Wednesday, September 30, 2009

North Face meets South Butt and I'm a happy writer

I had a blog all written. Maybe I'll post it tomorrow, but I have to tell you about my exciting morning. Yes, I'm working on yet another article for Suite 101 and it has been such fun!

I remember the enthusiasm in the newsroom when great breaking news came in. The kind of story you could work with. And then the motherlode -- two stories that you could put together into an even better story!

Today was a motherlode day! North Face Inc., retailer of adventure wear, shoes apparel and equipment for the climber and risk takers who like to hang off cliffs and dangle thousands of feet in the air. They've been around for 40 years and made a claim that the EPA could not tolerate. Shoes that killed bacteria. So EPA is suing North Face's parent company. You can read more about it in the article.

While surfing the EPA site and news sources for more information I came across an article stating that North Face is suing Jimmy Winkelmann for trademark infringement. Jimmy has a line of t-shirts with a 'South Butt' logo. I think North Face should win their suit, but who knows. Anyway, my excitement has nothing to do with any of these people and their suits, but out of the fun I just had mingling the two stories into one of my own: Law Suits Hover Around North Face Inc., which is available for your enjoyment at Suite 101.

Today the synchronicity was dancing all around me and I'm so pleased to be able to combine the two related but diverse stories. I love irony and humor and the unusual and when I can put them all into a staid old story about an EPA lawsuit -- its a happy day.

Writers who find a relationship for the unrelated, or find two sides of a story that turns it into something very different should put Butt in Chair and not stop writing until the article, story, essay is finished! They don't just fall in your lap. Sometimes it takes some searching. Knowing how to use keywords and which sites to cover help, but then again, sometimes it does just appear on the screen and you hear angels sing.
Today's Exercise: Search keywords, maybe a company name and see what comes together. Or pick a topic you know nothing about and learn something new today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Writing when you’re stuck

Bob has been a voice of reason and inspiration on the Internet Writing Workshop for several years and has demonstrated with his writing success that he knows whereof he speaks. I welcome his guest blog and great advice. I hope you will, too. --Dawn

If you’re not a professional writer, then writing is one of those activities you wedge into your day when you can.

My friend Patty used to get up at 4 or 4:30 every morning to work on her novel until her husband and children got up. Then she would get herself ready for a full day’s work as a bank officer, come home to cook supper, then dash off to school committee meetings. Patty’s writing friends admired her, but we never wanted to emulate her.

Others keep saner schedules but set aside specific times for writing and perhaps specific quotas of words. Still others put writing on their to-do list or simply get to it when they can.

If you accomplish everything on your list, you have imposed a sense of order on your world (or your list is too short). Writing is usually one of the items on my list, but often it has no special priority and gets done after the daily errands or not at all.

Email is one of the great interrupters, followed by Twitter. I always marveled at the great advantage of email that we can write each other at any time, and we can read your messages at any time. But if that’s the case, why do I feel the compulsion to check for messages a hundred times a day? Maybe it’s a need for affirmation that there’s a cyber-someone who thinks I’m important.

Yesterday I decided to abandon Twitter and my 750 or so “followers.” It had seemed like a good venue to advertise my books, but in fact it’s a tsunami of trivia with little of value floating by. Simply checking out the invitations to follow others takes up time better spent writing.
This morning I determined to finish my monthly Southwest Senior column about Las Cruces writers before looking at my email once. While it wasn’t difficult, it did require a conscious decision on my part to disturb an ingrained habit. Now it’s finally done.

Now suddenly there is a vacuum in my schedule. It won’t last, of course. A jumble of jobs both worthy and unworthy of my time will try to fill the void, and eventually they will do just that. For now, though, my office is silent but for the hum of the hard drive. Even my neighbor’s dog isn’t barking—is she all right?

This should be the time when my fingers fly, pausing only occasionally to let the keyboard cool down. So why am I staring at the screen, waiting for the thoughts to come? Can it be that literary bête noir, writers’ block? Maybe I should stop for lunch and think about it.

That raises a question, though: What do you do when you’re stuck?

One trick that’s worked for me is to open a new file and write about the problem. In a draft of a novel I’d write a note to myself: This is the character and this is the situation, and now I don’t know what to do with him. He can’t just hang around, but has to earn his keep by advancing the story. Think about what the character wants and about possible roadblocks. Maybe your hero is having it too easy, in which case it’s high time for an unwelcome event. What if he wins the lottery? Think about the possibilities: he suddenly has too many friends or loses them all; he hosts a party where someone O.D.’s; he becomes a target for criminals. Meanwhile, all he ever wants is to retire and build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

In other words, if you get stuck that’s a good time to brainstorm. Ask yourself “What if?” and see where the answers take you. The event doesn’t have to be disastrous or even negative, but it should keep the story from moving in a straight line.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a knock at my door. I’ll be right back…

Bob Sanchez writes from Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his blog. Bob is the author of When Pigs Fly (an iUniverse Star book) and Getting Lucky, associate editor and webmaster of The Internet Review of Books, active in the El Paso Writers' League, Mesilla Valley Writers, and the Internet Writing Workshop.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Newsroom addiction and Suite 101

It has been more than a decade since I wrote to deadline in a newspaper room. I have missed it. The controlled chaos is addictive. And knowing before the whole community what's going on -- well, I loved that, too. And working in a newsroom is such great training for working as the parent of young children. With everyone working elbow to elbow in an open workspace, phones ringing, conversations carried out in the aisle behind you, editors yelling, emergency radios blaring. And the scent of coffee and newsprint -- its my kind of garden oasis. Yet, I didn't think I missed it at all.

I've been freelancing forever. Since 1981 when I wrote and sold my first story to Bluegrass Unlimited and love the freedom. And I get lost in the words when writing personal essays and fiction.

But recently I decided to join Suite 101 and see if I could make a little more money online with a market I could perhaps control a bit better than submitting to magazines and newspapers and then waiting, waiting, waiting, for a response.

This past weekend I finally sat down and wrote my first article: American Trash. It took me awhile to settle on the topic and then narrow the subject, then I found a primary source of great information and went to work. It was such fun! And I've decided that it is the first in a series of articles about waste management, environmental impacts, etc.

Whether Suite 101 comes through and actually proves to be added income for me, I have already received a bonus I never expected. As I worked and crafted those 500 words of verified information and facts, I felt a new energy. Who knew I missed delivering 'news' to the populus so much? I didn't. And I didn't realize how much I missed that newsroom. For a few moments there I could smell the coffee and newsprint and hear the voices swirling around me.

I just visited Suite 101 and saw my article posted under their 'Recently Recommended' heading. It's almost as exciting as getting my story on the front page above the fold! I appreciate any and all feedback on my first article.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Is Writing To You?

Exactly one month ago I would have answered that question in this direct way:

"Writing is the air I breathe. Publishing short stories and essay aren’t enough.
I have to publish a book soon or people won’t believe I am a successful writer.
Writing is who I am."

Ah, but in five minutes everything can change drastically.

It was August 26, 2009, another hot day here in Atlanta. Ella, my nine year old, and I had walked home from her robotics team meeting. She talked about the homework she had and how unfair it was. I told her that was how life could be sometimes. My mind was on my novel in-progress and how I never had enough time to write. I was hoping to get in a few pages before bedtime. At home Ella did her homework, while I checked my email and wrote a couple of pages on the novel. Life was so normal. When she was finished, she asked to go play next door—we live on a cul-de-sac. I agreed never taking my eyes from the screen.

A few minutes later I stopped and decided to check on her. The back of our house faces the neighbor’s yard, so I opened the door and saw her playing under the carport with the two boys. Life was good.

I closed the door, picked out supper ingredients and went to turn the TV to the local news. Five minutes had passed. I saw the four year old boy from next door walking through my yard. I sighed. He liked to come over and borrow Ella’s toys. I answered the door.

“Ella’s in trouble with the police.” He smiled.

I laughed. “Tell her to come home. It’s almost time to eat.” I guessed they were playing some sort of game.

I closed the door, but something told me to go the back door, the very door I had opened five minutes earlier. When I opened it this time, I saw a police officer squatting on the side of the road.

Writing those words still paralyze me. I knew something horrible had happened.

The two images that remain with me even now are the police officer squatting—I couldn’t see my daughter, only the back of his blue uniform and dark hair—and one of her sandals with the strap broken turned over in the middle of the road. Believe me I was living every parent’s nightmare. Ella had be struck by the police officer’s car. There had been no noise loud enough to give me a warning, no squealing tires.

So what does all this have to do with writing? Stay with me I have a point.

I spent the next three hours talking to my daughter. She was awake, alert, but very afraid and in bad pain. Around me were crowds of EMTs, police, family, and neighbors. But my life contained only my daughter, who would be ten in three days. Ten. Please let her become ten! I held her hand and talked while I spoke to God in my mind. Helicopters swarmed above us, the news stations. My husband arrived, answering questions I could not answer. And then we were on our way to the hospital by ambulance. I realized maybe it wasn’t so bad. They didn’t life-flight her.

When the doctor told us two hours later that Ella had a mild concussion, a deep cut to the eye, and badly bruised knee, my legs went weak. For the first time I cried.

“She can go home. Just watch her. No sports, running, or jumping for a month.” Then the doctor smiled. “Looks like you’ll have that birthday party on Saturday.”

In that moment I saw my life in a crystal clear light.

In the days to come, I couldn’t write. Honestly I wasn’t sure I’d ever write again. Did it matter? The drive with which I pushed to the computer everyday; did it change anyone’s life? Did it make a difference? I spent hours just sitting next to Ella. This really bugged her at times, but she put up with me. I couldn’t sleep without seeing the haunting images of the accident. Yet, Ella was alive, and I had a chance to really make my life count for something, to show her how living life was done.

A few more days passed and finally I opened my journal and began to write. I wrote about writing. I knew that all my struggles to be ‘successful’ were not as important as putting my pen to the paper. I would give myself to writing whether I ever published another piece again. I would have fun. I would give a voice to all my concerns, to those people in my past that could no longer speak for themselves. I would continue to write books whether I published them or not. I would honor the characters that popped up in my head, whether they were marketable or not. My writing is my gift, talent and from this grows my passion. Life is about passion.

Funny thing is since I made this shift in attitude, doors have opened. I have two publishers interested in my novel. I’ve published several short stories, and I’m reviewing books, by request, for a New York publisher. I have to believe that relaxing into my art—because it is art—has cleared the way. I now spend more time enjoying my writing, having fun for the sake of fun. I’ve agreed to teach an after school reading class at Ella’s school once a week. I joined a book club. I now know that my books will be published. I might not know when or with what publisher, but it will happen, and that’s fine with me. You see, I look at my family and realize how fragile life is.

What is writing to you? Is writing your only identity? Would you write just for fun? Is it something you wish after but can’t seem to put your hands around? Do you defeat your chances by never writing yucky first drafts?

Take it from a writer who learned the hard way. Success is never enough. Each publication just sets the bar higher. To enjoy writing, you must put the business part to the side for another time. It cannot be the most important goal in your dream.

You must find joy in writing, in creating characters that come to you in the middle of the night and radically change your plot. You must be willing to write the worst dribble in the world and have fun doing it. Many writers are successful and don’t enjoy their work. Life is too short.

What is writing to me, now? It is my art, just one of the many things that make me the woman I am.

What is writing to you?

Bio: Ann Hite's Beautiful Wreck, my second novel, was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest earlier this year. The novel is now being shopped by her agent.

In May of 2008 she was chosen as featured artist for The Dead Mule, a literary magazine. They published 18 of her selected Black Mountain Stories. Then Val, the editor and founder, had an idea to make a pdf out of the collection to give to the readers. Please feel free to go to this link and download the collection. It's free, no strings attached, only thanks for all your support.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

And I wish to thank the Academy....

The Fortnight of Mustard
graciously nominated me for the Kreative Blogger Award. Thank you for the honor!

Seven things about me:

1. I have ink in my veins.
2. I used to decorate wedding and novelty cakes.
3. I've been married almost as long as man has been in outer space.
4. I collect notebooks and paper. The ruled college type paper.
5. I'm a sucker for a British accent.
6. Cats rule!
7. I'm addicted to fabric art and adore the artists that create such amazing art.

I nominate:

1. The Bitchy Stitcher
2. Paper Perks
3.The Matchbook
4. Sisters in Stitches
5. Studio 78 Notes
6. Meet Your Muse
7.Kelly Corrigan

Here are the rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Mediocre writing sells!

If you tell yourself, "My writing is only mediocre. I'll never write a best seller."
Take heart!
You may already be writing up to the standards of such best selling authors as Dan Brown and Ken Follett.

Have you read their books?
Dan's latest just hit bookstores with a resounding bang of success. Yes his writing gets lambasted by just about every writer, editor, and reviewer out there. But I don't hear many fiddling or muttering about his plots and storylines. And I've heard very little against the research and facts that twist and mold into something just a bit off kilter enough to make readers sit back and wonder just how close to the truth he could be.

I don't suppose it hurts to have Tom Hanks star in movies based on your books....

And have you read Ken Follett's two big sellers -- big in several ways. Hefty tombs in their own right. So weakly written I wanted several times to throw them across the room. Or more accurately to weep for what could have been if he'd only had an editor to whip him into shape.
He's been writing for decades, churning out best sellers forever, but I'm wondering how? If his suspense thrillers read like his last two.... But evidently that's not a deal killer!

Have you seen an editor's take on Dan Brown's first chapter? I'm not sure I agree with the editing that was done. He changed the voice to sound more like a formula romance than an action suspense novel. The editor's words got in the way. Although Brown's bare bones writing sometimes (often) gets redundant and inadequate, it leaves room for the reader's imagination to enrich it. Brown's phrases convey without inflating their little egos or demanding to be admired for the turn of a phrase rather than a plot twist. So there's something to be said for simple writing.

Ken Follett has such a rich story, so beautifully researched, but the writing lacks the richness of the story itself. Like a toddler learning to walk, awkward phrases and vast understatements, and sparse almost amateur sentence structures wobble along from page to page. But the details, the history of a fascinating time, the architecture, the interweaving of lives kept me reading despite the inadequate delivery. Follett much more than Brown left me nearly desolate with a yearning for what could have been.

So again I say, "Take Heart!" If you have a fascinating story line, plot twists that will start a cult following, and characters whom readers can't resist, mediocre writing may be all it takes to get your novel on the best seller's list.

Today's Exercise: Pick a favorite author, any author and edit a page or two. Or take an opening line, borrow it as the opening line of your own story. That's right, write your story based upon that line. It is amazing how much a great opening line can elevate your own writing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Largest ever hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold found in Staffordshire
First pieces of gold were found in a farm field by an amateur metal detector who lives alone on disability benefit" -- Headline in Guardian newspaper Sept. 24, 2009 (Photo from Guardian)

If that doesn't give writers hope, then you're beyond hope. Just when I thought there was nothing new under the sun. Nothing more to be unearthed, discovered, revealed, this impoverished man living in public housing supported by government disability funds trips over not only the most lucrative treasure find in decades. But it is also another piece of history, from a dark era from which little has been salvaged.
Shades of King Arthur send me into paroxysms of fantasy and 'what if.' Just one find like this reminds me that there are still treasures hidden in our world. They have not all been found. Sadly it seems that treasure hunting and exploration and discovery doesn't get much attention. Headlines are reserved for some politician cheating on his wife and running off to Argentina or whether the government is legislating death squads. Or whether politicians are good dancers.... But legitimate archaeology, exploration or research never get past page 20. Unless, like this situation the least likely person makes the most extravagant find. Truly this is the fodder for fiction. And any fiction writer worth his salt has already begun at least one short story or novel or scene based upon this event.

Once in a decade a writer comes along who finds the mother lode in writing just as Terry Herbert found it in metal detecting. Of course J.K. Rowling comes to mind. These events prove that there is much out there yet to be mined. And, it doesn't take high tech or geniuses to make them happen. Everyday people. A teacher, a man down on his luck. Why not you? Why not me?

The one ingredient we need to add to our writing tools -- HOPE! Renew it each day. Focus on feeding it. For, when hope is gone creativity dries up.

How to grow hope?

1. I hate to channel Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, but he's right -- hope grows in a positive environment. THINK POSITIVELY -- it has power.

2. Write. Write for yourself. If your work isn't selling, so what. Just write. Write something that makes you happy and pushes you into a realm where you feel your creativity growing.

3. Challenge yourself to delve into strange and wacky combinations. Lewis Carroll gave a rabbit a pocket watch. A whole story was written around a princess who had a pea in her mattress. And another woman asked what if there was a wizarding school....

4. Read children's books. I keep repeating that Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin makes me laugh and jump starts my imagination. With a little juxtaposition, perhaps the pieces of your next great piece of writing will fall into place. And when my imagination is charged, hope grows exponentially.
5. Keep your mind and eyes open. Read and listen and learn whatever you can. Study things new to you. Grow your mind and your hope with it.
6. Look around you at the things you take for granted. There's a story there. Jane Austen recognized the value of everyday life.

There are still new ideas. There are still stories left untold. There are still treasures -- whether in gold or in words -- to be discovered. Why not you? Why not me?
Exercise: Pick a family photo. Maybe of your mother and her siblings. Look at the way they stand. The distance between them. The body language. Arms folded? Arms around each other? Look at their clothes, their hair, their faces. They setting. Lesson One: What do you learn from this photo about the people in it. Tell us their story. Lesson Two: Practice your descripition technique. Describe this group and give them personalities and depth just from the description.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm seeing a pattern or maybe I just need new glasses

Fiction writing has not revealed itself to me as an easy gig.
I think it involves a great deal more of ME than any other form of writing. I not only craft the words, but I invest my feelings and thoughts and life into it. Woven in each bit of fiction is a piece of the author, or many pieces of the author. The cliche of opening a vein and bleeding onto the page is not unfounded. But that alone is not enough to sustain a piece of fiction no matter how short or long.

There is a factual side of fiction that people don't tell you about when spouting "Once upon a time in a little hamlet by the sea...." The author must know what a hamlet is, are they located by the sea, who lives in hamlets, what era do most hamlets reside in, and just what are the economics of such a place? Is it an impoverished fishing village or a lucrative touristy place or a bastion of old money or a health resort complete with mineral springs? And you as the author, do you have enough facts to convince the reader to suspend disbelief and follow you into your ummm hamlet?

If nothing else, a fiction writer must be knowledgeable. And it certainly doesn't hurt that they are adept at research.

Yesterday's post by Mr. Cooper gives me hope; but when I look at his bio, I get a little queasy. He's not just a writer, that is only his most current occupation. Before that he graduated from Harvard, became a doctor, ran a practice before getting into the business side of pharmaceuticals . He even majored in archaeology and went on digs.

Where I come from just accomplishing one of those things would be enough success for a lifetime. OK, where I come from a good price at the co-op on a corn and soy bean harvest is a rousing success. My point (and there is one!) is that he KNOWS things and he's trainable. Boy is he trainable. The same goes for my dear, dear Diana Gabaldon.

Before 'trying her hand' at fiction and writing the lucrative Outlander series, she was a college professor, research professor at that, had run a successful computer software business and wrote research papers, technical texts and yes even Disney comic books before bringing all of her knowledge to her fiction.

Although her books are fiction with a paranormal element, romance and history all woven into each oversized tomb, they ring with authority. She doesn't just have the main character, Claire, perform surgery to repair a hernia. She gives this hernia a medical name and then proceeds with such insightful detail that you know this author has done her homework and gotten it right. I question sometimes whether she also went to medical school. She doesn't just mention the bones of the hand she calls them by their proper medical names. And she is consistent throughout, offering not just the bare basics that everybody knows. No, she raises the content to a level where each chapter brings new opportunities to learn something. Being weak in science, I appreciate the way she uses natural laws and other scientific facts to make things real.

I will (hesitantly) admit to a background in romance reading and there is one thing that I and a whole community of readers want to take away from these reads. Yes of course we want a satisfying relationship story. And yes we like to escape. But we also want to LEARN something.

Facts, no matter what type of fiction rely heavily on getting the facts right. Great fiction teaches the reader something.

And that's the pattern I'm seeing. Fiction done right isn't about fantasy or make believe -- it is about an author sharing a truth that the reader needed to know -- whether she knew of that need or not. The more subtle the message, the better. Pound me over the head with the author's message and I'll slam the book shut. But show me the message through a character's life and you've succeeded.

Perhaps that was the appeal of Pilgrim's Progress back in the day. Or even Jonathan Swift's memorable essay "A Modest Proposal." Or even today's most read books, yes even Dan Brown. He may not have the most literary writing style, but he can tell a story, and he can throw facts into a story that sends people into a tizzy. One of the reasons I enjoy movies like "National Treasure" is because it is so strongly rooted in facts.

As a writer -- we gotta know the facts -- whether we write fiction or nonfiction. Research, knowledge, life experience are key to success. It isn't just write what you know -- it is know what you write. And give it to me in detail. Which brings another cliche to mind. But I don't think the 'devil' is in the details. I think the six figure advance is in the details.

Site of the Day: Intute helps find the best websites for study and research and much (if not all) are free.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Glenn Cooper: success story by skill and by chance

Glenn Cooper's bio reminds me of another great writer: the late Michael Crichton. Although in comparing lists of accomplishments, Crichton looks like a slacker. But even over achievers find good timing plays an important part in their successes and Mr. Cooper is no exception. Author of Secret of the Seventh Son with a sequel to be released in 2010, Mr Cooper has written an original blog (not seen anywhere else) just for us.

I'm so pleased to share this forum with novelist Glenn Cooper. -- Dawn

Glenn Cooper in his own words:

When Dawn asked me to guest blog I had a look at her site, saw that it was dedicated to two of my favorite subjects, synchronicity and writing, and couldn’t refuse, could I?

As an author in the midst of a rather startling debut phase of his career, I’m new enough to the world of publishing to tell any aspiring writer: it CAN happen to you. It’s not easy, the odds are against you but if your work ethic and talent match your aspirations, then climb into the ring and let synchronicity work its old black magic.

Here’s my story, with a heavy emphasis on the synchronicity angle. My day job was in medicine and biotechnology. Days and weekends were for writing, and juggling family things, of course. Sound familiar to your situation? For 20 years I wrote screenplays, sold a few, had one produced as an indie film which was great, but hardly a writing career.

A couple of years ago I had an idea for a project about fate and predestination – a thriller, and began it as a screenplay. Fate and predestination! The seeds of synchronicity. After five pages I thought it would make a better novel – but I’d never written one of those. Hmmm.

Cut To: one year and 110,000 words later and I had a completed manuscript. LIBRARY OF THE DEAD. I thought it was pretty good (but I always convince myself my stuff is pretty good) so I got one reader who knew me and one who didn’t and both of them thought it was swell. Emboldened, I set out on the dreaded task: finding a literary agent.

First stop – find a book on finding agents!

Second stop – write a query letter.

Third stop – ignore the advice in the book about sending them out in manageable bunches and blast away with 66 queries.

Fourth stop – wait for the rejections.

Except ONE. Yes, one in 66 said yes, and here’s where synchronicity comes in. This was a very good agency with a brand new agent who had just lost his marketing position at a major publishing house following a merger and consolidation. Jobless, he decided to try his lot at agenting, specifically tasked with looking for thrillers with fresh angles. So, if two publishers hadn’t merged and this fellow hadn’t been prodded to the agency side and he hadn’t staked out thrillers as his turf and I hadn’t queried just as he was finding his desk, then everything else that followed wouldn’t have happened.

Within a month the deals started to roll in. First the UK at a hot auction which Random House won. Then auctions in Germany, France, Spain, Italy. Then a US deal with HarperCollins, then a total of 28 translations in over 40 countries!

The book, published as LIBRARY OF THE DEAD internationally and SECRET OF THE SEVENTH SON in the US has been a top-ten bestseller all over Europe, the debut novel of the year in Italy and has sold over 500,000 copies so far and counting. And I now have four thrillers under contract and have left my day job.

And here’s the kicker. Shortly after making my deals, my synchronicity agent decided on another career path and left the agency! So, having intersected with him at the right time and place for both of us, I plunged back into the water to snag a really, really famous agent who rejected me the first time around and I’m now his client.

The moral of the story? Don’t give up. Trust yourself and trust fate to do its fickle thing. You might not succeed. Not everyone does. But you surely will not succeed if you don’t keep trying to write and make connections. Writing and synchronicity.

Glenn Cooper

Don't put off til tomorrow, what you can do today

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon--instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.-- Dale Carnegie

A few years ago I took a tour of an Old Florida theme park -- Cypress Gardens. It has fallen on hard times, closed, since I was there. But I remember growing up and thinking it was paradise and the one place I wanted to visit. I might have been influenced by my cousin who was a world traveler compared to me. She'd been there. She'd watched the ski show. She could even water ski. Me. I could read.

It only took me 40 years to get to Cypress Gardens. And it was just as magnificent as I had thought it would be -- more so. The banyan tree bigger (well, it had 40 years more of growth!) and the topiary garden pictured here absolutely magnificent. And I realized that Cypress Gardens wasn't just my dream destination. It was also someone's dream become reality.

Cypress Gardens began as Dick Pope's dream and became a premiere promotion for water skiing. "Founded in 1936 by Dick and Julie Pope, Cypress Gardens was a showcase for Central Florida and paved the way for other parks such as Disney and Universal to follow. Under his guidance, the beautiful botanical gardens became the backdrop for beautiful belles and peaceful boat rides, as well as many movies and thousands of advertising campaigns over the years. Familiar Starlets who have walked our paths include: Betty Davis, Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, Esther Williams and Elvis to name just a few. Proclaimed the Water Ski Capitol of the World, Cypress Gardens became the birthplace of performance water skiing in 1941. " By the time I knew what it was in the 1960s, it was an internationally famous destination.

My little pea brain wouldn't know where to begin to create such a place, how to pull it together and make it work, market it, keep it open and welcoming and all the other things that such a venture requires. But then, that isn't true is it. I could write a fiction world. My own fiction dream of Cypress Gardens or whatever destination I can dream.

Then again, in fiction the facts must be there. I should be able to grasp the rudiments of running such a place. So fiction writers must be magnificent researchers. And we must make readers believe the fiction right along with the facts.

My point, a bit obscure I suppose, is that big ventures begin small. J.K. Rowling began with paper and pencil and a curiosity for magic and 'what if'. Mr. Pope started with a vision of a garden fronting onto a lake where his kids liked to swim and ski. He and his 'garden' influenced a cartoonist who eventually created Disney World. Even Dale Carnegie, quoted above, began simply with his belief and experiences. He shared them with others and generations later he's still an icon.

We can begin the same way these people and others have begun. But as another mover and shaker and genuinely nice guy who died too early said: "Whatever you want to do, do it now.There are only so many tomorrows." --Michael Landon

Today's Tip: Timed Writings get the creative juices flowing. Take 10 minutes, no make it 20, and just type. Don't craft, don't censor, just write whatever flows into your head, then sit back and relish the nuggets you mined from your own mind.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Writer Sweatshop or Opportunity?

There's been an interesting discussion going on about Demand Studios. Recently on the Internet Writers Workshop someone offered it as a viable way to earn income by writing. One member claimed that she made $200 a week writing for this market. That was enough motivation for me. I could certainly use $200 a week to replace the income from the long gone part-time job the failing economy had taken care of quite completely.

I jumped through their hoops. Not only did I fill out the application, supplied two or three examples and then waited for a reply. Not a long wait, but still it is part of writing isn't it. Hurry up, meet the deadline, submit the copy, and wait.

Then with approval came more forms to fill out. They needed tax information including social security number. I hesitated, but decided I couldn't fear everyone. So I filled it in. Next they wanted a bio to run with my work. Short bio. Done. Then, if I wanted to get paid I must sign up for PayPal. It is something I've avoided all of these years having heard about hidden fees and missing money and fighting to get what was yours. But I'd also heard people say how easy it was, safe, worked well, accommodating. I signed up. Oh and then I was told if I wanted to surf their pages I needed to replace my Internet Explorer with Mozilla's Firefox or something similar. Its free, but just one more software to put on my poor computer. I did it.

Now the clouds parted and I was eligible to pick my assignments. A long list of generic topics unfolded before me. Broad based titles "Kenmore Sewing Instructions" "How to build a Gazebo...."

And the prices: $15 for 500 words. For me to make $200 a week I'd need to write about 15 articles a week. Not an unachievable number, but still, I can write one piece for The Washington Post and receive that amount. Of course there was no guarantee that the WP would buy the piece. So I suppose a ready market was worth something. The $15 per article is the highest they appear to pay. Unless after awhile you can ascend to a favored status where they'll make better deals. No one is talking about that.

So far, other than seeing this opportunity bordering on sweatshop wages, I haven't seen any other red flags. But I put a request out on Facebook and was referred to Erik Sherman's blog. I've known Erik through my stint at Freelance Success and know him to be honest and informed. He's a member of ASJA and is an expert on contracts. He's a good person to consult if you have a contract question and he will help regardless of membership in ASJA or not.

Erik refers to Direct Studios and a variety of other writing markets as Writers Mills. You know like puppy mills? He's very opposed to these venues and warns every writer to stay away and not let them make millions on the back of poorly paid writers. Poorly paid hardly covers the paltry sum.

But there is another side to the argument. Perhaps not as strong as Erik's but it comes from impoverished writers who need a guaranteed income. This may be piecework writing, but it has potential for money attached and the amount is dependent upon how much work you can do. Sometimes a writer has to take what is available at the time of their need. Or at the time of their feelings of panic and fear when looking at their budget. Is it better to work for one of these writers mills as opposed to slinging hamburgers at MacDonald's or any other lowly entry level job? At least the person is writing. And I would think if one is turning out that quantity of copy, one is learning to do something right.

I would like to join Erik and take the high road, but economic necessity can be an imposing adversary. Desperation -- is that a good reason to take a job? It is a bit daunting to realize that this particular company is raking in approximately $200 millions a year. And according to Erik, the CEO is none other than the MySpace genius Richard Rosenblatt. He sold MySpace to Rupert Murdock for $600 million if Erik's figures are correct. I doubt that Mr Rosenblatt would do anything for a measly $15, but who knows. He isn't working for those wages now, but maybe he began as humbly as his writers are now.

Either way you look at Demand Studios it is a writing market. According to expert freelancers, one must have a mix of markets in one's business plan. I'll let you know later if it is a keeper. When you visit Erik's blog, if you look through his recent posts for writers mills, you will see some other similar markets -- if you're so inclined.

Oh, and I understand that Demand Studios hires only people from the United States.
Favored Job Search Site: The Freelance Writing Jobs Network

Monday, September 21, 2009

A New Week, a new beginning

Mondays always give me hope. At least I feel that way when I don't face a job I can't stand. In that respect unemployment has lightened up Mondays considerably for me. And with you and this blog to push me to write each day, I began the morning with a rewrite.

Back in July I had sent a personal essay off to Christian Science Monitor. No word. A silent rejection. Not even a letter to use in my fabric-paper collage. When I sent the essay I wasn't completely satisfied with it, but I got lazy and a little desperate to sell something and sent it.

Today I stripped it apart and refocused it, cut out the oh woe is me sections, and tightened the writing. I don't know if it will sell. What I do know is I am already much happier with this piece. And if I'm happy, that makes rejection easier somehow. But I am hopeful again that this piece will sell.

Yes, do overs are allowed.

My new schedule seems to fit into a routine of checking email, checking my blogs, and then surfing for inspiration or information that I can fit together into something unique and universal with a slightly new perspective before settling down to write today's blog.

Today's serendipitous cyberspace ramble took me to a site, Walletpop, where I found great information about freebies, job searches, unemployment, and making money. I read a CNN story about the four people they have been following through their unemployment experiences.

These people were struggling, no doubt about it, but they were also experiencing what I had discovered -- freedom. Freedom isn't free. We've heard that cliche. And the price may be dear. No I'm not going to fight a war for my freedom, people much braver and stronger and younger and much more heroic than I are standing at the wall and securing my world. And I thank them everyday -- they just don't know it. I need to work on that.

Right now my freedom is costing me the security and peace of mind that my guaranteed every two weeks paycheck brought. But I'm really less conflicted, even with financial woes. I'm where I think I should be. I'm where I can help and support the people I love.

Today I plan to spend some quality time with the Subversive Stitchers and their fictional lives. Stay tuned, I'll let you know how that goes.

Tip of the Day: How to use a dash.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fear -- what big bad wolf scares you?

Photo: From Alfred Hitchcock movie: Psycho.
Shower scene


Fear is of the devil. --the Bible

We have nothing to fear, but fear itself. -- FDR

Helium offers 38 essays (short essays) on the topic. Each one gave me thoughts to explore. One played off of the "Who's afraid of the big, bad, wolf?" And went on to say 'the wolf I fear maybe different than the one you fear.'

Another spoke of fear of clowns. I've always been uncomfortable around clowns and for me at least it is indicative of my need to read people. I grew up in a house where reading people was a necessity. A false move could be detrimental to my well being. So I learned quite early to understand body and facial language. Not consciously, but it became as natural to me as verbal language -- and I've always been quite a talker.

But the clown in its baggy clothes and layers of makeup and wigs and gloves hides every clue to understanding the true language behind this fake facade. I feel vulnerable and fearful when unable to read a person's motives and movements.

Fear, according to the dictionary, is "a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid." Or a fear or awe of God or anxiety....

So what do I fear about writing?

Fear of failure? Yes.

Fear of success? Yes.

Fear of finding out I have been kidding myself all of these years. So maybe fear of truth? Yes.

Fear that my love of writing will disappear. This thing I love will becomes work, become a chore. Yes.

Fear that my creativity will dry up or be superficial and that there is no next level for me to strive for. Yes.

Fear that it is too late. Yes.

So caught between fear of failure and fear of success, I seem to be stuck in the middle and we all know that purgatory can be described as limbo or for me -- mediocrity. How to move out of this quicksand that is sucking the life out of me?

One rather neurotic essay held a kernel of truth that seemed like a path out of my quagmire: "It wasn't until I started to meditate, and live in the present, did the fear go away." -- by Jaalah Dupont

I will try not to think about the consequences of my success or failure, these intangible consequences can disappear as quickly as a fog when the sun appears. I give them too much permanence, too much credence. So for now I will devote my all in the present moment and forget about everything else. I can only live one moment at a time and when it is gone, it is gone. Wasting time worrying about what could be is simply that -- a waste. So my new mantra:

". . . Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." --Matthew 6:34 or as I heard again and again that old cliche: "Don't bite off more than you can chew."

One day at a time.

No fear! NO FEAR!
Something I found inspiring: 50 to 1 I particularly loved the first line: "I remember wondering if my skin was burning." -- John Harahan. Ahhh the possibilities!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just Have Fun!

Since leaving my lowly part-time page job at the library, I've sought to do a few things just for me. One was to take a fabric painting class through Quilt University.

The instructor, Lyric Kinard gave easy to follow instructions, so I quickly picked up on the techniques. Thankfully they are simple and more like child's play. And that's exactly what we did in the class -- play.

Several other things I learned from that class:

1. Use the right tools and materials. The class was relatively inexpensive; the tools and materials a bit more. Getting the recommended fabric paints, brushes, fabrics, etc. I learned a long time ago when decorating cakes as a cottage industry while my kids were young, having the right tools are essential. It was no different this time. And, to my surprise I could even use my cake decorating tools to make a flour resist. You'll see an example of it at my Subversive Stitcher site more than halfway down the right column. It works the same with any creative endeavor -- come armed with the right tools.

2. Get to know the tools and materials -- what they will do and what they won't. This is a step I often overlook. And it requires something I thought ended with childhood: play. Play with the tools. Use them up, buy some more and do it all again until you're comfortable with them and know all of the various ways to use them. For example I didn't realize that fabric paints work well when mixed with quite a bit of water, so those little containers can last quite a long way. I didn't know that the sun and wet painted fabric can work magic -- sun printing is the most fun! Leaves and wind chime decorations and even buttons and safety pins make wonderful designs. I didn't know that my food grater would make such wonderful textures for rubbings or my rolling pin....

3. Learn the rules that guide the use of those tools. Paints and brushes and fabrics and textures and moisture and color and even a bit of Newtonian law comes to play in fabric painting. Its important to understand what will definitely happen so it can be manipulated.

4. In play, there is only success -- no failures. Failures become experiences to learn from. Truly. Part of the class project is to make your own journal and include swatches of the fabric produced, what was done to produce it and whether it worked or didn't and why. An excellent reference tool.

5. Beauty can come out of ignorance, but more often out of choice. The first day was pure happenstance. The second day became 'what if.' The third day combined experience with what if and pleasing creations began to appear.

6. What we think we are creating can take unexpected (and rewarding) detours into something totally different. When manipulating the fabric and trying various ways to apply the colors to it, we were repeatedly surprised at results and depths and the way the colors ranged within one cloth. I'm sure the laws of the universe, if we had known them, would explain what we were seeing, yet there was the angel that turned out to look more like a happy monster and had everyone in the class chiming in with what they saw as if it were a Roschard Test.
I see how the lessons learned in this fabric painting class transfers readily to writing. The most important perhaps: Play. Give yourself permission to play and try new things and ask 'what if.' Timed writings are my play time when I take the censor's restraints off of my brain and fingers and give them free reign. Some of my best work came from a tiny nugget found within the pages of these free writings. Why don't I do it more often?

But for me there's the downside of enjoying my writing -- it feels like play --especially with fiction. Then my 'grown up' role models (the ones that reside in my mind) step forward and slather me with guilt. I really must learn to play again and get rid of those damn role models!

Perhaps the most unexpected epiphany of this class was a reminder of the return I get for investing in myself.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Can't take a dump without a plan...."

In our house movie quotes intermingle every conversation. Part of the fun is to remember where we've heard that one before. I believe the title of this blog came from a Tom Clancy inspired movie starring Sean Connery and one of the Baldwin boys: Hunt for Red October.

Obviously this character was not speaking about me because I've lived for far too long without any plan at all. Just followed traditions for the most part with a few moments of bliss when I felt I was actually in the place where I should be. One of those moments of grace when everything seemed to fit into place. Often it happens in my writing. The right word in the right place conveying a message deeper than I ever expected or even knew I had in me!

But usually I'm searching, searching, searching for the right door -- choosing between door number one, door number two, or door number three. Too often I've ended up with the donkey instead of the fiery red sports car -- but then again, there's something to be said for donkeys. They can take you to greater heights than any sports car -- just ask those people living in the Himalayas.

Since deciding to focus on growing my writing business and moving toward a completed novel, I realize plans may be a new way of life. A good way to go. And to that end, let me point you toward an interesting blog and business plan made by the Ancient Artist. She offers a free 78 page download of her business plan for the mature artist.

I question the word mature -- if she means mature in the sense of no longer childish -- I'm not there yet. Mature in years -- that's me. This making a plan business is not for the faint of heart. The author of this plan says you must know four things:

Know yourself
Know your market
Know your opportunities
Know your potential

Well, I suppose I would be further along the path to success if I knew even one of these things. But it is a place to begin. Perhaps I've been like Jack Nicholson's character for too long: "You don't want the truth. You can't handle the truth!" (A Few Good Men).

I'm all about beginnings right now. So I had better get back onto my 'shriveled little legs' (Sleepless in Seattle) and do my best for the Gypper. (Some old Ronald Reagan movie).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time to get serious or A journey begins with the first step, unless you turn around and don't take the second

(Photo by Marion Ettlinger)
I am a writer.

It took me several decades and more than 100 articles published before I could say that without feeling like a fool or even worst like a fraud. For years (decades) I wanted to add the title of novelist to my name. But I have difficulty getting past the feeling of wasted time whenever I venture into my characters' world. And when it doesn't flow for 100,000 words and form itself into a marketable (saleable) product, I stop and lament the wasted time. Yet the feeling never goes away that I MUST write a novel!

What I hear from writers such as Mary Higgins Clark and Joyce Carol Oates and other successful members of the publishing business boils down to: persevere.
These two women especially say how dreadful, how much they hate those first few weeks of a new project. They are angry and anxious and frustrated and totally convinced they cannot write. And then after several weeks. Joyce Carol Oates suggested six weeks. It begins to work and they find their footing and the fog clears from the landscape and they begin to get acquainted with their characters and the story begins to unfold with less fighting and wrestling and fewer tears.

Up to this point I have successfully written 1000 or 2000 words and sold them without difficulty to well respected markets. There are examples of my essays on the sideboard here. But when I begin something longer I get bogged down and give up in confused frustration.
Organization obviously is key in a longer work (how else do we keep characters and scenes straight?) and I'm deficient in that area -- one look at my 'crap room' will send you screaming out of the house. My first and only to date garage sale was a marvel. Buyers would come in and look around and exclaim, "My goodness, this covers three or four decades of fashion, of stuff."

I'm a keeper, and I believe, firmly believe, that I will use everything again one day. And then like Ralph's barn, the layers build up and up and I can't find it when I need it and then nothing gets done. I throw up my hands in frustration and quit.

Ralph's barn, by the way refers to a man who worked construction and would drag home truck loads of leftovers and castoffs from the worksite. He would store everything in his barn. It got so full that you literally walked across the barn on top of boxes of stuff. And whenever he needed something for home repairs or projects, he wouldn't go to the barn. He would mutter, "Its in there somewhere," and then head to the hardware store to purchase whatever he needed. I believe the barn eventually fell down. Although it might have fallen down years earlier if it hadn't had all of that stuff inside holding it up.

My brain is also like Ralph's barn. So many stories swirling around in it. So many characters. So many scenes. And yet I can't seem to find the parts to fit together into something complete and compelling.

But, since only about eight of us read this blog at any given time, I hope you won't mind that I change the direction for the next few months. There will still be synchronicity discussions since it seems to be these kinds of strange comings together that spark my writing. But, for the moment I want to use this venue to help me stay with one project at least through the slogging, frustrating, hair pulling "I'm gonna give up" stage and see if I can actually get to the ahhhh its working state of grace in a novel.

So today I vow that I will begin to act like a professional writer complete with crying fits and self flogging. But I won't give up.
I will attempt to write each day. If it is only to explore characters or do research or figure out the rock structure under the city where my characters reside. I will continue until I have something that resembles a novel. A readable, marketable novel.

Are you with me?

I have listened again and again to Diana Gabaldon's talks about how she began writing Outlander (by the way another book is due out any day!) and she laid down two rules for herself. I've paraphrased them below:

1. Write the best I can.
2. Finish it.

She doesn't write in a linear fashion. She writes whatever scene comes to her. I believe that is a style that will work for me and I want to give it a try. So if I post anything here please know that it may not be in order of how it would appear in the book. And I will be working on more than one project because I keep running into stone walls and can't seem to find my way around them, but in an effort to keep writing, I'll start or continue on another project.

Here's a piece of what was fresh in my brain a week or so ago before I hit a wall. I eked out almost 3000 words and then nothing.

Working Title: Chalk Lady

Simultaneously, with as much force as she could muster, she brought the side of her fist down on the toes peeking out of the strappy white sandals while turning her head to spit on the exposed ankles above the Birkenstocks. The two women screamed and jumped back. Their attacker resumed her work without any lingering malice, repairing the damage the gawkers had done.

Slowly, thoughtfully she replaced a cylinder of chalk onto the battered metal tray. Her hand hovered above the dusty yet colorful array before choosing a subdued sage green and applying the color to what gawkers like the sandal wearers realized was a face – a haggard, careworn, devastating visage that made their hearts hurt just to see the pain in the eyes. It was a female figure. Beyond the gnarled fingers, straggling hair, fierce eyebrows and burning eyes, one could see a hint of a gentle curve and female nature. A reminder of breasts that might have once been voluptuous rather than sagging, lips that might once have smiled invitingly. (c) Dawn Goldsmith 2009

For some reason I awoke one morning with the vision of this street artist in my mind and I rushed to the computer to try to capture her in words. She's an elusive figure, this woman, yet I think I know what she's about. Can I accurately represent her and her life and the story she wants me to tell?

And for years I have been friends with a group of characters who inspired the name of my other blog: Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. Here is a snippet of what I've written about them. But the story keeps beginning again and again and I can't quite decide which group is the one I want to write about or which setting or which conflict....I think there's a series here.

Working Title: Subversive Stitchers

Knowing something is not nearly as satisfying as sharing it. That was Alma Wright’s motto.

She peered through the twisted metal Art Nouveau grillwork. It separated her workspace from the tiny post office lobby. She looked out onto the government green walls and scarred black and green linoleum floor. She could also keep an eye on the bank of copper antique doors that secured each mailbox for citizens of Clarion, Ohio. Being postmistress not only gave her keys to the back room of the post office, but also opened up access to everyone’s business. She was the first to read their picture post cards, the first to know when a bill was overdue and the first to see who was corresponding with whom. Email had curtailed much of the personal letter information, but in a small town there was always gossip and she was well connected on the grapevine. Her whole world had shrunk to the size of the tiny post office. (c)Dawn Goldsmith 2008

I welcome comments and encouragement, prayers and lit candles. And I WELCOME ways to get my writing organized so I can easily find what I need and finish this project and begin a whole new chapter in my life. And if you wish to discuss the fiction I'm writing, even better!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why do we put up with it?

A recent blogger ranted about her relationship with cable and satellite television service providers. In essence she accepted their terms, purchased a more expensive package of stations so that she could watch one in particular.

Only a short time into her contract the provider informed her in a form letter that the station she wanted no longer was offered because it was too demanding.

So now she's paying a higher rate for a bunch of stations she really doesn't want and cannot have access to the one station that drove her to make the larger investment. Can she write to company and say, "Without that station, I no longer want this contract?"

Probably not. After all, she has signed a contract. Funny how the consumer has no rights to change a contract, but a company/business can do whatever it pleases?

Her dilemma brought up one that my husband and I battle. I admit that we are passive aggressive. We get all angry and then do nothing. It is a reaction that companies bank on. Change is not easy, fighting for change even more difficult, and most people will just allow themselves to be victimized. That's us.

We have been customers of the same telephone service for most of our married lives. You would think that as 'valued customers' who pay on time and through the nose without protest, the company might offer us their best cost savings plans.

I can hear you laughing.

Unless we figure out what we are being billed for -- fat chance of that ever happening. These phone bills are better encrypted than the secret missives at the pentagon. Unless we decipher the bill, know what the best offers are that are made to OTHER customers but not to us. Unless we know what to ask for, how to demand better service, etc. etc. etc. We'll continue to pay more than our fair share.

All I want is a phone I can use to call my family now and then. A cell phone is perfect. But what about my Internet service provider? What if I just got a blackberry? Would that take care of my needs? Who do I ask? How do I find out?

I bet if we stop being a customer. End our service. Do without -- we might get someone's attention. But, getting attention is far from being the same as getting the truth. And in this age of spin and misdirection does anyone really know the truth about anything?
I really wish there was a Consumer's Union that I could join where I could get fair representation; a representative who speaks my language and can explain my rights and the best possible purchase to me, AND without sending me an undecipherable bill with hidden charges.
Let's start a Consumer's Union! Workers Unite!!!

We received a survey in the mail to fill out for consumer products. The standard invasive questions, but on the last page they made a last ditch attempt to get our information by providing glowing endorsements from people who have either received their tantalizing monetary prizes or appreciated the promised coupons. Almost to a person the respondents said something about not expecting to get what was promised, not trusting that they were truthful or would keep their word, or some allusion to 'others' who rip off, swindle, lie, cheat...."

Obviously there is a large population that feels paranoid whenever called upon for information or to sign a contract. Is this the American way? Double talk? Take with one hand and slap us with the other? Lie, cheat, steal, and encourage others to do the same?

Is this the only way to enter into a contract for services in the United States?

What is my recourse? Consumers Unite!

More likely we will simply do without.

You know -- I really like that idea. I can do without just about anything except Internet service. Anyone care to tell me how I can have Internet service without paying a nasty evil telephone bill or cable bill? I do so hate supporting these bad business practices.
Point me to the Consumers' Union Hall.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What's a Liberal? Could it be me?

According to what I hear and read about politics, liberals are evil, stupid, and have no common sense, decency or religious beliefs.

The religious beliefs part I heard from the pulpit when our minister encouraged everyone to vote for George Bush and his version of Christianity.

I no longer attend that church. So, I must be what they label a liberal.

If you ask me, it seems like I'm a conservative. I certainly have conservative views when it comes to my personal life.

Perhaps I am conservative because my budget dictates it, but I feel it to the very bone that adage 'waste not, want not.' My parents grew up during The Great Depression and they were experts on doing without and making do. It seems like the right way to conduct oneself. We pay our taxes, don't try to find some way to get out of our responsibilities nor try to get something for nothing.

I don't get a new dress based upon fashion trends and keeping up with them. I'm a follower of the classics and only purchase new garments when the others wear out or as too often happens I outgrow them. I swear they shrink, even after 20 washings.

I save leftover food, fabric, boxes, and even leftover dryer lint. Okay, let me qualify that last one. Lint is an excellent material and is quite useful in multi-media fabric art, something I dabble in and would love to excel at, but I'm definitely not anywhere near moving out of the novice amateur newby stage.

We repurpose whatever we can. (Note the dryer lint.) For years I saved the holiday cards people sent to us. The next year I used the front cover as package labels on those colorfully wrapped gifts piled beneath our tree or given to friends and extended family. Egg cartons became useful containers for buttons and sewing notions and odds and ends, not to mention Christmas ornaments and various craft materials. Cereal boxes became book covers as did brown paper bags.

Worn socks fit on a hand beautifully for waxing a car and leftover bits of candles were dumped together into a pot, melted down and made into new candles. Parts of worn jeans and overalls became pillows or quilts or vests or aprons. The odd button became part of a fabric child's book to help them improve hand eye coordination and dexterity. Buttons and buttonholes, zippers taken from a worn pair of slacks became another page in the book, etc.

My husband was adept at fixing just about any small appliance and threw away nothing because he could someday use it for parts. He also repaired the house itself. And he was the one who spaded up the garden plot and together we planted, then preserved the foods we grew. Of all of the things I miss my garden most these days, but that's another story.

All of that to say that I identify with conservation. But I guess that isn't the stuff conservatives are made of.

I don't quite understand these labels. My father would have described a liberal as a young man with long hair, an earring and a tattoo. If that's the definition -- I'm not a liberal, although I do have pierced ears and my hair does brush my collar -- but I am female, so I don't think that counts. No tattoos, piercings or long hair on my husband either.

  • If a liberal is one who believes that all people are created equal. I'm a liberal.
  • If a liberal believes that we are all in this together and we should take every opportunity to help our fellow man and woman to a better life. I'm a liberal.
  • If a liberal believes that healthcare is a right for everyone regardless of income or social economic situation. I'm a liberal.
  • If a liberal believes that education should be available to everyone and affordable if not totally free; that education will make this world a better place. Then, I'm a liberal.
  • If a liberal can make mistakes, pick himself up, and try to do good, then I'm a liberal.
  • If a liberal tells the truth, admits his beliefs, and votes to improve life for all humans not just a few -- is that a liberal? That's me.
  • If a liberal feels that words are sacred and you should strive to say something nice, uplift those around you and not belittle in an effort to raise yourself up, then I'm a liberal.
  • If a liberal believes that integrity, honesty, tenacity, and faith are the character traits I value and find lacking in business and just about any area of civil interaction -- then I definitely am a liberal.

Time and again a person goes out of his or her way to instruct me in the fact that they are a born-again Christian, a conservative AND a Republican. But when it comes to how they treat their fellow man -- the less fortunate -- they seem to transform into something very un-Christ like. They speak of profit. They speak of illegal aliens as if they are a new species of weed or killer bees, as if they are not humans requiring the same healthcare and basic survival package as every other human. "We shouldn't be paying for their care...."

I agree, people should be in our country legally. But then I ask, "When they are in need, though, who should clothe them, feed them, heal them?" I get a shrug and a turn of the head. They no longer meet my gaze as they mumble, "I don't know, they shouldn't have come here illegally. I shouldn't be paying for their care."

Would've, should've, could've. If , if, if. But don't conservatives and liberals need to deal with the world as it is and not simply get in a huff because things are not as they should be? We must deal with the needs of the population today and fix it as we go along. And don't we, as members of the human race, need to think about the good of everyone, not just what's good for me? Or is the dissention over that phrase: the good of the many outweighs the good of the few? If I see someone in need, should I think about whether he's worth saving? Or is simply seeing the need enough reason to respond? Do I judge who is or is not worthy?

If liberals are dreamers -- count me in. If liberals say "what if" or "why not" -- then call me a liberal.

Maybe all mothers are liberals because we'll do just about anything to soothe pain, heal hurt, and foster peace. But why on earth is it a negative thing to be considered a liberal since so many 'liberals' have devoted their lives to helping others and making this world better?

  • Andrew Carnegie? Liberal?
  • Mother Teresa? Liberal?
  • Jesus? Liberal?
  • Martin Luther King? Liberal?
  • Frank Lloyd Wright? Liberal?
  • Jonas Salk? Liberal?
  • Bill Gates? Liberal?
I believe that everyone is created equal and I'm not put on this earth to judge. I try not to judge by the outward image or the behaviors or whether they chew with their mouth shut or open. Although I admit I am partial to closed mouth chewers.

I also believe that the best way to fix what's broken -- stock markets, businesses large and small, banks, healthcare, energy, oil, is by a simple character improvement: honesty.

Recently we dealt with a new company for the first time and oh my they were great talkers. They offered us a product at an amazingly reasonable price. They waved their religion as if it were a citation from the Better Business Bureau and then tried to push for a few bells and whistles on us. But overall in the end, it appears that they conduct their business in an honest fashion relying on integrity, hard work, a quality product, and good morals to attract their customer base. They seem too good to be true. And I'm so accustomed to being ripped off if I trust anyone, I still am waiting for the catch. By the way, if you want some propaganda about consumerism, check out this video.

Yet, they remind me of the way almost everyone did business on a local level back when I was a child. But even then times were changing. Ask Grandpa how much he wished the Insurance Company who repossessed his farm had conducted business with integrity and a strong moral character. Of course Grandpa did chose to go into debt....

Ah well. We can't help Grandpa. But maybe if we all begin to say what we mean, mean what we say, cut out the sarcasm, hype, spin, and 'buyer beware' attitude -- maybe, just maybe trust could make a comeback and we'd all see our world become a more welcoming place to live.

I just don't understand labels.