No blood and guts, please


I confess. I have never read the Twilight series http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilightseries.html. My remote control would never stop on a channel airing The Vampire Diaries http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilightseries.html. I’d rather go to the dentist than be forced to watch a blood and guts movie.

The ability to create fantasy escapes me. In fact, I have a difficult time closing my eyes and imagining that I am someplace I’m not. Perhaps my DNA makeup does not include much of the imagination gene.

My interests focus on real life stories, not the reality shows aired on television today, but the slice of life stories of everyday people. Humor often serves as my crutch in difficult times and I make light of challenging situations rather than defer to the martyr syndrome, as evident in my book, Peaks and Valleys http://www.amazon.com/Peaks-Valleys-Mrs-Diane-How/dp/0967490170.

While my imagination may be limited, I still love to write and my dream is to write other people’s stories. I firmly believe everyone has a story, although I find most people think no one would be interested in hearing about his or her life.

It doesn’t require imagination to write someone’s life review. It does take time to listen and ask open-ended questions and it takes honesty by the person who is sharing their story. The end product can serve as a legacy for younger generations who will someday want to know about their ancestors’ journey.

The Missouri Humanities Council and Warriors Arts Alliance http://www.mohumanities.org/proud-to-be-writing-by-american-warriors/ recognized that the unembellished stories and poems written by veterans do not need props or imaginary characters to be worthy of inclusion in their anthology of remarkable and inspiring stories. In fact, they currently are accepting admissions for their next book.

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At a recent writers meeting http://www.saturdaywriters.org/, I listened while four American veterans read excerpts from the recently published book Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors. Their tales brought tears to my eyes and stirred intense feelings from years of reading similar letters while working for the Department of the Army.

Although the painful process of writing the story reflected in the quiver of each voice as the scripted words were read, there was a therapeutic benefit for each of the veterans. Each shared his reason for having done so during the question and answers period that followed.

Having listened to the veteran’s stories, I realized that not all writer’s need to have a vivid imagination. While my reading material and viewing time is limited to less imaginative works, there are many possibilities for me to suceed in my writing efforts.

How about you? Do fanciful characters dance in your head? What stirs you to pick up paper and pen and write?

I Dream of Genie Writing Room


My hands tremble slightly in anticipation as I gently press my fingers on the electronic detector and wait for it to read my prints. I glance over my shoulder making sure I have not been followed then quietly slip past the soundproof door that will separate me from a world of interuptions for the next few hours.

A dark mahogany desk serves as the command center for my oasis. I walk past it to the supple leather lounger where a freshly brewed cup of hazelnut coffee awaits me. With my favorite pen and notebook, I settle down and announce “Maui”

The LED wall illuminates and I’m on Kaanapali Beach in , listening to the swoosh of the ocean as I watch a magnificent sunset.

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From the rhythm of my pen a poem spills forth.

Come walk with me on shifting sands
Along my Maui shores
Come find the peace within yourself
That leaves you wanting more
The gentle flow of crashing waves
Will mesmerize your heart
The azure skies, the gentle breeze
You’ll never want to part
The tide will rise to greet you there
To cleanse your weary soul
The lofty palms will wave to you
And whisper “Please don’t go”

I recite it to Margie, my faithful genius who resides somewhere within the black laptop, and she records my words with precision.

“Bryce” I command and the wall changes to reveal the colorful hoodoos in the Utah National Park that appeared like chess pieces throughout the massive canyon.
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Once again the movement of my hand results in words spread across an empty canvas as a creative piece takes form. Nearly an hour has passed and I realize I must move on, lest I will fail to complete my journey.

“Colorado” I sigh as I think about the recent trip. There were not enough hours to journal my adventures while at Keystone. Perhaps a glance at one of the magnificent mountain scenes will refresh my memory enough to capture some lingering thoughts
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Oh, to have a perfect writing room. Must I leave?

Bountiful Baskets


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It’s funny how a thought sticks in your mind until it finds its way into a post. This weekend, my daughter and I made baskets while at Girl Scout Camp Tuckaho http://www.girlscoutsem.org/Programs/Camp/Camp-Tuckaho.aspx. We’ve both been involved in Girl Scouts since 1977 and as a treat, each year about nearly 100 adult volunteers from two districts come together to share talents, laughter and treasured memories with one another.

One of the many baskets displayed by our instructor, Pat Vogel, http://www.bittersweetbasketsandsupply.com/ was titled Bountiful Basket and it made its way into our conversations enough times that it settled in my brain. I returned home late Sunday evening and dragged myself into bed. (Hey, weaving baskets for hours on end and walking across icy fields to get from lodge to lodge was hard work!) Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the laundry basket bursting at the seems with clothes that needed washing. I smiled and decided to wait until morning to tackle that chore.

My thoughts continued to turn to bountiful baskets as I rested my still tender fingers against my disgustingly bloated stomach. Seemed I overfilled the bread basket that occupies the area where I used to have a waist. One thing for sure, we always eat well while at any Girl Scout function; it goes hand to hand, or maybe I should say mouth, with a bunch of women and fresh country air.

As I tried to fall asleep, I realized that although my body was worn, my mind was traveling at a high rate of speed. It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in front of my laptop. Why? I had recevied the most bountiful blessing on Friday when my last post, Rock, Paper, Laptop, was Freshly Pressed. It was the first time for me and I was overwhelmed by the response. By the time I returned on Sunday, more than 1500 fellow bloggers had viewed my post and many of them took the time to hit the “like” button and/or leave a comment. What an extraordinary event!

To all those who took the time to read my post, write a comment, put a smile on my face with the click of button, or follow my blog, thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope all of you have bountiful baskets filled with great things this week.

Rock, Paper, Laptop


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Ancient Egyptian writers depended upon chisels and stone as the medium for their hieroglyphics. I’m sure many of them embraced the advances in technology that introduced other resources for their passions. Yet, I imagine there were some who struggled to move forward gleefully.

There was a time when pads of yellow paper graced nearly every table top of our home, patiently waiting for any random thoughts of gibberish to find its way onto a meticulously clean surface. With my companions, a smooth writing pen and lined paper, I delight in sitting cross-legged on my couch or out on the deck, scribbling away with the security of knowing I can rip off a page, crumble it and have a clean slate ready for my next attempt.

Much like reminiscing through old photographs, I can pick up a journal or notebook stuffed with pages of deep thoughts, easily revisiting my attempts to imitate Robert Frost http://www.poemhunter.com/robert-frost/ or Erma Bombeck http://www.ermamuseum.org/home.asp. Sometimes, the words I scripted are buried so deep in the recesses of my mind I don’t recognize the words, yet I always know they are mine because of the handwriting.

It isn’t that I don’t know the capabilities of the black box that had been assigned its own room in the house for many years. My job required extensive knowledge of numerous, ever-changing, complex programs, including the infamous MS Word. Perhaps the challenges forced upon me daily formed a callous on my brain that makes it too painful to imagine drafting my work on my computer.

Seldom did I take the time to store my creations electronically. The few that made it through the final stages of editing onto the complex contraption were lost when the hardware failed. (Thank goodness for my archaic backups!) The thought of composing something while sitting at the keyboard was as foreign the thought of writing a romance novel.

My daughter frequently reminded me of the century we now live in and the advances in technology that she believed would make my life easier, if only I would try something new. The way she rolled her eyes when I’d pick up a tablet and began writing reflected her frustration in my failure to listen. Bless her heart. Instead of nagging endlessly, she generously provided me with a laptop upon my retirement. “You can use it anywhere, mom. You’ll love it.”

So I tried sitting cross-legged on the sofa with the slim blue device balanced on my lap. That lasted about ten minutes before the phone rang and I had to untangle my legs from the wire to get across the room to the phone. What wires you say? The one attached to the mouse of course. Yes, I know others may use the one built into their machine, but using the touch pad doesn’t work for me because I keep resting my thumbs as I ponder my next line. If you have never been gifted in this ability, let me describe what happens next. The perfect words you struggled for fifteen minutes to compose transform themselves into paragraphs and sentences for which they were not intended. The time it took to find and edit them is just long enough for the thought to pass and there you sit staring at the screen again. I fixed the problem by disabling the gizmo – ok, I had to have help with that too.

I often found myself reverting back to paper and pen. It wasn’t until I decided to write my first novel that I considered the time-consuming effort it would take to write a 50,000 word manuscript and then transpose it onto the computer. One day, after much deliberation, I relented and established a work zone in my dining room where I began typing and editing the dozens of pages I had written before coming to my senses.

I opened the French doors leading onto the deck and felt a delightful breeze drift in. The chirp of a nearby cardinal provided for an opportunity to procrastinate and it wasn’t long before I ventured out onto the deck with all tools in hand. My fairybook visions of spending the next few hours accomplishing great things dissipated in seconds. The gentle wind turned into a gust and blew my stacks of paper high into the sky. With arms flailing, I scrambled urgently to retrieve the papers in flight for fear of a neighbor stealing page 10 of a best seller.

Once I even tried taking my laptop on a daytrip to the river where my husband docked his boat. He often liked to visit for hours with a friend who lives there. What a great opportunity, I thought. I’ll be inspired as the river carries barges through the lock and dam. Surely a poem or some type of masterpiece was waiting to find its way into my laptop. I proudly headed to the lovely swing where I had often written in my small journal.

I shifted the mouse and pad from my leg to the bench of the swing. I tried numerous positions to no avail. I decided to remove the accessory and use the touchpad. Try as I might, I could not remember the sequence of steps my friend had shown me to reactivate the function. By the time I successfully retrieved the info from my wary brain, the battery died on the laptop. I bit my lower lip to keep from screaming and quietly closed the lid and stood up, dropping the mouse and pad at my feet. Anger turned into tears as I gathered all of the pieces and headed back to the car.

My frown turned into a smile when I opened the door and glanced down at the yellow pad and Cross pen that patiently waited for my attention. In one hand, I tossed the laptop on the seat and with the other, I embraced my faithful companions, hugging them close as I strolled back to the wooden swing and settled in for a lovely afternoon.

The transition from rock to paper to laptop has not been easy for some of us. Still, there are benefits to each. Had it not been for the stones that ancient Egyptians carved, much of history would have been lost. Yet hieroglyphics presented many challenges, especially in portability. Paper is readily available, portable and can be treasured for many years, yet it is fragile and fades in time. A laptop stores immense amounts of data, offers unlimited features that transform the written word into works of art, and advances nearly daily in new technology, but with the touch of a delete key, a year’s worth of work can be forever lost into space.

I’ve taken small steps to embrace the wonders of digital technology, but I doubt I will ever relinquish the comfort of paper and pen.

Can you relate?

Facing the truth


It’s mid January and the first time in nearly 50 days that I’ve tried to compose a post for my blog. My yellow pads of paper are blank, much like the white space in my word documents. The craziness of the holidays, winter blues, lack of inspiration – any of those excuses could be supported using a little creative writing. Yet, my writer’s block is something much more than procrastination; something I have not been able to clarify in my mind or on paper until today.

A good friend and fellow blogger, Amanda Bretz shared something on her blog, http://authoramandabretz.wordpress.com/2013, that was beautifully written, but took great strength and courage to publish. She is an accomplished writer who is forging her name in the publishing world with her third book and many other accomplishments. Without realizing it, her inspiring words helped me put my problem into perspective.

So what could be so terrible that would freeze my pen and keyboard too? A four letter word sums it up. FEAR.

There is fear of failure; fear of no one caring if I ever posted another thought; fear that my writing does not deserve to be read; fear that if light touches the darkness of my heart, the walls will crumble and expose the stifled hopes and dreams buried so deep that they no longer have have form.

There it is. Now, what do I do about it? Like eating an elephant – it will require one bite at a time. Surely it is possible to find a balance where honesty does not cause pain for others yet allows for fulfillment of needs.

Have you found a way write the truth? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Is it Really Quicksand????


Have you ever been mired in quicksand?

I remember the day I made my First Communion in the Catholic Church. I have a picture of myself in a white, frilly dress, wearing a veil and shiny patent leather shoes.  It was supposed to be a day that I would remember as a beginning of a new era in my life.

We went to visit my grandmother who lived next to a large field that led to a playground.  I begged my parents to let me walk with my brothers to the playground, promising not to get dirty or ruin my dress and shoes.  We had gone there before without any incident and I reassured mom and dad I could do it without any problem.  They finally relented and the three of us ran off to have some fun.

About half way to our destination, I became mired in quicksand, at least that is what my brothers called it.  I sank down to my knees in something muddy and deep.  The more I fought it, the worse it got.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get out of the muck.

My brothers ran off to summon my father.  I still remember the feeling of desperation while I was immobile and alone.  The tears streamed down my cheeks as I stood in the middle of an open field embarrassed and wanting to disappear before my dad arrived.

My pain was not from the sting of the spanking I received for my mud-packed shoes, socks and dress.  It wasn’t from the cold water as dad hosed me off.  The look of anger and frustration on my parents face would have been enough, but I can still see my grandmother who wept at the sight of me.   It was the disappointment of not keeping my promise and for ending a special event on such a sour note.

Like many others, I dove into November by challenging myself to complete my second novel (50,000 words) in 30 days (NANOWRIMO).  I zoomed through the first 25,000 words and my novel came to an end.  I went back and tried to find places to add more words, but the story line was complete.

I got mired in quicksand.  I couldn’t move forward.  I pulled and tugged and wanted to cry when I realized I would not be successful in completing the NANOWRIMO challenge.  I stopped writing anything.

For the past 7 days, I have sat hopelessly in front of my laptop glaring at the computer screen.  I felt much like the five year old girl who could not move an inch without sinking further into the mud.  I could not seem to pull myself out.  I failed to live up to a commitment I made, one that probably means little to anyone except me, but feels much the same as.

Then I remembered, I’m not that five year old little girl and I’m not in quicksand.  Writing is more than a thirty day commitment.  I’ve printed out my manuscript and read it.  It needs work, but it is a beginning and today is a new day, worthy of a new beginning.

To all my fellow writers who think they are mired in quicksand, it’s probably not quicksand that is holding you back.  Write.  You’ll feel better soon!

Fall is Fading


My mother loved to make our annual trip to the apple orchard.  This time of year brings melancholy moments and today, my thoughts turned to her.  This poem found its way into my collection after one of our visits.  Perhaps another simple soul will enjoy it too.

Here’s to you mom.  You’re always just a thought away.

Memories of Autumn

Leaves painted in gold, slowly drift to the ground

Crisp autumn winds make them dance all around

The apples are ready, wagons stuffed full of hay

The trip to the orchard makes for a wonderful day

Mums bursting in color,Purple, rust and bright yellow

The cider’s been brewing, it’s sweet, warm and mellow

The sun’s warm on my back, fall has made quite a splash

I cherish the moment, it will fade in a flash