Morning Coffee: Memorial Day

SummerFor some, Memorial Day means a long weekend off work or school. It’s the beginning of summer and is celebrated with picnics, BBQ’s, and weekends at the cabin and/or the lake. While this is all well and good, let’s not forget the real purpose of Memorial Day.

It is a day to remember all those who died defending our freedoms.

Perhaps your town has a parade or a ceremony at the local cemetery to honor those in the community who died in service to their country. Perhaps your parents or grandparents forced you to go as a child and you hated it because it was boring and you just didn’t understand why they felt it was so important. Life was good and you probably didn’t personally know anyone who died in battle. But now we are at war, undeclared but a war nonetheless. A war with no foreseeable end and every day families are touched by the knowledge that someone they know isn’t coming home.

Remember them, the fallen and the fighting. Honor them.

Thank them with your presence, your thoughts, your prayers.

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Morning Coffee: Pitching My Novel

Healing HeartThis weekend is WisRWA’s annual conference in Green Bay and I’m scheduled to pitch “Mary Bishop” to two different agents on Saturday morning. Am I nervous? Absolutely! Will I walk in there smiling, shake her hand, and act like this is the most natural thing in the world for me to do? I’ll try. I’ve done this once before with Entangled editor Candace Havens and hopefully these two ladies will be as nice and understanding as Candace was. I suspect they will be, based on their online pictures. Yes, I did some research in preparation for meeting them. That’s an important first step, after reserving my ten-minute time slots. I no longer have that scary picture in my head of a Meryl Streep-type character; you know, like the fashion magazine editor she played in “The Devil Wears Prada”. <involuntary shiver>

I’ve also written several different length pitches to study. First, the elevator pitch. That’s a one-liner summoning up the entire book that, yes, I could pitch in the time it takes for an elevator ride…should I ever find myself riding in an elevator with an editor or agent at a conference and she/he says, “So, tell me about your book.”

“Mary Bishop”: A war that divided a nation, a woman fighting for her life, and the two men who promised to love her forever.

“The Healing Heart” (should they ask what I’m working on now): A pandemic that almost takes her life opens Alice’s eyes to new opportunities and her heart to the possibility of a new love.

Are you intrigued? Good! (I’m assuming you answered with a resounding yes.) I hope they are, too. Intrigued enough to ask all sorts of questions that lead to a request for a partial or full manuscript.

I’ve also written a short sentence and question pitch, and a short descriptive paragraph for each. Think what you’d read on the back cover to entice you to buy the book.

Going to conferences, getting the chance to meet other writers, both successful and newbies, as well as the chance to talk with editors and agents, really fires up my desire to write. And, it’s nice to be around other people who understand when I say I hear voices in my head without shying away and suggesting I see a doctor and consider medication.

Hopefully I’ll return on Sunday with at least one, maybe even two, requests to read more.

Morning Coffee: The Importance of Vacations

VegasThis is going to be a short post this week. I’m going on vacation, leaving after work on Wednesday and returning late on Sunday, and I have much to get done before I leave because I’ll only be back four days before I have to leave for a conference. Some people might suggest if it’s going to be this busy and stressful to get ready to go on vacation, perhaps it’s not a good time for me to go on a vacation, even a short one. Part of me would agree; a very small part of me. You see, vacations are important, even short ones, and besides, if you’re waiting for the perfect time to go on a vacation you will never get to go. Vacations allow us to clear our minds of all the clutter that builds during our everyday lives. Vacations allow us to forget, even if only temporarily, all the things others need from us and concentrate on what we need from ourselves. People who take regular vacations are happier and healthier.

In this rush-around-always-be-doing-two-things-at-once world we live in there will always be something else you should be doing. But you know what? It will probably still be there when you get back and you can do it then, and if it’s not still there and someone else has done it for you, even better. I do have a few things that need to be done before I leave, deadline things, and I’ll do those. Then it’s off to Vegas where my sister and I will sit in the sun with our over-priced fruity drinks during the day, and roam the casinos with our over-priced fruity drinks at night. And in between we will no doubt do a little shopping. You find the best shoes in Vegas! By the time you read this I should be on my way to being well-rested…and hopefully a little richer. That’s the plan.

I can’t wait!!

Morning Coffee: Envy vs Jealousy

feetJennifer Probst talks about the difference between envy and jealousy in her new writer’s guide, “Write Naked”. If you read the definitions they don’t seem to be that different, but they actually are when you think about it. When I consider my friends who have published I’m envious of their success, I wish I had the same success, but I don’t wish I had it instead of any one of them. Now, if I were jealous of them I would want just that, to take their success away from them. I would believe I deserved it and not them. In reality, I don’t begrudge a single one of them what they have earned because I know how hard they each had to work to get to where they are today. So I continue to work just as hard in the hopes of one day earning that success for myself.

It’s one reason I read books like “Write Naked”. I’m mining them for that golden nugget that’s going to get me over the hump from “we really like it, but…” to “we really like it and we want it”; that tip that will make all the difference.

The idea of writing naked is not about actually taking your clothes off to write; although that is certainly an individual decision. It’s about letting go of all your worries about what others will think. It’s about not getting hung up on the details when writing a first draft. First drafts are supposed to be bad. Well, maybe not bad, but rough. Don’t agonize over that perfect word to describe his eyes, or the way his lips felt when he kissed her the first time. Instead, just get it down on paper. The rest is called revision and that comes later. You have to build your frame before you can put up the walls and the roof, before you decide the perfect shade of paint for each room.

It’s what we used to call free writing. You put your butt in the chair and your pen or pencil to the paper and you start writing. Will you have to delete a lot of it later? Probably. Will you have to add a lot? Definitely. But that’s a worry for a different day.

So, that’s where I’m at with “The Healing Heart”; butt in chair and pencil to paper.

Morning Coffee: Free-Range Parenting

SummerFree-range parenting. What an odd phrase! It makes me think of free-range chickens, and in a sense, it isn’t much different. The idea is to let your children be free to roam the neighborhood on their own. You know, walk to school, ride their bike to a friend’s house or go to the park or the corner 7-11 without their parent(s) tagging along. Sound familiar?

This concept is not a new one…although an entire generation of young parents seems to think it is and enters into great debate over whether or not it’s wise to allow children such freedom. What if something happened? What if they fell off their bike and mom wasn’t there to pick them up? What if they use their entire allowance to buy the largest Slurpee and end up with a tummy ache? I’ve talked to mothers who are convinced if a child is left alone, even in their own yard, something awful is going to happen to them. These children never learn how to be independent. They never have a chance to make a mistake, live with that mistake, and fix that mistake all on their own. Now, I’m not talking about whether or not it’s a good idea to allow a child to cross a busy street alone, only a parent knows when they’re ready for that. And I realize there are some neighborhoods where children are not safe on their own. By staying close, those parents are doing right by their children.

When I was growing up back in the Stone Age our mothers pushed us out the back door on a beautiful summer morning with a reminder when to be home for lunch. Then, after we were done eating, she pushed us back out in the afternoon. We rode our bikes to visit a friend, go to the library or the public swimming pool. Sometimes we just rode around town or even out into the country to the next town, because it sounded like a fun thing to do. We even played outside at night! Remember Kick The Can and all those other games best played in the dark? Forget summer reruns on the television, and we didn’t have cable or computers back then, but we had so much fun we hated to come in when called and the memories are still fresh all these years later.

Yes, we did have to tell mom where we planned on going, who we would be with, but she understood that might change and we just had to check-in with her first. We didn’t have cell phones, but we did know that our mothers talked to each other and any misdeeds would most definitely be reported. . .usually before we got home.

A child needs to learn how to get along in their environment. I grew up in a small town more years ago than I care to admit, but even a child growing up in a city today can learn those lessons in a safe manner. Allowing children to grow through age-appropriate levels of freedom is how we get them to a successful and independent adulthood. After all, isn’t that the goal? Isn’t the end game to have our children grow up, move out, and live off their own salaries and not our retirement fund?

Morning Coffee: Rainy Day

feetThere’s a certain comfort to a rainy day. The soft glow of a lamp cutting gray light from outside and the tap-tap-tapping of the rain on the roof slows my heart rate while separating me from the concerns that exist only “out there”. It’s a day to cross-stitch, bright threads shaping flowers. It’s a day to read, write, even nap. It’s a day to bury myself under a warm comforter while drinking my coffee and watching an old movie; preferably something with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, or Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelley. The kind of movies made back when Hollywood concentrated on lifting our spirits rather than igniting political protests. It’s not a day to worry about work, or world unrest. It’s a day to turn inward and recharge.

When we were children and couldn’t go out to play we would sprawl on the living room floor and play board games. It was one of the few times I can remember my brothers not minding having to include me. In fact, I think they enjoyed it, too. At least, that’s how I choose to remember it. I can’t speak for them.

002Rainy days are cozy. They should be cherished, not scorned. True, I couldn’t golf today, but that’s nothing a couple episodes of Call The Midwife couldn’t cure. Today’s rain knocked free many of the little red bud casings and I know that means there will soon be bright green leaves filling the empty branches. Our yards, and the golf course, are turning a beautiful shade, as well. Soon the flowers will bloom in all their varied colors.

No, a rainy day shouldn’t be cursed, rather it should be praised and enjoyed for all it does for us today and all it promises to do for us tomorrow.

Morning Coffee: April Snow

Healing HeartThis morning we woke to a fresh blanket of snow; this after some very warm and promising spring weather. I golfed three times last week! Sadly, I won’t be golfing this week. I was reminded of a morning several years back when we had a late snow and a couple deer ventured into the backyard searching for the fresh green shoots they’d been eating on not long before. I took this picture and was inspired to write these few lines.

April Snow
by Jane Yunker

An unexpected spring snowfall
brings a curious breakfast guest,
a white-tailed yearling still wearing
his heavy dark winter coat,
hungry, cautious, slipping
step by hesitant step from the trees,
looking for green grass,
tender young hosta shoots
beckoning from our open yard,
a promise of nourishment
greater than the fear of discovery.

 

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