Sunday, May 29, 2011

Suzanne Woods Fisher & Guide Dog Puppies

Suzanne Woods Fisher with one of her beautiful labs

Today I have a special guest on One Writer's Journal. This is the first time I've had a writer guest, but maybe not the last time if I can make connections with some other writers about what they do besides write.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling novelist with a wonderful following of faithful readers who love her books. She hosts a weekly radio program called Amish Wisdom where she interviews writers and other guests about Amish living and the simple life. She has a busy family life and on top of all that, she raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.  So as one dog loving writer to another, we're talking dogs and writing. And as a bonus, Suzanne has graciously offered to give away a copy of her 2011 Christy Award finalist book, The Waiting to one of you readers. Just leave a comment with a way to contact you. So now let's talk to Suzanne.  

Suzanne, you have a very busy life with your writing, radio show, signing tours and everything that goes along with publishing books. Tell us how you handle it all and still enjoy time with your family.


I am always writing. Nearly always! Promotion is a big side of this book gig—answering e-mails, participating in interviews, public speaking, keeping up with social media. Everything gets done…but it’s a pretty busy life right now. I don’t have much time for just having coffee with friends. As for the puppies…they are a joy! Taking a dog on a daily walk helps me get away from the computer, slow down, enjoy nature, exercise, relax a little. You just can’t take life too seriously with a puppy tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth.

Your grandfather was raised Plain. Was his background instrumental in you deciding to write about the Amish? Your Amish books come across as very authentic as well as respectful to the Amish way of life. Did your grandfather tell you about Plain living or did you experience that firsthand through visits to the Amish villages?
 I’ve always been intrigued by my Plain relatives, even as a child. They have a very gentle spirit, very warm and welcoming, and I admire their focus on a simple life. My grandfather was one of eleven children, raised Old Order German Baptist Brethren, near Gettysburg, PA. He left the colony as an adult, but kept in close contact with his many siblings (and many, many cousins, second cousins, third cousins, etc.). The German Baptists (also known as Dunkards) share core beliefs with the Amish and Mennonites. All Anabaptists. Same song, different verse.

And I have a similar respect for the Amish families whom I’ve met—they’re such kind, wonderful people. A number of my characters in my novels are inspired by real Amish people. Caleb Zook, for example, (in The Waiting and The Search) is modeled after a bishop I admire. I admit, though, that I took a little license with the character: Caleb is a dashingly handsome Amish farmer. The real bishop is a dead ringer for Benjamin Franklin.
 
I’m a dog lover and I know there are many dog lovers out there in the reading world. You have gone a step farther than simply loving dogs as pets to raising dogs for service. How did you get started raising Guide Dog puppies?
We had lived in Hong Kong for four years with my husband’s work (he’s a corporate guy). We have four kids, and the six of us lived in an 1100 square foot apt. in a 44 story highrise. My youngest son, Tad, wanted a dog and it just wasn’t the time in life for us. When we returned to California, the time seemed right. Another dilemma! My husband doesn’t like dogs. He told Tad that he had to convince him of a function, a solid reason, a noble purpose, to get a dog. That very week, Tad and I went on his 3rd grade field trip to Guide Dogs for the Blind and learned about the need for puppy raisers. Voila! We found the reason! Nine puppies later…we are still raising them. And my husband has grown to like (not love) our dogs.

Tell us about raising these pups. What is the same as raising any pup and what is different?

Some aspects of raising a Guide Dog puppy would be similar to having a pet: House training (my first objective!) and basic obedience. Puppies are assigned to a puppy raiser's home at eight weeks of age and recalled back to the Guide Dogs for the Blind facility around sixteen to eighteen months for formal training. The job of a puppy raiser is to socialize the puppies by taking the pup on age-appropriate outings—grocery stores, restaurants, church, movies and concerts, doctors and dentists, bus and train rides, on and on. We also attend weekly puppy raising meetings to work on skills. The goal of preparing a puppy to become a working guide is always in front of us.

Pups can be cute little bundles of fun or at times, bundles of trouble. My daughter has a German Shepherd pup right now who sometimes drives her crazy and she’s a dog lover like me. He just chewed up a library book. I guess he wants to read that badly. Can you share some misadventures you’ve had with your pups?

I think my most mortifying puppy-raising moments are when a puppy relieves in public. It doesn’t happen often, and it shouldn’t happen at all…but it does. It is very hard to look cool when you are cleaning up your puppy’s mess. Another mortifying moment was when I was in a Nordstrom ladies room , washing my hands, as my Guide Dog puppy poked her head under the stall and scared a lady.


It has to be rewarding to know the pups you raise are going to be some person’s way to a more independent life.  Do you ever know any details or stories about how your pups make a difference in someone’s life? Heard an inspiring story about your pups after they leave your care?

The worst and best puppy raising moment came in a twenty-four hour period after the graduation ceremony for my first dog. Arbor was partnered with Jon, a college boy with progressive blindness.  When we said goodbye, we knew we wouldn’t see Arbor again (Jon lives in the Midwest). We were thrilled that Arbor became a guide, but it really smarted to say goodbye to that big yellow lab. The next day, Jon’s mom e-mailed me to let me know they made it home and she added this comment: “Last night, Jon and Arbor walked over to a friend’s house. I can’t remember the last time Jon did that.” In just 24 hours, Arbor was changing Jon’s life! For our family, loss turned into gain.

I know there must be things I don’t know to ask about what you do with these dogs. So please share anything that is especially difficult or rewarding for you or that you think we might just like to know if I only knew the right questions to ask.


If you are a dog lover, look into volunteering with service dog organizations like Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California. Half the reason I keep raising puppies is because I have met so many wonderful, big-hearted people, too. And there are all kinds of levels of involvement—it doesn’t have to be as big a commitment as puppy raising. Some people in my local puppy club are just puppy sitters—they provide a huge help to raisers.


We’re so happy you shared with us about your dogs. But we are writers, and writers write and then they talk about their books. So tell us a little about your books and which ones are new out there on the market for readers. Also what is on the publishing horizon for you?

I have new releases coming out later this year: Amish Values for Families releases in August—it’s a spin-off from Amish Peace. And then some fiction books follow behind: A Lancaster County Christmas comes out in October…and dog lovers will be happy to know that this is a story that includes a very wonderful Search and Rescue dog!

Starting January 1st, The Keeper is released—the first in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series. And then another series will follow that—still in the little town of Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania. Different characters, same town. All good!

Any last words before we say goodbye? And be sure to tell everyone how they can find out more about your books.

Thanks so much for having me, Ann, and sharing your many readers with me. I love to connect! You can find me online at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and on Facebook, too.

Thank you, Suzanne. Remember, everybody, if you leave a comment you'll have a chance to win Suzanne's book The Waiting. Think how much fun it will be to win a Christy Award nominated book. Also, be sure to tune into "Amish Wisdom," an internet radio program hosted by Suzanne every Thursday. Here's the link. http://toginet.com/shows/amishwisdom. You might even hear me on there sometime in June talking about my new Shaker book.

Let me know what you think. Want me to find more writer friends to tell us what they do along with writing great books?


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Clear Creek Writers Workshop

L to R - Virginia Smith, me, Annie Jones, Laura Resnick

The Clear Creek Writers' Workshop was lots of fun last Saturday. The writers' group held it in a historic home in Shelbyville that added to the atmosphere of books and talk. The best part of the day, of course, was meeting new writing friends. Here I am in the line-up with fellow workshop presenters, Ginny Smith and Annie Jones. Laura Resnick was the keynote speaker and joined us for the panel here as we were getting ready to answer questions. Most of the questions seemed to deal with technology and what a writer should do to have a presence on the internet. I stayed mostly quiet and listened to the experts. They had some good ideas about focusing your blogging energy and making sure you had great content.

Great advice. I hear it everywhere I go and writers start handing out advice about how to establish a presence on the net. Well, I'm here. I'm talking, but I don't know about that great content stuff. I always want to ask, "What do you call great content?" Information on how to live to be one hunded and five? Hints about what to cook for supper? Advice on how to get the ten and twelve-year-old siblings to stop fighting?

Or maybe how to write a bestseller? How to meet a deadline? Now we're getting into some good content. Uh, maybe even great content. And the thing is I'm guessing there are already a dozen or a few hundred blogs that address those very things. There are blogs on everything. Raising dogs. Horses. Chickens. I'm guessing there are even blogs about eating chicken or maybe not eating chicken. So I listened to the others and tried to learn.

Here are some of the writers who were ready to ply us with their questions. Earlier I had shared with them my "confessions." That was the title of the workshop. "Confessions of a Working Writer." Confession wasn't hard. I told them about my ups and downs as a writer. Then I told them how the very best thing any writer can do if they really want to write is write. That desire or unstoppable will to put words on paper or computer screen can't be taught. It has to rise from within the writer.

But I did love their workshop title. Then they gave my session the title, "Even a historical fiction writer has to stay current." Maybe that was the reason for all the electronic conversation. They were trying to keep me current. Did I say "keep" me current?  I probably should be saying try to get me to inch at least a little closer to current. Maybe close enough that I can see the distant shoreline even if I do know that I'm never going to get my little electronic boat rowed to shore.

Content, Ann, content! Are you noticing what I'm seeing here with these words? Con'tent and con-tent.' They don't sound alike, but they look exactly the same. So I can be content with my content. And I'll hope some of my readers will be content too.

But since I'm talking about content, you can be looking forward to some great content on Sunday when I'll be posting Suzanne Woods Fisher's interview about raising guide puppies and writing bestselling Amish books. What do you know? There's that great content about how to get on the bestseller lists. Suzanne knows how it's done because she does it all the time. If you leave a comment for her interview on Sunday, she'll also be giving away a copy of one of her books to a lucky winner.

Thanks for reading my contented content. That's where writers get in trouble, isn't it? When they get content with their content and don't keep pushing for better and better content. Hope the sun is shining down on you and if there are storms that the dark clouds are flying so high over you way up in the sky that you barely feel the breeze as they pass over.
 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Dog, Honeysuckle Jody

It's not a great picture, but here I am with my cockerspaniel, Jody. He was a registered dog and to fancy up his name a little I registered him as Honeysuckle Jody. The picture is old and I've definitely got a windblown look, but Jody's curly ears are lying down nicely. This was taken twenty-five or so years ago. I was needing some - or at least I hoped I might need some - publicity type photos after my first books were published. Can't say that I ever did.

That was way before Facebook and the internet gave anybody a chance to share pictures with anybody. But I'm glad I took this one and a couple more with Jody. He was a good dog. And he was the dog that I wrote about in the story that is part of the book, The Dog Next Door edited by Callie Smith Grant. Its release date is June 1, but it looks like it's already available for shipping on Amazon. 

I like dog stories, so I'm sure I'm going to enjoy reading the other writers' stories in the book. My story is titled "A Gift of Love," and it's about when my husband gave me Jody for my birthday. He sometimes has a hard time getting me gifts that I really like. I mean the man gave me a bright pink snuggie a couple of years ago and a floor polisher one year. I have to admit that sometimes I'm not the best gift receiver, but at the time I got the floor polisher I was still young and halfway believed in Santa Claus. :-) Besides that, I lived in an old farm house with linoleum that had black spots from wear. So it's hard to be enthusiastic about a floor polisher that obviously was not cheap. Like money would have bought me a really pretty sweater, I'm sure. So for years after the floor polisher disaster, he tried to get me something I would REALLY love for my birthday or Christmas. And he did with this dog, Jody. The best gift ever. If you get the book and read my story you'll know - as they say - the rest of the story.

Jody was my dog from the beginning. He loved all the family, but he was my dog. He was about as big as my hand when we got him and while I cooked or worked at the kitchen counter, he would sleep on my foot. The only trick he ever learned was jumping up to catch popcorn in his mouth. He loved popcorn. And he liked terrapins. When we took walks, he would sniff out terrapins - that's the only animal he could catch - and carry them all the way back to the house. He was always at the door to enthusiastically greet me every time I came home. And he hated the UPS man. What is it about UPS trucks that dogs don't like? He would get cockleburrs caught in the long hair on his ears but was patient as I worked them out. And like all dogs, he got old much too quickly. Jody's been gone a long time. I've fallen in love with a half dozen dogs since him, but Jody was special. A bundle of pure love who looked at me as if I was the most wonderful person in the world. He still sometimes runs through my mind when I go for a walk, especially when I come across a terrapin.

Thanks for reading. I'll tell you about the Clear Creek Writer's workshop on Wednesday, but Sundays this month have been devoted to dogs. Next Sunday come read a very special interview with Suzanne Woods Fisher as she tells us about raising guide dogs and also about her Amish books. I know you'll enjoy learning more about her, her books, and her dogs. Plus if you leave a comment, you'll have the chance to win one of her books. You're welcome to share my blog posts with any friends you think might enjoy my letters from down here on the farm. 

"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole." Roger Caras

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SC Book Festival and Georgia Book Clubs

L to R: Paula Benson, Margaret Maron, me, Tatjani Soli
Some weekends are just more fun than other weekends. Last weekend was one of those fun kind for me. First I was in Columbia at the SC Book Festival which is one of the most writer friendly festivals I've had the pleasure of being invited to attend. This is my second time to attend, but what I like so much about it is that at this festival I get to go listen to the other writers' presentations.

This year I got to hear Roy Blount Jr. talk about his Alphabet books. Fun. Of course I listen to Roy almost every Sunday after church on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," a radio program. We were on the same shuttle bus the first night we were there and while I didn't recognize his face, I did his voice. But I also got to hear lots of other writers on panels along with the fun of getting to know them as we shared tables at the dinners and snack times. I was on a panel with Christian writers, Dale Cramer and Nicole Seitz on Saturday and with bestselling writers, Margaret Maron (The Bootlegger's Daughter) and Tatjana Soli (The Lotus Eaters).  We were an interesting threesome since we wrote different sorts of fiction, but I think that made the panel even more interesting as we each brought something different to the panel discussion led by the very personable and bookloving Paula Benson. It was the last program of the day so we didn't have a big crowd but we talked books - how we write, why we write, and what  we write

But on Saturday I also had the fun of talking by phone to a great book club in Georgia. And they
sent me this neat, smiling picture. Of course they're smiling. They just got through talking about my book, Angel Sister. :-) And eating no telling what yummy food for breakfast. What a great way to start a Saturday with food and books and friends. The ladies had some intriguing suggestions for me to consider for future stories. It's always interesting hearing what readers think about my books. And it's always fun talking to readers at book clubs. I wish I could go to them all in person - that way I'd get in on that yummy food, right? But Georgia is a little too far away, so we had to visit by phone. It's neat that the ladies sent me their picture. I keep expecting them to wave.

I like book clubs. I've visited quite a few different ones in person or by phone now and it's always a fun time. I've never been in a book club, but I can't help thinking it must be the best kind of club in the world. Books and people who read and then talk about those books. Sounds good to me. Have you ever been in a book club? Did you like talking books and the pleasures of reading? 

Thanks for reading. Remember to check out my book giveaway on my website and send me a message to be entered. Talk to you Sunday about my dog, Jody. 


Monday, May 16, 2011

A Dog Story Book

Here's the cover I promised to post Sunday about the book of dog stories, The Dog Next Door. I know. It's Monday and not Sunday. But I was at my daughter's house last night and didn't have time to get on the computer. And I was too busy enjoying all the writers and books at the S.C. Book Festival this weekend to get it on earlier. If you live in the area or anywhere within reasonable driving distance - and you love books - you should consider a trip to Columbia, SC when they have their book festival next year. They always draw in some big names along with lots of other regional and national writers who maybe aren't on the NY Times Bestseller list, but who write great books. There is so much variety. Fiction of lots of genres, history, bestsellers, gardening & cooking books, kids books and etc. I'll share some more about the fun I had in Wednesday's blog.  But now back to the dogs.

I hadn't written a short piece in years. Maybe one for a local magazine fifteen years or more ago. I love the book form. I like writing novels. But when I got the e-mail asking if I had a dog story I wanted to tell, I thought why not see if I could still think short. I started out writing short pieces for church magazines and dreaming of publishing stories in Redbook or Good Housekeeping. At that time those magazines published several short stories every month. What happened to all the people who used to like reading short stories? I don't know, but whatever it was, the market for short stories dried up before any of those editors saw the gold in my stories. Probably because I didn't have any gold in those stories. To make a long story short - which I am not very good at - the market dried up for short stories and I quit writing short pieces at about the same time. I don't think those two things had any sort of connection. LOL

But I love dogs and I knew Callie Smith Grant, who was compiling this book. Plus I had a story about a dog that I thought might work. Actually, as many dogs as I've had, I should have enough stories about dogs to fill a book all by myself, but I decided to pick this one story about my cockerspaniel, Jody. I'm not going to tell you the story here, but it is a heart tugger. Jody was a wonderful dog, but this is more about him being a gift to me than about the dog he turned out to be. Maybe next Sunday, I'll just tell you about the kind of dog he was and post a picture of him. That sounds like fun. I must be on a dog kick. That's going to hold true until the end of the month. On Sunday May 29, I'm going to be posting Suzanne Woods Fisher's interview about her and her dogs. Tell your friends about that one.

Here's the blurb for The Dog Next Door. If you like dogs, I hope you'll check it out when it releases in June.

Dogs are truly one of God's finest creatures, a marvelous gift for us humans. In the perfect follow-up to A Prince among Dogs, Callie Smith Grant compiles a delightful collection of true stories that celebrate the dogs in our lives. These stories will touch our hearts, renew our spirits, and show us how God made these wonderful creatures for unique purposes.

Readers will love these uplifting glimpses into the lives of ordinary and extraordinary dogs and the people who love them. The stories are warm, captivating, and ideal for a good curl-up-and-read or a perfect gift for any dog lover.


You can click on the Table of Contents on the book on its Amazon page and see the other writers who have written a story or stories about their dogs. One of my writing friends, Virginia Smith, has the lead off story. I haven't gotten a copy yet so haven't been able to read any of the stories, but I'm sure they will be fun/inspiring/touching/all of the above.

Thanks for reading. Talk to you Wednesday. Until then be sure to smile at a writer. Or maybe a dog. :-) 




Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Walking Dogs

"The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too." (Samuel Butler)

Those of you who have been reading my on-line journal know I've been a dog lover even longer than I've been a writer. And that's a long time, since I started scribbling words in a notebook and writing my first novel when I was around ten. But I already loved dogs before then. I'm going to be writing about the first dog that stole my heart on Sunday's blog. That dog and his story and mine are going to be part of an anthology of dog stories called The Dog Next Door edited by Callie Smith Grant. Check back Sunday to find out more about the book and my story then.

But these two beauties are my dogs now. Oscar and Dub. They're sitting here waiting for me to make my way up the cliff path. I had stopped to look at a flower or the owl nest or something. It's easy to see they were happy to take a rest break. I have another little mutt named Lucy, but she's got beagle hound in her and she's off hunting all the time when we're walking. She'll come around to check in now and again while we're walking as long as Roxie, the big old St. Bernard from across the road isn't walking with me. If Roxie's along - and Roxie loves to walk with me - Lucy stays way back and only sneaks up for an ear ruffle when she catches Roxie not looking. When I get a new dog, the only think I want to make sure of is that it's a walking dog, but since most all dogs like to walk, that doesn't narrow the field much. 

Oscar, the black lab mix, is a great walking dog right now. He stays pretty close to me and if he runs on ahead, he always comes back to make sure I'm still coming. Dub, a registered chocolate lab, used to be a good walking dog, but he's getting old. He can't keep up any more. But he goes even though sometimes he figures out my route and just waits at the halfway point. It's the saddest thing to have a walking dog that gets too old to walk. I used to have a cockerspaniel who loved to walk with me. It about broke my heart the day Jody sat down on the path and just looked at me as if to say, "I can't do this anymore." 

But that's part of dog ownership. Dogs don't live as long as people. They drive us crazy while they're puppies - chewing on our shoes or anything that sits still, barking at invisible squirrels, throwing up in our cars or worse. But then they grow old much too quickly and we see them through as old dogs with pills hidden in cheese balls, arthritis in their hips and gray hair on their muzzles. But they're worth it. They bring joy and fun and then they pass the baton on to the next dog in your life. I've had many from that first dog, Inky, to Oscar now. Good dogs who have made my life richer. And walked miles and miles with me.

"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole." Roger Caras

Hope life is good to you this week and that a dog somewhere is making you smile. Oh yeah, and if you're in the Columbia, SC area, I'll be at the Book Festival there this weekend. They have a wonderful program there with panels and presentations all day Saturday and Sunday with extra stuff going on for the kids. If you love books and hearing writers talk about their books and writing, then check it out at http://www.scbookfestival.org/.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mom's Day and News to Go

My mother and father on their wedding day in 1939. The photo is old, but this was a day of beginnings for my mother. A couple of years later she became a mom when my older sister was born. I came along the last of three daughters. She was the very best mother I could have had. A lot of people think that about their mothers, and that's good. But for me, my mom is best. Dad's been gone for over twenty years now and Mom at 91 is having some health struggles. Her memory is giving out on her and she doesn't get up and down easily. Things are hard, but she still tries to hang in there and live the best she can. 

I wrote about her as "My Mother, My Friend, My Character" in a guest blog for Bookreporter.com  http://blog.bookreporter.com/blog/2011/05/ann-h-gabhart-my-mother-my-friend-my-character. She and her stories were so instrumental in getting a true historical background for Angel Sister. 

My mother got married the day after she graduated from high school. She was 19. In a few years our country was plunged into war. Dad didn't get called up because he was a farmer, but two of mom's sisters' husbands went into the service. Both came home but many men did not. Tom Brokaw wrote a book titled The Greatest Generation. I read his book and I think he got the title right. But that's another post for another day. This is a day to honor mothers. I have a beautiful mother who loved me. I don't think I could ask for any more. Not only that, but I love being a mother. Each of my children were and are still a blessing to me. And now their families are added on blessings.

  
I talked about being a mom and my mom too in a newsletter I sent out yesterday. I have been trying to get going on a new newsletter for a while, but that deadline kept glaring at me. It still is, but I decided to take time to tell all my reading friends Happy Mother's Day and to give than a chance to read about my new book, The Blessed coming out in a few weeks, and about the celebration giveaway I'm going to have. I'm giving away 5 copies of The Blessed, one of Angel Sister along with an angel statue, and two books that will be the winner's choice of my titles. All you have to do to enter is send me an e-mail from Facebook or my website or leave a comment with a way I can contact you in case you win. You get extra chances to win if you let me know you've never won anything from my website and if you tell me about a blessing you got from reading something. I'll do the drawing in June. Also if you'd like to get my occasional newsletter, just let me know and I'll add your name to my newsletter list. You can be assured that I never give out your e-mail addresses to anyone. The giveaway is available only to residents of the U.S. and Canada. There are legal restrictions on these giveaways for other countries.

Thanks for reading. Tell me something about your mother.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Heritage Iris and Other Flowers

These iris are in my front yard. The old timey name for them when I was growing up was "flags." There couldn't be a much better plant for sharing. Dig up a few rhizomes and give them to a friend and soon they'll have a patch like these. I got the start of these from my sister who got them from the yard where our grandfather and aunt lived when we were growing up. I also have some darker purple ones that came from the house where I grew up. Then I have some more from our old country church and even some from the remains of an old house I discovered way back in the woods. Those probably trace their beginnings back over a hundred and fifty years.  Maybe longer. I just discovered this year an iris blade by another house site on our farm. I'm going to dig up one of the bulbs and add them to my collection.

The thing about iris is that you can't really throw them away. Pitch them down the hill and the next thing you know spring comes around again and the hillside is blooming. Joyfully. Cheerfully. Like an old friend.

There are 200-300 different varieties and colors of iris and that's where the flower gets its name - from a Greek word for rainbow. Blessed with the colors of the rainbow and the purest white, the iris has been recognized as the dancing spirit of early summer. The Chinese think its soft, fluttering petals look like butterfly wings, flapping gently in the breeze and so the flower there is known as Tze Hu-tieh or "The Purple Butterfly."   In other countries, the flower symbolism associated with the iris is faith, wisdom, cherished friendship, hope, valor, promise in love, wisdom. Irises were used in Mary Gardens. The blade-shaped foliage denotes the sorrows which 'pierced her heart.'

I just found out all that info. I don't have symbolic reasons for liking them. I just do. I like their many colors, the fact that even major neglect rarely damages them. They bloom with abandon year after year. They stand tall in a vase and the buds keep blooming out. And some of them have the most delicious fragrance. Some of these purple ones in the photo are fragrant and others are not even though the blooms look identical.

But one of the best reasons I like them is because they bloomed for my parents and grandparents and great grandparents. They connect me with my heritage. I like putting those kinds of flowers in my yard. Besides the iris, I have a japonica bush and peonies from my dad's homeplace and more peonies from my mother-in-law's last house. I have lilac bushes from my brother-in-law's house. I have maples and poplars moved to the yard from the field. I have a cherry tree from my uncle. I have daylilies from my daughter. And when I look at these flowers and plants, I remember those people and I smile thinking of the heritage of beauty that has been entrusted to me.

Do you have flowers that make you remember past places or people?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Poets and Writers

 "Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement." ...Christopher Fry

I'm not a poet, but the poem here is one of the very first things I had published many years ago. If I remember correctly, I was paid all of three dollars for these words, but seeing it on the pages of Home Life when I was in desperate need of encouragement was, as that commercial says, priceless. I wrote this poem while rocking my nephew who was around two at the time. I think he still feels proud of helping me launch my writing career all those years ago. I also had another poem accepted by a youth Sunday School magazine, but if it was ever published I didn't see a copy. It was about snowflakes. Funny the things a person remembers.

I was never a poet, but I did like playing with words when I started trying to get published. I could do little poetry rhymes in my head while I was doing other tasks - like rocking a baby to sleep. I joke now and say I used to write poems while I ironed. If I iron at all these days, it's on an as needed basis. Not long enough to compose poetry. I never really knew anything about poetry writing. I counted syllables and sounds. Not exactly a method that was going to launch me in the poetry world.

That's okay, because I like writing books. As soon as I wrote my first novel, I deserted the short articles and stories I'd been trying to write and plunged into the novel writing world. I've never looked back. No more poems. No more short stories. No more personal interest pieces. Of course I had to write three entire novels before that third one was published.

The reason I'm thinking about poetry today is that last night I went to a reception for writers, publishers and editors. Each attendee was supposed to put what they did on a blank line of their name tags. A lot of the people I met had poet written on their tags. I wonder if they were like me and hesitated writing that label. It took me years to be able to come right out and say I was a "writer." I had already written a lot of words by then. Maybe a poet knows in his or her soul that he or she is a poet and the claim comes easy. But I knew in my soul I was a writer before I was a teenager and yet the claim was not easy to voice.

You know what? If I still did those hours of ironing like I used to, I might be able to write a poem about that. A simple poem that rhymed, but what ryhmes with writer? Brighter. Fighter. Lighter. Biter. Triter. Uh-uh. I'd better quit while I'm ahead. Besides I need all my words and creative energy to write this new Shaker book and try to keep it from being trite. 

But here's another great quote for those of you who are poets. "Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash." ...Leonard Cohen


How about it? Have you written any poetry? Have you ever wanted to write a poem?