Friday, May 31, 2013

Words for the Future

"A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day." --Emily Dickinson

I came across a touching story a few days ago, seventy years in the making. Did you hear about 90-year old Laura Mae, from Indiana? She recently visited the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, this past April.

Not too noteworthy--until you imagine yourself in her place. You're there to see a display commemorating a young Marine who had been your high-school sweetheart. You know the display is there, you donated photographs and the class ring that Corporal Thomas Jones had given you before he left for the service and was subsequently killed in the South Pacific, in 1944. What you don't know is that you're going to see your first love's diary on display, opened to a page with your name on it.

As Laura Mae said (see full article, High School Sweetheart Finds Diary of WWII Marine in Museum 70 Years Laterhere), "I figured I'd see pictures of him and the fellows he'd served with and articles about where he served...I didn't have any idea there was a diary in there."

The article carries an AP photograph of a two-page spread of the diary:

October 2
Dear Diary, 
     Sat. night and I'm staying in...
     Wish Laura Mae was out here so I could see her. Darn I miss her...Tommy

October 4
Dear Diary, 
     Am I happy. I got a letter from Laura Mae and she said she loves me. Yippee... Tommy.

Can you imagine? How would you react? How would you feel?

For Laura Mae, the words brought tears to her eyes.

The article made me think about the words that we write, words we speak, the importance of today's words that might possibly touch someone tomorrow--even seventy years down the road. I know I have poems my grandmother wrote, speaking of her love for my grandfather, that are special to me. I have books on my shelf that are over seventy years old that still inspire and are worth re-reading.

I don't pretend that my words will endure so far down the road, but the whole idea about the power of words is reinforced by stories such as these.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) expressed it this way: "Words--so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."

What do you think? Do words take on a life of their own? Have you ever chanced on an unexpected word from the past that had special meaning to you? How has someone's words from several generations ago touched or surprised you?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sunshine Award

Thanks to Cathy over at Words, World and Wings for this Sunshine Award. A nice surprise that generated smiles. If you get a chance, visit Cathy--writer and former librarian--who lives on the Palouse in the state of Washington. There she blogs on writing, books, and life's travels.

The award is presented with ten questions for the recipient to answer, sharing a bit about themselves and their personal blogging journeys. So... we go!

1. What inspired you to start blogging?
I remember the first time I heard the word 'blog.' What in the world was a blog? But then as I visited a few sites here and there, I began wondering if I could do something like that, and would I want to? I hesitated at first, feared I might not be able to stick with it. But then, because I wanted to 'practice' my writing, set and meet goals, grow in the craft of writing--and build a platform for those books I plan to see published!--I thought, why not? Three-and-a-half years later, here we are still having fun and meeting lots of neat blogging friends.

2. How did you come up with the name of your blog?
I wanted my blog to reflect some of the thoughts, ideas, and quotes one might find recorded in a writer's journal or notebook--words and things of that kind. Thus: Words and Such, a page out of one writer's notebook.

3. What is your favorite blog to read?
I read a variety of blogs in the writing field, from aspiring authors to agents, so I'd be hard-pressed to name a specific favorite. But my 'favorite of the moment' is always the one that shares just the tidbit of information I need or the spark of inspiration that moves me forward.

4. Tell us about your dream job.
I've been privileged to live out my dream jobs. Early on I was a special education teacher. Then a stay-at-home mom. Now a serious writer (once only a hobbyist in the craft)--and a happy grandma to four precious little ones.

5. Is your glass half-full or half-empty?
Half-full and more. My life is blessed with family, friends, and good things to look forward to. And even when I'm feeling a bit stressed or disjointed (yep, we have those days), a nice walk helps.

6. If you could go anywhere for a week's vacation, where would you go?
The ocean...the beach...walking barefoot in the sand! Some of our family's best memories are of places along the panhandle of Florida. But, after having the privilege of visiting Spain last November, walking along the Mediterranean, and touring castles and art museums in various places, I've got the travel bug and know I'd love to spend a week or more in Europe again.

7. What food can you positively not eat?
Liver, chicken or otherwise.

8. Dark chocolate or  milk chocolate?
Dark chocolate. The fact that it's supposed to be healthier is an added benefit.

9. How much time do you spend blogging?
Never really calculated the time but my goal is to post once a week, so whatever it takes--usually two hours or so. It also depends on where I am in revisions and/or plotting that particular week how much time I'll give it. What I do wish is that I had more time to visit others' blogs more often.

10. Do you watch TV and, if so, what are your favorite shows?
HGTV's House Hunters. Love to tour houses even if it's only from my own living room. Once for an anniversary, hubby gave me a book titled Historical Homes of America. Happy to say out of the 60 or so homes featured in the book, we've visited 17, including Paul Revere's house in Boston, the William Randolph Hearst Castle in California, and Laura Ingalls Wilder's home in De Smet, South Dakota.

The idea behind the Sunshine Award is to also pass it along to ten others, linking to their sites and notifying them of said award. To make it easier (!) I narrowed the number down to five. There is no obligation to participate, we're just passing a bit of sunshine along.

Debbie at Writing While the Rice Boils
Jess at Falling Leaflets
Barbara at Barbara Ann Watson
The Kindness Project
Word Serve Water Cooler

Happy Memorial Day Weekend.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Plot Ponderings, Again

"There is only one plot--things are not what they seem." --Jim Thompson

Wandering the avenues of plot this weekend. Hope to make a few inroads!

How about you, any adventures planned?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Language of Flowers

Mother's Day 2013
Flowers--in all their array of beauty and color--send various kinds of messages, don't they? They welcome spring, celebrate birthdays and special occasions, send get-well wishes, offer condolences. In the case above they simply say, love--as in a gift from hubby for Mother's Day. Aren't they gorgeous?

But, though flowers "send messages," did you know that they have their own language? I always sort of knew this, but explored it a bit more fully after coming across a sweet little book titled, I'll Ask My Grandmother, She's Very Wise, by Kristen Johnson Ingram. "Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had a symbolic vocabulary for expressing their love," Ingram writes. "A vocabulary of flowers that we have lost today. Flowers, a beautiful part of creation, expressed love; they were tributes of affection, honor, valor, and fame."

So if there's a flower vocabulary, what language are they speaking? Why, floriography! And it turns out that 'floriography' once played an interesting part in the communication among people.

Wikipedia: "The language of flowers, sometimes called 'floriography,' was a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. This language was most commonly communicated through tussie-mussies, small flower bouquets."

Wendy Taylor at Proflowers: "The Victorian era ushered in a time of proper etiquette among the upper class in England during Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901). Among the many rules and customs, there were expected behaviors that prohibited outright flirtations, questions, or conversations between others. Even though the use of flowers to convey messages had been used in Persia and the Middle East, it was during the Victorian Era that the tradition spread in England with the publication of flower dictionaries explaining the meaning of plants, flowers, and herbs. It soon became popular to use flowers to send secretive messages."

A code? Secret messages? Delivered in tussie-mussies? Oooh, sounds like the stuff of novelists, don't you think?

Whoops, turns out authors have already beat us to it. "William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and many others, all used the language of flowers in their writings." (Santa Monica Flowers)

Anyway, in case you might be interested in dipping into the vocabulary, too, here's a sample of meanings, though in no way exhaustive. And bear in mind that meanings vary depending on what list you consult.

Baby's Breath--innocence
Carnation--admiration (red), faithfulness (white), a mother's love (pink)
Hyacinth--'I am sorry, please forgive me'
Iris--good news
Lilac--memories; first love
Marigold--pain and grief, sorrow
Morning glory--affection
Orchid--refined beauty
Petunia--'your presence soothes me'
Rose--love (red), passion (coral), happiness and excitement (red and yellow together)
Sweet William--gallantry
Tulip--declaration of love
Violet--faithfulness (blue), modesty (white)
Zinnia--absent friends

Happy Mother's Day! If you were to put together a tussie-mussie to send a message to someone, what flowers would go in your bouquet?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

First Drafts and Writer's Block, An Antidote

"Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can't--and in fact, you're not supposed to--know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing." --Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I love this quote. And I'm adopting Ms. Lamott's approach this week as I continue on the first draft of my current project. I think the analogy to a Polaroid photo is a sure-fire antidote against writer's block. It takes the pressure off of having to line out the story in too much detail ahead of time, and promises to re-ignite the sense of discovery. Can't wait to see what picture develops!

Are you battling writer's block, or are scenes emerging? Any surprises coming to light?  (photo: