Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

Girl in the Wind -

01/18/2012

Girl in the Wind

Chapter 1

Cassie ran as fast as her long, skinny legs would carry her. The screen door banged shut behind her. A sound guaranteed to piss off her mother  but she didn’t care. She had to get away from her. She had to escape the cutting words that sliced into her as sharply as any knife, carving away at her heart until the only way she could stop the bleeding was to run to the big oak tree across the yard and climb high into its enveloping branches. Past the long abandoned robin’s nest.  Past the broken limb that snapped off in the thunder storm last year.  Higher and higher she went until the branches thinned and she doubted the next one would hold even her slight weight.

She inhaled deeply, saying her personal version of a prayer, “Please God, don’t let me blow away in the wind before I show her a thing or two!” and stretched her arms as high as she could, wrapped them around the tree trunk, and stepped out on a limb so thin it seemed barely strong enough to hold the trio of leaves dangling from its tip.

She raised her gaze to the sky and felt the sun on her face  calming her.  White clouds of summer drifted overhead in a sky so blue it made her want to cry. A gust of wind rocked her as the tree swayed. Cassie welcomed the feeling of vertigo that came with the thrill of fear that she might fall. That was why she was there after all. To face the fear.  To prove she was more than what her mother claimed. Although she would never admit it, she was terrified of heights. Even more terrified her mother was right. She was clumsy. She was school smart and life stupid.  She would never be very pretty. Not like her mother. Not like her sister.  How many times did she have to listen to the same story? She got the message the first time she heard it.

They lived in the apartment house then. The one with two families and one bathroom on each floor. More than once she’d peed her pants waiting for someone to finally clear out of there.  It was bad enough if they were just whizzing or pooping, but if someone was taking a bath it could take a very long time and it wasn’t fair to get spanked or have your nose rubbed in wet pants if you tried and couldn’t get in.

That’s the place where they all got sick and the doctor had to come and give everyone but her father a shot of penicillin every day for a week.  Cassie, who was four at the time, and her big sister, Sue, six-years old,were with Mom in the big bed. Their little brother, Billy, was in his crib pushed up against the wall. All of them were sweaty and coughing. No one was getting any sleep and Daddy had to bring them soup and pass out pills and change Billy’s diapers.  Every day the doctor would ask Cassie and Sue who they wanted to get a shot first. Neither little girl would answer. Cassie always wanted to tell him to give the shot to their mother first. She was the only one who didn’t cry and maybe, just once, he’d get confused and forget about her.  But she never got up the nerve to say anything. Some days she was first, some days Sue or Mom. Billy was always last everyone always got the shot

Finally they were all better. Her father was at work and her mother was brushing Sue’s hair, getting her ready for school. Sue thought she was big because she was going to first grade and Cassie was still too little for Kindergarten.  Every now and then, as her mother talked and brushed her hair, Sue would turn to Cassie and give her a look that seemed to be a mix of superiority and embarrassed pity.

“You have the most beautiful hair,” Mom said. She brushed the long, naturally curly, locks at least five-hundred strokes every morning.  “Strawberry blonde is such an unusual color. When you grow up you will be beautiful and have lots of boyfriends. You will go on lots of dates and break a lot of hearts.”

“What about me? What color is mine?”  Cassie asked. She had hair too, but Mom rarely brushed it. After all, she wasn’t going anywhere but outside to play and she always came in a mess so why bother.

“You? Your hair is dirty blonde. Some people call it dishwater blonde because it reminds of them of the dingy water they pour down the sink after doing the supper dishes. It’s not unusual at all. And your hair is super fine. It won’t hold a curl like Sue’s. You’ll have to spend hours curling it or get a permanent. You won’t be pretty like Sue but, if you spend a lot of time doing your hair and putting on the right makeup, you could turn out to be cute. ”

“Will I have lots of dates?” Cassie asked.

“Not a lot,” her mother answered, turning to scan her younger daughter from head to foot. “Some of the boys that Sue isn’t interested in or has dated for a while and then jilted will probably ask you out. Maybe one of them will really like you.”

“I hope not”, Cassie said. “I don’t want to go on dates anyway!”

But she did. Not then of course, but someday she would want someone to think she was pretty and take her for a ride in his car. Somebody who wouldn’t care about the color of her hair. She secretly wondered if boys cared as much about hair as her mother seemed to. The ones she knew certainly didn’t do anything with theirs.

“Oh look, the sun is coming out,” Cassie’s mother said. She stopped primping Sue’s hair and crossed the kitchen to open the curtains over the sink.  All morning it had been raining hard with occasional crashes of thunder and bursts of lightning.  “It reminds me of the day Sue was born.”

“Tell us,” Sue said.

“April is a wonderful month to have a baby. Everything is so fresh and pretty in the Spring. However, it stormed all day and all night when I went to the hospital to have you. When I was in the delivery room the lights flickered out a few times and I was getting scared. Even the doctor said he hoped you would get here before the electricity failed for good.”

“Did I?” Did I come before the lights went out?”

“Yes, you did,” her mother assured her. “And just as the nurse was bringing you to me, the storm ended and the sun came out, filling the hospital room with light. It turned out to be a perfect Spring day after all. I had never known what it felt like to be so happy.”

“Tell me about when I was born,” Cassie said. “I’ll be you were very happy that day too.”

“No, I wasn’t,” her mother answered abruptly. “You weren’t due for another three weeks and your Dad and I had planned to go out. Aunt Celia was coming to stay the night and watch Sue.  It was the last time your father and I would have a chance to go have dinner in a restaurant and go dancing before you were born. “

“What happened?” Cassie asked. A chill ran up her spine as she waited for the answer. She knew that something had gone wrong and it was her fault.

“What happened is you!” her mother snapped.  Instead of having a night out I was in pain in the hospital. No, I wasn’t happy. I was mad. My last night out was spoiled. ”

“I’m sorry,” Cassie whispered, tears glistening in her big blue eyes.

If her mother heard, she didn’t respond. She simply finished brushing Sue’s hair, helped her put on her prettiest dress, and with Cassie following a few feet behind, walked her daughter to school.  Later that afternoon, when her mother shooed her out of the house so she could have some peace and quiet, Cassie pushed a rickety ladder up against a tree, climbed up on one of the branches and faced the sting of her mother’s rejection for first time.

Why did feel so much like falling?

Summer Writing Camp for Kids – Some Results

08/01/2011

Kids pull no punches when asked for commentary and sometimes they volunteer their comments without being asked.

Three weeks ago I taught my first summer writing workshop for kids ages 7-12. It was a weeklong writing camp held at a local community center. For three hours each morning I tried my best to convince 19 kids that being inside with me was more interesting than playing outside with their friends or participating in the Minute-To-Win-It camp across the hall.

Sometime midday on the first day one of the kids asked my why I have a boy’s name. Whoever formatted the sign-in log each child and parent had to sign each morning had listed my name as Ms. Bobbi at the top of the page.

I’ve been asked that question by kids for as long as I can remember, starting with my grade school classmates. I explained as I alway have,  that some names, depending on the spelling, can be used by boys and girls. Bobbi with an “i” is a rare but not unheard of nickname for Barbara, my given name.  And besides, I look like a girl so it’s not a problem.

“Except for that hair,” one observant boy commented to the approval of the rest of the class. Clearly they had been wondering why my hair is so short. I was happy  to tell them about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and how my husband and I participated in a fundraising event to raise money for research into a cure  for cancer in children. In support of the cause we had volunteered to have our heads shaved.

“I was completely bald then,” I said. “What’s up there now is a lot longer than it was a few weeks ago.”

“Cool,” seemed to be the consensus in the room after that.  And they seemed to settle into the rhythm of creative writing a lot easier when I brought in a photo of Bald Bobbi the next day and we talked about the stories we could write based on that picture.  They accepted me, funny name, weird hair, and all. And I accepted their comments no matter what.

When, at the end of camp, the time came to ask them and their parents to fill out a comment sheet, I trusted them to tell it like it is. They did.

You Are the BEST!  – by Enzo

It’s Good. – Rithvik

This was the BEST! She always gives new things to help us write. When I first got there I was a bit confused, but the next day it was great! Maybe I will sign up next year. -  Joe

I now know how to write a book with chapters. I also learned a lot of skills. – Simran

I wish my Grandma had signed me up for something else. – Nicholas  (Oh well, you can’t win them all and I did ask for the truth.)

Next week I meet a new group of kids for fice days of writing camp. I hope they are looking forward to it as much as I am.

It’s Been Longer Than A Week

07/07/2011

My intentions were good. I planned on being very good about dates and deadlines and all those things.  I’m pleased to say that writing got in the way. Not the actual putting words on paper or clicking keys on keyboard kind of writing, but the very productive the voices of my characters are talking to me, sort of writing.

I can see the page where I left off and my fingers are itching to get started again. One would think I would be doing that instead of this but that’s not how it works for me. There’s an intangible sense of knowing that comes over me when the time is right. Once that happens I know the words will flow and the story will take shape. Until then I keep my hand in by submitting short stories written months ago or trying out a new market. I teach writing workshops and do readings, all of which I’ve done since the last time I posted here.

At times like this writing is work. However, when the words and ideas are truly flowing writing is like soaring. I know I have to be aware of my surroundings so I don’t crash but the free flow of ideas is such a delight the experience becomes effortless.

Is it like that for you? Do you soar and come to rest in intervals as I do? If not, what does it feel like when the story begins to unfold?

***

I am pleased to say that the work of writing is showing some results as well.  Two of my short stories are scheduled for publication in the online magazine Eerie Digest www.eeriedigest.com Sweet Revenge will appear in the September issue and The Marriage Contract will appear in the October issue.  I like these quirky pieces. Each shows a darker side to this author first published in anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort and who is now the author of a book for young readers, Storee Wryter Gets a Dog, www.storeewryter.com

Do you have multiple writing personalities as I do or is your writing entirely focused on one genre?  I look forward to reading your answers. Until next time, write away!

Versatile Blogger Award Leads to Startling Revelation About Past Sins

06/29/2011

 

I want to thank  my friend and fellow member of Penwwriters, Clar Bowman -Jahn for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Until I received it I didn’t know anything about this award. Now that I do, I’m honored to have been chosen and will promptly comply with the obligations that go with acceptance.  Those being to nominate five others for the award and to share seven little known facts about me.

The nominees are:

Help Kyria Help Them

Dixianne Hallaj

Annette Dashofy

Lisa Kastner

Heidi Ruby Miller

Seven little known facts about me:

  1.  I wish I could still climb trees.
  2. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I always answered, ” brain surgeon.”  I was captivated by Dr. Ben Casey on TV.
  3.  Sometimes when I went to confession I’d make up sins so the priest wouldn’t be disappointed that I didn’t have much to say.
  4.   I wish I had a best friend who knew me when I was  shy and geeky and liked me anyway.   
  5. When it comes to martinis it’s imperative I remember that one is not enough and three is too many. Unfortunately the first one tastes so good I want the second and once I have the second I forget the rest of that saying.
  6.  I was more afraid of my mother than the uncle who molested me so I didn’t dare tell her what he was doing.
  7.  When my husband has to be away overnight I sleep with a light on in the bedroom AND in the bathroom.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – Workshop Part 1

05/13/2011

Today I’m teaching part one of my two-part course for writers, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

Learn how to evoke real emotion in memoir or personal essays. Participants are encouraged to bring an assortment of candid photos taken at significant moments in their life to use as inspiration in this interactive workshop. Part I will be mostly instructional/writing. In Part II (Sun @ 9:15), participants can share what they wrote in Part I and get helpful feedback

Checkout this link to see the other informative workshops available today. http://www.pennwriters.org/prod/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=255

For Betty on Mother’s Day

05/08/2011

Monday, September 9, 2002
The following is the eulogy I wrote and presented for my mother. On this Mother’s Day and all the ones to come I think of her and miss her more than I can say. I hope she understands my desire to share this with you today. It’s important that she live on and this one way I can help to make that happen.
********************
September 9, 2002
Good Morning,

For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’ll introduce myself. I’m Bobbi, the second of Betty’s six children.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I started to write what I hope will be a fitting tribute to my mother.

How do you define a life in a span of words? …..I can only try.

At first I tried to honor her life with high praise and lofty words. I struggled and wrote and discarded page after page until finally it hit me, (or was that you, Mom?) that the only way to celebrate her life is to tell it like it is. She wouldn’t want it any other way.

So first, let’s go back in time and see her through her sister’s eyes – Two little girls tussling on the bed when one of Mom’s shoes comes off and flies through the open window and hits their Grandpa Hogan smack on the head. First puzzled, then angry he goes into the house and up to their room only to find them giggling, arms wrapped around one another, hiding under the covers. …… Love and laughter, two sisters clinging to one another.

See her growing up, becoming a beautiful young woman. One who loves to flirt loves to dance, driving the young men wild.

Picture her as a young war bride, alone and waiting for her allotment check. It was always a struggle to make ends meet but she always took a portion of the money to buy something nice for her sister. …… Love and giving, watching out for family, that’s our Mom.

See her as a young mother, cradling her first-born, looking at this miracle with no hint of the future tragedy that will take her beautiful daughter from her.

Watch as she works and struggles to raise six kids. Three girls, three boys, children who will be loved but not coddled as my brother Ed so clearly stated it only a few days ago.

She taught us all so much!
It is through her example that we learned that books can open up a whole new world and that crossword puzzles can expand more than your vocabulary, that some times the only correct answer is to call out your child’s name.

She saw to it that we received a strong foundation in faith, taught us our prayers and sometimes even mistook one of the boys for Jesus Christ.

By providing us with brothers and sisters she taught us to share, to try to get along, to fight for what we believe in, to define our own place in a wide and diversified world, and most of all to protect one another, even if that means two big brothers rescuing a two-stepping sister by her swinging blond pony tail.

She taught us with love and with her own brand of discipline. If a word or “the look” didn’t take care of a problem a well-aimed backhand would ….. and failing that ….there might even be a coke bottle handy.

Can you see her in your mind’s eye now? I can.

Watch her as throughout her life she creates special bonds with people, gathering them to her as she did with her “other daughter”, her niece and Godchild, Dee Dee. I know that going to see a movie will never be quite the same again but I also know that when you do go she will be right there with you, loving every minute ….

Unless of course she has gone dancing with Margaret. How her eyes would light up when you came into the room and how pleased she was with the very idea of stepping out again. One of these days you and Katie will be out and you will spot a rainbow, When you do, stop and do a little dance and know that she is smiling down on both of you, doing a little twist to her very own melody.

Picture her little house and think of how many of us she has taken in over the years for periods of time both long and short, including you Chris, Tiffany, Colleen and Sean, Ed and Laura, as well as visitors like her Cousin Jim who brought her so much joy.

All of her life she worked on her feet, serving people and she did it with style and sass – she did it with love and laughter. – What an amazing woman she is.

It didn’t matter what you called her, it could be Mom, it most certainly could not be Ma. It might be Sis, Auntie, ‘Lisabeth, Betty, Nana, Miss Lizzie, or her own personal favorite, The Matriarch, the end result was the same. She was there for you to tell it like it is, and if you didn’t like it, well you could just, “Kiss it, Kate”.
Picture that one more time and see her smile once again.

We all love you Mom and we know that one day we all be together again, ….. Until then I can only say –
Goodnight Elizabeth.

Yesterday …Continued

05/05/2011

I didn’t finish everything on my list for yesterday but I did a lot. Posters were delivered to Borders Express and the manager there is very enthusiastic about the upcoming signing. The books have been ordered and she plans to set up a table for me right at the front of the store. “This place is a real mommy magnet,” she said. I hope so. We’ll both find out on June 11th.

I didn’t get to Dog Day Afternoon. I couldn’t find the place but I remain  undeterred. I’ll be heading out again later and won’t head home until my mission is accomplished. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow send out a search party, please.

I did go to the post office but have to go back again today. Another one of the books listed for sale on Amazon to benefit the Young Voices Foundation (not my book) has sold.

I wrote a piece for a new blog column I’ll be collaborating on with my husband and my neighbors. It will debut soon and I’ll post more about that when the time comes. The good news about that venture is the responsiblity for content is shared and the postings will be monthly not daily. It also entails socializing and not having to cook dinner. I like that and look forward to spending time with friends on a regular basis.

I entered an excerpt from my creative nonfiction book to a contest seeking the next big idea in Christian writing. The winner is to be announced in two weeks. There are moments in the book that might be a bit raw for the market but I believe the overall message fits the criteria. We shall see.

Today I will work on my presentation for Pennwriters Conference some more and after that I’ll start putting together the baskets for the silent auction held there. The theme for the Area 7 basket this year is Encourage a Young Reader  – Inspire a Young Writer.  Children’s books from board books to YA will be included in the basket. I am also donating a basket myself.  The theme for that one is relaxation and will include a sleep mask, bubble bath, scented candles and soothing music.  That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

On that note, I have to get to work. What’s your day going to be like?

What to Write About?

05/04/2011

There are so many things that need my attention today that I am almost paralyzed.  I still have work to do on my upcoming workshop at the Pennwriters Conference next week.  Next week! OMG it’s next week. Yesterday I realized that what has been far on the horizon for so long is now imminent and I’m not quite ready. I’ll get there. I always do but in this moment all I can think is, How on earth can I get it all done?

The Young Voices Awards call for submissions honoring books that Inspire, Mentor, and/or Educate readers of all ages just closed. That means I have to mail the book to the judges for review and scoring. This is another near monumental task that should be done this week. Oh boy.

Today I absolutely must get to the post office to mail the April Book of the Month to the young reader whose name wa selected in the monthly drawing sponsored by the Young Voices Foundation. I’ve already put the information about the May drawing up on the website so that’s one thing I can cross off the to-do list.

I sent my book review column to About Families Publications yesterday afternoon. Not as early as the editor would like it but not late either. About the same time I was hitting the send button on my keyboard two more books for review arrived in the mail. The good news is, I have three weeks before I have to submit another column.

It’s almost eleven o’clock and I’m still in my pajamas and robe. My tea has grown cold and I really need to go to the bathroom. Before I log off to take care of that pressing need and head out to deliver posters announcing my upcoming book signings at Dog Day Afternoon in Leesburg and Borders Express at Dulles Town Center I want to explain why you, my readers, have been subjected to this rant.  It’s because with all of that going on and more I could not think of a single thing to write about this morning. Stop by tomorrow when I hope to have something better to entertain you with.

If You Want to Write

05/03/2011

1. READ  – Novels, Biographies, Books about Sports, signs along the road, read cereal boxes, read plays, read poems. Read  horror and sci fi and romance and mystery. Read blogs and text messages, read on line, use an e-reader or a ratty old book you found under your bed.

2. Learn and use the Rules of Grammar, Punctuation and Form

3. LISTEN- Listen to family stories, listen to music, listen to the news, listen to gossip (don’t repeat it – use it in a story or book or play), listen to little kids and old people. Listen to bird song and crickets. Listen to traffic sounds and hear the life in it. Listen to your dreams and your doubts and make stories out of what you hear.

4. READ - read comic books and graphic novels, read history books and the classics.

5. Write – Write about what you know and what you don’t know. Write about life and death and fish and bubble gum. Write about anything that comes into your head. Some of it will be great – a lot of it will not be great. It doesn’t matter as long as it gets your imagination going. This is how you entice your brain to cut loose with all the imagination stored in there. Let it out and use what you can, store the rest in a file on your computer. You might want it someday.

6. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. They don’t know what you can do. Only you can decide that. As long as you have ideas you can create stories. But you do have to learn the craft as well as the art. SEE RULE 2 AS OFTEN AS NEEDED.

7. READ – read blogs and text messages. Read on line, use a Kindle, fish that ratty old paperback out from under your bed and read it again.

8. Talk to other writers. Join a writers group if there is one near you. If there isn’t start one. 9. Submit  your work to a contest or for publication –FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES – ALL OF THEM.

10. Never give up. There is a place for you in the writing world.

Anthologies Seeking Submissions

04/29/2011

Chicken Soup for the Soul says:

“We have many Chicken Soup for the Soul® books in development and are adding new titles all of the time. We are always looking for new stories and poems and hope you have some for us to consider. Take a look at the list of our future book topics to see if you have a story or poem on a subject we are looking for and then please submit it to us.

If you have a great story or poem you want to submit but we are not collecting for that topic at this time, please save it and check back with us soon. Our list of Possible Books Topics is added to frequently and hopefully, in the near future, we will add a topic that will be a perfect fit for your story or poem.

We prefer that you submit your stories only once, but if you believe your story fits in more than one book topic, please indicate which other topics you have submitted it for in the Comments line on the submission form. You can submit your story by going to the link at the bottom of the page. Thanks!

Here Are Our Future Topics:

***SELECT YOUR TITLE***

Brides and Weddings
You are engaged! How lucky you are to have found that one person you want to share the rest of your life with. We are looking for stories about this very special experience in your life. From the proposal, to the planning, to actual wedding day events — both touching and hilarious – these stories will capture your heart and your emotions. Stories from the groom or the proud parents would be great too! Please share the memories that were created during this special time in your life. The deadline date for story submissions is April 30, 2011.

Christmas Stories
We are collecting stories for our newest Christmas book. Everyone has special memories and stories to tell about the Christmas season – from inspirational and joyous, to heartwarming and humorous. We want to hear about your special Christmas memories and traditions. Please note: if you have submitted stories to our Christmas books in the past, we have your stories in our database. Please make sure that the stories you are submitting to this book are NEW stories that our editors have not read before. The deadline date for story submissions is June 30, 2011.

Family Caregiver
Do you have a family member who requires constant care? Well, you are not alone. The stories in this book will be written by people caring for a family member who requires their assistance due to a variety of reasons – old age, Alzheimer’s, chronic illness, long-term or permanent physical or mental disabilities. Are you part of the “sandwich” generation – caring for an elderly relative while also raising your children? Or are you the person receiving the care from a family member? We want to hear from you too. These stories will inspire and support family members who are making sacrifices to make sure their loved ones are well cared for, whether in their own homes or elsewhere. The deadline date for story submissions is July 15, 2011.

Find Your Happiness
How have you found happiness in your life? Share your stories about how you found purpose, passion, and joy in your life. Stories can be serious or funny, but definitely inspirational. Attitude adjustments, gratitude, a new way of handling your daily life, major realizations, and other great ideas to inspire readers to find their own paths to happiness would be appropriate. The deadline date for story submissions is May 15, 2011.

Food and Love
There is such a universal connection between food and love – both the romantic kind of love and the comforting kind of love between family members and friends. There is that delectable feeling that certain aromas and tastes stir up in your memory and imagination. We are looking for savory, sweet, sometimes spicy, mouthwatering, succulent, and tasty stories on how food and love together played a flavorful part in your life. You get the idea! These stories will whet your appetite and leave you with a divine aftertaste and a pungent yearning to read more. The deadline date for story submissions is May 15, 2011.

Home Sweet Home
Whether you rent your home or own your home, home is where your heart is. It is your safe place in the world. We are looking for stories about getting your first home, returning to your childhood home, do it yourself repair disasters and successes, downsizing, moving day or any heartwarming or funny stories associated with home. This book will make the perfect housewarming gift. The deadline date for story submissions is August 30, 2011.

Marriage and Married Life
Whether you are newly married or have been married for years and years, the stories in this book will capture your imagination, inspire you, make you laugh and touch your heart. We are looking for stories that will celebrate the commitment two people make when they say their vows. Tell us about your relationship. What makes it work? How did the comfort of your mate guide you through challenging times? What is the most important thing in your relationship? How did you try to change your mate? Did it work?! The deadline date for story submissions is May 30, 2011.

Think Positive for Kids
Where do your children find the inner strength to stay positive in these challenging times? The world today is fast-paced and filled with choices, temptations and challenges. The values that children, ages 7 to 12, learn today will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We are looking for stories that show children how to make good choices… even when no one is looking, respect the needs and feelings of others and focus on hope. The stories will remind kids that each day holds something to be grateful for and show them that they are not alone in dealing with difficult issues. We hope that adults will take the time to read these stories with their children as together you share special times and expand communication. The deadline date for story submissions is December 31, 2011.”

Submit Your Story


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