Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On Beginnings, Hope, and a Journey Down the Stairs

photo courtesy of sxc.hu
The old year has only a couple of hours to go as I sit down to post, and 2014 is just about here. We all wonder what the new year will bring, don't we? For sure there's probably change ahead. That goes with the territory. Maybe challenges. Choices. And celebrations. We can't forget celebrations.

As writers we often add more to our question list. What goals should I set for 2014? Should I concentrate on word count, or keep record of writing hours? How many submissions do I want circulating in any one given week/month? How many acceptances should I aim for? What concrete goals should I set toward publication? What about those with young families where daily life is already packed with details--will catching a word here, a word there suffice?

In past years I've chosen a word or words to set a theme for the new year. In my first year of blogging I posted about targets (and repeated it here). In the second year (2011), my word was potential (here). The third year? Relax, write, create. This past year I went with the p's--potential, permission, pattern, pace, priorities. One trick I've used to stay productive yet not succumb to unreasonable pressure is to list my weekly/yearly goals and then tell myself if I hit 75% of those goals, I'll be happy. I've tallied this year and have come in at 77%. Yay!

Thus, thinking of a new year, I thought it might be fun to open writing books (I have so many on my shelves) and peek into the introductory inspiration laid out at the beginning from seasoned writers. I discovered three themes--and I'm adopting them as my themes for 2014. Take a peek:

1. Beginnings. From One Writer's Beginnings, by Eudora Welty: "In our house on North Congress Street in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was born, the oldest of three children, in 1901, we grew up to the striking of clocks. There was a mission-style oak grandfather clock standing int he hall, which sent its gong-like strokes through the livingroom, diningroom, kitchen, and pantry, and up the sounding board of the stairwell. Through the night, it could find its way into our ears; sometimes, even on the sleeping porch, midnight could wake us up. My parents' bedroom had a smaller striking clock that answered it. Though the kitchen clock did nothing but show the time, the diningroom clock was a cuckoo clock with weights on long chains, on one of which my baby brother, after climbing on a chair to the top of the china closet, once succeeded in suspending the cat for a moment. I don't know whether or not my father's Ohio family, in having been Swiss back in the 1700s before the first three Welty brothers came to America, had anything to do with this; but we all of us have been time-minded all our lives. This was good at least for future fiction writer, being able to learn so penetratingly, and almost first of all, about chronology. It was one of a good many things I learned almost without knowing it; it would be there when I needed it."

2. Hope. From The Writer's Book of Hope, Getting from Frustration to Publication, by Ralph Keyes: "Sit at desk. Examine blank computer screen. Cursor blinks impatiently. Small fan hums within. Neighbor fires up leaf blower. Mail truck rumbles by. Kid's voice pierces closed door: 'Matthew hit me!' Spouse opens door, mail in hand. Hands over two manila envelopes addressed to you in your own handwriting. Spouse wonders when you'll be ready to quit. When indeed?"

3. A Journey Down the Stairs. From Finding Your Voice, How to Put Personality in Your Writing, by Les Edgerton: "A final word before we begin seeing exactly how to get to our own voices, lurking within. Relax. Yep, That's the word. Relax. Even though there are lots of exercises and examples and other nifty ways to get to your voice in the following pages, what we'll be involved in isn't thermonuclear physics or household plumbing or anything like those two incredibly complicated sciences. This is all about the voice you already own and have the owner's manual for. What we'll be trying to do here is have you simply remember stuff you already know to a T but have just misplaced in the basement of your mind. So...sit back and enjoy the trip down the stairs. You won't even need a flashlight. I've already switched on the light for you. Just use the handrail."

The things we need are there--our beginnings, hope, and a journey of exploration.

I think it sounds like a year of fun, don't you? What words/themes would you add?

Happy New Year to all who might happen to drop in!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Most Valued Ornaments

photo courtesy sxc.hu
"The ornaments of our house are the friends that frequent it." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Counting friendship as one of life's many blessings...

Thanks to all my friends (some I've yet to meet in person!) for your kind support and visits here. Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday filled with joy and peace--and cherished friendships.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow Days, Summery Touches

Butterfly Garden December 2013
"One must maintain a little bit of summer even in the middle of winter." --Thoreau

My contribution to Thoreau's idea, butterfly wind chimes in a winter's garden. Any summery touches in your wintry world?

Just wonderin'....

May your hearts be warm though your feet be cold!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Snow Gifts

Garden Friends December 2013
"He brewed his tea in a blue china pot, poured it into a chipped white cup with forget-me-nots on the handle, and dropped in a dollop of honey and cream. He sat by the window, cup in hand, watching the first snow fall. 'I am,' he sighed deeply, 'contented as a clam. I am a most happy man.' --Ethel Pochocki, Wildflower Tea, 1993

Snow arrived today (estimates of up to 7 inches!), bringing with it a sleigh filled with gifts:

1. An excuse for another cup of favorite tea. Savor.
2. A good book to read--particularly next to a window with a view of the wonder. Snuggle.
3. A slower pace. Sigh and Smile.
4. Beauty and freshness, a hush and a stillness. Serenity.

About Wildflower Tea (Grades 1-4) from School Library Journal: "'One sunny Monday in May, an old man went out with a basket in one hand and a walking stick in the other...He stooped to caress a white stone polished smooth by the water and there, by the toe of his shoe, he spied some violets their faces turned up to his.' So begins a lyrical, seven-month record of a nature lover's scavenging. In November, the bounty he has reaped all summer provides his wildflower tea." 

Who was Ethel Pochocki? 
From Goodreads: "Ethel Frances Pochocki (1925-2010) was a children's book author living in Brooks, Maine. She developed a passion for books and writing working at the New York City Public Library. While raising eight children, she turned to writing in the early morning hours. Her writing career began when she won an essay writing contest about her experience taking in inner city kids with the Fresh Air Project in New York City." 

From About the Author, Amazon: "Ethel Pochocki described herself as 'an ordinary person' who happened to 'make soup and raise kids and write stories.' Both kitchencraft and the experience of raising children--eight of them--contributed to a whimsical, down-to-earth and understanding touch...she concocted adventures with the ordinary but vivid ingredients of life--'books, cats, music, frogs, hollyhocks.'"

Ethel sounds like someone I could relate to--"making soup, raising kids, and writing stories." Though I'd never heard of her before, I'm thinking about checking out her books now.

But maybe not until the snow stops falling.

How do you enjoy a snow day?

Hope you're able to enjoy it in safety. Have a super weekend.