Yet the day came when the pull to do grew stronger than the push to not. And so I signed up.

I'm talking about the A to Z Challenge 2016, 26 posts in April corresponding with the 26 letters of the alphabet. My subject of choice: haiku, posted from the viewpoint of a new student. My overall impression after the fact? It was a really good experience, well worth the time and effort.

The A to Z Team who sponsored the challenge has encouraged those of us who completed the challenge to write a reflections post about the experience. Many participants have already done so (see list of links here). So, a few of my thoughts:

Why did I sign up?
...to challenge myself, first of all, to write. No excuses.
...to see if I could actually make a deadline. No pressure there, ha!
...to apply myself to learning more about my subject, and to share what I was learning.
...to interact with others and learn from them on their subjects along the way.

What did I discover?
...time management is key. (Duh!)
...obstacles will present themselves--but so will surprises and unexpected words.
...there's a huge supportive community out there--both new friends and long-time close friends.
...more people signed up for this challenge than I could ever meet.

Jane Reichhold in her article Haiku Rules That Have Come and Gone, Take Your Pick shares a list of 65 "rules" for haiku, many of which are contradictory. While the article was in itself educational on the subject of haiku, it also presented what I think is a good take-away for the A-Z Challenge. "You've heard Robert Frost's saying that poetry without rules is like a tennis match without a net and it is true also for haiku..." Ms. Reichhold writes. "As soon as you get proficient (you will notice your haiku all sound alike), it's time to raise the tennis net by picking a new rule or so..."

Well, it might be said that the A to Z Challenge 2016 was my tennis net. It raised the writing bar a little higher--and certainly made me work a little harder. Yet rewards abounded, including learning, stretching, celebrating small accomplishments, and 'shaking hands' with others along the way. And so, to round out the challenge, a final haiku reflection:

when words begin to 
sound the same take up challenge...
raise the net higher :-)
--Kenda Turner
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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Haiku A to Z: Z is for Zoom In


photo google images
"...look out your window and describe what you see. Try to 'zoom in' on a small detail that contains the feeling of the larger scene." --How to Write a Haiku Poem: Haiku Examples and Tips

Zoom in. This pretty much sums up what haiku has come to mean to me as this Haiku A-Z Challenge comes to a close. Of course, in the language of haiku, the zooming technique is only one of many (as noted with Ms. Reichhold's article, quoted in my T is for Technique post) but for me the idea of zooming in has come to simply mean awareness. Awareness in the moment. Seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling. Experiencing. Connecting. Appreciating. Living.

Zoning in, not zoning out. With a little zest here, a little zip there.

Interestingly, we've come full circle in the challenge: A is for Ancient (day one)...Z is for Zoom In and A is for Awareness.

I've sure had fun on this project, and I've learned zillions of things. I give a shout out to all those who ventured by and especially to those who added to the conversation. I've learned from you, too.

So, before I go (with the intent to catch up on extra zzzzz's as a reward for making it all the way to the end), I share one more haiku, day twenty six:

a to z challenge...
mister bluebird, come on in
zip-a-dee-doo-dah!
--Kenda Turner
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Friday, April 29, 2016

Haiku A to Z: Y is for You

archive 2012
"Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!"--Dr. Seuss

Haiku is a lot of things: sensory, evocative, a moment, an image, a feeling, a mood. But at the end of the day it all really comes down to you. What resonates with you. What meaning is in it for you. What joy and/or fulfillment do you receive from it. What do you have to offer a reader.

You. Haiku will expand the world you live in. 

At the beginning of the A-Z Challenge, the day of the reveal, I wrote: "Haiku for me is a writer's prompt, a word-lover's playground, and an invitation to see things in a new light...I'm a student, still learning and experimenting, so the subject continues to take me on a path of discovery." After almost twenty-six days (one more to go!) I still feel this way. I also have found that haiku is a gift, helping to open my eyes and heart to more around me.

Hopefully it will do the same for you. Maybe you'll say yes and give it a try, too?

Still uncovering the gift with day twenty-five haiku:

yesterday's barn sighs
as bumblebee rides echoes...
flower seeds snatch dream
--Kenda Turner
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