Friday, September 19, 2014

Spider Web Whili-gigs


spider web whirli-gigs along the highway 2014
"On occasion grassy fields are filled with banded garden spider webs. Scores of dew-covered webs create a spectacular sight at dawn on a misty morning." --Common Spiders of Ohio Field Guide

Forgive me for the poor quality of the above photo. And forgive me for doing yet another post on spiders (first one, here), but I can't resist sharing.

First, the photo. What you see is a picture taken from the open window of a speeding car, us going down the interstate at 70 mph. I almost lost a helium-balloon out that same-said window when I rolled down that window in an attempt to record what we were seeing.

And what we saw was truly spectacular. We were traveling north, hubby and I, on I-71 from Cincinnati to Columbus to celebrate my mom's 91st birthday. (I shared about her 90th here last year.) The day started out foggy, especially near the bridge crossing the Little Miami River. At times the sun broke forth, other times we hit more patches of fog.

At what mile marker did we first notice them? Not sure, but the sight caught the attention of both of us at about the same time. All along the roadside, and I mean everywhere--in the grasses, on the fences, in the gullies and on the rises--were what I could only describe as (for lack of a better description) feathery whirli-gigs. Delicate, filmy, ethereal, silver, glistening whirligigs. Fairyland.

"What are those??" we said, not knowing yet what would eventually dawn on us.

On and on the phenomena stretched. Mile after mile. Multiples and multiples of filmy designs. Thousands of them dotting and wavering everywhere. Could we count them? Impossible.

And then it hit us. We were looking at spider webs. For nearly a hundred miles, one after another after another. Can you imagine?

Lucky for me I had the camera. I rolled down the window (that's when we almost lost the balloon, but hubby saved the day, driving with one hand and grabbing the balloon with the other), and started snapping away. Sorry, not much to show for it, but maybe you get the idea.

Later we stopped at a roadside rest. Picture two (ahem) not-so-young people dressed for a birthday party traipsing across the grounds of a highway rest stop headed to a fence row that bordered a field of overgrown weeds and dry corn stalks. Hubby puts up with a lot when I carry a camera! Traffic whizzed by, a groundskeeper trimmed, birds squawked. But who cared? We were on a mission. Here's an up-close shot of one web.


And here's a glimpse of the spider herself. Isn't she beautiful? I later learned she's a banded garden spider who, as an adult, spins her art from August to October, so we timed it right. Obviously, Ohio has a lot of banded garden spiders! And the spiders, hardly noticed until time and circumstances wove themselves together, created a most spectacular display and memorable experience. We still talk about what we saw.

That's my spider story of the week--and my inspiration. It has all the elements of good writing--timing, design, wonder. What's your story for the week? Anything inspire you or spark a sense of wonder for you?

p.s. Spider trivia: The spiders' insect-eating habits are extremely helpful to humans. "Every year, billions of spiders do away with a large number of disease-carrying and crop-destroying insects. If every spider ate just one a day for a year, those insects, piled in one spot, would weigh as much as 50 million people... (What??? Is there a way to verify this claim?)...Spiders are, by far, the most important predator of insects in our world." (This from Elaine Kalantarian, here.) Oh, the things you learn!

p.p.s. Would the banded garden spider be subject to the burden of unrealistic expectations in her work? I think not, but writers are susceptible to such pressure. A great article on just that, The Crushing Weight of Expectations, by Robin LaFevers at Writer Unboxed, addresses the idea. You might find it interesting as you seek to spin your own web of words.
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

And The Winner Is...

sample of flowers from hubby's garden 2014

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly. "One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower." --Hans Christian Andersen

If asked what we might add to Mr. Andersen's list of must-haves, what would be your answer? I suggest "friends"!

And with that lead-in, I announce the **winner** of my recent give-away contest of Jessica Lawson's delightful debut MG novel, The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher (review found here)--blogger friend, and author in her own right, Karen Lange! Karen blogs over at Write Now, "exploring the adventurous writing life."

Congratulations, Karen. The book will be on its way to you here real soon. 

Thanks to all who entered the drawing--may you all have a great rest of the week!
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Being Open to Inspiration

on a September morning walk 2014

"The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web." --Pablo Picasso

Just a bit of weekend musings after discovering the treasure pictured above on my walk.

Ever thought of yourself as a receptacle? What sparks emotion and inspiration for you? Might I suggest pausing for a moment to take in the intricacies of spiderwebs as a start?

p.s. There's still time to enter the drawing for Jessica Lawson's debut book, "The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher." Check out the link and details here.
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Give-Away: The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher


"Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words." --Mark Twain

I think Mark Twain would like to have met debut author and talented writer Jessica Lawson. He would see that she has a way with words, picked a lot of right ones and crossed out the wrong--and did it all while telling Becky Thatcher's story!

I am pleased to give a shout-out for Jessica, someone I "met" (not in real time yet, but that would be fun, too) when I started blogging, and her newly-released MG novel, The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, July 1, 2014).

The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher promises to be, well, a great adventure!

From Goodreads: "In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is the new girl in town, determined to have adventures like she promised her brother Jon before he died. With her Mama frozen in grief and her Daddy busy as town judge, Becky spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.

"Becky decides that she and Amy need a bag of dirt from a bad man's grave as protection for entering the Widow's house, so they sneak out to the cemetery at midnight, where they witness the thieving Pritchard brothers digging up a coffin. Determined to keep her family safe (and to avoid getting in trouble), Becky makes Amy promise not to tell anyone what they saw.

"When their silence inadvertently results in the Widow Douglas being accused of the graverobbery, Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow's name. If she pulls it off, she might just get her Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most unexpected way...if that tattle-tale Tom Sawyer will quit following her around."

There's some great buzz about The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher going around in blogland, along a number of great author interviews that give insight into the heart of the book and how it came to be. Some of the things I learned:

Why Becky Thatcher? In answer to the question "Why did you feel Becky Thatcher was the one who needed a bigger story?" by Mike Grosso over at Fearless Fifteeners, Jessica responded, "Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a classic and I love, love, love the book exactly as it is, so I would never say that she needed a bigger story. I think it was a matter of me always relating more to Tom and Huck, and thinking that it would be neat if Becky Thatcher got to have a little fun as well."

On Becky Thatcher and Voice: In an interview with Jessica at Literary Rambles, Natalie Aguirre said, "I just totally fell in love with Becky and her voice. She's such a character that makes me smile every time I think of her. Share about her and how you got her voice so perfectly right." Jessica: "You are so sweet to say that! She was one of those lucky characters who just showed up fully formed and had a lot to say. The accent and vernacular I gave her probably came, at least partially, from the time I spent as a child in a very small southeastern Missouri town, visiting with my grandparents. My version of Becky T. was also influenced by my love for Twain, Junie B. Jones, Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables), and Mattie Ross in the new version of the movie True Grit (such a great character!)."

Point of View: Tara Dairman, in her interview with Jessica (here), said, "Please tell us about your book." In Jessica's words: "The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher is part origin story, part retelling of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, written from Becky's point of view. Though much of the plot is fun/adventure/cherry-spitting/bacon-eating based, there is an internal thread that deals with grieving and loss."

Why Middle Grade? Read about this in Jessica's own words in a post over at Middle Grade March. In the post she tells of her own 'middle-grade' years filled with her childhood adventures--hideaways under porches, planted treasures, night-time games of Ghost in the Graveyard and Cops and Robbers. Nothing better than the story of a tomboy written by a self-professed tomboy. Check this one out and you'll see why Becky Thatcher's character was pegged so well.

Where Did the Idea for Becky Thatcher First Come From? Ha--this is a good one. Dusting. Yep, dusting, as in dusting the bookshelves. Tavia Gilbert in her interview with Jessica asked, "What inspired you to place Becky Thatcher center stage and to tell a well-loved story from a new perspective? From Jessica: "One day, while I was pretending to do a thorough dusting job on my bookshelves, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer caught my eye. I hadn't read it in years and found myself thinking about Tom and Huck and all the adventures they had together. And I thought about Becky Thatcher, the nicely-dressed, finely-coiffed young girl who represented all that was good and pure to Tom--a girl who was distraught at discovering that Tom had been 'engaged' to someone else. At Becky's age, I was more likely to start a game of let's swipe cookies from the cabinet and make a secret hideaway under the porch than to wear dresses and play at being engaged. Being a tree-climbing, mischief-making, cops-and-robbers kind of girl, I always related more to Tom and Huck than to Becky. The novel takes place during a time when things like adventure and mischief were often delegated to and expected of boys. I think a part of me wanted to give Becky a chance to have a little fun as well."

What's exciting about this last link is that Tavia Gilbert, talented audio book narrator, has narrated The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, now available for book-on-tape lovers everywhere. I'm especially tickled about this because I was the lucky winner of this audiobook in a give-away that Jessica sponsored over at her blog Falling Leaflets. And in that particular post, Jessica interviewed Tavia. The interview is another treat--giving great insights into the life of a professional book narrator. You won't want to miss this one either!

And so, having been introduced to The Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by audiobook (which I am thoroughly enjoying), I'm off to order a hard copy, too, for my collection of books by favorite authors. At the same time I'm ordering a second copy--this one for one of YOU. I can't wait to share in the celebration of Jessica's debut and start to a great writing career.

All you have to do is post a comment here (along with your email address where I can contact you) by Monday, September 8, 2014, and your name will be included in the drawing. I'll announce the winner soon after the entry deadline.

So what do you say, are you ready for Becky's adventures? She's ready to tell you about them!
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Filling and Spilling, The Writer's Journey

photo courtesy of sxc.hu
"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing 
how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." --Ray Bradbury

Still on the journey, how about you? Shall we discuss our progress over a cup of coffee? Sugar and cream with that, or black?

(Love this Ray Bradbury quote!)

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

11 Quotes on Babies, and Joy

photo courtesy of Pixabay.com
"The world is as many times new as there are children in our lives." --Robert Brault

It's been a couple of special days around here. Texts ringing, updates singing. Announcement finally came in--we're grandparents of another new little one, fifth grandchild and third granddaughter--born yesterday--and we couldn't be happier. This special child is already bringing joy to her parents, her older brother, and all of the family. They live a few states away but you can bet we'll be on our way to meet her as soon as we can.

In celebration of a wee one who's sure to help us see the world a new way and open our eyes once again to wonder, joy, and imagination (and maybe even dance steps?), I share some of my favorite quotes about babies, with hopes and prayers that more children can be raised in nurturing and loving homes. For that is all they ask for, really.

 1. "If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle." --Vincent van Gogh

 2. "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."--Elizabeth Stone

 3. "A baby has a special way of adding joy to every single day."--unknown

 4. "A new baby is like the beginning of all things--wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities."--Eda J. LeShan

 5.  "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."--Carl Sandburg

 6.  "Babies are always more trouble than you thought--and more wonderful."--Charles Osgood

 7.  "Babies are such nice ways to start people."--Don Herrold

 8.  "Babies are bits of stardust, blown from the hand of God."--Barretto

 9.  "Children are a handful sometimes. A heart-full all the time."--unknown

10. "A baby is born with a need to be loved--and never outgrows it."--Frank A. Clark

11. "Every baby needs a lap."--Henry Robin

Once, way back in 2011, I posted my favorite poem about babies, "Song for a Fifth Child," by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton. It has proved to be one of my most popular posts. You can find it here if you'd like to revisit it. And prior to that, when proud big brother to new baby sister was born, I posted about his arrival in Story of Joy (here). In that post I quoted this sentiment, "Jumping for joy is great exercise."

Little did I know that four years later, I'd be posting that his baby sister has arrived and carries the name, did you guess, Joy. (See there's a theme here after all.) Special name connoting what's special about children. Oh, and only secondarily, my middle name. What an honor!

Just sharing a little bit of what has lit up our life this past week. How about you, any good news to share or a sparkle from your corner of the world?

p.s  A serendipitous moment [serendipity (n): "the ability to make fortunate discoveries by accident"]--in searching for 'just' the right photo to illustrate this post, I came across these delightful baby shoes on pixabay.com. On further examination, I realized the shoes are set on a background of an open Bible. Looking closer, I saw that the words are not in English. I copied some phrases into translate.google.com and discovered the language is Portuguese. Why is this significant? My daughter-in-law is from Brazil and her first language is Portuguese! Perfect.
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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Writer First--or Storyteller?


clipart courtesy of pixabay.com

"You can't visit readers where you think they are. You have to invite them home to where you are and try to lure them into your universe. That's the art of storytelling." --Jo Nesbo

We were on a walk together this morning, hubby and I, when we met a neighbor heading home from her walk. We greeted each other then stopped and chatted, spending a few minutes to catch up on life, mutual friends, and--as is often the proclivity of the grandparenting stage--updates on children and grandchildren. Oh, the stories we had to tell! Storytelling was in rare form out there under the August morning sun.  

I came home thinking about how we tell stories. We craft our tales in ways to get--and keep--someone's attention. We get animated. We are expressive. We are engaged. We have fun.

It should be that way with writing, too, shouldn't it? Hmmm. That got me thinking, too. Writing is fun or else we wouldn't stick with it. But can we admit that there are times when it isn't so much so? The times we get bogged down with form, structure, getting that beginning just right, stressing out over grammar, or any number of elements of crafting our stories. What happened to the initial glow of the idea? When did the light grow dim?

I contend that it's because we've lost sight of one of the fundamentals of being a writer: writers are storytellers. Later we we can stress out over...I mean...revise and apply all the craft techniques we've learned. But first immerse yourself in the fun of simply telling a story! Send that internal editor off on vacation for a while.

I stumbled across a great quote by Donald Maass, author of The Fire in Fiction and other great books on the craft of writing. It was actually in a comment thread over at Writer Unboxed where Liz Micalski wrote a post titled Writer, Author, or Storyteller? Mr. Maass commented, "There's nothing wrong with learning the business and working hard at it. However, what makes that possible in the first place is storytelling. First you write. Then you learn. then you relax. Then you tell stories."

Thanks much, Mr. Maass! 

Rachel, a guest blogger featured recently over at Story Addict, was asked the question,  "Writing vs. Storytelling--What's the Difference?" Her answer? "Writing is the technical aspect of conveying a story, whereas storytelling is the side of pure enjoyment and fun."

Others voice similar themes:

"I think storytelling is all about children. We human beings love to hear stories being told--and it first happens when you're a kid." --David Chase

"I've always been sort of drawn to storytelling, and I was always very playful growing up." --Megan Boone

"No, the thing is, we all love storytelling, and as a writer you get to tell stories all the time." --Joyce Carol Oates

"Storytelling is what lights my fire." --Hope Davis

Do we see a theme here? Are you having fun yet?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch at kriswrites.com stated this: "We read Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, even though their work is also stylistically dated, because all three told great stories. We're reading for the story, not for the sentences or the beautifully constructed metaphor." She concludes with an interesting challenge: "Stop calling yourself a writer. The label is a misnomer. Call yourself a storyteller. And then prove it--over and over again."

Food for thought: are you a writer first--or a storyteller? Do you see the distinction? How do you approach the art of storytelling?  
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