31 October 2011

On Hiatus. Sort Of.

It's nearly November.

And that means:

NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth



50,000 words = 30 days.

I will try to update here when I can, but for now, wish me luck...I am nervous for several reasons:

1. This is an idea that came to me as I was reading the bio of Ben Franklin.  That means there's not been much time to research.  And there's quite a bit of research.

2.  In general, I know how I want the novel to end.  And that is about it.  Eeek.

3.  I'm writing in a couple of genres I've never been in before: historical fiction and young adult.

4.  It's utterly possible that I might be called upon to write some teen romance scenes (nothing explicit)...and that is something I don't think my brain is geared towards at all.  (Now, erotica...that I could probably pull off)

So.  Here's to a happy novelistic November!

20 October 2011

What I Didn't Learn In School

Forgive me...this would have come out last night...but well, read the corollaries below.

So, tonight, I'm supposed to talk about Ben Franklin.  I will make the best effort I can, but a few things are set against me:

1. I attended a workout class at my local YMCA tonight.  The title of the class?  Body Assault.  Funny, I know.  I do feel like I've been assaulted.  I am particularly feeling depleted of energy, and so we will see how the exhausted brain functions.

2.  I finished the 'Conclusions' portion of the biography nearly 24 hours ago, which wrapped up BF's life in a nice neat nutshell (with modern commentary).  Thus, it's been near two days since I've read the "good stuff".  I hope I remember enough of what I wanted to say to sound coherent.

So, let's get to it.  I'm going to write this up as it makes logical sense to me - in the form of lists.

What I Admire About B. Franklin:

1. Industrious.  He was a really hardworker, and he really believed that ethic was the key to success.  He “retired” in his forties, but he still continued to be active (especially in Paris).

2.  Clever.  A 14-year-old boy writing anonymous, satirical letters under the psuedonym Silence Dogood (a middle-aged widow woman)?  On top of that - the letters being really popular?  Yeah, clever, indeed.

3. Diplomatic.  Maybe this falls under wisdom, but he knew when to compromise, when to be quiet, and when to ardently advocate.  I still can't believe all the plates this guy was spinning as he enlisted France's help during the American Revolution, not to mention the finagling of the Paris Peace Treaty.  On top of that, the tiptoe-tightwalking he did during the drafting of the Constitution.

4.  Pragmatic/Practical.  This might be my favorite BF quality.  Over and over again he demonstrated a desire to do things and produce things that would increase man's productivity and comfort.  He ultimately believed working together, being part of a community, was far favorable to operating in one's own sphere.

5.  Philanthropic.   He was very civic-minded.  He began clubs, programs, and schools, all with that practical benefit of advancing others.

On the other hand,

1.  The last seventeen years of his wife's life, Ben spent fifteen of those abroad in various diplomatic capacities.  Even though she (Deborah) wrote to him, speaking of her declining health, he chose not to return to America to her.  He also chose not to return even when his only daughter (or son, for that matter), married or when they later birthed his grandchildren.  Even though he completely able to make the voyage, and the business that carried him overseas in the first place was not urgent.

2. He was very adamant about taking his two grandsons to France (one was 17, one was 7) during the American Revolution.  He accompanied them, to serve as America's ambassador/negotiator near Paris.  Shortly after arriving, BF shipped the seven-year-old off to an academy in Switzerland.  Even when the child grew frail and introverted from loneliness, homesickness, etc., Franklin did not send for him, visit him, or increase communications to him.

3. He was not adverse to the practice of nepotism, as he ceaselessly tried to procure jobs for his son (until they stopped speaking for good), grandsons, son-in-law, nephews, etc.

And…as is typical, I'm now run out of steam on this.  Lest I fall victim to Bill Clinton syndrome, let me say that I understand that a person's public life may be very different from their private lives, and that we shouldn't always be so quick to intermingle the two.  However, the Isaacson bio is very clear: Ben Franklin was eager to mix public and private, business and pleasure whenever possible…so, should we  as well, to follow his example?

That BF was a self-directed, hardworking compromiser is truth.  That he was curious, meticulous, practical is well-documented and discussed.  That he was perhaps the most important players during the drafting of the Constitution is no hyperbole.  That's the rhetoric we all learned.  What point would there have been in learning about his illegitimate child, innumerable flirtations and dalliances with younger women (while his wife was living, and then when she passed), and his remonstrances to his wife to be “frugal” while he lived an indulgent, indolent life in France?  None, probably.

History is indeed written by the winners.

18 October 2011

A First Here @ WYWH - A Book Review

Today's blog entry is misleading, I admit.  I've talked about books here before.

And, actually, now that I think about it...I really won't be 'reviewing' the book I've read, per se.  I want to discuss the subject, not the writer, per se.

I suppose the honorable thing to do here is change my title.  But I don't think I will.  It's America, and my founding fathers drafted the Constitution to ensure I could make such frivolous decisions as these...

Speaking of Founding Fathers, I've been reading (egads! - of my own interest and volition) Walter Isaacson's Biography of Ben Franklin.  I've enjoyed the 500-page tome, actually, and am actually nearing the very end of it.  Thus, I plan on discussing in tomorrow's blog post.

I will say, though, the jury is out.  I think I like Ben Franklin, but on the other hand, I'm pretty sure he pisses me off.

Until tomorrow!

16 October 2011

Egg On My Face

It has been a long time since I've had to admit embarrassment.  Publicly, that is.

Of course, the aforementioned embarrassment has occurred in real-time; thus, I don't even really have to mention it here.  But, I shall, so that others after me will take note.

Allow me to reiterate that important adage: Everything in moderation.

Remember a couple of posts back when I was raving about the FanStory website?  I could write and post and receive feedback and enter contests to my heart's content...and I went on and on about how Productive I was?

Okay, my fervent ardor was waned.  A little.  Last week I got caught up in entering contests, particularly of poetry, of which I am not terribly skilled at writing.  I composed a clever limerick that I thought was rather catchy...and I didn't do as well as I would have liked.  In my darkest hour, I surmised that a conspiracy was afoot...pockets of friends at FanStory vote for each other's entries, thus keeping the new blood out.

It was then I realized that I'm writing for the wrong reasons.  I should be writing to write, not writing to win fake member dollars in a contest.

And for goodness sake, I must lay off the poetry.  Someone is trying to tell me something.  But, for your own edification, I will reprint my limerick here:

Spelling Is Important

If there is a skill one should do well,
I recommend knowing how to spell.
When mistake is 'mystic'
or public is 'pubic',
it is essential, as you can tell!

15 October 2011

The Roller Coaster Slows Down...

This weekend is especially significant.

My oldest son and foreign exchange student have spent most of the fall running cross country for the school, and that season has come to an end (for them, anyway).  Thus, early morning trips to and from practice (not to mention Tuesday night meets) are no longer part of our daily itinerary.  And, after this weekend's performances, the two younger children will no longer attend the after-school theatre program.

Yes, we still contend with the juggernaut that is known as soccer...but, as the musician Meatloaf once said, "two out of three ain't bad."

I confess, these last couple of weeks have been bizee...but especially dismal in one regards.  Food.  I've been so ashamed...I can't even post about it at my food blog.

Grocery bills have been much lower this month than last...for it's for a bad reason...we've gone out to restaurants way too much.

However, I am positive, with the lightening of the load, so to speak, that is about to change...

09 October 2011

Rethinking My Position

This latest reflection/rumination is courtesy of my son, who is seven.  This morning he is reading an old-school Choose Your Own Adventure book and comes across the word 'victim'.  He asks me what it means.

I tell him to look it up in the dictionary.  He replies with, "but you have one on your computer."  I am taken aback, but I come back with "yes, but I'd like you to learn how to use a dictionary."

Later we are examining the book, and in the space of three minutes, we've found the word and its definition (being a Collegiate version, not kid-friendly).  It occurs to me the exact same result could have been secured in seconds with my online dictionary.

Yes, some of you might be saying, but he needs to know how to use a dictionary (book).

Does he?

It's my first inclination to scream "YES" from the rooftops of the world.  Until I stop for a moment and ask why?  Does he need to know how to use a dictionary because it's an indispensable, crucial 21st century skill?  Or because it will make him a more rounded, less one-sided person?  Because it enables him to depend less on technology? 

Or because I'm holding on to some ancient belief?

When I slow down enough to really think this through, I find I cannot construct an argument that exclusively supports using the print dictionary over the digital one...or really, that he even needs the skill of using a print source. 

My generation, the one who prides themselves on being able to "bridge the gap", as it were, is facing a burgeoning dilemma: what beliefs and practices should we hang to for dear life and try to instill in our children, and what beliefs/practices should be abandon to the winds of change?

My answer to this question changes daily.  I don't know if there will ever be agreement.

08 October 2011

Another Endeavor

Oh yes, folks, the plates are a-spinnin!

The precarious balancing act continues: hosting a foreign exchange student, shuttling four kids to and fro, teaching part-time, managing house full-time...and to add the latest:


I mean, besides what I do here.  I heart blogging - I want you all to know that.  But, the kind of writing I'm doing these days is geared more towards an audience...as opposed to me going on about whatever topic I feel like (usually my husband and bread).

I've joined a website called FanStory.  I paid a year-long membership fee, and with that, I keep a portfolio, enter contests, review and provide feedback for other poets, authors, and novelists.  Reviewing pieces of writing allow me to collect member dollars, which I can then use to promote my own pieces of writing or enter certain contests.

In addition to the several contests a month, there are also creative writing prompts every day.  For example, here are the three on the block currently:

1. Disco Inferno Poem: For all of you disco fans... Write a poem of any form or style in appreciation of the disco era. Burn, baby, burn! 

2. Write a Naani poem. A Naani consists of 4 lines, the total lines consists of 20 to 25 syllables.

3. Oh, you are...are you?  Write a humorous free verse or free style poem about YOU, as though you are talking to yourself! You should start every stanza (except your last stanza) with "You are..." 

Short story contests often crop up as well.  Many opportunities exist for writers to practice their craft.  And, everything a writer posts here receives feedback...always appreciated by a genuine writer.

I haven't won any contests yet, but I've written more stuff than I have in the last six months.  I feel creative, I feel like I'm writing with a purpose, and it's bringing me enjoyment.  Here's a sample of the poetry I've written and submitted in the last week:

The Paradox

The world lay at my feet.
I could be anything that I want?
My dream job? When I grow up?
Now, that required some thought.

No factory job for me,
although it's what I knew.
My dad, you see, was a laborer,
a job I didn't want to do.

My elementary school years,
speedily came and went,
and I had but one desire.
Teaching would make me content!

Oh, but wait! In the fifth grade,
I dreamed one crazy dream.
I loved the stars, so - Astronomer?
But, I had not the brain, it seemed.

Then, in high school, I had the vision -
I'd edit books of history!
But that, too, lost its luster.
Another dream bereft of glory.

Soon I approached the career crossroads,
and my college graduation.
No further studies because of grades.
So, I wound up in education.

Here I am. I've worn many hats.
I've been a mom, a poet, a chef,
a philosopher, a professor.
I often wonder what's left.

I'd love to be a novelist,
or hero of the human race.
But there are days I'd settle for me,
content to maintain my own space. 

This haiku was submitted for a Humorous Haiku contest:

Seven-Year-Old Boys
my son, distracted
about his Pokemon cards,
leaves home without pants

This free verse piece was submitted for a "Faith" poetry contest:

Perpetual Cycle

This time of year
finds me feeling
somewhat pulled apart,
like an old ragdoll -
weary and weathered,
undone at the seams.

To quell those
naggling disquiets,
I find Autumn.

Her answers come,
scrawled along the
veins of single leaves.
They flutter to Earth
in a timeless dance,
hoping to join the others.

And I am reminded - that which
blooms forth from the Earth
eventually returns to it.
Including me.

Autumn's arms encircle me,
those towering elms and oaks.
Silent, steadfast, stout.

But - every minute brings change:
whistling wind shifts a leaf,
disturbs an elderly branch,
and lays the bark bare.

I, too, never stop changing.
Yet I endure as well.

The gallant prairie tallgrass,
now in its tattered brown raiment
after a summer of verdant green robes,
is but one sign of the imminent sleep
before the wakening joy of Spring.

And I understand -
all these living things
turn their hopeful faces
to the life-giving sun
and lift their arms
towards the light.
I am no different.

Although the Earth dies
for a time,
how else can she prepare
for new life?

So, I find hope in
Earth's endless death
and rebirth,
knowing that life
has no other mystery.

And this piece was submitted in a "Witty Epitaph" contest:

Here lies the invaluable Mister Comma.
Pause, for a moment of silence –
this world will, never be the same!
He suffered misuse, and abuse;
but loved eating dogs and playing, games.

I've been having fun, as you can see.  But, I'm also rediscovering my long-lost voice.  In addition to the sundry poetry contests I'm entering, I'm also editing and submitting my novel, as well as working on some short story pieces.

As author Ernest Hemingway says, "There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter (or laptop) and bleed."  Truly.