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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Writing is just like rowing – I bet you never knew that! by Trish Morey

Like most writers I know, I love reading. I love to find a great book, a simply unputdownable book, and get transported away with the characters, the setting and with their situation. I will fly through it, relishing every word, eating up the prose until, with a final sigh of satisfaction tinged with disappointment, the book is finished. Those books, those fast reading, page-turning, non-trip-uppable stories that flow like ribbons through your mind’s eye, they must be easy to write – right?

Wrong. As someone once said, easy reading is hard writing.

It’s like that with rowing. I used to row many moons ago, in single and double sculls, and in a four when I lived back in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. I used to head lakewards around 5am every morning and slap my boat onto the mirror finish water and row for an hour or more, covering kilometers. But when I first started, I could barely balance in my narrow scull with its long fine oars. I used to wobble my way around the bay, too scared to venture outside, in case the worst happened and I was dumped into the freezing waters. A lot like when I started writing. I wasn’t game to send my first tentative words away to contests and risk being torn to shreds.

But gradually, the confidence to exit that bay built up, much as my confidence to send my work out to editors and contests slowly grew. I still wasn’t rowing well. I certainly didn’t have great technique and there were many a time my blade would dig in way too deep and I’d in rowing terms “catch a crab”. In writing I’d catch a rejection. Lots and lots of rejections. I won a few races as a novice sculler, and boy, did that lift the spirits. I won a few writing contests. I had great rowing coaches. In writing I had critique groups.

I used to love skating over the millpond surface of the lake on those frosty morning, like a water insect darting over the surface and I did pretty well, actually made it to a couple of Nationals downunder although I never brought home a medal. I finalled in the Golden Heart, although the necklace eluded me.

And one day I worked out what it took to be a great rower. I was watching the Olympics (or the Commonwealth Games) and watching a rower look so utterly relaxed and fluid as he powered his boat through the 2000 metres to win a gold medal. Just looking at him you couldn’t tell how much he was working, how much effort he was putting in when those blades dug into the water, how much it hurt when he rammed down his legs and pushed back. He made it look so utterly easy.

And that’s the mark of a great writer too. Remember that last great book you read? You didn’t see how hard that book was to write, you didn’t feel the pain when things didn’t go well for the author, you didn’t see the blood, sweat and tears that went into its creation. What you read was smooth, fluid and seemingly effortless. It’s a worthy goal.

In June, as I work on my current wip, that’s going to be my goal. I’m going to dip my oars into the water and have a go.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Do you know a veteran?

by Charity Tahmaseb

A lot will be said today about taking a moment from the barbeque to pause and think of the men and women who have served (and who are currently serving) in the Armed Forces. Some of those messages will be wrapped up in politics from both ends of the spectrum. And sometime today, the President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

I’m going to suggest something different. Take a moment today to click through to the Veterans History Project and get to know a veteran.

Sponsored by the Library of Congress, the Veterans History Project was created in 2000. Its purpose is to collect oral histories and memoirs (and supporting documentation such as letters, photos, etc.) from veterans of World Wars I and II, the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf Wars, and the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. They are also collecting stories from civilians who were actively involved in the war efforts.

The Armed Forces are made of up individuals. So I’m stating the obvious. Sort of. I’m surprised by others’ surprise when they comment on my military writing: I never knew . . .

Veterans come from all walks of life, from backgrounds as diverse as those you might find in any industry. Maybe it’s the rigors of basic training, where they tear you down only to build you back up again, the sameness of the uniforms. Maybe it’s the panoramic views of Arlington Cemetery, of flags flying, of a twenty-one gun salute.

Take a moment today for a close up look. Each veteran views their experience through a unique lens. If you know a veteran, encourage him or her to contribute to the Veterans History Project. If you’re a writer, maybe you can help record someone’s story.

And if you don’t know a veteran, I encourage you to click through, pick one soldier’s story, and get to know him or her.

The Veterans History Project

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mothers of Tweens Unite

By Maureen Hardegree

I like to think I’m a reasonable person, and most people will tell you I’m pretty level-headed except perhaps when it comes to neighbors’ dogs pooping in my yard (If you’re interested in that rant; it’s in the WNP blog archives). But a couple of days ago, I took my soon-to-be sixth-grade daughter shopping for shorts. She grew several inches this year, so last year’s shorts didn’t fit. She didn’t want Bermudas or anything that looked like something I or her grandmother would wear. I didn’t take offense. She has capris that do fit, and she informed me they weren’t shorts. Apparently, when you’re close to twelve, you must explain the obvious to your mother because, as we all know, mothers become brainless wonders who understand nothing until their daughters become mothers. But I digress.

In the car we agreed that a mid-thigh length short was acceptable. I thought we might actually have a frustration free shopping excursion. After all, we weren’t looking for bathing suits. The problem, you ask? The shorts in the Juniors’ departments throughout the mall were either Bermuda length or far, far shorter. I’m sorry, but shorts that start three inches BELOW my daughter’s navel and require a Brazilian wax aren’t what MOTHERS of Tweens (who pay for those shorts, might I remind you) are looking for. And if the extremely low waist band wasn’t enough to give me a brain hemorrhage, the way these denim shorts barely came past her butt cheeks certainly were. I don’t want my daughter to look sexy. I even said it out loud, so loud that the salesclerk and several other shoppers looked at me as my daughter and I returned the shorts to the display rack.

I don’t understand the disconnect. Why don’t clothing manufacturers and buyers for department stores understand that many children today go through puberty at earlier ages than their parents did? These Tweens cannot fit into children’s clothes, but the Juniors’ departments’ clothes are often much too sexy for girls aged eleven to fourteen. Some of what I saw I wouldn’t even want my daughter to wear at twenty-one! I want her to look fashionable, but I refuse to buy supershort shorts. Do you hear me? Give me modesty, or give me a sewing machine! I don’t want to resort to sewing my daughter’s shorts, but I have a sewing machine and I know how to use it.

My on-the-spot solution for the day—athletic clothing. The shorts were an agreeable mid-thigh length. They covered all parts that should be covered. They were comfortable. And she liked them even if they weren’t on the cutting edge of fashion. So mothers of Tweens unite. Refuse to buy “bootylicious” shorts for your daughters this summer. Let your voices be heard.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Brain Overload - by Theresa Ragan

Hey, here I am. I actually remembered to write my blog! I missed my day the last two months and I really was afraid that I was getting Altzheimers until my son said he had what I had. Brain Overload. Not only do I walk into the kitchen or garage and then immediately forget why I went there in the first place, but last week I took the clothes from the washing machine and tossed them into the dryer. Then I turned the knob, but the dryer wouldn’t work. I tried turning the knob every way possible. I turned the knob so many times that it finally came off. It was easy enough to put the knob back on, but I finally gave up. I had to come to grips with the fact that my dryer was broken. I spent the next hour looking for the warranty, and then I called the repairman and set up an appointment. I begged the repairman to come as soon as possible, but he said he couldn’t come for FIVE days! I told my family the dryer was broken and for the next two days nobody did laundry. On the third day, my husband, seeing that I had left clothes to rot in the dryer, turned the knob and then ALSO turned the knob to the left of that knob…the small knob that says START above it. Waala. The dryer worked. It was never broken. I’ve been using that dryer for years. With four kids and the drama that comes along with those kids, my brain is on overload. My oldest son made me feel a little better when he told me that he was eating a burrito with his friends the other day. Before each bite he would put a drop of taco sauce on it. Suddenly he poured his iced tea on his burrito. Everybody jumped up to avoid getting wet. They said, “What are you doing!?” He didn’t know what to say. Instead of drinking his iced tea, he had poured it on his burrito. Ha! It's my birthday today. I'm 47 and I'm going to enjoy every moment of the day. If you have a dryer or burrito story, share it with me, please!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The End of a Lovely Affair

This is it. I've come to The End. We shall meet again, but for now it's time to say goodbye.

There's a certain sadness when a reader comes to The End in a book. For those few hours as she read, she immersed herself in a different life, felt the emotions and lived the actions of the people of the story, but when the story is over, it's over. Perhaps she'll dream a bit about what happens after the last page. Perhaps she'll re-write the last page in her mind. But it's over. She has to say goodbye. And the more she loved the book, the greater the feeling of loss when it's over.

That's even more true for the author. She has spent months creating the story, giving the characters life, making sure their story is a "truth-teller" that resonates with the reader. And she has, even more than a reader, been immersed in her creation. Then the time comes. She reaches The End.

Some writers say they often have trouble getting to The End. They know how it's supposed to go. They have every bit of the action and the dialogue figured out in their minds. But somehow it won't write. Somehow the number of pages turned out slows to a crawl. The words won't come. They scrub every toilet in the house. Twice. And what should have taken only a few days to write turns into weeks.

I think it's hard to let go of a story. As long as I'm still working on the main draft, even if I have to drop it for awhile and do something else, I still feel like I'm a part of it all. But once I reach The End, and I know the story is essentially complete, beginning to end, there's a big let-down.

Yes, I know I will have to go back and do another draft, maybe two, or even more. But that isn't the same. That's more like meeting on the street the man who was once your lover and talking about old times. Nice, but not the same.

We know that readers, at least of romances, experience chemical changes in their bodies as they go through a story-- it's akin to the fact that all emotions we experience generate chemical changes in our bodies. In a romance reader, these changes are much like the stages of love in a relationship, taking the reader through the excitement of the first meet, the challenges of early relationships, the euphoria of first love, the struggle over rough times, and finally the contentment of long term commitment. (Not the Happily Ever After, by the way. I contend I've never yet read a book that promised that. They promise resolution of the problem, and in a romance, achievement of the committed relationship.)

But after that is The End.

The author goes through the same thing, but on a more intense level, and over a much longer period of time. She has had to create every step of this journey, from the characters who will meet and find each other exciting, to the conflict that keeps them apart, and the emotions and needs that bind them together. She has found a way to test their blooming love almost to the point of uprooting it for a weed. And she found a way for their strengths to overcome their flaws and build their love into something lasting.

It took her months. Perhaps longer. It absorbed her, took over her life, and all those chemical changes that emotions bring pumped through her the whole time. Her husband smiled patiently, but eventually started watching lots more TV while he waited for her to reach The End. And she kept saying, "Not too much longer, Honey. I'm at the Big Fight Scene now." He smiled some more.

And now, she's reached the climax, and The End is in sight. Something in her loved being in the story. Or perhaps she has formed a sort of addiction to the chemicals that produce the highs and lows of relationships. Whatever it is, she doesn't want to let go. Even when something else tells her she'd better either divorce the story or her hubby will do something similar. She can hope he'll be happy with extra-clean toilets, but she knows better. So she flogs herself through to The End.

And there's a great pleasure in finally having accomplished the goal. But there's also a certain sadness. Because it's over. The Lovely Affair has reached The End.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wet Noodle Posse Blog

by Dani - frantically reading the last few blogs for inspiration....

And finally deciding to write about blogs, and commitments. What's with blogs, anyway? And why show up if you're not inspired?

Well, because it is a commitment, and I like to do what I say I'll do, and I prefer to be prepared. But have you noticed how May and June turn into a crazed time, with school wrapping up with about a hundred functions per child, sports starting--don't forget photo day, and then there's the quicky long-weekend vacations, and isn't it about time to get the gardens cleaned up....so am I prepared? Uh, no. Committed? Yes. Ought to be committed? Oh, yeah.

So here I am, showing up, but I can't help wondering what other people are blogging about EVERY DAY, when I don't have one thing of interest to contribute once a month. I mean, who has time to form an opinion these days?

Other Noodlers, of course, who are way more organized than I am. I like your observations on life, the Universe and Everything, ladies. If I had time, I'd read more of them ;)

But again, that's a once a month commitment, and not so hard to manage (for most of us!) What are people saying EVERY DAY? Every hour? Do they really think anyone out there is COUNTING on them to show up and tell them what happened between 8-9am? I rhymed off my last few weeks in a single run on sentence. Are people really out there telling people what they ate for breakfast, who phoned, which paper ball the cat chased and how many people on the bus had a bad cough? (Sadly, I suspect so.) It reminds me of the conversations I used to have with my grandmother. She had a very quiet life, and I'd show up a couple times a week with, yes, still a boring life, and tell her all the inconsequentials: the baby's first gurgle, that kind of thing, and she loved it. But you know why? Because I was spending time with her.

Now, I'm not trying to knock blogs. Some people use the power for good--read down ours and you'll see lots of bright observations and opinions. But here's something else you could do: Go form a living relationship with another human being face to face. Go outside. Live beyond the computer. (That's rich, coming from the Computer Queen--I preach what I need to learn.)

Just a thought. Now I have to drop the kids at school, go to work, pick up the kids, make supper, take one to baseball then to Tae Kwon Do, write an article, and check back here to see if anyone read this blather.

Have a great day!
Dani

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Remembering The Passion

This weekend I was at a booksigning and sat next to Mel Odom. Mel is pretty much a legend in the state of Oklahoma, so even though he didn't know me, I knew him. Mel has a VERY impressive list of titles.

The two of us began talking, and I mentioned the struggle trying to balance family stuff, Girl Scouts, PTA, my part time job and the thousand other things I do because I work from home. Writing has become last on my list. What's more, when I find the time to write, it's usually so late at night, I'm tired, or my mind races through all the things I still need to get done.

Mel looked me in the eye and asked me why I wrote.

"Because I love it. I can't imagine doing anything else."

"Then why is it last on your list?"

He's absolutely right. Writing HAS become last on my list. Why is the thing that I enjoy doing most the thing I do when I can squeeze it in between my other things?

I have set myself on a mission to recapture the passion I have for writing. I think subconsciously I'd started. A few weeks ago, my term as Vice-President of PTA ended, and I didn't sign up for another year as an officer, nor did I sign up for a committee.

I have begun to say no. And yes, I did feel really bad about saying no, but I said it anyway. I'm hoping this becomes contagious.

I am also setting up office hours. I had office hours when I taught, and no one dreamed of calling me or asking me to drop what I was doing to run an errand. Writing is my job now - it shouldn't be any different.

Telephone. That's more difficult. It's hard for me to not to answer the phone - the curiosity of who is on the other line... And telling people NOT to call during a certain time doesn't work. A lot of people think they are the exception. So, it just won't be answered. I think I can do this for two hours a day. What's more...I think the people I know can handle not being able to reach me for two hours a day.

I've also written out notes and placed this on my computer. "You LOVE to do this!" "I love to write!" It's true...and there's nothing wrong with doing something I enjoy doing. I hope everyone can find one thing they're passionate about - and are just as passionate about carving out the time to do it.

I'd love to hear some of the tips you have for carving out your own time.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wild Montana Sky

In 1998, I attended a New Year’s Eve party and met a handsome, young cowboy. (Quite unusual, because cowboys don’t usually hang out in the beach cities of Southern California.) The cowboy asked me out, and convinced by his charm and enthusiasm, I agreed. After a few dates, I started asking myself why I was dating him, because we had nothing in common. But then I started imagining how, if we’d lived a hundred years ago in the West, we might have made a relationship work. And thus Wild Montana Sky, my Western historical romance, was conceived.
Meeting my young cowboy set me on a new path in the road of life. I don’t know that I would have tried writing fiction if I hadn’t gotten my story idea from him. Because of him, I’ve learned to write fiction (very different from nonfiction,) joined RWA, found my writing teacher and critique partners, traveled to conferences around the US, meet lots of interesting people, and made the most wonderful friends, including my dear wetnoodle posse sisters. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t chosen to walk down the fork in the road presented by my cowboy.
I’d written about ninety pages of Wild Montana Sky before I discovered RWA and my local chapter of Orange County. I didn’t know it then, but I’d stuffed those pages full of beginner errors--primarily passive, instead of active, verbs and ly adverbs. When I met my wonderful writing teacher, Lou Nelson, and she added me to her critique group, my writing began to change. My group celebrated with me when I finished the book in August of 2000.
In March of 2001, unlike many of the other Golden Heart entrants who feverishly waited by the phone, I had no idea the calls were going out. And I wouldn’t have paid much attention if I did know. It never even crossed my mind that I could final. When the phone rang, and the woman on the other end told me WMS had finaled, I was stunned. I could only say, “Oh, my God!” However, I must have said it five or six times.
The book went on to win the Golden Heart, one of the highlights of my writing career. The win garnered me an agent, who sent the book out to all the major publishers. However, the market had tanked for historicals, particularly Westerns. To make matters worse, WMS is “sweet,” meaning the hero and heroine don’t have sex until they’re married. The book has love scenes, but not sex scenes. And the market in the last years has been for increasingly sexy books. Three strikes against it.
I completed a second book, Starry Montana Sky, then turned my attention to writing romantic fantasy and science fiction. Meanwhile, WMS meandered its way through a series of editor rejections. It didn’t help that the rejections happened because of the market, not because of the writing, characters, or plot.
Aside from waiting for the last couple of editor responses, I basically put WMS on the back burner, thinking that I’d have to wait until the market swung back to an interest in historical Westerns. In the meantime, my agent sent out the first of the fantasy romances.
In 2005, after five finished books, and two additional Golden Heart finaling manuscripts, I didn’t even write fiction. Instead I drafted two nonfiction proposals. (The nice thing about being unpublished is that I can write whatever I want.)
Slowly, the Western tide turned, and editors started to buy some books in the genre. A few of my friends sold their Westerns, giving me some hope.
I left my agent, and after a diligent search, signed with Kelly Mortimer of Cheryl Ferguson Agency. Kelly tightened the manuscript and made a suggestion that added some tension. Once I did the revisions, I had a fresher version of my faithful book. Kelly and Cheryl’s excitement in WMS ignited some of my dormant enthusiasm for the series.
A few days ago, Kelly sent the new incarnation of WMS out to its first editor. She has also selected several more romance publishers and some historical publishers.
Once again I’m on the submission merry-go-round. Although this time, I’m feeling more positive and less anxious about the whole process. I have a good intuitive feeling that the book is going to find the perfect home.
As I sit back and contemplate my writing journey, I marvel at the twists and turns of fate. The disappointments of those earlier rejections have led to a better book and what might consequently be a more special publishing situation. Life’s interesting that way.


Debra Holland

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Learning To Love New A Great Author

LEARNING CURVE
Terry McLaughlin’s debut novel
Harlequin Superromance
May 2006

What it’s about:


High school history teacher Joe Wisniewski may be in a rut, but he dug it himself and he’s not planning on getting out anytime soon. The last thing he wants is to mentor a starry-eyed newcomer, so when he gets an unexpected assignment—Emily Sullivan, a student teacher with a steamroller smile and dynamite legs—he digs in deeper and ducks for cover.

Emily has looked up to the legendary “Wiz” for a long time. In her opinion, the man is coasting these days, and she’s sure a little change in his routine is exactly what he needs. The question is: Will Emily get Joe fired up or just plain fired?

0373713487.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_

What others are saying:

"...a skillfully developed story with wonderful characters and excellent dialogue..." 4 Stars from Romantic Times

"...sassy, sexy and riotous entertainment..." 5 Stars from CataRomance

"...snappy, entertaining, compelling...richly drawn characters and laugh out loud dialogue...” National Bestselling Author Roxanne St. Claire

To learn more about Terry, visit her website:

A Tale of Two Schools

I’m finishing up my second year at this school, and while I love my summer vacation, when my time is mostly my own, I will actually miss my school. I love my administration, would do absolutely anything for them. The reason – because they stand up for us, they don’t put any more pressure on us than we put on ourselves.

I love the teachers. As with anyplace, there’s gossip, but nothing malicious, no back stabbing. In both of the units I’ve worked in, the teachers are incredibly supportive of each other.

I love my kids. The kids at my school have great manners, and my class is the best of the best. (I'll be following them to 4th grade - yippee!!!)

Even the building – which is old enough that some of my students’ GRANDPARENTS went to school there – is peaceful.

I wonder, though, if I would love my job nearly as much if I hadn’t come from the school I came from. Two years ago, I was ready to leave teaching, get a job at Krispy Kreme if I had to. Every writing setback hurt, because I was looking at writing being my way out. My principal was vindictive and malicious, had the teachers pit against each other, and while the students consistently did well on the TAKS test, better than any other school in the district, yet they had to be tutored year after year. It was required, 40 sesssions a year. She alienated the parents, as well, not even allowing them in the school unless they were cleared, through the department of public safety. The year I left, so did eight other teachers. Seven had left the year before, and the year after, another eight before they finally moved the principal to another school to torture.

I will forever be grateful to the principal who took me out of that situation and made me love my job again.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Writing Bells, by Kiki Clark

It occurred to me today that the relationship professional writers have to their art is much like a marriage...

New Love

In the beginning, all you want is to spend time with your notebook and computer. You’ve found something you adore, and for the first time, it seems to be a perfect fit for your personality. It doesn’t expect you to wear nice clothes or talk to people. It doesn’t fence you in with idiotic rules or tell you what to do. You’ve found freedom and belonging all at once. You scribble during your lunch hour, scramble out of the shower to write down perfect gems of dialogue, and wake up at night thinking about your story.

The Engagement

You started writing for the pure pleasure, but at some point, you decide that it can be more to you than a passing fancy. You should settle down with this and make a living. Your writing notebook is a mix of plotting points and five-year plans. How long can it take to get published? A year? Two? Ooh! You should write a series and have at least five little books!

The Wedding

Memberships to writing groups, contest fees, travel and hotel expenses for must-go conferences, gifts to loyal readers of your blog… There’s a bit of expense, but it’s all so much fun! Also, you didn’t know your new love would bring you into contact with so many wonderful people. It’s like having a new family!

Moving In

New desk, new laptop, inspiring artwork, and shelves, shelves, shelves. All the books you used to feel guilty about buying can now be counted as research. Old friends are complaining that they don’t see you as much, but you can’t seem to keep your hands off the computer! Maybe two can’t live as cheaply as one, but it’s an investment in your future -- together.

The First Fight

Hmmm. Turns out your new love isn’t as unconditional as you thought. What’s all this about goal, motivation and conflict? And why can’t you write a romance with a male protagonist who learns to love the heroine after hitting bottom as an alcoholic and wife beater? Why should you have to be the one who makes all the changes?

The Honeymoon Is Over

So many pages a day, so many revisions to make, and what’s with the nag, nag, nag about showing, not telling? Still, the rewards are unquestioningly worth the compromises you have to make, and if you’re not spending as much time together, well…a little balance in your life can only be healthy.

Disillusionment

This isn’t how you thought it would be at all. You put so much work into this relationship, only to be rejected over and over. It’s been two years, and your publishing career hasn’t exactly been fruitful. There are no contracts, no little published books nestled on your shelf, not even an agent. Maybe it’s time to get counseling. Can anyone recommend a good book doctor?

Considering Divorce

Five years. Five freakin’ years of hard work and emotional ups and downs, and what do you have to show for it? A couple of nice letters, which don't exactly add up to romance. You’ve made requested change after change, but at this point, just looking at your former love makes you feel tense and closed up. Forget about performing! If they'd just tell you what they want, you’d do it! But they don’t communicate, they don’t offer anything, they won’t accept anything, and you’re ready to give up entirely.

A Second Chance

Finally, some acknowledgement! And even better than a major award is the pitter-patter of your agent’s little feet as she toddles from publisher to publisher. How you love being able to say “my agent.” Even her name is so sweet, you can say it over and over again, until your less fortunate friends wonder if maybe you could talk about something else.

The Future?

It’s uncertain, but what isn’t? All you can do is focus on the wonderful things instead of the annoying little problems, and remember why you fell in love in the first place. Figure out the things you enjoy doing together, the things you’re good at, and hang out with friends who support your relationship as opposed to pointing out the flaws. But you also have to protect your own happiness. And if the day comes when you realize there’s more conflict than happy endings, find another love.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rebel with a Cause

I’m a donkey among elephants, a democrat among a family of republicans--a product of the seventies when Earth shoes were popular and sprouts took the place of lettuce. Animals were friends we didn’t eat.

To round out the picture, I was cursed with an artistic streak. So you get the vision, a flaxen-haired twenty-something girl in a peasant blouse, sans bra, and handcrafted sandals with clay on her bleach-spotted jeans. Macrame was all the rage then too, so throw in a carefully knotted belt with beads dangling from the ends.

I was a rebel with a cause. In high school, we had sit-ins for peace, instead of proms and pep rallies. I’m sure my mother shakes her head and wonders where her quiet good child went. My sister, on the other hand, was a rebel in her youth but has since dutifully joined the elephants. So, I sit through family reunion breakfasts with my lips set in a tight smile, because though they are misguided, I love them.

So what, may you ask, does a flower child of the seventies have to learn about life in the 21st century?

That life can never be completely fair no matter who’s in control of the congress. People get cancer no matter how carefully they eat. Look at Mr. Rogers. He was a vegetarian who swam everyday. There are no guarantees in life. When all is said and done, those with money are no different from those without. Death is the great equalizer. And once you know all this and have been thoroughly depressed by this gem of wisdom, you come to realize you have to grab at the moments of happiness that are given to you instead of letting them zip past you while you’re looking toward the future.

Perhaps that is why I became a writer. A romance writer has the chance to create fairness in a world where fairness is too seldom the winner. Romance writers are optimists by nature. We offer the world a happy ending, something that is in short supply. If you doubt me, just listen to the evening news. Romance readers are our partners in hope. They want a better world too. I salute them.

Lorelle Marinello

Monday, May 15, 2006

Being Alone

I've been hearing a lot of talk lately about being alone, how much we enjoy it or would if we could. JoAnn Ross posted on the PASIC blog today ( http://toberead.blogspot.com/ ) about a room of your own. What your dream office would be if you could have what you wanted. This got me to thinking... (Yes, dangerous for a writer)

What is it about women that makes us feel guilty for wanting time alone? That makes it nearly impossible for us to shut ourselves away for hours at a time without feeling as though we're cheating someone else of our time and attention? I'd be willing to bet male writers don't feel this guilt. I think mothers suffer from this the most. We've been conditioned to think our presence is supremely important to our offsprings' mental health, and I'm sure that's true to some extent, but even when those offspring are gone, the guilt hangs on. We just transfer it to our spouses.

But every writer needs a retreat. A place where our imagination can take flight. A place where we won't be interrupted by questions, by people walking through the room on their way to the refrigerator or the bathroom. So, if you could have the perfect office, the room of your dreams and the cost didn't matter, what would it be? (And for readers, what would your perfect getaway room look like?)

My office would be at least 20 x 20, with light oak floors, rose colored walls, bright white crown moulding at the ceilings and floors. Windows would cover three sides from top to chair rail height, and the view beyond those windows would be a lush green lawn dotted with trees and rose bushes leading down to a vast lake with sailboats and speed boats trailing wakes behind them. I would have a deck that I'd reach through French doors (on one side of the office so as not to spoil the lake view) with a lounge chair and a patio table or picnic table so I'd have a place to write outside in nice weather.

Back inside the office, I'd have green plants filling the corners--except for one, which would contain a pretty running fountain. The one solid wall would hold a comfy couch for reading or napping, with pretty water scene pictures above it. Along the other walls, under the windows, I'd have pretty light oak cabinets to hide all my paper clutter, my magazines, etc. One wall would have open shelves instead of cabinets so I could display my books and those of friends.

My desk would be U-shaped so I'd have a surface for the computer, and one for the printer/peripherals, and one for doing hand-work like paying bills and searching through research materials. My chair would be uber-comfy with deep cushions, preferably leather, and ergonomically correct. There would be enough open space under the desk for both dogs to sleep without fighting for a position.

And there would be a lock on the door.

Anyone else have a dream office?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Reflections on Mothers' Day

Happy Mothers' Day. I hope you all have a wonderful day and are fortunate enough to share it with your mother. Mothers' Day brings both joy and sadness for me. I have the joy of being a mother although my two girls are hundreds of miles away. One lives in Baltimore and the other in Pittsburgh. I have a touch of sadness that my mother is no longer with us, but I have the joy of knowing she is in heaven. And I have happy, happy memories of my mother.

One of my earliest memories is of my mother reading to me before bedtime. I loved the book, Old Bones the Wonder Horse. Little incidents touch my heart. Like the time she was the only mother who showed up for the meeting with my Brownie Scout leaders. She loved to eat cheese and was always on a diet. She taught me how to bake and let me make cakes, cookies and pies. She loved to garden, especially flowers. As I look at my life, I see much of my mother in me.

She was widowed when she was fifty-four. Only my youngest brother was still at home. She spent the next ten years mothering a whole crew of young people who attended her church and some who rented her upstairs apartment.

My mother was a quiet woman, and taking care of her family was her biggest joy. There were four of us kids. I was the oldest and had three younger brothers. When my brothers were all taller than Mom, they began to call her "little mother." I never had a chance to ask her whether she liked that nickname. After I went away to college, I didn't live close to my mother again. She lived in Spokane, Washington, and I got a teaching job in Cincinnait, Ohio, where I met my husband. We moved to Atlanta when my girls were three and four. The following year my mother died when she was struck by a car while she was crossing the street. She was only sixty-four.

I miss my mom, especially on a day like today, but the wonderful memories carry me through. I hope someday my girls will look back with fond memories of me. We are going to be making memories next weekend when my younger daughter gets married. Hopefully, I can look foward to being a grandmother on Mothers' Day in a few years.

So today I'll remember my mother and savor being a mother and celebrate with my mother-in-law. Happy Mothers' Day again.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Who Can Resist A Rake?

A Reputable Rake by Diane Gaston, Harlequin Historical, ISBN: 037329400X

She's a 2006 RITA Finalist for Best Regency Romance, and her latest book is out this month!

Reputable Rake

Cyprian Sloane's reputation is of the very worst. A gambler, smuggler, rake, and a spy, he now faces the greatest challenge of all--respectability! He will force Society to accept him. Nothing will stand in his way... Until he meets Morgana Hart, whose caring nature thrusts her into the company of ladies of the night and risks a scandal that will destroy them both. To become a gentleman, Cyprian must sacrifice the lady--or is there a way to save them both?

The Wind Blew Open a Door --Bridget Stuart

I should have known yesterday would be a doozy by the way it started out. In the morning after the kids hustled off to school, I walked into the breakfast room, and there on the table was the gorgeous three-pound fancy box of See's Candies I'd special-ordered for my son's teachers--surrounded by torn gold wrapping, the top open, with four chocolates missing.

Yes, I think I shouted some obscenities as I clutched at my face in a very Greek-tragedy way. No, I didn't score my cheeks with my nails; I am not Medea.

When my 13-year-old son asked the night before if he could have some chocolate, I'd said yes, assuming it was obvious that he could take some from the small un-fancy box I'd wisely ordered in anticipation of such requests. The one that was ALREADY OPEN. Heh, heh, heh (bitter laughter)

So anyway, after I calmed down, I washed my hands and inserted truffles from the un-fancy box into the fancy box to fill the empty spaces and re-assembled the lot, then made my way across town to the school. They were having a special assembly for parents to watch students talk about their volunteer work, and applaud the other parents who gave so much time and help to the school this year. (Cough, adjust collar, slump in seat at the back of the room.)

Right after my son's presentation (in which guilty confessions about chocolate played no role), my cell phone rang. I'd forgotten to turn it off.

Grab purse, run out of room, decide maybe it's an important call and click it on. It's Brinks --my home security service--phoning up to tell me there was an intruder alarm at my house, and asking if they want me to call the police.

Huh?
Like I'm going to say no, never mind?
I thought they *automatically* sent the police.
What if I hadn't picked up the phone?

Okay, whatever, I run outside, dive into the car, pedal to the metal, trying to get there before the police do. Because damn it, I didn't get to clean the house today. I didn't even MAKE THE BEDS. I'm thinking they'll be so appalled at the orange juice cups in the living room and the piles of laundry on the floor that they won't even notice a thief lurking under the coffee table.

Now, what is wrong with me that instead of worrying about my computers or the family heirlooms, I'm worried the police will find out I'm a slob? Is it pride? Is it social pressure? Is it...some kind of INSANITY?

You tell me.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Romance Novels as Social Commentary - Diane's view

I'm blogging early this month, because I'll be at The Romantic Times Convention in Daytona Beach on my regular day, May 20. But aren't I lucky! The talented Terry McLaughlin, author of this month's Superromance--Learning Curve--asked these challenging questions. I'm going to give my take on it. I'm not a social scientist, but I'm full of opinions anyway.

Do romance novelists/novels use the genre to make social critiques? We discussed science fiction--how it plays on the realities of "now" to make assumptions about "tomorrow." I was wondering if romance novels do the same?

No. Romance novelists use the genre to tell stories. Love stories. I write love stories because I believe in the healing and redeeming power of love and it is my joy to recreate those themes through my characters. I'm much more interested in exploring characters, why they might do what they do, how love might make them better people, than in commenting on society.
That said, we are writing within the context of our times, even if we write historicals like I do. So it is natural that our own social perspective would be reflected in our work. But this is true of any writing or any art form, really. Any creative endeavor is created within the context of the times we live in.

Or is it more a play on the desires of the consumers at the time? Some novels in the 80's may have seemed negative in their portrayals, but those books must have sold if that was the marketing scheme at the time.

This question implies intention and I don't think we have a marketing scheme in our heads when we conceive a story. I have never thought it was fair that the romance novel of today is judged by the romance novel of the 70's and 80's, the good old "bodice rippers." The times were different in the 70's and 80's. I remember hearing a speaker (wish I could remember who, so I could credit her!) at one of our Washington Romance Writers Retreats, who talked about the "forced" nature of the love scenes in those 70's books reflecting women's emerging sense of their own sexuality, a time when for women it was more psychologically acceptable to attribute the responsibility for the sexual situation to the man. The woman, however, had "permission" to enjoy it. Our romance novels of today don't contain that fantasy, because women of today are empowered to take responsibility for their own sexuality and feel entitled to their pleasure. We write those stories now because those are the kind of stories we enjoy and we happen to be part of the society in which we live.

Do writers keep these issues in mind as they write, or is it pure imagination? Although even our imagination and desires are somewhat guided by our environment, surroundings, fears, and limitations, etc. Is there something more beyond the covers, or is it just entertainment?

I cannot speak for others, but I tell the story of my characters, who, of course, I make up. If I do my job right, my story will also contain something bigger that will resonate with readers and make the story memorable. I never ever start with a message and then fashion a story around it. For me it is the characters that the story is about.

And then there's the whole psychology of entertainment, mass media--the whole thing gets blown out of proportion. Like how kids are supposedly committing various crimes against society because of the video games they're playing and music they're listening to. I know some books get a bad reputation because of their content and influence. But if that were true, wouldn't we see a huge population of women running around after hunks because of the books they're reading? Of course not, that would be absurd.

I loved what Gail said in the comment section of Terry's blog, that romance novels show women the "way things should be." I have a friend who came from an extremely dysfunctional family, but she said that romance novels taught her about healthy relationships. I've heard women who have experienced abuse say they've learned the "way things should be" from romance novels. I think this is the power of a love story. It can literally change people!

But I don't try to think of how to influence lives when I write. I just want to write a terrific love story!

Cheers!
Diane

P.S. To fuel the creative fantasy--





Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Romance novels as social commentary?

A few weeks ago I was the guest speaker in a university class studying Women in Fiction. One of the students I met would like to hear what romance writers think about the role their novels may play in critiquing society, and he has given me permission to post his questions here:

Do romance novelists/novels use the genre to make social critiques? We discussed science fiction--how it plays on the realities of "now" to make assumptions about "tomorrow." I was wondering if romance novels do the same?

Or is it more a play on the desires of the consumers at the time? Some novels in the 80's may have seemed negative in their portrayals, but those books must have sold if that was the marketing scheme at the time.

Do writers keep these issues in mind as they write, or is it pure imagination? Although even our imagination and desires are somewhat guided by our environment, surroundings, fears, and limitations, etc. Is there something more beyond the covers, or is it just entertainment?

And then there's the whole psychology of entertainment, mass media--the whole thing gets blown out of proportion. Like how kids are supposedly committing various crimes against society because of the video games they're playing and music they're listening to. I know some books get a bad reputation because of their content and influence. But if that were true, wouldn't we see a huge population of women running around after hunks because of the books they're reading? Of course not, that would be absurd.

I don't know if I can really compare the two, and I'm definitely not the expert in social psychology. And I'm leading off tangent from my original question, which was the idea that romance novels critique society. Who knows? Do you have an opinion on this matter?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Posse Rides Again

by Lee McKenzie

Two months ago, while on my way to meet a friend, I stopped at red light . . . and the next thing I knew I was in the back of an ambulance. Someone had rear-ended me. I was driving my husband’s truck and the impact caused the seat and my head to snap back and smash the back window out of the cab. Now, after many sessions with my doctor and physiotherapist and massage therapist, I’ve started to regain the mobility in my neck and shoulders. I feel as though the fog has lifted and I have more energy to do the things I’ve always taken for granted.

What I discovered these past weeks was that any time I’ve tried to overdo things, my body fought back and I ended up in bed with Ibuprofen and an ice pack. I finally had to acknowledge that I couldn’t spend hours at the computer, weed the flower beds or tear through the house with vacuum cleaner. And it was when I accepted those limitations and indulged myself with a stack of good books and DVDs that I really started to heal.

So what has this experience taught me? Always follow the Wet Noodle Posse’s advice. Be good to yourself, or else!

Monday, May 08, 2006

How I Got Jennifer Crusie’s New Book

by Jenna Ness

I never buy in hardcover. I’m just too cheap to spend over twenty bucks on a book that I might not even like. But when I heard about Jennifer Crusie’s new adventure-romance Don’t Look Down, which she co-wrote with thriller writer Bob Mayer, I knew I had to make an exception of major proportions.

Jennifer Crusie is my all-time favorite author. Her stories are witty, warm and wise. That plus guns and alligators in a swamp, with a sexy former Green Beret? That wasn’t a risk – that was a sure thing. I decided to not only buy the book, but to go to the Desert Dreams conference in Arizona so that I could get it autographed. Perfect plan, right?

Not quite.

First problem: the Chaparral Suites hotel in Scottsdale, where the conference was being held, had a free cocktail reception every night. Free rum punch beneath the palm trees and desert blue sky! For the first time since the birth of my toddler, I had a whole weekend to myself, and as soon as the day’s workshops were over I headed for the bar. I got a rum punch for me, one for my roommate, and headed back to the room to take a much-needed nap.

Totally forgetting the booksigning. Aggggghhh!

The next day, I attended Jennifer Crusie’s morning workshop with Bob Mayer and was still kicking myself. But by some miracle, as I was checking out of the hotel and back to my regular, rum-punch-free life, I saw Jennifer Crusie. I went over to talk to her, and was completely blown away by how generous, funny, warm and enthusiastic she is.

Turns out they’d sold out of Don’t Look Down almost immediately at the booksigning the day before, so I felt a little less stupid about missing it. And I got something else – a photograph with Jennifer Crusie!! (Oh my God!!!!)

Once I was back home, I packed up my fourteen-month-old and drove to Barnes & Noble. There was the book, stacked right in the front with the other bestsellers! I snatched it up, savoring the feel of it in my hands. After eight months of longing, Don’t Look Down was MINE! I paid for it and hurried outside to pack up my Jeep Liberty so I could head home.

As I buckled my baby in her car seat, she was fussing and reaching for my car keys. I gave them to her and closed the door to put the stroller in the back.

Can you say stupidest mom of all time?

The instant I closed the door, I heard an ominous beep.

Clara had locked me out of the truck!

Panicking, I pressed my face against the window. “Press the other button, Clara! The unlock button!”

She tilted her head at me, puzzled. Then obligingly tried to fulfill my request and hit the lock button again.

Frantically, I tried to give her instructions about pressing the other button. Laughing at the game, she tried to hand me the keys, pushing them against the glass. “No, Clara! Keep the keys! The button!”

After awhile, she lost interest in the game. Especially since boring old mom wouldn’t even open the door to properly play. As if in slow motion, I saw her drop the keys to the floor. “Noooooo!!”

My diaper bag was on the passenger seat, leaving me without money or a cell phone. I had no choice but to leave my baby alone in the car while I ran inside Barnes & Noble. The sympathetic clerk handed me a phone and a phone book. Normally, I would have called my husband, but he’d just broken his ankle and couldn’t drive. It was like a perfect storm of tough breaks. I finally got the bright idea of calling a locksmith.

“My baby is trapped in the car! Please hurry!” I begged.

I went back outside to the car to wait. Clara was now howling, tears streaking her little face, and there was nothing I could do but lean my head against the window and try not to cry with her.

Several people stopped to offer help, including a kindly older gentleman who was heading into B&N with his young granddaughter. He offered to use a wire clothes hanger to break into my car if the locksmith didn’t come soon. I was seriously considering his offer when the locksmith’s van pulled into the lot. He’d made it there in a record ten minutes, and two minutes later, Clara was free and in my arms.

So here’s the breakdown of costs in acquiring Jennifer Crusie’s new book:


Airfare to Arizona: $320

Hotel plus conference fee: $410

Locksmith cost: $40

Plus “thankyouthankyouohthankyou” tip: $20

Book at Barnes & Noble, minus 20% “bestselling hardcover” discount: $20.96

So all in all, the total cost of getting Don’t Look Down was $810.96. And now, having read it, I’ve just gotta say . . .

. . . it was so, so worth it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bad boys

by Anne Mallory

The Ask Dr. Debra column this month talks about Bad Boys and why women love them. Oh, excuse me, let me wipe up that drool before continuing. Think Patrick Swayze's Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing. The ultimate good girl and bad boy story. Ryan Phillipe's Sebastien in Cruel Intentions was SO bad he was nearly irredeemable -- which just made his epiphany that much better. And, of course, Spike from Buffy, anyone? Just yum. All of those characters discover the one woman they want more than anything else in their world. And because those men live so intensely all that focus is then shifted onto the woman who has captured them. Gives a girl the shivers...and a reason why the bad boy love will always live on. :)

Check out the column and then chime in on your favorite bad boys and why you love them. Or why you don't!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Top Ten Tips for making your Disney World trip smooth...

by Colleen Gleason

Every month on Wet Noodle Posse, we do a ten tips list. And we do a travelogue. I missed the boat when I forgot to ask Trish, our editor extraordinaire, if I could do one or the other this month, since we were just returning from Disney...so I decided this would be just as good a forum as any.

So sit tight and relax, 'cause, as a Disney World Expert, I'm going to tell you how to make the most of your trip.

1. Go at the right time. The absolute worst times to visit Disney World (to avoid crowds), are, in this order:
  • the week between Christmas & New Year's
  • the week after Easter
  • July and early August
The best times to visit are, in this order:
  • First three weeks in December
  • October, early November
  • January, early February (before the Spring Breakers hit)
We went the last week of April, and the weather was great and there were few crowds. I've heard May is getting busier, but since most primary schools are still in session, it's not too bad.

2. If you can, stay on-site at Disney World
It's true; you can get cheap hotel rooms in Kissimmee, just miles away from Disney World, and it will keep your costs down. But in my opinion, part of the experience is staying on-site, and Disney does have different resorts to meet any budget, and they have specials and deals all the time.

The benefit to staying on-site is that you don't have to pay for parking every day (unless you drive), you can more easily get back to your hotel for a mid-day break (see item 4 below), you get to access the parks during Extra Magic Hours--ie, the parks open earlier or later for Disney resort guests only, and, as I said, it's part of the experience.

3. Get up early.
Yeah, I know, a vacation is supposed to be relaxing. Well, if you're going to Disney World, you're not going to relax. It's not a kick back and lay on the beach kind of vaca. (If you want that, go somewhere else. Seriously. Save the money.)

If you want to make the most of the parks, and avoid the most lines, you have to drag everyone out of bed early. You have to be at the gates of the parks before they open.

For example, on our recent trip, Magic Kingdom (which is the park with Cinderella's castle, and the one that attracts the most youngsters) opened at 9:00 am. We arrived at the park at 8:20. We were one of the first through the ticket machines. Then we saw the opening ceremony. Then we were allowed to go another step further. So, when the ropes inside the park dropped at 9:00, we were already in the park and were able to go on rides immediately, with no waiting, while the rest of the world was just getting to the front of the park.

If you're there when the park opens, you'll get a good 60-120 minutes of no lines, or very short ones. By 10:30 or so, the park will be crowded and you'll start to see things slow down.

Get up. Do it! It will make your experience much better for not having to wait in such long lines in the middle of the blasting Florida heat!

4. Take a mid-day break.
If you follow my advice about getting to the park early, about the time the lines start to get long and the vendors start to get crowded (about 11-11:30), you'll have experienced a whole lot of the park. We usually head back to our hotel by noon for lunch (shorter lines than in the parks), a swim (it gets hot!!), and a nap (for the little ones).

It works. Everyone is refreshed, we haven't waited an hour to ride Space Mountain, and we're ready to get back to it! By about three o'clock, we're either back at the park or a different one.

Which brings me to....

5. Make sure you get a ticket that allows you to park-hop.
It makes it a lot easier to plan your days and to take those breaks if you can go from one park to the other.

A lot of people plan one day at one park, the next day at a different park, etc. If you have hopper passes, you don't have to do this, and that means you can flex your schedule to take advantage of being there when a given park is less crowded.

6. Use FastPasses.
Disney's invention of FastPasses is the most brilliant thing! It can take away most or all of the stress of your visit!

No one likes to stand in line. Especially in Florida heat. So get a FastPass for anything you can, once the lines start to get long.

A FastPass is a little paper ticket that you can get near the entrance to most of the major attractions at DisneyWorld. The paper ticket tells you what time you can return to the ride, and go to the front of the line to ride it. (Actually, you don't technically go to the front--you come in on a different entrance and they merge you with the stand-by line near the front.) The bottom line is, you not only have a specific time to be there (it gives you an hour window), but you get to ride right away.

My rule of thumb is: if the line is longer than 30 minutes, get a FastPass.

Now, you need to know a few things about FastPasses:
  • Each attraction only gives out a certain number of FPs a day. Once they're gone for that day, they're gone.
  • If you have a FP in your possession, you cannot get another one for a different attraction until your current FP expires. It will tell you on the bottom of your FP when you can get a new one. For example, you get a FP to ride Splash Mountain between 1:00 and 2:00. You can get another FP for, say, Buzz Lightyear, at 1:05.
  • You don't need to get a FP if the line isn't long.
  • Make sure you are staying at the park long enough to use the FP. If you have to leave at noon, don't go get a FP for Space Mountain at 11:00--your FP return time will likely be at least an hour or two later.
7. Bring your own water.
I carry a water bottle that I keep filled at the drinking fountains. It saves a lot of money, especially since I don't buy drinks with my meals (unless I'm doing a sit-down meal) at the parks. By the time you buy for five people in a family, that adds an extra minimum of $12 to each meal.

Plus, when you're waiting in line, it's great to have that bottle of water. And then you don't have to stop every three feet and wait in line to buy something!

And while we're on the subject of meals...

8. Share meals
Disney World is not cheap. You're going to pay more for a hot dog than you've done anywhere ever! So, share meals. They are usually generous enough to share, especially the kids' meals.

We have three kids, and we usually order two kids meals and one adult meal and we are all sated. No drinks, as I mentioned above.

9. Plan ahead.
A lot of people come to Disney World without a plan. They just want to take things as they come; to enjoy the experience.

Well, I contend that in order to really enjoy it, you need to know what's going on first. You need to study the maps ahead of time, plan your days, and know what you want to do and see. You need to get FastPasses, find out when the Extra Magic Hours (ie, times the parks are open late for Disney resort guests), and know where things are.

That doesn't mean you have to have every step planned--although some people do, and that works too. It just means you have to be familiar with the parks before you arrive, at the very least. Don't wait until you're standing on Main Street in Magic Kingdom at 10am before you decide you want to head to Adventureland before you go to Tomorrowland.

Doing that will just lead you to long lines, criss-crossing the park dozens of times, and cranky kids and frustrated adults. Trust me.

I also suggest buying a book about Disney World--or checking it out from the library--before you go. You'll get more insider tips than I've got room for here.

There are also some great Web sites that have up to date info on them:
Allearsnet.com
Mousesavers.com
WDWinfo.com

10. Have fun. Do stop and smell the roses.
If you take my advice, you'll have a much more relaxed time and you'll see more of the parks. We usually like to hit the parks hard and early the first two days or so that we are there...and then for the rest of the time (the two or three more days we have left), we take it easy and just let things happen.

Let the kids stop and watch the parade (you can do that on the third day, 'cause you've already ridden most of the rides because you haven't waited in long lines because you've followed my advice!). Let them get in line to see Mickey for the fifth time. Let them wander through the shops in France at Epcot.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

I'd like to hear about any other tips you have for visiting Disney--or any other major tourist attraction! Experiences and anecdotes about what worked for you and what didn't!

Friday, May 05, 2006

My Personal Wilderness

I’ve been working on a book, this time a literary one, which takes place in rural Kentucky during the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a coming of age story about a young woman who, at the age of 14, moves into the barn at the back of her family’s property and stays there until she graduates from high school and goes off to college four years later.

It seemed natural to me to delve into some writings of other people, both real and fictional, who’d moved to the woods. Thoreau immediately comes to mind, but I’ll bet the name of Richard Proenneke is new to you. I hadn’t heard of him until a week or so ago when I saw a documentary about his years in the bush of Alaska on PBS. What a fascinating story.

Proenneke was originally from Iowa, and worked as a carpenter in the U. S. Navy during the Second World War. He visited a friend who lived in the Twin Lakes region and knew his destiny lay in that rugged country. In 1967 he retired and prepared to make the move. He said, “That brush beyond the big hump has been calling for a long time and maybe I better answer while I’m able.”

The documentary chronicled his years in the wilderness. Proenneke himself filmed much of the footage that wound up in the documentary. He set up his camera and filmed snippets of himself hiking through the brush, building his cabin, cooking, fishing—doing all the things it took to survive without the creature comforts we take for granted every day.

I'm separated by my personal wilderness by the boundaries of my screened porch, but I feel the tug of the woods every day. I know the birds by their calls and look forward to seeing them at the feeders every evening. I like the way the rain washes the leaves of the trees, palm fronds and flowers clean and emphasizes their distinctive shades of green. The sound of the wind rushing through the pines is like a lullaby to me, but I admit, I'm unlikely ever to pitch a tent out there.

My character doesn’t build her own cabin but she does fend for herself in the woods that surround her makeshift home. She learns to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, and in the end, forgiving.

If you’re interested in learning more about Proenneke, his diaries were published as “One Man’s Wilderness.” The documentary is titled “Alone in the Wilderness.”

Is there some place or thing (writing perhaps?) that has called to you? How have you answered?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Something for Nothing by Trish Milburn

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
— Thomas Edison, inventor and businessman


When I was a kid, I remember rolling my eyes at adults who would talk about how much things had changed since they were young, how young people didn’t know how good they had it. I remember thinking, “I won’t be like that.”

Uh, well, I was wrong.

But I’m not talking about changes in fashions or music preferences. I’m talking about what I’ve come to think of as the plague of entitlement, that sense that we want it all right now and don’t want to work too hard for it, that the world owes us something. I’ve seen it in just about every aspect of life – potential homeowners refusing to pay anywhere near the asking price for a house because they “can’t live without hardwood floors and marble baths”; college graduates who go into debt up to their eyeballs so they can have the best of everything right out of the gate; writers who think they shouldn’t have to work too hard or stoop to writing what the market demands or who think if they have to wait two weeks to hear back from an editor or agent it’s the end of the world; or some people so used to living off the government that they think the government owes them a check every month. It all comes down to a lack of respect for the good, old-fashioned work ethic — one of the building blocks on which this country was built.

And before you picture me as some tottering, old lady thinking back to the days of the Great Depression when people really had to work hard to survive, here’s a news flash. I’m 35 years old. It hasn’t been that long since I was a high school or college student. And while there was the occasional student who didn’t have to work for his car or her sequined prom dress back when I was a teen, they were the exception rather than the rule. I don’t know when things started to change, but change they have. Yes, you still see teens working the counters at McDonald’s, but you also see kids using their credit cards to buy term papers off the Internet. I judge an annual writing contest sponsored by my former employer, and it’s amazing how little effort is seemingly put into the entries, supposedly from the top students in their classes. There’s no pride in the effort, no pride in something accomplished by hard work.

I have the sad suspicion that if I were to tell many teenagers that they would appreciate the possessions they have a lot more if they had to work for them, they’d either laugh at me or look at me as if I’d lost my mind. Not all of them of course, but enough that I think it can safely be called a trend.

So, what caused this shift in attitude? Was it the economic prosperity of the 1990s? The daily deluge of glitzy media images? Was it just a natural, generational progression? Or do we all just have a lazy gene somewhere in our DNA? What do you think?