IWSG-A Beta Reader among the Trees

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

September 2 question – If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

The best possible thing you can do when you’re requiring a boost of energy, a reset of your brain, or a remedy for your boredom is to go spend time among trees. They will not speak encouragement or cliched sentiments. They will not drag you to a dance club or feed you triple chocolate truffles washed down with Red Bull. But they will restore you.

Trees cannot be your friend, your editor, or your personal driver. But they help us breathe, provide homes for wildlife we wonder at, and reduce our pollution. They show us the value of a supportive environment. When trees grow together, writes Peter Wohlleben in The Hidden Life of Trees, “nutrients and water can be optimally divided among them all so that each tree can grow into the best tree it can be.”

Peter Wohlleben began his forestry career in Germany assessing trees to be chopped for lumber mills. It was later when leading tourists in survival skills in the forest when he began to pay closer attention to all trees–the gnarly, the spindly, the stumps–and his wonder of trees grew to researching deeply this communicative community. He has written several books on trees, nature, and animals.

I imagine when walking among the trees with Peter Wohlleben, he’d point out details, patterns, and buried roots I did not see. I imagine his knowledge of nature and his wisdom from observing the social network of the forest would converse into themes and hypothesis that parallel universal stories. I imagine him deeply present in our setting, not letting a moment go by unnoticed.

If Peter Wohlleben was my beta partner, I think first we’d walk among the trees to kindle my energy, clear my mind, and remedy my writers block by igniting the present. Together, like a forest of trees, we’d discover how to grow my story into the best it can be.

Read more authors at IWSG

Who would you choose be your beta partner?

News: I’ll be back posting regularly on Wednesday starting September 2020. Also, if you have a moment, check out Inspiring Hope In You, a site I recently created dedicated to Writers’ Café and our soon to be launched book, Hope Connections.

IWSG-The Writing Life. It finds you.

I’m interrupting my summer break with a post as part of #ISWG. I’m hoping to make this a regular post on the first Wednesday of the month. When I first started blogging in 2007, many of the writers at ISWG were my first readers and vice versa. I hope you check them out!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

The awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey!

The IWSG is the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

When I was a young mother of three children under the age of five years-old, I was a very busy mamma. From meal preparation to reading bed-time stories, from swimming lessons to mom & tot groups, and from Lego pick-ups and to laundry, my days were full. But I still daydreamed of stories while pushing swings or waiting for the chicken fingers to bake. I’m sure I wanted to be writer even before my first memory. My books were my most precious possessions, the library my favourite place, and seeing the coffee table stacked with magazines and the latest newspapers. I read them all, dreaming of seeing my name under a newspaper story, or listed in the contributor section of the magazine. So, as a young mom, when I saw the local university offering an evening English course, I jumped at the chance for some ‘me’ time to learn about a subject I love.

Our first assignment was to write a descriptive paragraph. My dreams of writing articles had changed to imagining myself as a story writer. I’d even written chapters of a novel while tucked away in my bedroom as a teenager. I also had a binder full of silly love poems and songs I penned during math class. Needless to say, I just scrapped by with just a passing mark in math. So, our first assignment in that English class to write description with no story line was not one I thought I would like. But I took to the task. A train idling on tracks became my descriptive subject. I made sure to have a notebook every where I went, not wanting to forget the words and phrases that came to me while busy with the children. Images of trains consumed my mind, and I’d even hope the children would pick Thomas the Tank Engine for their bedtime story. I was eager to get to reading my newly purchased thesaurus in the pursuit of new descriptive words that evoked the rumbling of a train engine, the colour of deep red, and the vibration of wheel axles.

The excitement and satisfaction of finding the perfect words and then creating phrases and sentences, and then re-working them for rhythm and syntax made my skin tingle, my heart beat faster, and I felt 100% alive (as I do even now while I go back into memory)!

Later in that English class, that skill transferred to a personal essay that my professor commented to ‘keep in a special place as it is that good.” He also read it to the class for an example. The subject was my children. Forward twenty years later to 2020 that has me editing a Creative Non-Fiction piece called “A Mother’s Gold.” Although I have an unfinished novel and a couple of short stories, writing personal essays on topics that allow description to be prevalent are still the most satisfying for my heart.

Your turn. Have you ever written a piece that changed how you planned to write or redirected your genre?

Perfecting Unmet Expectations

“We added the $100 senior discount as well. Thanks.”

What? I re-read the text message. A senior’s discount? I walked to the nearest mirror, scanned my face and hair. Had all this isolation these past weeks aged me? I did look paler, and sure miss going to my aesthetician to swipe (well, rip is a better word) those –ughh–unwanted hairs away. And there are more greys than blonde in my hair, however that has been happening for many years now. Why did the man who scanned my backyard for 10 minutes to give me an estimate on a deck build think I was a senior deserving a discount?

My phone pings. Another text message.

“We trying to help communities and seniors in this Covid19 era…I can add another $75 gift card for groceries for you. Thanks”

What?!!

He must have me mixed up with someone else. Or does he?

And where did this vanity in me come from? I didn’t think I was that concerned about aging….

In a month I will be 55 years-old. Freedom 55 some call it! I’m far from freedom 55. No sailboating in a Caribbean Sea in a white polo t-shirt and blue knee – length LLBean shorts with a husband at the helm and a school of dolphins playing close by.

Instead on my birthday, after my work day has ended at 4:30PM, I’ll likely don my comfortable runners and a bamboo hat so my ears don’t start aching from the prairie wind, walk around the man-made urban pond in my neighbourhood and watch the Canada Geese (if I’m lucky) leisurely paddling in the muddy water.

Ah…life….it does not often turn out like a life insurance commercial.

(To be fair, I have read recently that the life insurance company who branded Freedom 55 is now rebranding to reflect the more realistic scenario of people having to work much longer, the goal of retiring at 55 becoming less attainable in our economic climate.)

But, on my birthday walk in a middle class neighbourhood of green grass backyards adjacent to man-made ponds, I’ll pass couples walking dogs, kids on bicycles, and flutters of sparrows. I’ll take a 20 minute drive to my eldest daughter’s and her husband’s home where I can take another walk with my two grandchildren and discover a new weed growing in prairie grasses and listen for a call of a nuthatch. We’ll eat cupcakes made from a mix and topped with ready-made whip cream. We’ll play Uno and read Star Wars New Reader books. We’ll make a summer plan of a weekend at a lake. Later, back home to my duplex, I’ll smell the cannabis being smoked by the neighbour who shares a wall with me. I’ll light a lavender candle, tuck myself into bed as I have for 20 plus years as a divorced gal, and read and read and read until my eyes start to flutter closed.

And life…is well…perfect in all it’s imperfections and unmet expectations. Even this aging thing is okay….

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The college age boy scoops my items at Bulk Barn. I tell him that my girlfriend owned a bulk store thirty years ago when they always had to scoop for their customers even though no pandemic regulations in effect.

He stops, a scoop of carob chips in his hand, looking confused. “Did you say thirty years ago? Aren’t you like thirty something years old?”

I’m smiling. (I like this kid)

That deck man must have gotten me mixed up with someone else.

What gifts are you experiencing from unmet expectations?

Linking up at Soaring With Him

Disappearing Ladders–a breath of Creative Non-Fiction

 (Personal Essay and Creative Non-Fiction are genres that intrigue me and challenge me! Is there a genre of writing that intrigues and challenges you?) 

 

One summer when I was small, a ladder appeared against a corner piece of fence that separated my backyard from Rhonda’s, my best-friend. I saw the silver top of another ladder on Rhonda’s side of the fence. That ladder was taller than the one in my yard so I had to swing my leg high over the fence to reach the rungs on the other side. When I journeyed back over to my side, I’d turn backwards, balancing my tummy against the wood, and stretch my leg blindly until my foot reached the top step of my ladder. I learned early that flip flops were not the shoe of choice to climb ladders. Sometimes a pair of flip flops would be in my hands and bare-footed I navigated the hot metal steps between my backyard’s and Rhonda’s.

I don’t know whose idea it was or remember who it was that added these ladders that linked my backyard with Rhonda’s. I do remember my mother, years later, telling me she’d once found me half way to Rhonda’s house after my three-year old self wandered out my front door. And she told me too, about the later times when I was five years old and she received a morning call from Rhonda’s mom to let her know I was safe at Rhonda’s house, pajama- dressed and shoeless. This all must have been before the appearing ladders.

I don’t remember wanderings to Rhonda’s. Mom is gone so I cannot ask her. I do remember Rhonda’s favourite breakfast of crust-less buttered toast. I thought it very special, to eat bread with the crust cut-off. I wonder if I ate Cheerios before I wandered over to Rhonda’s. I do remember floating Cheerios in milk, and my brother, Mark, beside me eating his cereal in our kitchen then. I can’t ask him either about my wanderings to Rhonda’s since he is gone too. At my last visit with Mark, he nibbled on a crust-less sandwich while the sound of distant chimes came from the open hospice window.

I was too late to see Rhonda in hospice.

Rhonda had the prettiest baby doll pajamas. I felt big around her but she was smarter. Her house had four big rooms on the main level—the living room where we made card houses and the family room where we watched cable television, the kitchen, and the dining room with tables bigger than the one at my house even though my family was bigger. I had four older siblings compared to her two however, a big space of nine to twelve years in ages is between the three eldest and I. I remember dinners in our kitchen, a small gathering most often, with my mom and Mark, and a plate of food in the oven kept warm for my dad.

I don’t remember when the ladders were taken down. Maybe it was months before leaving to move west- my parents, Mark and me. Both my parents are gone now along with Rhonda and Mark; my memories behind fences only I’m left to climb.

I miss those ladders.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

 

Something different–End of month ramblings

Linda Stoll’s blog post this week encouraged to link-up with our end-of-the month post. I’ve never done an end-of-the-month post–until now. So, something different for you–my February ramblings–and as casual as a pair of well-worn pyjama pants.

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“I think you’re over-thinking it.”

“I can see the wheels turning in your head.”

Those were a couple of comments this February from my cross-country ski instructors as I tried to remember to keep my head up, bend knees, keep an athletic stance, shoulders ahead of knees, leap, weight on balls of feet, engage poles…all while singing in my mind ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ to develop a rhythmic cadence on the tracks.

“You’re an Alpine skier, aren’t you?” said one instructor when I was the only one in the class who couldn’t do a snow plow stop midway down a hill. I just skied right past him.

Yes, I have done a lot of Alpine skiing, so thought cross-country would be easy…

Very humbling, learning a new skill.

 

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What I read this month:

  1. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. You can read my review on Goodreads. And please become my friend!
  2. Puddin’ by Julie Murphy.  Teen/YA fiction is a genre I like to read as much as possible maybe due to having 35,000 words written toward a teen novel myself.
  3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont A classic non-fiction for writers that I dive into from time to time but have yet to read fully

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Our bible study is completing Spiritual Warfare: Overcoming the Enemy by Kay Arthur, David & BJ Lawson. These no-homework Precept Ministries Studies are designed to be 40 minutes, however when you get a group of women together, even 2 hours does not seem enough! I’m blessed to have these ladies in my home every Tuesday evening.

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And just some cuteness for you…

Owlcard

I have these cute owl cards from The Creative Market . Every Monday, Creative Market sends me an email with six free designs I can choose to download. If you’re looking for graphic images, fonts, or paper designs, I’d recommend signing up for their Free Goods.

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What I want to finish in March:

  1. Scrivener for DUMMIES. I’ve had this book since last summer. I do have a couple of unfinished novels in Scrivener, however just guessed how to use the software. I want to learn how I’m suppose to use it (which I’m sure will be much more effective than I am now).
  2. Adobe Photoshop CC. It is the 2017 edition! Only skimmed chapters thus far, relevant to projects I was working on.
  3. Finish editing my three creative non-fiction essays that are my contributions for my writer’s group publication: The Hope Box. Stay tuned for it’s release targeted late 2019 (in time for Christmas). 
  4. Finish my Etsy Shop with my Journals and Digital Photography for purchase.

I could list my other dozen projects & what-I-want-to-learn items, however this year is about finishing. So shall stick with the above 4 for this month–and stay realistic and focused. 

(A blog reader was surprised to read I was a 7 on the Ennegram. I wrestle with saying no to a new project when working on another because I might miss out on something! Just thinking of only staying with the four items above makes my stomach tense! Sevens are known to “misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined.” Yup!)

My reward for finishing? Well, another want-to-learn-item of course! Adobe Illustrator. I’d love to learn how to draw those cute owls…

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Ending with some Canada for you.  These shots were taken summer of 2008 when traveling the province of Nova Scotia.

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What are you up to?

 

Meet Terri

terriheadshotupdated15Today, (as I explore the island of Maui) I have a guest post from author Terri Tiffany. I met Terri 6 years ago (time sure goes fast) when I was blogging at my other place, Connecting Stories. I’ve always been inspired by Terri’s writing and her tenacity! She’s also an excellent photographer and she picked up guitar around the same time that I purchased my first one! I’d say we were meant to connect. Her first novel, The Mulligan, was lovely and I’m looking forward to reading her latest release, The Bend. Enjoy, my friends. 

Ever receive a challenge in the middle of the night?

Two years ago, I opened a fresh document and typed one sentence: “She was perfect.

My tenth novel. Would this be the one I’d free myself to let go and write the story I wanted to write? Until that time, my novels always carried a hint of people and situations I knew first-hand. I had never pushed myself to write a story from pure imagination.

The Bend became that challenge.

But first I needed a main character with a trait most people don’t have. Since my hobby is photography, I gave Kate Snow that occupation. With a twist. She could see details in her photographs other people couldn’t. Then I needed a place where her gift, curse or blessing, might transform her and those around her. The town of Bend became reality. I also wanted the town to come alive as much as my characters. That’s why I called it The Bend instead of Bend. It’s a place most of us wouldn’t want to spend a night.

Continue reading “Meet Terri”

Wrestling Surrender-Guest post by Joy

As I rest away in Maui this week, I have a special guest to fill the page! Meet Joy, a friend and writing comrade who opens her house each month to our Christian writers group, Writers Cafe (and must also say provides the sweetest treats as well my favorite brand of coffee)!  Version 3

There’s been something niggling to get to the forefront of my mind all week. Something I keep shoving back.  It’s a No-I-don’t-want-to-do-that! kind of shove.

But then an email from a friend arrives:

“Have you surrendered your role as _________________ to God? Are you willing to let it go completely and allow that His plan may be different, and not just resign yourself to that, but embrace it with anticipation?”

Rats! Way to bring up the elephant in the room. Now I can’t shove the niggling thought – the conviction from God – away. There it is, staring me right in the face.

God’s plans are not syncing with my plans. And I’m not happy about it!!

Continue reading “Wrestling Surrender-Guest post by Joy”

Processing life

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My heels clicked against the hardwood floor, the only sound in the hushed church. I climbed the three steps onto the alter and positioned myself behind the podium, the microphone on, waiting to expand my soft, low voice.

The words black against the bright screen of my Ipad, I began. Began a speech I never thought I’d be delivering.

It wasn’t in my daily planner, to be delivering the eulogy at my father’s funeral mass last week. That Wednesday.

Life changed in a blink of an eye.

The call came on just the previous Friday, from my eldest sister, provinces away.

And by Saturday morning he had passed at 88 years old. A day later, a four hour flight east with my middle sister takes us there, to where he lives, lived, to gather as a family of five children, spouses, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.

Honoring a life.

“Boy, did he ever worry about you,” a long-time friend of my dad tells me at the visitation.

I smile. Nod. I know.

I know the dream he had for me.

And what would have made my dad be less fretful, worrisome over me.

And he didn’t get to see it come true.

And that for me is one of the saddest parts of being in the living, while a loved one has passed on. I know what he wanted for me, yet I wasn’t able to give it to him before he passed on. 

I think that is the turmoil I feel right now. But not sure.  Continue reading “Processing life”