Saturday, May 28, 2016

where the poppies grow

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

~John McCrea~
The name of John McCrae may seem out of place in the distinguished company of World War I poets, but he is remembered for what is probably the single best-known and popular poem from the war, "In Flanders Fields." He was a Canadian physician and fought on the Western Front in 1914, but was then transferred to the medical corps and assigned to a hospital in France. He died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918. His volume of poetry, In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, was published in 1919.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

a word of praise, a nod of approval

This week a member of my critique group asked me to reflect on my experience with the group...specifically, what I think I've learned from my fellow writers. I've posted before about how much I appreciate my fellow writers, and how important it is for a beginner to have a good critique group.

So, here are five things I've learned from my critique partners in addition to correct grammar, spelling and punctuation:
  • I've learned that it's a lot easier for me to edit some else's work than it is to pick up on my own mistakes (passive verbs, extraneous adjectives and adverbs, pacing, etc., etc., etc.)
The entire process has improved my self-editing skills.
  • We meet once a month. Polishing up a couple of pages in time to make that deadline has helped me forge ahead with my novel. Without it, I would probably never have finished a line of revision or moved ahead to the next scene.
  • You can't please everyone.  What one person likes, another deletes. What one person thinks you should keep, another thinks is needless. I've learned to make the final decision based on what I want to get across to the reader. What is true for me.
  • In their early drafts, even some of the already-published authors among us struggle with the same issues I do as a beginner (scene setting, characterization, plot points, etc., etc., etc.).

 I've learned to trust the process. The finished-product may scarcely resemble the first draft.
  • I've learned that a word of praise or a nod of approval can do more to motivate a writer than all the advice in the world... matter who it comes from :)

A big round of applause and gratitude goes out to all my critique partners! Thank you!

" We do not mind our not arriving anywhere
nearly so much
as our not having company on the way."

--Frank Moore Colby--
This weekend I'm missing the annual Pennwriters' Conference in Lancaster, less than an hour from where I live. This means I have to miss some terrific workshops, but mostly I miss seeing the friends I only get to see once a year. Miss you guys. Maybe next time...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

ten signs you're ready to begin

When I retired in order to begin all over again as a wannabe writer, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I didn't know if I had any talent for this kind of thing, any hope of success, or the necessary dedication to it. Nevertheless, I put my misgivings aside, summoned whatever courage I could muster, and cleared my desk so I was ready to try.

Since then I have learned that there are certain signs that writing is a person's true passion in life. Is it yours?

In my experience, these are the top ten signs that you, too, may be ready to begin:

  • At any one time, you carry at least five pens with you (six to ten is even better). Go ahead. Check your purse or briefcase now.
  • You have enough pens with you but sometimes you forget to carry paper. Therefore sizable chunks of your manuscript are recorded on napkins, on the back of receipts, on used envelopes, and when that fails...on the back of your hand.
  • You have perfected the ability to record plot points, dialogue, and gorgeous prose whenever and wherever your muse is kind enough to share it with you...and you can get it down without taking your eyes off the road.
  • Sudoku makes you cringe.
Image result for sudoku
  • You are reluctant but willing to concede that your laptop/word processor is a convenience, but you will defend the merits of pen and paper to the end. Remember the likes of Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
  • When you're writing, you sometimes make yourself cry.
  • Sometimes you make yourself laugh.
  • When you read what you've written later on, it happens again.
  • You have made peace with the "delete" key.
  • "I wasted the whole day," is not part of your vocabulary.
  • You make excuses (Oh, all right--you lie) so that you can stay home alone.
Oops. That makes eleven sure signs.

The point is that unless you begin, you will never know what you can accomplish. You will never put your passion to the test, exercise your creativity, or realize your dream. You will never know if you have what it takes, and you will always wonder about it.

When do you plan to begin?


Monday, May 9, 2016

change is good

"Change is good." How many times have I invoked that weary platitude in defense of starting a new project--redecorating a room or sprucing up the yard, trying a new diet, or even starting a new story.

The problem is that I would rather redecorate a room than clean it. A total makeover is so much more fun to think about than scrubbing down the walls or shampooing the carpet, and then tossing a couple of new cushions onto the couch.

I'd rather put in new landscaping and plant fresh flowers than face the drudgery of edging and weeding the beds I already have.

And how many times have I made up my mind to go vegetarian, or vegan, or Mediterranean rather than simply cutting down on the fat, salt and sugar in my diet like I know I should.

There is something irresistible about starting anew, the promise that you can make it bigger, brighter, or better this time around. Imagine what you could do with a truckload of new furniture, or a gourmet kitchen, or a updated wardrobe! Oh, the anticipation, the execution, the endless possibilities!

It's like starting a new book. You're full of sure that this one will be better than the rest! Every day you're eager to get back to work on it...

...when you really should be plowing through tedious revisions on the piece you've simply grown tired of.


Spring is a time for change, whether you're working in the yard, giving the house a good cleaning, or starting a new story.

Sometimes all it takes is a little dusting and polishing, or a little hoeing and raking to spruce things up. Just a few minor revisions can make all the difference.

Then again, sometimes it pays to stick with what you already have and make it the best it can be. 


Sunday, May 1, 2016

ten signs you're ready to begin

"Most of us have two lives.
The life we live, and the unlived life within us...
Are you a writer who doesn't write, a painter who doesn't paint,
an entrepreneur who never starts a venture?
Then you know what Resistance is."

This quote is taken from the book, theWARofART, by Steven Pressfield.

In it he talks about the excuses we concoct to defeat the creative urge within us. For example, instead of romancing our muse, most of us worry about financial security. We complain that we don't have the time to take on one more thing. We shun solitude at all costs. It's no wonder we never get anything started...or finished.

He goes on to say:

"If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic, every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff."

Why? Because fear of failure, anxiety, pessimism and self-loathing are all bottled up inside, feeding us lies. Waiting to sabotage our first courageous efforts. You'd experience a little resistance, too, if you were trapped in there with all that negativity.

If, instead, you prefer the company of dreamers, optimists, wishful thinkers, and self-starters then you should get in touch with your muse.

Whether your dream is to write, or paint, or compose, or perform, she can show you how to begin...or help you begin again if you've already given up. Remember:

Here are ten surefire signs you are ready:

--You're already in the habit of jotting notes on napkins, cashier receipts, or the back of your hand.
--You carry between five and ten pens with you at all times.
--You prefer to listen to the voices in your head than to engage in conversation with the person next to you.
--Somewhere stashed away in your house is a crate of moldering paints, petrified brushes, and unfinished canvases from who knows when.
--You haven't had the piano tuned for years and the books stored in the bench are starting to smell funky.
--The last thing you painted was the ceiling.
--The last time you sang in public was at the start of a ball game.
--Dread drops anchor with you some time after 3pm Sunday and doesn't lift until after 3pm Friday.
--You doodle on the back of corporate memos.
--Play is your idea of good honest work.

These are all tell tale signs that you have it in you no matter what you come up against. You already possess the desire, the spirit, and the tools to harness your creative energy.

The question is what will you do with yours?
"Why should we all use our creative power?
Because there is nothing
that makes people so generous,
joyful, lively, bold, and compassionate,
so indifferent to fighting and
the accumulation of objects and money."
--Brenda Ueland--