Sunday, November 29, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
We had a great weekend weatherwise here in Kentucky. And in West Virginia where we were keeping the grandkids while Mom and Dad took some R & R time. Looks like the twins are auditioning to join their grandpa's gospel group. A little duet piano playing would certainly add to the fun, I'm sure.
This is our second weekend in a row to have sunshine and warm temperatures. It was picnic weather in November. Some people were out putting up Christmas decorations. I don't know how they did it in seventy degree weather, but then I'm not much of a decorator. I don't decorate my yard in any degree weather for any holiday.
Guess my yard's decorated right now with the neighbor puppies. I actually gave one of them away. Yaay! To be a little three-year-old girl's puppy. The little dog will feel right at home after the way the grandkids carried her around and loved on her. Anyway all this great sunshine makes me think we must be getting the October weather we so sorely missed out on last month this month. And I'm glad. I love the warm, sunshiny days of fall when you just want to sit down and let the sun soak into your bones to tide you over until spring.
The twin boys along with their big sisters kept both Darrell and me hopping to keep them happy and out of trouble this weekend. The boys have inherited a good dose of stubborn from their grandma and once they thought about doing something, they were bound and determined to see it through, especially if it was to open doors or cabinets or head for the end of the driveway. All the kids were fun to be with and "far away grandma" as the three year old calls me had a good time chasing after them all.
Tonight I went with the Patriot Quartet to their concert. I was sitting out in the entranceway of the church before the service started when a couple came in and I caught this scrap of the conversation. "And then she kind of just quit coming." I don't know who they were talking about or what they were saying she kind of quit coming to. But the phrase rang a bell. "Just kind of quit." I figured they were talking about a person who had fallen away from their church fellowship, but that wouldn't have to be the case. She could have just kind of quit going to the gym to exercise. She might have just kind of quit going to visit her family. Who knows?
Hope there's nothing you've "kind of quit" doing that you enjoy doing in this November October. I've "kind of got started" on my new book. Kind of. So that's better than kind of quitting, right?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
That's a quote that has a lot of truth. Nobody has all the answers, but writers can get asked some interesting stuff. I promised I'd report on the questions the students at Western Hills High asked me last Friday. I spoke to three different classes - a couple of advanced placement classes and one Senior/Junior English class. The first class had maybe eight kids. They didn't have many questions. I think I probably should have been asking them questions.
The second class was the one the teacher had warned me would be "energetic." And then the teacher was absent with a substitute. Talk about nervous. Me, not the kids. But the kids were great. Energetic for sure, but I was in there for their block period which was an hour and a half almost and between me and the kids we managed to fill up the time. I did my "yeah, I'm a writer and this is how that came about" speech. And then I read some out of my writing journal to show how long it takes from initial idea to published book. Not sure how that went over, but they listened. Then we did my "create a character" exercise. Groups always have fun with that, but this bunch got a little noisy. Thank goodness we were way down the hall from the principal's office. They all had their own ideas of who the character should be and they tried to shout down the other ideas. It was fun.
The third class was a bigger advanced placement class and we were back to the quieter environment and polite listeners. Of course their regular teacher was there listening too and the class time was shorter so we had to rush up the writing exercise of creating a character.
But I promised I would let you know about their questions. Nobody asked a real stumper. Thank goodness. So I knew most of the answers - or maybe I just misunderstood the questions, you think? So here we go with a few of their questions.
"Do you get to pick your covers?" Everybody is always interested in how the covers are designed. That's one of those misunderstood questions if I have the answer. I told them the publishers usually come up with the covers and sometimes ask the writer's input. Even when they don't expect you to give any input. My favorite cover? Definitely The Outsider because the model for Gabrielle is the perfect Gabrielle. Then I liked my young adult novel, For Sheila, from several years ago because of the big old dog.
"Do you know any really famous writers?" I'm always a disappointment on this one. They want me to have chatted with J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. I haven't. I know some writers, but none whose names I could drop to get the kids excited.
"What is your favorite book that you've written?" A hard question to answer. Like saying which is your favorite child when you have a dozen or maybe nineteen kids. They're all my favorites. The Scent of Lilacs because it got me back into the published ranks after several years out. Discovery at Coyote Point because the setting is based on one of my favorite places on the farm. The Gifting because writing it got me through a hard time while my dad was in the last stages of cancer. The one I'm working on because it's new. I can think of reasons to decide each book might be a favorite.
"Which book that you've written made you the proudest?" I didn't have an answer for that one. Maybe I should have told the kids I'm proud every time I finish a book. But then pride goeth before a fall, so maybe I'll just say I'm excited every time I finish a book.
"Can you make a living writing?" Another impossible question to give a general answer. Some writers make a great living writing. Most writers shouldn't give up their day jobs. I've had years I did okay and other years I worked for peanuts. More peanut years than making a living years, but there was never any question of not writing. I am compelled to write.
So no real zany questions. I expected a few zingers, but the kids were kind. How about you? What questions would you have asked if you'd been there? Or if you were listening to any writer talk about writing?
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." --Rachel Carson
What a great time of the year to feast on the beauty of the world around us! I'm enjoying the sunshine and the crisp autumn air. It makes for some great walking weather. And I like bringing some of the beauty of nature home with me. In the spring and summer I pick a few wildflower blooms - if the plants are plentiful - to put in a vase on my desk. In the fall, I like bringing home a colorful leaf or two to brighten up my office. I like taking nature pictures and I'm thankful for a digital camera that lets me snap to my heart's content without having to think about wasting film.
But sometimes the very best way to bring home the beauty is in your memory. When I first started walking in the woods as a young teen, I remember stopping and taking mental pictures of different trees or creeks or beautiful places so that I would always have them in my memory bank. I'd read a story about a man who was a prisoner of war and had kept his sanity by building a house in his mind, imagining each board and each nail as he put the house together. When he got home, he built that house. Now it may seem a stretch from that to taking mental pictures of a beautiful oak tree flaming in the sun, but I was an impressionable youngster with an imagination that sometimes took me down dreary lanes of what ifs. I planned to store up my beauty images in case I someday found myself deprived of the opportunity to view beauty.
Thank goodness those dreary what ifs haven't happened. I've lived a blessed life, but I still have those images of beauty in my memory bank and I've added lots more. And not just nature shots, but personal images as well. The first sight of my babies. The first time I saw my husband to be. My daughter singing in a Junior Miss contest. My son receiving a scholarship. My other son telling me he was engaged. So many images of the joy of life and some of the sadness too with the nature ones intermingled to keep me grounded.
I like using nature in my books. In my first published book I used the fleeting shadow of a bird passing over the character to hint at trouble coming. In my Hollyhill books, I had locust blooms and lilacs, a tornado and a snowstorm that were important to the story lines. In The Outsider the weather was a major obstacle to the men fighting in the War of 1812. I didn't make that weather up. It was in the history accounts, but my characters had to deal with the heat and then the bitter cold and snow. In The Believer I have Hannah who loves the woods. At the book club I visited last week, some of the readers said that Hannah was one of their favorite characters. So maybe all those mental images I've been snapping of this or that nature scene are coming in handy after all. A writer has to use what she's given along with what she can imagine.
The Kentucky Book Fair is this Saturday. Come by and see me if you're there. I'm in the back row sitting at the same table as Jan Watson. We both love talking to readers. Of course those 200 other writers do, too. So if you come, plan to spend a couple of hours enjoying books. I'll be on a panel called "Fiction Writers Unite!" with Jan and Karen Robards and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall at 12:30 p.m. That should be fun. Last but not least, keep me in your thoughts and prayers on Friday morning as I'm going to be talking to three classes of high school kids. I'm looking forward to their questions. That's always my favorite part of any talk I do about writing. I'll try to remember their most interesting questions to share with you next week.
--Hope you have plenty of beauty in your lives this week.