Monday, January 31, 2011

Making History...or not.

I’m suffering from wanderlust lately. I have this desire to just…go. I want to jump in my car, hop on a plane, follow the sun. It must be this historic winter storm that’s supposed to arrive within hours. It’s amazing what the media can do, isn’t it? Remember the big Earthquake prediction back in December of 1990? A self-professed climatologist named Iben Browning predicted that an earthquake measuring somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 would occur in the New Madrid region of the Central United States. Here in St. Louis, earthquake kits were selling like hot cakes. It was a media frenzy. I was a freshman in college, and I actually stayed home from school that day, because I’d had a dream the night before that I was stopped in traffic on the highway, under a viaduct, when the earthquake hit.

December 3rd came and went. No earthquake. In fact the entire week passed without a single incident. I felt like a fool. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. And now the media is telling us that this is the biggest storm in almost 30 years. They’re using words like “catastrophic” and urging us to stay at home. Early tonight I flipped on the Weather Channel. A reporter up in Chicago was standing on the side of a busy highway, not a snowflake in sight, gripping his mic like an addict. “Do not go out,” he warned. “Seriously folks, we’re out here tonight trying to save your life.”

Really? I’ll admit, the idea of losing power in this cold does give me an extra chill, but I refuse to run screaming to the nearest grocery store (besides I’ve got plenty of bread, milk and eggs). This afternoon, I drove to my regular 4:45 boot camp class. Picked up a pizza on the way home, and ran a few errands after dinner. No catastrophes. I appreciate the media giving us a heads up so that we can prepare, but this is a little ridiculous.

My kids are excited, as I was during the big winter storm of ’82. Back then, a bunch of us kids took orders from the neighbors and walked with our dads to the grocery store, pulling a sled of hot cocoa, milk and bread back home. It was a memory I’ll never forgot. Two weeks of sledding, snowmen, snow forts, and no school.

As I write this, my phone just rang…it was Parkway School District. No school for my kids tomorrow. Remember those days? I’m thinking about the projects I will still need to work on from home, and the phone interview I have with a PR firm down South for a Freelance project I’m working on.

But I digress. I think I’ll allow myself to sleep in just a little later, make coffee in the 12-cup pot, instead of the quickie 4-cup pot I use on weekdays to fill my commuter mug. And maybe make French toast with all the bread, milk and eggs in the fridge.

Stay warm! Here’s hoping I don’t have to eat my words!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Friday, from Metal-Mouth

I am officially a metal-mouth. The braces don’t look quite as bad as I thought they would, but they feel worse.

Last night I took my oldest son to his High School Curriculum Night. I was a complete contradiction walking in the front doors... I felt OLD knowing my son would be entering highschool next fall. Yet there I stood in glasses and braces. Ha!

But I digress. It hurts to talk, which I’ve been known to do. But, as a writer, I prefer to put my words down on paper anyway. I love words. The craft of putting the right ones together, just so, amazes me. Some writers do it better than others, and we all have our favorites. I’ve written before about those perfectly constructed sentences that just leap out at you in the middle of a page. You know the ones; they just stop you in your tracks, make you think Yes, that’s it exactly!

These are a few lines that did it for me:

“They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture.”

(from The Things they Carried, Tim O’Brien)

“Words, Caravaggio. They have a power.” (from The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje)

And my absolute favorite line (I swear I sigh audibly every single time I read or speak it):

“She was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup. She was a certain hour of the night, and the promise of rest.” (from The Quiet American, Graham Greene)

There are actually many lines from many books. Short stories by Raymond Carver and Andre Dubus, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, and Jennifer Niven’s Velva Jean Learns to Drive, that hooked me from the very first line and carried me, cheering, through the last.

And, maybe not entirely apropos to this post, but good words nevertheless, a few lines from a favorite song (as well as a shout out to an old friend):

I will remember you,

Will you remember me?

Don’t let your life pass you by,

Weep not for the memories.

(Sarah McLachlan)

Hope all is okay in your world. Call me when you’re free…have a question for you.

But, I Digress (again)...It’s Friday! And you know what that means! So, raise your glass with me…Here’s to the craft of writing. May all our pens, pencils, and keyboards keep just a little bit of that magic alive.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Golden Tickets

Season 10 of American Idol kicked off last night. For those who truly do have some talent, and might just need some direction and a few good connections to make it happen, the show is a huge opportunity.

What I wouldn’t give for American WRITER. I’m watching these guys and girls who are “goin’ to Hollywood!” and I know how they feel. I felt that way when I sold my first article, and with every publication since. To be recognized for the one thing that you love to do, your dream, is a heady feeling.

Throughout these past 10 seasons of Idol, there have been those few voices that gave me goose bumps, made me hold my breath, even brought tears to my eyes. For writers…and lovers of the craft, it’s the same way with words. It's that line in the middle of a story that stops us, makes us think, won’t let us forget. That’s why I write. That’s what drives me. To get that one feeling, that one thought across. That’s what it’s all about.

I'm at the point with my writing where I've gotten that "Golden Ticket" to Hollywood. Now what? Will I continue to push out a few essays a month and be satisfied with the few pieces I sell, the small checks that come in the mail? Or do I realize that I have an opportunity now to use my success to propel myself forward, to push myself to tackle new formats, different genres, bigger publications.

I earned my BA in Writing at Webster University in 2005. How I'd love to go back for my MFA in Creative Writing. Speaking of college, one of my old professors, Steve Lattimore, described the best stories as those where the writer “puts the protagonist up in a tree, throws rocks at him, and then gets him down.” Steve is speaking at St. Louis Writer’s Guild next weekend. I took his Creative Fiction Writing class, and had the privilege of getting my work torn to shreds by him.

This is one speaker worth your time. Truly. His workshop, “Missed Opportunities and Misunderstandings in Writing Fiction” is Saturday, Feb. 5, 10:00 am – Noon at the Kirkwood Community Center. A golden ticket to this event is free to STLWG members, and just $5 for non-members. See you there!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Name That Tune

I love music. Specifically, the lyrics. Growing up, my friends would always joke that I knew every word to every song on the radio…they still do. It’s true. And it stands to reason…I’m a writer. While I love the beat, the rhythm, the sound, it’s the lyrics that grab me and pull me in. My kids inherited this love of music. My oldest, my love of words. He is a talented writer, at just 13, and of course, studies the lyrics, more than the score, of all his favorite songs.

The old standards – lyrically speaking – are my favorite:

A tinkling piano in the next apartment

Those stumblin' words that told you what my heart meant

A fairground's painted swings

These foolish things remind me of you

Or this one by the incredible Etta James:

At last, my love has come along

My lonely days are over

And life is like a song

Oh, yeah, at last

The skies above are blue

My heart was wrapped up in clovers

The night I looked at you

I found a dream that I could speak to

A dream that I can call my own

I found a thrill to rest my cheek to

A thrill that I have never known

Oh, yeah you smile, you smile

Oh, and then the spell was cast

And here we are in heaven

For you are mine

At last


When Maroon 5 entered the music scene about 5 years ago (at least that’s when I first heard them), I immediately liked them. They remind me of Supertramp, with their melodies, and their lyrics that have that intelligent, but ethereal quality that I just love:

Sunday morning rain is falling

Steal some covers share some skin

Clouds are shrouding us in moments unforgettable

You twist to fit the mold that I am in

But things just get so crazy living life gets hard to do

And I would gladly hit the road get up and go if I knew

That someday it would bring me back to you

RUSH (known in some circles as “the thinking man’s band) is another band I admire for their smart lyrics.

Case in Point, a selection of the lyrics from NEW WORLD MAN:

He's a rebel and a runner

He's a signal turning green

He's a restless young romantic

Wants to run the big machine

He's got to make his own mistakes

And learn to mend the mess he makes

He's old enough to know what's right

But young enough not to choose it

He's noble enough to win the world

But weak enough to lose it

He's a New World Man...

He's a radio receiver

Tuned to factories and farms

He's a writer and arranger

And a young boy bearing arms

And, of course, Closer to the Heart, one of my favorites:

And the men who hold high places

Must be the ones who start

To mold a new reality

Closer to the heart

The blacksmith and the artist

Reflect it in their art

They forge their creativity

Closer to the heart

Philosophers and ploughmen

Each must know his part

To sow a new mentality

Closer to the heart

And I couldn’t write about lyrics without mentioning Supertramp…

If only I could find a way to feel your sweetness through the day

the love that shines around me could be mine.

So give us an answer, won't you,

We know what we have to do,

There must be a thousand voices trying to get through.

Got any favorite lyrics of your own?

Speaking of music, I’m heading to a friend’s for a night of Karaoke. Should be fun ; )

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Goals. And a few thoughts on "failure"...

I am so ready for this year! I have spent the past four years going through – and coming out of – some life changing experiences. I have made things happen for myself, and have challenged myself to reach new goals. I am so ready for new experiences. I can’t wait to go for new goals, and hopefully reach some of them. This is my year to expand my experiences, my world-view, to build on the newfound sense of calm I am feeling, and let it bring me good things. I feel happy, and very excited for what is to come.

I received my first acceptance of 2011 yesterday! My essay “Memories from a Black Thumb” will be published in the February issue of Sasee Magazine.

On another note, I am working on a few query letters for articles I hope to get published in national magazines. I am learning all about how to write and send a query letter and what information is critical, how to attach published clips (now that I have some!), etc. I expect to receive quite a few rejection letters, but hey Stephen King wallpapered his bedroom with them, and a thick rejection file just means that I am trying. A few quotes on this topic that I think are great:

Failure is an event, never a person. ~William D. Brown

The only time you don't fail is the last time you try anything - and it works. ~William Strong

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. ~Thomas Edison

There is no failure except in no longer trying. ~Elbert Hubbard

Supposing you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down. ~Mary Pickford

Failure doesn't mean you are a failure... it just means you haven't succeeded yet. ~Robert Schuller

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald