Saturday, February 27, 2010

Color Bursts

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. --Pablo Picasso

Are you, like me, desperate for color--somewhere, anywhere--when the sky has stood still in a gray slicker for days and the snow, which was once bright and pristine, is now dirty and blah? At least I can add color to my office, so I did a search in Publisher's clipart and downloaded this picture to my computer desktop. Ah, that's better.

Yet color does surround us, if we look for it. Here's an exercise that's sure to lift a person's spirits--assign a color to something that recently "popped" in your corner of the world. Here are colors that burst into mine...

Purple--for the promise of publication. A friend of mine just received notice that one of her articles will be published this spring. Yeaaaaa!

Red--for energy and love. You'd know what I'm talking about if you saw our little one dance the "happy dance" for her mommy when she came in from work the other day. Now that's truly a bright spot.

Yellow--for the light of home, and thankfulness that my dad could come home from the rehabilitation center this week.

Blue--for the new grandbaby on the way, a little boy, and--shhh--the knitting project in the works. (But the shade--teal, cobalt, pastel, turquoise? Not telling yet, Suzan :-)

Green--for renewal, not only in a coming spring we sorely anticipate, but in the renewing of friendships--something I was able to do by snail mail and e-mail this week. Fantastic to hear from you all.

"Color, rather than shape," artist David Katz says, "is more closely related to emotion." For the fun of it, I'll be exploring the idea of color and emotions in my writing this week.

I feel my spirits lifting already. What "color bursts" lift yours?

For a cool, color-related activity,check out this link. Looks like fun for children--or anyone of any age, for that matter.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rebound and Rewrite

They say experience is the best teacher. Well, if that's the case, what lesson did I learn after I experienced a fall on some ice this morning? Ha. Winter isn't over yet.

I had headed out for a walk, glad the weather finally cooperated. I not only looked forward to the exercise, but to quiet time and any writing inspiration that might pop into my head--as often happens--along the way. The sun shone for the first time in days and everything felt great, although I did almost slip on a slick spot at the end of the driveway.

I should have read the signs, but didn't. A bigger patch of ice farther up the road proved to be my downfall--literally. Ouch.

Well, I've slipped in my writing recently, too, and was reminded of this yesterday when sharing an article draft with my critique group. Pesky problems and weaknesses had worked their way back into my story but, much like a covering of ice, proved slick and difficult to see until my writing friends pointed them out to me.

"Rewriting," William Zinsser noted in his classic On Writing Well, "is the essence of writing well: it's where the game is won or lost." Thanks to critique partners, I rebounded and got back in the game--ready to revise and rewrite. Thanks, Connie and Lanita.

As for my walk, I revised it, too--opting to go home and rebound on our mini-trampoline instead.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Maybe the season of snow is about over--but it won't pass without offering up some of  its most fun opportunities. Like making snow angels or building snow forts...or...doing a script Ohio.

Script Ohio? Oh, yes. Every year, ever since the kids were small--and even after they were grown and on their own--my husband has marched out the word "Ohio" in a soft, unblemished field of winter white. Snow brings out the kid in him every year.

Not familiar with script Ohio? Well, most people from the buckeye state, like us, know the trademark half-time show that Ohio State University's band is famous for--how they march to their signature song and spell "Ohio" in a well-executed formation across a football field. As a final touch, the band major dots the i.

Well, we are not OSU alumni (go UC and OU!), but Bill doesn't let that stop him from carrying out one of his favorite winter traditions. When the opportunity presents itself, he goes for it--like he did this time last week. That's him, dotting the i.

And now an opportunity has presented itself for writers of kids novels--like me. Check out the contest for Middle Grade and Young Adult manuscripts that Chuck Sambuchino is running on his Guide to Literary Agents blog. You can get there from here. Time is running out--but you still have until midnight tomorrow, February 21, to submit. If you can, take advantage of the opportunity. And if not this one, then the next that comes along. March to your music, write your script--and jump in there with a flourish to dot that final i.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Story Beginnings and Endings

We had quite an adventure over the weekend when we decided to brave the elements and climb the hill across the road from us. It was a hike Bill and I've taken before, but this time we hoped to get a good look at our house from up there. On previous hikes, we've been unable to see it because of the trees' foliage, but this time we were certain that a winter landscape would afford us a clear view. Confident, we headed out. Who cared that, after two snow storms last week, seven inches of snow covered the ground?

As we began, I found myself thinking about important elements in story lines, including a story's beginning, middle, and end. Here we were at our story's beginning, facing the challenge of a "quest." What obstacles would block our progress in the story's middle? How would we reach the end, goal intact, and maybe even learn something along the way?
Well, if you include the roundabout route we had to take, the deep drifts that nearly swallowed us, and the biting wind at the top that threatened frost bite (not really, but it sounds ominous!), we faced plenty of obstacles. We trudged, trekked, and floundered. And for what? Turns out we couldn't see our house after all--except for a small patch of red roof off to the the right. The scrubby brush was just too thick, even without leaf cover.

But so what? Though the end of our story turned out differently than we expected, we came away with something better--a new perspective, a sense of accomplishment, a fun memory to add to our repertoire. Things that will last long after the story is gone.

Why, come to think of it, maybe these are among the elements I've been searching for as I write my new story. What about you? What recent adventures have helped you in writing--or living--your story?

Beginnings and endings remain with the reader long after the story is gone. They are powerful, emotive signs cut into the storytelling trees. Pay attention to them. Work hard on them. Ignore them at your peril. Otherwise you will get lost in the woods of your writing and never find your way home. --Jane Yolen, A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowflakes and Blubees

While more snow fell this week, again changing the landscape snowflake by snowflake, I ate blueberries and thought of building blocks.

It all started the other day, between snowstorms. We were babysitting, and our granddaughter said, "Blubees, blubees."

"Sure, honey," I said, "Grandma will give you some blueberries."

Soon after Bill came in and asked Angelica if she'd give Grandpa one. She looked down and picked out a large, juicy berry--and promptly popped it in her mouth. Grandpa asked again. She fingered another big berry--and popped it in her mouth, too. On the third request, she finally offered her grandpa a berry--a small, runt-sized one.

Only twenty months old, this little thing has already learned to differentiate sizes. And she's learning about sharing--albeit still a bit begrudingly!

On the same day, Angelica's mommy reminisced about a fear she had when facing kindergarten. She was my little girl then and worried to death about learning enough to get into high school. But she remembers me telling her to think of it like building blocks. All she had to do was learn enough to get to first grade. There she'd learn enough for second. Each year she'd build on the one before until, by the time she got to high school, she'd be ready. The idea, Melissa said, helped her a lot back then.

Writing is built on increments like that, too. Word by word, building block by building block. Having my manuscript professionally critiqued is one of  my building blocks. The manuscript came in return mail this week and the feedback is encouraging (thanks, Terri)--yet I see I still need to build a bit more on the foundation. But just like one snowflake upon another creates a new landscape, and a child adds to her knowledge one small school-step at a time, I'll get there.

Sort of like the skills Angelica is learning that lay the foundation for her future--even if her building blocks at first resemble blubees.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A February Flock

Don't assume you're always going to be understood. I wrote in a column that one should put a cup of liquid in the cavity of a turkey when roasting it. Someone wrote me that "the turkey tasted great, but the plastic cup melted."  --Hints from Heloise
They came back in full force today, those turkeys!

We've occasionally seen turkeys in the neighborhood. Off and on a few have gathered in the yard across from us. Once a flock of six strutted right down the middle of the road. But until yesterday, we had never seen this many. At least thirty brown gobblers pecked and preened in the neighbor's yard. Bill called me away from the office to take a look.

After oohing and aahing a bit, and figuring they'd be gone by the time I got my camera, I decided to go back to work. Bill told me later that the birds caused quite a stir and a few people driving by stopped to take pictures. He went to talk to one guy and discovered that he lived nearby. Not only that, he's lived in the neighborhood for over thirty years--just like us. And yet, until the turkeys, we'd never met.

The experience got me thinking about how much we writers tend to like our solitude--but how solitude should not define us. For we'd have nothing to write about if we stayed there! We need to meet people, see new places, experience new things--talk, laugh, love, encourage, engage. We may not always get the words right, nor always be understood, but our writing will be the better for it.

The turkeys came back this morning, giving me another chance. I grabbed my camera and dashed outside--and waved to my neighbors as I went.