Sunday, September 29, 2013

Story Webs

A Story Web

Four years ago I wrote a piece for my on-line journal here about how a story can be an intricate web like a spider web. I wanted a picture of a spider web to go with it, but it was late October and the spiders were battening down their hatches for winter, I suppose. I looked all over the woods for spider webs. I mean there are thousands of spiders out here on the farm, but none I could find at that time ready to pose and have their web featured on my Writer’s “Home” Journal. I did eventually take the photo above of a spider web just outside my office window. I think his ever so many great grandsons are still out there making webs in front of my window. They figure it’s a prime spot because I work a lot at night and the light attracts those unwary moths to their webs.

So you may be wondering, what is all the fuss about a spider web picture? None. You’ve no doubt seen plenty of spider webs and so would have no problem bringing to mind a spider web with all those ladderlike connecting bits of sticky web. I just wanted a picture then to illustrate my point that creating a new story is sort of like a spider spinning that web. Ever since then,when I see a great spider web, I remember my hunt back then for the post I wanted to do. Last week, I spotted the web of one of those big yellow and black garden spiders, not in the garden but on a tree in our yard. So of course I took a picture.

And here it is. To go with it, here’s part of that long ago blog. Even if you read it then, I’m sure you’ve forgotten it by now. But I put spider web in the search area here on my blog and the post popped right up. Computers are so amazing. 

I’m going to be starting a new story just as soon as I finish trimming the one I’m editing. I’ve got 7,000 more words to trim. Already cut 6,000, but it’s getting harder now and the editing deadline is approaching. But here’s how I compared beginning a new story with a spider spinning a web.

A writer starts out with the first bit of web or story idea and swings on it through the air in an attempt to connect to something else. Something solid that she can anchor her story on. Maybe a character coming to life in her mind or a truth she wants her characters to discover or maybe just a fun idea of what happens next. And then the writer starts inching down that first initial web strand to figure out the next direction to spin and then the next and the next until the story is complete with its dozens of connections - events and happenings that lead to other events and happenings in your story. And you hope your web is strong. So strong it can capture readers and wrap them so up in your story that they'll sit right down and read it through without even trying to break free of your story web. 

Now you might notice that the spider web in my picture (The old picture. In the new picture the spider did a very neat and wonderful web.) is a little ragged looking with some gaps here and there, but in spite of that, it's holding together. That's what I always want my story to do too - hold together. It may not be perfect. I'm not a perfect writer. But I do like to tell stories and I'm glad to be spinning a new yarn now that I hope all of you will want to read someday.

Hope you enjoyed revisiting one of my favorite posts here. 

I’m drawing for the winners of my Christmas at Harmony Hill Celebration Giveaway early on Tuesday. You can still get an entry in today or tomorrow. Just leave a comment here with a way to get in touch with you should you win or e-mail me at annhgabhart(at)yahoo(dot)com.  Wednesday night’s blog post will announce the winners. Thank you again for sharing all your wonderful stories. I also hope to send out a newsletter on October 1, so if you’d like to get a copy, let me know and I’ll add your name to my e-mail newsletter list.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Surprises, Parties and Chocolate Cakes

"Let's face it, a nice, creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me." ~Audrey Hepburn

I've got some serious chocolate lovers among my grandkids. I think they may have taken after their grandmother! My sister has a granddaughter who won't eat chocolate and everytime I hear that I am amazed afresh and think, surely, she just hasn't tried it yet. lol

This chocolate cake looks like it could be my dog, Oscar's cake, doesn't it? Of course, they say chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Do you think it's possible that dogs love us so much they just wanted to come up with a reason to let us have all the chocolate? But the cake was my granddaughter's request and her mother was game to give it a try and did a great job. No, those aren't real dog biscuits. They were some kind of dog biscuit shaped cookies. A great cake anyway. 

It was fun reading all the birthday stories you all sent me or left in comments here. (If you haven't entered the giveaway contest yet, you have five more days to throw your name in the hat. Drawing is next Monday night at midnight EST. Details about the contest are on my website's News and Events Page.) Certain trends showed up in your stories. You like cake - especially chocolate cake. Surprise parties made for memorable birthdays. You loved feeling special on your birthday. And family makes the memories sweeter.

Mary left this in a comment on one of the birthday story posts, but in case you didn't read the comments, here's her story.
"Birthdays are always special in our family - favorite cake & meal & treat. I always had a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, roast chicken & home-made marshmallows - not quite in that order. The birthday person also gets out of chores. After dinner you just walk away from the table. Growing up that was almost the best part of the whole day."

Those home-made marshmallows sound interesting, Mary. I did something like that with my kids too. I still cook their favorite meals and desserts if they can make it home for their birthdays. And I like the idea of the birthday person getting out of chores. Seems that's harder to work out for us older folks. If you could, what chore would you most want to get out of?

Maxie shared this last story about a treasured surprise party.

 I have been blessed with 12 grandkids and now 19 great-grands. How great!  Very well blessed. …  My favorite Birthday would be my 75th. It was also my first ever Surprise Party. My granddaughter and daughter had the house (big) decorated prettier than I've ever seen. This daughter also made my BD cake. So good!  Real fudgey. She got everyone to bring one of my favorite desserts and foods they had ever known me to love. Was absolutely Fantastic." 
Birthdays are a great time to feel that extra love and to give that extra love too. Have you ever thrown a surprise party for anyone? Were you ever surprised by a party yourself? 

 Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spotted on My Walks

"Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

I love spotting things on my walks like this butterfly. I've been pursuing him or his brothers and sisters for the last couple of months in order to take his photo. They were all very camera shy, not wanting to reveal those spotted wings for me. Butterflies are a gift of summer that edges over into autumn. I see them in my walks through the fields before the last cutting of hay harvests the late blooming flowers for the cows to eat when snow starts flying.

Some of you who follow my Facebook author page know I post photos from time to time that I take on my walks. Sometimes the clouds and sky. Sometimes flowers.
Sometimes butterflies. Sometimes Oscar. Sometimes snakes and bugs. The digital camera on my phone makes sharing my walks easy. But it does take a while to jerk the phone out of my pocket and click on the camera icon. Often too long and I miss some great shots I would love to share with you. A few weeks ago, I was walking along a fence row and a wild turkey flew up right in front of me. So I think that it sure would have been nice to have had my camera out, but I didn't get that camera out. Two steps farther on, another wild turkey flew out right in front of me. A missed opportunity. A day or two later, I was walking along a thicket of trees in another field and a fawn, still sporting spots, must have been spooked by Oscar. It jumped out right in front of me. Again, if only I'd been ready with my camera. Maybe I should start wearing one of those motion sensor cameras around my neck. :) 

Then there are these butterflies I've been chasing all summer. I get my camera ready and try to sneak up on them but just when I'm set to hit the picture taking button, the butterfly flutters away. That's what butterflies do. Flutter away and refuse to cooperate with the picture taking human.

So some of the things I spot on my walks I can only share in words. I do that at times on my Facebook page and all the time when I'm writing. I want the words of my stories to make pictures in your head. The things I spot on my walk may or may not find their way onto my Facebook page, but they have a good chance of someday finding their way into one of my stories. 

I took a break from birthday stories tonight, but I have a few more I hope to share. You have seven more days to throw your name in my giveaway hat if you haven't already. You can read about the prizes on my Website Events Page.  Leave a comment here with a way to contact you to enter or send an e-mail from my website. Always fun to hear from you and I've enjoyed all the birthday stories you've shared. 

Thanks for reading. Hope that happiness butterfly lights on your shoulder.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Birthdays Mean Cake

"All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much." ~George Harrison

Birthdays mean cake. And sometimes surprises. At least that's what I'm hearing in the stories you've been sending in as you enter your names in my Celebration Giveaway for Christmas at Harmony Hill. 12 more days to enter your name by sending me a message from my website or leaving a comment on one of my blog posts before midnight EST on September 30. You might win a Shaker Christmas ornament or a quilted Christmas tree hanging. And of course books. Remember I have that special drawing for book prizes if you say you've never won. Details are on my website's News and Events Page. Who knows? You might end up as happy as this little birthday girl who just blew out her candles. I think she's expecting her wish to come true.
And even if you don't win the prize, you can enjoy some of the birthday stories with me. We're thinking cake tonight. How many of you have let your kids dive into a cake on their first birthday? Did it turn out the way you expected and give you some laughs? 

Marilyn says her first birthday cake supplied her family a million laughs over the years. "When I was one-year-old my mother baked me a beautiful birthday cake.  They sat me down on the floor with the cake in front of me to take a picture. I promptly raised my right leg and placed it squarely in the center of the cake. They got their picture (and still have it) but it wasn't the picture they had planned. But it has created a million laughs since then."

Too bad this was before America's Funniest Home Videos. That's the one show Mom will watch - mostly because of the cute kids - so I'm finding out what America thinks is funny. Marilyn's leg in the cake might make the show!

Amanda tells us about a special grandmother who is still making those birthday cakes. "I remember birthdays with fondness growing up. My grandmother would always make each of us our favorite cake on our birthday in addition to cooking our favorite meal. I always wanted a homemade black walnut apple poundcake with brown sugar frosting. My favorite meal- Mamaw's fried chicken, of course, with all the fixins. She is 85 years young this year. My husband and I recently moved to within a mile of her so she could continue to remain at home with someone there to help her if and when she needs it. She still makes our favorite cakes for each birthday, although we have started taking our own "supper" with us so she doesn't tire herself out cooking." 

Amanda, tell your Mamaw we're all coming to your birthday next year!! That cake sounds delicious.

One more cake story from Annette. "I was new in a new school in a new state. They talked differently, dressed differently and seemed to be so distant. My birthday came, and the girls in my class brought a cake in the shape of a butterfly for my birthday. It is the first birthday cake I ever remember."

And wasn't that a great first birthday cake to get? It's so good to have good birthday memories and a delicious cake makes the memories better. 

What's your favorite cake? Ever blow out birthday candles and believe your wish would come true?