Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blue and Whites

It appeared that old coyote trickster was at work on Saturday making the day feel like a March day instead of the end of January! People were out and crawling around like snakes and turtles slipping about on a river bank in spring. I ran to post office drop box and to Braum's for milk and eggs…then added some cream thinking of berries or maybe of a porridge of steel cut oats.

Then I dashed into flea markets because I could not bear to go back home quite yet. I found some great little bargains, though not things I was looking for really. I have stayed honest to NOT shopping anywhere in January. Warm weather did me in, I guess.

I found a brand new copy of the 2010 book Work Song by Ivan Doig, a Montana author I have read before and liked. It was only $2 and then I found another titled Grandmothers which was edited by Nikki Giovanni. A cookbook jumped into my arms, and I am trying to STOP cooking. I don’t need another cookbook of any kind anyway; why did I bring this one home?
Then this lovely wooden tray caught my eye. I picked it up and put it down. I picked it up a second time and left it. Before I paid my bill though, it tugged me right back to the booth and wrestled itself onto my ticket. It was a litter pricier and time will tell if it was worth it. But the size is so nice….the deep carving a tactile wonder to touch.

While paying, I looked up and spotted a glimmer of blue and white. Anyone who knows me knows that my love for Blue Willow started when I was five years old. I have a practiced eye for spotting those flying birds! I asked the store manager if the tiny child-sized casserole was coming or going. She said sort of both…that someone brought them in and she was thinking of adding them to another partial set she had for sale. I asked if she would even consider selling it alone. Sure and she shot me a price for the casserole and the platter it sits on. The price was so low for Blue Willow anything I gasped.

Okay, so a snow storm might come soon and I won’t be getting out for a spell. I will have lots of pretties to relish, to ponder, to drool over while the winds blow!

I can’t cook in the child’s casserole dish, but I can make a nice pot of Darjeeling in the tea pot also bought this winter and sip away while reading a stack of books waiting for my attention…or merely sup and daydream in blue and white!  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reprise:Joy of Letters

Both Lynn at http://lynnobermoeller.blogspot.com and Becky over at http://beckypovich.blogspot.com
have recalled the days of letters in the mailbox and have promised to write a real letter to their readers if they so desire. Mail is a subject dear to my heart, and I can't imagine how history will change when we no longer have handwritten letters that expose the inner thoughts of our writers, leaders, clergy, lovers, grandmothers, town mayors, poets...well, you get the idea.

I wrote about letters myself in 2009 when I first started blogging. I have called it up again for a reprise today.   

The Joy of Letters

The sky is as steel colored as a gun barrel, the air is chilly, and my November is looking more like a harbinger of winter than the colorful leaf quilt of autumn I so love. It is a legal holiday and there will be no mail delivery which adds to the feeling of gray isolation. However, I don’t get much real mail these days because people have changed to emails rather than use the pen these days.

Not only do I miss face to face contact by replacing conversations with emails, the joy of reading letters is eliminated. In letters folks take the time both in the writing and the reading. Writing used to mean choosing the right stationary, color and paper weight, picking a fine pointed pen, maybe even selecting a shade of ink. Then the thoughts were chosen with equal care, mulling over words and expressions, taking the time to capture our lives for sharing with another in just the right way.

Ah, and to receive a letter! Carrying it in from the mailbox, I hold an envelope with expectation, one I can identify by penmanship as a greeting from a friend carrying news or simple chat! It means pouring steaming water from a kettle for a cup of tea, a sit down in the kitchen, a few quiet moments for reading and re-reading the letter. Still the letter can be saved for yet another read, maybe kept in a ribbon tied box. Emails don’t urge me to save them in anything other than maybe a stiff manila folder.

I have two letters my Dad wrote his mother from Ft. Knox right after World War Two had ended and I was not even a thought in his head yet. But I can glimpse what he sounded like as a young man, his loneliness for home and family. I have other handwritten letters from people who no longer walk the earth. Yet, when I miss these people the most I can pull out the letters and “hear” their voices tell a story or share some news. I can see the way they looped their letters and curled their signatures.

Now I think I will turn off my You Have Mail button and dig my letter box out from the bottom desk drawer. I will go light a candle fragrant with cinnamon and apples, pull my sweater tighter across my chest, and put the kettle on for tea. I can come back to the cyber world later, but for now, I want to read a real letter even if the mailman doesn’t come today.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Little More Joplin at January's End

The winter feels odd here. No snow, temps moderate in the daytime hours, and nights are chilly but not frigid. A friend of mine this week said she feels like she is  suspended, waiting for something to happen. I think that is a shared feeling here. The warm temps sometimes reaching almost 70 in January remind us this is another form of weather extreme. At the back of our minds is the coming spring. Just how turbulent will the winds be THIS year?

Then again the dry, warm weather is a blessing in that the people can clean up Joplin, rebuild, get a fresh start on a new life without some intense winter weather. Heaven knows that the people suffered enough this spring with the F5 followed by radical and punishing heat of summer.

Today was beautiful weather...sun warm and breeze gentle. After a nice lunch with friends, we drove around Joplin witnessing the rebuilding that was uplifting to see. There is still a lot of demolished houses and spots with  bare earth showing, but optimism and anticipation abound too. Among other things we saw the block of homes done on the Home Makeover Program. Ty and his bunch left some beauties here.

Today St. John's Hospital had a celebration of ground breaking for the new hospital. They also had a ceremony where the wrecking ball smacked the husk of a building that the F5 left. It was both a sad memory and a happy hope for the new.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Centus/Turtle Boy

January is almost over and has remained amazingly mild in this area. In fact, we need snow because we need moisture. While others celebrate the Florida-like temps, I am leery of what this strange weather pattern means for spring and summer. We humans are living in a shift of things, be it global warming or whatever.

Finally a chance to do Centus though this morning. Jenny gave us the prompt of "We know where the bodies are buried". There probably will be a lot of mystery and murder stories. My own is a little weird, even for me. For Centus rules and more 100 word stories using the prompt visit Jenny at:http://jennymatlock.blogspot.com/2012/01/saturday-centus-we-know-where-all.html

Have a good weekend, readers!

                                                              Turtle Boy
Ivan recognized the shoulder insignia because he visited the Conversation Center often, but he paled when he saw a crew with shovels head to the backyard.
“We know where all the bodies are buried,” said Agent Hoff. “We need to dig them up for lab work.”

A technician was readying a syringe. “We need some of your blood too.”

His mother was rolling up his flannel shirt sleeve.
A turtle had followed him home from school. Then more came and several died. Ivan buried them, but still they came. When traffic stopped for a parade of turtles to his house, the media showed up. Now, the investigation….

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Something from My Cheesy Childhood

I never thought much about my life being Southern, although I married into a family with one branch of their tree linked to Georgia. I don’t drink the sweet tea, make Chess pie, or have fresh coconut cake as part of my childhood. The only recipe with Southern roots I have is a wonderful horseradish cheese spread that is known for its connections to the Kentucky Derby.

The new Southern Living magazine carries an article called “Pimento Cheese: The Pate of the South”. I thought how strange, was pimento cheese a Southern dish? I grew up on pimento cheese, and then I remembered my mother was born in Russellville, Arkansas. Could her tastes be more Southern than I thought?

I remember so well those days when Mom would pull out the wooden cutting board built into the kitchen cabinets. When she screwed on an industrial strength grinder, I knew it was pimento cheese day! Eventually, I got to help when I was old enough. Pushing chunks of buttery Cheddar through those steel wheels, I watched the pieces come out like yellow worms. Then Mom did the juicy scarlet pimentos before slathering the mounds with heaps of mayo before we ate this concoction on white bread or crackers.

Over the years, I have occasionally bought a tub of pimento cheese at the store, but never made it a priority on my shopping list. Then I saw the Southern Living article with five unique pimento cheese recipes. Some had pecans, chili powder, or even bourbon in them. Sounded strange to me, but I was enticed to try some anyway as they reminded me of homemade pimento cheese from my childhood. So yesterday I made the first on the list.

I started with the Louis Osteen pimento cheese which had a bit of cream cheese added and a dash of red pepper. I cut the red pepper down a bit so DH could not detect it. Wow! What a great pimento cheese recipe! We ate it last night on white crackers as a side to the potato leek soup I had also made that morning. I think we will try it as a grilled cheese with hearty whole grain bread today. Ah, what a great find and touchstone back to childhood.

Louis Osteen’s Pimento Cheese
Grind/Stir together the following:
6 cups of grated cheddar
4 oz. softened cream cheese3/4 cup mayo
1 T grated yellow onion (I used 2 T)
1 t. ground red pepper
7 oz. pimentos

Art at Crystal Bridges

I think it wonderful that there is an art museum in our area where anyone can go at any time with no admission fee. The grounds are full of walks around streams, through wooded areas, and across hills. It is a beautiful place. This American Art Museum was rather crowded on Friday. Everyone wanted to experience the thrill of this new place.

Here DH ponders a painting that is one the few remaining works that shows a city west of the Mississippi. It is titled View of  St. Louis between 1832 and 1835. Note the steamboat smoke near the busy levy!

There were also bronze and marble works. Isn't this a real beauty? The white marble glistened under these lights!

Why, there was even this one teapot which was artwork urging the election of Harrison for president.

American masters such as Grant Wood, Norman Rockwell, Thomas Hart Benton, and George Catlin among many others were represented.



The wall color was gorgeous, each gallery a different hue. Note the wonderful rose shade here. The galleries are housed in five separate buildings link by glass walkways. One has the feeling of being outside, among nature, while passing from one painting era to another. Also note the lovely wooden beams that echo the native hardwoods outside.
Such a beautiful place to visit, especially on a cold winter's day.

More details and outside pictures posted on Friday at: http://claudiapage-bookie.blogspot.com/2012/01/crystal-bridges.html

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gladys Taber and Tree Cutters

Gladys Taber is an old writer and few will know or appreciate her anymore. I met her in the column "Butternut Wisdom" that she wrote for Family Circle magazine in the 60's. She wrote about the simple and bucolic life of living in the country raising dogs and kids during the first half of the 20th century. My grandmother loved her works, and I learned to love them too. My mother-in-law also followed her work, and we often shared Taber books. It was our practice to reread one during the winter months while confined inside by winter weather with books and a cup of hot tea. Although the winter has been mild, I decided to keep the tradition.

I pulled Stillmeadow Calendar off the shelf, a book that recounts a year of life in the Connecticut Valley where Taber lived in an farmhouse built in the 1700's. In June of that year, Taber had the tree men out to trim and save the old oaks and maples that were on her property, ones planted by the original owner two hundred years earlier. She said this about tree men: "Tree men are very special people. They are hard-muscled, slim-hipped, and weathered. They speak of a tree as if it were a person."

That description reminded me so much of my own tree man, Dewey. He is hard-bodied even in his 70's, still scurries up trees, is slim-hipped, and with skin weathered to a the warm hue of a light pecan shell. He is Ozarks all the way with his slow speech, easy stance, hands on hips or maybe shoved in his back jeans pockets. His blue eyes, still the shade of glistening sapphire crystals, are shaded by a workman's cap. He comes when called but on his own schedule. He cocks one long leg with a slight bend, stares at the tree in need like a cowboy wrangler pondering the cutting of a steer from the herd. His face shows the question, how ornery will this beast be? Soon he quotes a fair price, hands are shook, and a deal is made.

When we first moved to our ranch-styled home, trees and limbs were broken and piled after a record breaking ice storm. We hired a part-time tree cutter who was not Dewey to trim up the maple tree still standing. He made decisions we still pay for today years later. Later by the time the big oak and a couple of maples needed help, we learned of Dewey. When the beloved huge maple that covered the children's sand box, shaded the tree house, and finally was so large it could no longer be climbed by boys' legs became diseased, Dewey was the one who laid the tree to rest.

There are additional perks to hiring Dewey for work. One is he can tell great stories! Also he or his crew clean up after the job is done. They do the best they can to leave the yard clean and ready to go. In this day and age, that is worth something. While DH is the main worker here (and we all know who cleans up after husbands), we have had one bathroom floor laid and the worker left a smear of glue on the back of the door that is still there today. A roofer secretly smoked in our attic, leaving cigarette butts on old wooden rafters for DH to find  much later. No, you can count on Dewey to straighten up your yard at best he can.

About a year ago, Dewey came to trim the northern oak away from the roof. The tree is scary because it is so big, but we gamble that winds will not bury us under its limbs some spring night. This time Dewey brought his grandson along who is now his helper. The young man happened to have been a student of mine once, and I was glad to see him. Ken was a sturdier version of Dewey with brown eyes like serious, dark pools. He listened to his grandpa and did a good deal of the work. In time he will also make a good tree man, what Taber calls "a very special person", one just like Dewey.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January Is Hot Tea Month

I still have a lot of reds out this time of year. I guess they will stay until after Valentine's Day when pink and yellow tulips come to mind for spring. I can't complain thus far about winter confinements because this winter month of January has been cold but not frigid, dry with no snow or ice. Frankly, I rather miss the normal winter weather.                                      

 January is National Hot Tea Month and I do my part. I have given up my diet soda pop so tea is even more important now. I have been trying to "weed down" my freezer and cupboards just like my overstuffed closets and this includes the tea shelf. There are so many good teas, but I have favorites so I am trying to get down to just buying those particular ones. DH loves dessert teas; I am more of a basic black person. Our friends in Wales once sent us a supply of their favorite "supermarket tea". It was one of my favorites too. Rich, dark and robust!

Because caffeine is a problem after early afternoon, we use herbals in the evening. A new one from Simpson and Vail is a Tusli with cranberry and ginger. It is very good as hot tea. When the weather is warmer, I will try it as iced tea. It has a lovely scarlet hue and must look like punch when served over ice. 

Hot tea calls for a goodie or two with a cup or mug of brew. One shortbread cookie or piece of cheese is nice, DH likes a plate full. But snacking piles up the carbs, whacks the blood sugar. Hot tea is good for you--if you can leave the sweets alone. I am hoping Paula Deen will find some grand low carb snack for us all! She, Gladys Taber, and Mrs. Harry Truman filled their dishes with cream, sugar, and butter. Oh, those were the days! I did find a nice macaroon from Bess Truman that is fairly harmless and supper easy if you like coconut and can stop with just one...well maybe two.

Bess Truman Coconut Macaroons

3 cups coconut, one can sweetened condensed milk, 2 t. vanilla and dash of almond extract. Drop by round spoon. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Each cookie is about 60 calories and 7 carbs.
I have been getting some emails about not being able to comment on my blog, and I appreciate the effort made by readers to comment. As long as blogger keeps nailing my blog, I will post an address for comments for those of you who want to use it. bookwoman1015@sbcglobal.net

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crystal Bridges

After a poor night's sleep and feeling like a rumpled rug, I agreed to keep to our plans for the day which were to visit Crystal Bridges, the art museum built by Wal-mart money in Bentonville, Arkansas. The day was brisk but warmed to over 50. However, the skies remained gunmetal gray and pressed close to the earth. Late in the afternoon, it felt three hours later than it was due to the fading light and low clouds.

This American Art Museum is named after a local Crystal Spring and sits on 120 acres. There are walking trails...five linked buildings of period art...and includes a lovely dining area under the copper roof with glass walls. DH and I agreed on the loveliness of design, but I felt the concrete walls could have used some color. He felt that in the greenery of spring the building would show off more style. He was right that today the building walls and sky were the same color.

I do have to apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. I did not realized that I was taking pictures with a great deal of reflection from the glass walls. This is the dining room cafe from the outside and then from the inside.

The lunch was quite lovely. I had the Autumn Harvest salad with blueberries, pecans and a tangy dressing. DH had a open-faced beef sandwich. Ice tea was delicious.

The art inside was wonderfully thought provoking. Some of it will follow later.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just My Opinion

Although it is to warm again, the temps dropped 35 degrees last night. Yesterday was so warm we could run about without coats. We did some chores, but made time to both see friends and see the movie War Horse. It was not great to waste time inside on such a nice day, but the theater wasn’t so freezing, crowds were non-existent, and the car was not an igloo to crawl into after the movie.

We rarely go to the movies anymore for a variety of reasons, including a $9.50 admission fee. Our local theater maintains a monopoly and can choose what it shows. It is filthy to the point of having a musty smell. I have seen mice race across the floor looking for corn kernels! Even the staff has the look of needing a shampoo and wear shirts that need some laundering. I have tried the management with discussion; I have tried upper management with letters. So we watch DVDs, drive to Springfield for something special, or succumb to the local theater when we can find it maybe tolerable.

I wanted to see War Horse on the big screen because I thought the scenes would be worthy of the effort. Knowing Spielberg is a master with both visuals and story, I thought War Horse would be an eye feast and I wasn’t wrong. I got the bonus of hearing a musical score written by John Williams. The countryside and the characters were wonderfully picturesque in the film. Lighting and chosen camera angles were reminiscent of old movies where the shots showed the emotion of the story. Unfortunately, a lot of the story is war and that was dark, muddy and harsh-which war is. The scene where the horse is caught in barbed wire was hard to watch but powerfully done.

The movie was taken from a book, a young person’s novel, which is not unusual. The author wrote the book as anti-war, and Spielberg develops that theme quite well. There is NO glory in this war story, but it is a testament to love, even if it is love between man and horse. The scene where both sides stop the fighting and enemies work together for a few minutes to free the horse are reminiscent of other true stories of enemies temporarily stopping a war for a higher cause. Why can’t it last?

The previews at the theater were interesting that day in that a long line of garbage films were promoted before this nice family film was shown. Okay, so that is my opinion, but if we sit in front of stories about blood, gore, supernatural horror, and abject stupidity glorified by non-talents, why are we surprised civilizations mimics those behaviors? I believe in the power of story and want to see stories told where goodness overcomes evil, where people are decent, even if flawed. Maybe humanity would then mimic those stories and the world would be a better place to live.
I have been getting some emails about not being able to comment on my blog, and I appreciate the effort made by readers to comment. As long as blogger keeps nailing my blog, I will post an address for comments for those of you who want to use it. bookwoman1015@sbcglobal.net

Monday, January 16, 2012


Blogger continues to baffle me. While I can open/comment on most blogs, a few just go blank and refuse to cooperate. So then I wonder who is not able to open mine? I have changed settings, updated search engines,  done all I know. I wonder if I should surrender or keep up the struggle? Technology 50/Bookie 0!

Libby's hat rack made of antlers


Hats for Inspiration

We often speak of “wearing many hats” when referring to different jobs we do in our lives. Writers certainly wear many hats because they compose, edit, report, work the PR, and sometimes publish works. But I also like to wear hats literally.

In my childhood, all women wore hats, and a few men still wore them too. While girdles, gloves, petticoats and other things aren’t missed, I do miss hats. I particularly love those 1940 styled fedoras for both men and women. Maybe it is the cloak and dagger of mystery they carry, but then I also adore a great felt cowboy hat. Hum, I like the straw ones too, especially if they are tinged with a tea-colored sweatband suggesting roping and racing!

For a long time I had a hat rack hanging in my hall with antique hats on them. One of my favorites was a 1930 riding hat with sequins. I also loved a flat crowned hat trimmed in grosgrain ribbon. A 1940’s beaded clutch and some old gloves were hanging among the hats. I never looked at the display without wondering who wore these items and where the hats had been in their lifetimes.

My grandfather was a wearer of hats. At Christmas he always donned a black derby. Oh, he was a dashing figure with his bold ties and hat during the holidays. Earlier in the fall he had lived daily in khaki and neon orange quail hunting clothes so his holiday attire was definitely an improvement. During the summer, his choices were pointed toed cowboy boots, a straw wide brim, and a bolo or string tie.

Oh, I do miss hats as fashion! But then again, maybe I should wear a hat at my desk when I am writing. Maybe instead of just wearing my “writing hat”, I should truly dress for the occasion. Could a fedora inspire me to write of a steam train through Europe, would a beret induce me to create a story where the character fights in the French Resistance? Would (hubby’s) great-grandmother’s fuchsia colored felt with peek-a-boo veil pulled down to the nose take me to 1930’s Arkansas? Then again, wearing my felt cowboy hat might let me hear the squeak of leather when the saddle horn was grabbed by a feisty female outlaw. Oh, think of the possibilities hats create!

Excuse me, I must visit my stack of hat boxes.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Miss M!!!

It is nearly noon and the house smells with the fragrance of garlic and onion. A small pork roast is in the oven for lunch and posole is in the crock pot for supper. I brought the dried hominy, garlic buds and dried red peppers home last fall from New Mexico. What a wonderful way to make the holiday last, the Southwestern aromas bouncing off the walls today. I am just starting to dress, to do household chores, and I am not bothered by my lax behavior.

Yesterday I introduced Grace Episcopal Church members to Madeleine L’Engle’s work. A few weeks ago, sipping tea at the Tai Chi and Tea day, I was the only person (a non-church member) to know who L L’Engle was. It was surprising that none of the Episcopalians knew this great spiritual writer. So yesterday at the church’s monthly Encore Luncheon I was the speaker.

Along with introducing the person (who was married to the Oklahoman who portrayed Dr. Charles Tyler on the long-running soap opera All My Children) and the writer, Newberry Award winner for her YA A Wrinkle in Time, I explained how I came to be a MLE reader. Sometimes the books we choose, along with the words we write, seem to be a produce of Divine Intervention.

How did I come to know MLE? She chased me down. When I came to town, I used the library and checked out Circle of Quiet, one of her early memoirs. I hated it and returned the book. A few years later, I took it home again and returned it. Then a third time the book glared out from the bio shelves, and I took it home again. This time I was enthralled with her story. The time was now ripe for me to read her words. The book deals with her years in Goshen, Connecticut when she was rearing her family, fine-tuning her faith, and writing. These were the years her Wrinkle in Time was rejected 28 times.

Then on a family vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine, I spied an independent book store. After the shops and viewing the clipper ships, I raced through the local book store while my kids moaned. It was a nice shop but ordinary, and I was moving through the aisles quickly due to family's pressures. Then I turned back from the end of an aisle, saw one lone book standing in an empty space on the wall. Curiosity drove me back, and it was Walking on Water; Reflections on Art and Faith by MLE. It must have been meant for me since it seemed to be calling my name. I bought the book without opening the covers and was finally launched into reading all this authors works.

I have been reading her ever since. I read all her genres, but poetry and fantasy are my least favorites. I enjoy her novels, but it is the memoirs and religious commentaries I love the best. She deals with many common themes, some which are:

Parallel universes
Co-existence of God and science.
Brokenness and healing
Contemplations and listening prayer
Truth vs. Mystery
Love vs. Power
Particle physics
Human freedom and responsibility

Certainly there is much more to Madeleine L’Engle than even these topics. She can’t be reduced to a few lines in a few minutes. She said that Advent wasn’t just a season of waiting but one of listening. She calls us in her work remember to listen during the winter months. I think I had better add one of her books to my already mile high stack. She is good reading any season.

Is Miss M on your reading agenda?


Friday, January 13, 2012

A Writers' Guild Meeting and Blogger Boo Hoo

Last night the local writers’ guild had their first meeting of 2012. It seemed like the weather problems of the previous year might follow us when the air was so frosty and the day had started with a touch of ice and a film of snow. However, many writers made the effort to get out, and even a few guests appeared.

Member Summer Farnsworth gave a great lesson on making characters more vivid, on how to show traits that identified them as protagonist or antagonists. She taught us that when we have a bad character or one of lower status, to have him slow down his speech and actions. This shows him having power and self-resistant, making him a more intense character. Summer also urged us to go the mall and do some people watching, saying that our social skills need to be sharp from both watching people and interacting with them.

We learned a member is dealing with Dayspring for some verse, a member is working on a dissertation about how coroners and death examiners dealt with the Joplin Tornado, that member Larry Wood has a new book out on Teddy Roosevelt, and a guest from Bentonville also has a new book on the market, a memoir about being a victim of parental abuse titled Don’t Cry, Daddy’s Here.

After some critiquing, Orville Jordan winning the door prize of a writer’s mug with tea, and all present being infused with writing zest, we all headed out for a cold trip home to our computers!
I want to welcome Joy Keeney and Betty Jo for becoming new followers!!!! I hope you aren't having too much trouble reading the blog!

Blogger is driving a lot of people nuts today. While not all blogs are affected, many blogs can not be opened by their readers. Others can be opened, only to lock up and have the comments jammed. I can't even get to my own blog's comments, so I am guessing readers can't leave them either. I am going to try to post this wee bit today and see what happens.

If you have questions or comments, you can always fall back to using email at: bookwoman1015 at sbcglobal dot net.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How Do You Write?

Yes, I know. If I read blogs too much, if I try to do all the writing practices, do all the creative suggestions, leave comments on them all, and participate in any writing game I find, I will never accomplish the true writing I aspire to produce. However, so many good blogs out there give guidance and practice, tips and pointers; good ones are worth the time spent there, and they are hard to ignore. Good writing blogs are worth the time investment.

Recently, thanks to C Hope Clark over at http://hopeclark.blogspot.com/, I found another delightful and helpful writing blog. Actually, Hope was on a bit of diatribe about writing prompts. While she urged writers to ignore the prompts and just write, she did suggest one good blog with inspiring writing prompts at http://thewritepractice.com. Here Joe Bunting not only writes an inspiring blog about writing but actually gives writers a daily prompt and a place to critique each other’s work.

Today the assignment was to look at a boring wall in your house for 15 minutes and then write what you see, feel, hear. Here is what I wrote about the wallpaper behind my desk.

When I chose the wall paper for a bedroom, I thought it pretty. Now the room has become my office and the paper on the wall behind my desk is too repetitive to inspire creativity, shaded in colors too soft to inspire brilliance. The moderate stripes laid out like rulers become railroad tracks in my mind. I hear the clickety clack but sense no destination. The tiny vining flowers that looked so delicate and graceful for sleeping now seem to be ropes choking down my inspiration. Then a lone little daisy beckons to me...causes me to spin a story about a fictional Daisy. The paper fades…the keyboard looms…a story begins.

I had no idea I thought this about my wallpaper until Joe pointed me in right the direction with a prompt and then had me turn lose my imagination. It was fun and worth keeping. Maybe it will be used in a story or a poem someday.

How about you, do you use writing prompts or writing practice? Do you journal first or practice and then write for real?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How Do I Write, Let's Count The Ways

Writing is writing, right? I was surprised to read recently that different parts of the brain are used for writing and typing. Maybe that explains why for so many years I loved the feel of pencil in my hand, why I never could type worth a darn. Some section of my brain was more developed than the other!

My first writing that I remember was on a Big Chief table with a red cover. Can anything replace the smell, the texture, and the memories of writing on a Big Chief? That somewhat yellowed paper with occasional tiny brown flecks of fiber made a rather scratchy sound as the pencil lead, usually a big fat one for little fingers, scrawled across the page, leaving those miraculous tracks called words.

When I graduated to a slender pencil, only a #2 lead would do. I hated any other lead weight. It didn’t scribble right, didn’t glide across the page correctly, didn’t feel comfortable as it moved across the page. I was so enamored with #2 weight lead that I could not compose in ink! If I had an assignment due, I had to write it in pencil for my brain to work. Then, once the inspiration and creating were finished, I transferred it to a nice clean page in ink. This is work that modern students would never do!

When I moved to typing, it was a nightmare. I could not make my fingers work well. I was adequate at best in the years when females were still judged by their wpm and steno pads! There was a lot of copying at the typewriter too because I could not think, could create at the keyboard. I had to write it out on bright notebook paper first, scribble a bit, erase a smidgen, write in the margin and then, only then, could I sit at a typewriter to “write”.

Finally, over the years I have retrained myself to compose at a keyboard. I still make a lot of mistakes and only find a portion of them for correcting. I am grateful for the speed and efficiency of computers, but I still hold a great wooden pencil in high regard! A nice ink pen with a firm feel in the hand, a medium point, and smooth black ink that races across the page is still a wonder too.

I wonder with texting, laptops, ipads and the many ways students learn to compose and do homework now, if kids will ever know the joy of a freshly sharpened wooden pencil, point honed to a piercing tip that could double as a dagger. How deprived they will be of the smell of painted wood freshly ground away to make an instrument of creation, one that captures their stories for them.

How about you, how do you compose?