Monthly Archives: January 2014

At Home with February’s Challenge—Phase II

Hands on Computer

On Tuesday I outlined the basic rules for my February “Thought Verb” Challenge. This is an additional phase to that challenge for those who really want a hurdle to shoot for.

The added insult of Phase II is the “to be” and “to have” verbs. Getting rid of them from our vocabulary is absolutely one of the most difficult things to do in a writer’s life. I certainly haven’t mastered it. This verb usage is insinuated into our very grammar structure since it’s one of the first verb forms learned in our language. Learning to filter it out is akin to learning to filter out the argon gas in the air we breathe.

Why? Because we don’t hear or see its usage anymore. It doesn’t leap out of the page and slap us in the face. It doesn’t sound off when we read it aloud.

The simple exercise of learning to disuse passive verbs is difficult enough to keep us pouring over pages of revision with a grammar flea comb, winkling out every one of the little buggers we can find. Trying to do that while also finding all forms of “to be” and “to have” is tantamount to looking for those fleas through cheesecloth.

As you can see from this post, I haven’t begun to eliminate these pesky little vermin. I want to save myself for Saturday, February 1st. Think of this as my last hurrah.

For that reason, anyone who attempts this challenge is a trailblazer in the writing circle. To extricate thought verbs and these additional harbingers of “out of fashion” writing passive verbs requires supreme editing efforts. Think of yourself as an explorer—of your own writing style.

Now, I don’t want anyone believing that I think of this exercise as a piece of cake. I DON”T! I’m taking this path because I want to write with stronger impact for richer stories and articles. I certainly don’t consider it easy.

What I believe comes down to this. Greater vocabulary will find its way onto my page. I began railing about lack of precision word use years ago with the dumbing down of the educational system. Writing in way forces the one behind the pen to use more concrete, concise, and precise wordage. I intend to work on that this month during The Great Thought Verb Challenge.

How many will carry the torch and put their writing abilities on the line? How many seek to improve their writing impact? It will take only a daily paragraph; three to five sentences each day to satisfy the challenge goal.

For long-time writers, this challenge could help you eliminate future editing time. If you take a bit longer to write a paragraph the first time, the revision will become the piece of cake for you.

Sign up here in a comment. Commit to one daily paragraph. Mine will be posted each day, not to instruct, but to legitimize the effort and remain accountable.

Good luck, everyone. I’ll see you here on Saturday—maybe not bright-eyed but ready.

 

 

At Home Issues a New Challenge for February

Mistakes photo

With this final week of January, Jeff Goins’ 500 Word Challenge will come to an official close. For those who’ve participated, 500 words will continue to make their way daily onto hard drives and notebook pages from now on. Why? Because it’s doable and productive for the busy writer.

I needed only to write my 500 words yesterday. I did that through a series of writings. I wrote a blog post that ran close to 900 words for Claudsy’s Blog on 2Voices, 1Song and ran up another 1000 words on a short transition scene for “A Grain of Truth.” I also added a few hundred words on an article I’m doing for Ether Books.

Looking ahead onto my calendar, I saw where I’d promised you a writing challenge that would have you pulling your hair out for the entire month of February. The exercise will make for better writing later. The goal of becoming a better writer is, after all, the ultimate purpose of doing challenges, isn’t it?

The No-Thought-Verb Challenge

Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.
Chuck Palahniuk

A few months ago, I received a copy of bestselling author Chuck Palahniuk’s post about a writing challenge that he’d been given years before. The duration of this life-changing exercise was six months. I’m not going to do that to you. I intend to do this challenge with you and post my efforts each day so that you can see if I’m cheating. Heaven help me if I slip up.

This challenge of mine, taken straight from the one illustrated by Palahniuk, will end on March 1st. So, you’ve lucked out there. Should you decide to continue the practice, you’ll not regret it, or so I’ve been assured. As difficult as it’s going to be for me as a poet, I’m going to strive to apply the practice there as well.

Rules of the challenge

There are only two rules.

  1. The challenge will extend to the first of March, 2014.
  2. During February, you will not use any “thought” verbs in your writing. These include, but are not restricted to, Thinks, Knows, Wonders, Realizes, Believes, Understands, Wants, Imagines, Remembers, Desires, any tenses of the above, and many more that you love to use. In fact, Hates and Loves also apply here. A thought verb is any verb expressing a concept through reference to the mental activity involved.

The exercise forces the writer to deal only in concrete terms, whether in narrative or dialogue, descriptive or otherwise. The “to be”  and “to have” verbs, in all of their many guises, could also fall into this category of No-No’s, but I’m not going to scold anyone if they can’t remove those additional two during this month. This can suffice on its own. We can always take hold of these passive verbs another time.

How to Not Use Thought Verbs

Palahniuk gives this example of a work-around. Instead of writing “‘Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night …’” the writer would do something like, “‘The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave. Never his.’”

Convoluted? Perhaps, but the depth of detail used created an entire scene, explained a relationship, and placed the reader inside the situation within the framework of one sentence. That’s a lot of work, if you ask me, for one sentence to accomplish.

The challenge forces the writer to do away with short-cuts, to use only sensory information to create the scene. As we all know by now, sensory information is what puts the reader inside the words to experience their reality.

Thursday, in my next explanatory post for this challenge, I’ll deal with what Chuck advises for dialogue sections, along with tag lines. We might as well do it right the first time around, I guess. I’ve been looking forward to doing this for a while. I can gain as much from this exercise as I can from a short class and that excites me.

Until I come back on Thursday with a preview sample of my own work to use as an example for the challenge, put those little gray cells of yours to work and extract methods of dealing with an exacting challenge.

See you then.

 

 

 

Sunday’s Foray into Poetry

When I went looking for the perfect line to use for the Sunday poetry prompt over at Creative Bloomings, I found it in the most circuitous manner. On Paula Wanken’s website “Echoes from the Silence,” I looked at her About page and read the poem that begins her bio. I immediately found what I needed for the second stanza’s meaning and the rest followed from there. I chose the perfect line to use as my poem’s title. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Thoughts Have Gone Unspoken –

Aside a brook flowing with promise
About our future’s goals,
Worrying today’s path,
We see our day’s aftermath.

We agonize on tomorrow’s road,
What troubles time will bring,
Each day’s blessings unsung,
To fight battles not begun.

Ideas once gathered around life’s fire,
Idle, neutered, darkened,
Await their freedom’s light,
A shout of personal might.

From “Echoes from the Silence” 2011-01-07 P. Wanken

for years
thoughts have gone unspoken –
my voice, unheard;
i have longed to put words together –
to speak, unhindered;
yet
when words escape me
i am left in silence.
by writing,
my thoughts find words
and when words escape me
they are found in
echoes from the silence.

 

At Home: Taking an Update One Step Further

Hands on Computer

Yep, it’s time for an update; one about my doings and about others around the sphere.

First off, I’m still doing the 500 Word Challenge fostered by Jeff Goins. It’s made a few odd twists along the road through the month. Some of those daily words dealt with poetry. Some of them were new text on my novella, “A Grain of Truth,” and many of them went to producing articles for use online and elsewhere.

Each day’s word count shaves a bit off the end of a project’s final presentation. And that’s all good.

What I haven’t done is begin any new fiction projects, although that is about to change again soon, but only in so far as flash fiction is concerned. I have too much fiction to work on now to get involved in another long-term project.

I wanted to make a few recommendations. These are for both writing craft course work that benefits a writer and for places to frequent for publishing insights that help the writer.

Let’s begin with course work.

  • Formal Poetry Instruction—Free university-level poetry course from www.coursera.org/ has a marvelous semester-long offering called Modern & Contemporary American Poetry. Highly recommended for those who want to understand how and why verse is written as it is and to experience the thrill of producing your own. Enrollment is now open for Spring Semester.
  • Short Story Specialty—Low-cost (monthly fee, cancel anytime) course for getting the short story right the first time round. Taught by Dr. John Yeoman, this course is well worth its low monthly fee for the semester-long duration. (A student can take the first four weeks of this course for about $1, to see if it’s right for him/her. That’s good value.) Writer’s Village University has an entire range of writing courses that anyone can appreciate. Enrollment is now open.
  •  Bestselling science fiction/fantasy author, Holly Lisle, has courses ranging from flash fiction to novel, series development to plotting perfection, and many short courses in-between. There’s something for everyone, serious or exploring. The lessons here are for use in any genre and not specifically sf/f. Enrollment is open.

With those three recommendations complete, I’ll move on to writer’s websites that I’ve found both helpful and insightful from those in the know.

 Websites of Note

  • David Farland (aka David Wolverton) has a great Daily Kick in the Pants writer’s article that always provides gems of knowledge and publishing savvy. You don’t have to write sf/f to use David’s tips and tricks. The man has 50 novels under his belt as proof of his savvy.
  • Savvy Authors is a website for those who want more from their writing experience. Filled with articles, seminars, workshops, etc., SA has something for everyone. Their regular newsletter keeps the member apprised of doings during the month and special interest items.
  • Dana K. Cassell’s Writers-Editors Network is an all-service station in the sense that you’ll find tips, tricks, and info for non-members and members. Membership fees are low and give good value. The monthly e-zine is filled with valuable articles, contest info, and news from the frontlines of both writers and editors.
  • Jonathan Gunson’s BestsellerLabs site informs the reader about new marketing strategies and gives writing tips anyone can use.

Every few weeks, I’m going to post more places in the know where writers, new or experienced, can find more instruction, information, or tips.

I hope these few can add spice to your daily reads or monthly needs. Until next time, have a great rest of the week, and keep those words flowing.

At Home Updates and Excerpt

B-5 Station

The 500 Word Challenge is running along nicely. Writers in circles, blogs, and forums everywhere are having an exciting time of expanding their writing time by doing short sprints to fit the challenge. Each burst of words works for the writer’s benefit.

I’ve been doing several things during the past several days. One of those things is work on a science fiction novella. Today, for instance, I was revising Part 4 of “A Grain of Truth.” The original part ran to seven pages. After today’s work, it runs ten and a half. Why such a big change?

Revision and expansion

Most of my work goes through a critique group for line edits each week. It could be a short story slated for a competition, or a novel, or like this—a short story conversion into a novella. Our group has writers both published and unpublished, but each has a specific talent for critique work.

One sees the flaws related to character development better than anyone I’ve ever known. Another sees the overall plot flow to keep things on track. One is a winner at eliminating what isn’t moving the story forward and for working with theme. One gal sees the logic of both character and story line. The fifth zeroes in on language and turns of phrase for unexpected revelations or implied secrets—all of the emotional elements. And me, I’m with the grammar police and genre detail.

Last week my segment went under the red pen and came out with wounds; not an unusual situation. I needed more explanation here, one set of paragraphs wasn’t needed at all, and one character seemed too wimpy for his position, another seemed too emotional and his actions too dramatic for the circumstances of the scene.

I applauded the honest critiques. I need them, as does every honest writer. That rough draft went under the knife today. Below I’m going to give you a short excerpt of what came out of that surgery. It’s a partial scene from the first third of the novella.

The first major crisis has occurred. The main character of the story has disappeared on her home space station, in the middle of a crowd, at a celebration put on for the Pilot’s Guild. The characters involved in this portion are her friends and Guild members. This scene is in the wake of her disappearance.

Excerpt:

A moment later, Alynn leaned in close to whisper to Kooly, “Grab Machio and move slowly, straight toward the sanitaries.”

Alynn didn’t wait for a reply but continued on toward the facilities on the far side of the chamber. At the entrance he paused to turn and scan faces again.

“Problem?” Machio asked when the three men came together.

“Maybe,” Alynn replied. His restless eyes made another pass across the crowd. “When was the last time either of you saw Caska?” He kept his voice low and as calm as his rising concern would allow.

Kooly’s eyes widened as the implication struck him. “I saw her crouched in the front rank of spectators at the performance. Those around her were people we know well. She was safe.” The co-pilot’s fingers were already tapping code keys on his comm unit. He ignored the other two men; his eyes only on the data stream he’d called up. If details were available, he’d find them. He sensed his facial muscles stiffen as his attention shifted.

“I saw her before the performance. She was talking to Dresden Marpho,” Machio added. “I saw Dresden leave her and go to the Rim with a pair of pilots. You know how she is.”

“Caska had her detail with her at the dance. They kneeled behind her, one on either side.” Alynn’s voice indicated that he thought they should have been even more vigilant than they’d appeared.

Machio turned to Alynn, his hand gesturing toward the opposite side of the chamber. “I’ll see if I can find Dresden and ask her about things,”

“Don’t bother, Mach.” Kooly nixed his friend’s offer. “I can’t reach Caska’s comm unit. There’s no bounce back.”

Alynn jerked to attention. “What about her escort?”

Kooly shook his head. “No good. I didn’t know them. I need names for a check. We’ve got to tell Master Reslin—now.”

Alynn snapped a nod at Kooly. “Do it. Someone could have disabled her comm.”

Kooly sent a burst of info to Master Reslin and glanced up at his flight partner. “They can’t disable her telemetry chip. I can’t find it either.”

“Damn.”

Alynn’s short burst of swearing reinforced Kooly’s suspicions about the man’s feelings for their red-headed friend. “Alynn, I’ve got to get into the systems for some answers. That’s my job now.”

“Right! We’ll go with you to HQ. We can’t do any good here.” Alynn flicked an eyebrow at Machio. Anxiety fought with training for his attention. Training won over. Always go to the top for answers and major policy decisions.

 

This is the first revision. More will follow. They always do.

I hope you enjoyed that tidbit. Please let me know what you think. The feedback always helps, you know. Thank you.

I’ll be back on Sunday with a post on Poetry. I’ll see you then.

At Home with Changing Tasks

calendars-6888067

NOTE: My one and only tip of the day concerns brilliant ideas and time-served. Never, ever have a brilliant idea, like creating a reader survey to post on your website, five minutes before you intend to post to said website. At least, not when you don’t know how to get it to operate. Personal experience taught me this morning that doing that is a time wasting exercise. Figure all of that out long beforehand.

Okay, back to the program–tasks and subjects.

While I was finalizing my editorial calendar for the first quarter of 2014, I made a few changes to the line-up. Here’s how things are looking at the moment.

I’ll post here on Sunday’s and Wednesdays. Why? Because I also have the Two Voices, One Song website to accommodate, as well as regular monthly guest posts and my bigger projects. Within that weekly framework will be new features that are just now coming into their own. This is a short list of things I’ll be doing in the next few months.

Proposed Content for At Home:

  • Poetry segment—poem form with example and notification of a national poetry contest
  • Update on any current challenge and a personal example/excerpt of work to challenge
  • At Home Writing Challenge—coming in February
  • At Home Poetry Poster Photo Contest—coming in March—with professional judging
  • Reviews on books for writers and the writing craft, plus other titles
  • Screenwriting and what it can do for the writer
  • Interview with professional writer/editor/agent/publisher/speaker
  • Review of writing courses
  • Personal updates about work submitted/accepted/genres
  • Review of writing tools

Since I’ll only be posting twice a week, content will rotate accordingly. If you, as a reader/subscriber would like to see something specific, please contact me. I’ll accommodate if I feel qualified to do so and tell if you if don’t feel comfortable doing it.

It’s my job to make this website entertaining, informative, and worthwhile. Your feedback is critical to that job. If I don’t know what is working and what isn’t, I can’t do my part effectively. So, please, tell me when I get too far off the mark. I really do appreciate knowing.

Now, for a heads-up. I mentioned something about challenges and contests earlier. The February challenge is one that was brought to my attention by Chuck Palahniuk. It was the most difficult challenge I’d ever see but for one, and I couldn’t think of a better way to improve my writing skills. I decided to share the pain with all of you.

Ground Hog’s Day will usher in this challenge. You don’t have to take it, but you might well miss out on craft improvement if you don’t at least try it. Who knows, you might be terribly good at it already.

Likewise, on March 2nd, I will announce the rules for a photo contest on the site. This contest is for amateur writer/photographers who have looked at poster poems and said, “Well, I can do that.” This will be your chance to shine for a larger audience. The entrants’ photos will be judged by a pro photographer, and there will be a prize. So, keep that in mind over the next few weeks.

The rest is self-explanatory. I’m looking forward to this new year of challenges and opportunities. I hope you are as well. I’ll see you all on Wednesday when I show you an excerpt from the sci-fi novella I’m writing at the moment.

 

At Home with Tips

usb-flash-drive-icon-md

Hello there—

I discovered a quick and easy tip tonight that I thought I’d share with you. I always feel especially bright when I unearth something I really wanted to know. In this case, I felt like a lucky miner with a gold nugget in my hand.

Many of us carry flash drives rather than risk our files to a “cloud.” Of course, to determine by intuition how much space is free on one of the said drives is risky business. And rarely close to accurate.

I needed to know how much free space I had on a drive, and I didn’t want to search around on Google for an answer. Instead, I experimented and hit the right answer first time out. How cool is that?

To get a reading on your flash drive:

  • Insert flash drive into USB port
  • Open it as you normally would
  • On the left-hand side of your screen are the libraries, etc. Go to where you flash drive shows up and Right Click on it
  • A menu will pop up
  • At the bottom of the menu is Properties. Left Click on Properties
  • A new screen will appear with the details of memory storage: Used Space, Free Space, Capacity

Now you, too, can see how much more you can store on one flash drive. I mostly use 8GB drives and it takes lots of audio, video, pic, and text files to fill one of them.

Note: If you don’t catch it on your first time through, Right click again on your “J” drive (or whatever designation your system gives your FD) and look at the Menu again. You will see Eject. If you Left click on that, it will disconnect the FD from the system and you can simply remove the flash drive from the USB port without having to go through the hassle of locating the wee icon on the lower screen tool bar. I loved this function when I found it, too.

And there you have it. That’s one of my simple tips for the day. If you already knew about this wee function, congratulations. I’m betting there are plenty who didn’t know it, though.

And now I can get back to learning a new crochet stitch. My next project on that front is a perfect pair of Crocodile booties for Sister’s newly-expected great-granddaughter. They’re actually a practice run for the two pair of adult models that will follow.

Happy computing, folks. If I don’t get back to you before the weekend, have a terrific rest of the week. I was editing today and have critiquing to do tomorrow for my group’s weekly meeting. Stay warm and safe, wherever you are.

At Home with Potential

Fire's Candle Flame

This month’s 500 Word Challenge leads to some interesting thoughts and activities for many of us writers.

Some are using the opportunity to edit manuscripts already written but which need their first major revisions. This is a terrific idea for a very simple reason. Most writers I know get into their revision mode of thought and become like jigsaw puzzle workers.

Every time they pass by that enticing puzzle, they must stop to spend a few minutes to fine the proper slot for just one more piece. The next thing they know, they’ve been working on it for an hour or more. Reluctantly they rise from the chair, tearing their eyes away from the picture they’re crafting, and move on to another task—only to return as soon as that task is completed.

You see, puzzles are that way. They draw us in; force us to use our detective skills, and to spend time completing the picture. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a jigsaw, Sudoku, crossword, or wordsearch. It’s a puzzle. That’s enough of a draw.

Other writers are using the challenge to accomplish other goals.

The point of the process and the challenge is that the goal is small enough to achieve, yet large enough to make an impact on the overall project. That’s powerful when you think about it.

So much potential resides in 500 words. For instance:

  • Flash fiction: an entire story told within 500 words.
  • Short Story: the entire introduction to the story or the entire outline of a longer short story
  • Novella: the outline, or one long scene as envisioned in its entirely
  • Novel: Same as for short story and novella
  • Memoir: an entire memory to be placed with others for a book length project
  • Poetry: a rough draft of one epic-length poem or several shorter poems of various forms—could write an entire chapbook of poems with only 500 words if you work in haiku, Tenku, Tanka, or a combination of these forms.
  • Creative Non-Fiction: the first third of an essay or a brief narrative, observation article

Like all opportunities dangling the carrot of Potential, this challenge comes in on the plus side of writing.

During this first week of dabbling in this challenge, I’ve written blog posts that are keeping me on track. I’ve written a discussion piece, worked on an article for publication later, a short story for the same purpose, and worked scenes for my novella and my mystery novel.

The exercise for me is one of keeping my mind cranking out ideas about projects I’ve already got in the works or developing others that were mere glimmers of possibility. Along the way, I’ve also picked up a few pointers from others as to how they view two manuscript pages, which constitutes 500 words.

Some of those pointers/perspectives were:

  • Never overlook the creative genius that can be held within 500 words
  • The fewer the words, the more impact each word must have. Choose the right ones at the beginning.
  • This challenge gives a writer permission to play, to create for the sake of creation without striving to fulfill a goal other than play, and magic can happen when you aren’t looking.
  • Form doesn’t rule—only ideas and where they travel have power.

I like these perspectives. They open the valve to take the pressure off, instead of imposing pressure, as NaNoWriMo does.

This first week of January benefited me in many respects. How has it worked for you? If you’ve taken this challenge, have you found it freeing or imposing? What’s your perspective on the impact of 500 words and how they relate to you?

Drop me a comment here and share your thoughts. If you don’t, I’ll never discover if I stand alone in the darkness, holding my tiny candle with its flickering flame.

 

At Home–Day 3 of 500 Word Challenge

Courtesy of BJJones Photography

Courtesy of BJJones Photography

Today was one of errands, lunch with friends, and a short nap after a bit of shopping. We topped off the day with dinner out. I had no time for writing earlier. Nor did I really have a specific subject to work on.

I got home and dived into unresolved emails, as well as Facebook comments and post. I found my subject when I opened an email from one of my groups—Publishing Syndicate.

The update referred to this year’s bi-annual Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop held in Dayton, Ohio. The promo piece also announced the submission requirements for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Yes, it is another challenge. There are many this month. If things keep up, I won’t be able to polish my armor fast enough for the jousts. I’ll have to hire a squire.

Anyone of an age will remember Erma and her syndicated columns and her books. Her humor set a new standard for housewives/mothers everywhere. Her irreverence toward traditional attitudes concerning housekeeping and mothering duties bordered on scandalous satire.

For myself, I thought she was a hoot and wished that I could write just like her. She had a freshness of phrase that kept humorous points rolling around in one’s mind until they stuck somewhere inside to a projection of one’s sympathies. That sense of universal connection was the key to her staying power and her humor.

Whether I enter this contest later or not, I want to try for a hint of Bombeck with a flash piece here. Since she worked in daily memoir, I’ll draw from my own past.

Lessons for Kids

Compared to today, growing up in the rural Midwest during the 50’s and 60’s was like living down the road from Laura Ingles. If our food could come via fishing pole, shotgun, or picking from foliage, it filled our freezer and canning jars. The local bird population held strafing sorties around our house to keep us from what berries we’d managed to miss in our foraging.

Snapping turtles and frogs didn’t actually enjoy our hospitality, but they didn’t argue for long. Mom had a way with kitchen utensils. And I learned that fish scales can add sparkle to kitchen tile for weeks without them popping off.

Now, I have to say that brother and I learned early that the earth was our friend and provider. We also learned that Mom never handed us anything to eat that would kill us. We might wish to die after ingestion of whatever offering came to hand, but it wouldn’t kill us. Lots of kids back then learned how to recognize things like wild lettuce, wild garlic, wild onion, and wild radish without hesitation through the same rites of passage.

The lesson is called survival for preppers today. We had a different term for it—something to do with slow torture, I believe.

Mushrooms left the forests in our gunny sacks and old pillow cases in early spring—mostly morels, but sometimes puffballs tagged along. Spotting poisonous fungi species meant a lecture on their habitat and special circumstances. Their looks were examined, not for praise, but for certainty of recognition. Case in point—“’Shrooms with blackcaps announce your end, kids. Think funeral.”

Early summer had us foraging along railroad tracks for those succulent little morsels, wild strawberries. Mom would hand us each a small bucket with the instruction to be careful around the tracks and to keep an ear open for train whistles.

What is it about train tracks and wild strawberries? Did the regular train schedule and vibrating rails encourage plant growth or what? Mom believed our young eyes were better than hers, plus we were closer to the ground already. That was her reasoning for handing the buckets to us. We were just sure of it. It would be easier for us to spot those berries that were barely bigger than a large pea.

When sugar peaches ripened and wild plums readied themselves for plucking, brother and I had lessons in the easiest way to carry large, heavy harvesting sacks across fields and along tractor lanes without bruising the fruit. I didn’t realize until much later that we got our physical fitness training for free, while those who had money had to spend it on expensive gyms and golf. Think of all the money my folks saved themselves.

The autumn brought harvesting from native black walnut, hickory, butternut, and hazels. Crisp air, tainted with rising tannin levels from all those nut hulls laying all over the ground, greeted us each time we went to do battle with the squirrels for the bounty. Late autumn had Mom and me slaving at the kitchen table, knives and nut picks whittling down the piles of cured and cracked nuts for the treasures inside.

As blisters rose on my thumb pads and my fingers grew shaky, Mom would tell stories about when she was a kid. She used one story regularly to point out the joys of doing a good job the first time ‘round. It went like this.

“Your grandmother always had me, or your aunt, peel the potatoes. If our peelings were too thick when we finished the chore, we got to peel the peelings. Potatoes were too hard to grow and harvest to allow waste in the peeling. I hated peeling potatoes, but I got very good at.”

I learned not to complain. I was sincerely grateful she hadn’t put me on potato duty yet.

Growing up with an outdoorsman for a father and a mother who could have taught Euell Gibbons a few lessons gave us a solid appreciation for knowing how to disappear. Barring that, one could concentrate on reasoning skills for those times when logic might prevent another lesson in the woods. Failing that tack, stoicism became a mantle of honor.

*  *  *

Before I hear from any who would berate me for this portrayal of my mother, know this. I loved her deeply until the day she died. Her lessons in life and in the natural world have bolstered my abilities to adapt to time, circumstance, and environment. Hers and my father’s teachings never failed me and have kept me strong throughout my life.

If she read this piece, she’d chuckle all the way through, and she’d point out a few lessons I’ve not included.

As for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, I haven’t yet decided if I’ll submit to it. If I do, I still don’t know from what portion of my life I’ll write. I might just go for something from my tenure on a guest ranch in Jackson, Wyoming. Possibilities abound from that job.

For those who want to look into this opportunity to express personal humor in memoir, you can follow the links provided in this post to get all of the latest info on the event and the workshop.

Happy writing, all.

 

 

Day 2 of 500 Word Challenge

Pansy Close-up - Copy

I did one challenge segment of writing for my other website, 2voices1song today. I have more to go for the day.

I was thinking about goals since that was yesterday’s topic, but as I did, another consideration came to mind–one of Purpose. I chose to write to that topic as it pertained to goals and see where it took me. After all, finding purpose and accomplishing its fulfillment is a life challenge for everyone to some degree.

I admit that the direction wasn’t one I’d contemplated, but I liked it better.

Take a quick jaunt over to 2Voices and see what you think. Leave a comment to tell us what you have to say on the subject.

Have a terrific day and rest of the week and weekend. Things will heat up soon on activity calendars everywhere.

See y’all later.