A Book on Every Bed

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Last week I read an article about a new Christmas tradition. It’s called A Book on Every Bed, invented by Amy “Ask Amy” Dickinson. She began the project because her mother was a reader, writer and educator and to promote literacy. She admits she “stole” the idea from an author who talked about his childhood Christmases and how he received a book from Santa every year. Personally, I don’t think she really stole anything. She took something one family did and shared it with the world.

This is how it works. You wrap a book, and Santa places it on your child’s bed after they’re asleep. They wake up Christmas morning to find it. It’s a great way to encourage reading. If you have a reluctant reader it could be the jump start they need.

This could turn into a fun activity for yourself, too. There are so many great children’s books to choose from, you could have fun searching the classics or try a holiday-themed one. Of course kids love animals and sports, too. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I’d like to take this project a step further. Wrap a book for anyone and leave it on their bed from Santa. Buy their favorite genre or get them started on reading. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a surprise from Santa.

And if you’re dealing with adults, you wouldn’t have to sneak in their room and place the book on the bed when they are sleeping. You could do it before they go to bed on Christmas Eve (or any time during the holidays). Wouldn’t you love to come into your room and find a present on your pillow? You open it up to find a great book. Then hop into bed and start reading.

Let’s help Amy get this tradition going. If you like the idea, pass it along.

And remember the ability to read is a gift. Don’t let it go unused.

Have a happy holiday, everyone.

 

Give Thanks for the Little Things

November Sunrise (1)

It’s Thanksgiving week already. Time to give thanks. Time to reflect.

So what am I thankful for? The little things.

I get up each day and look at the morning sky. Whatever the scene, I try to appreciate something about it. The title picture is a November morning. The sun’s coming up in my backyard. The pink clouds were amazing and I couldn’t stop peeking out the window until they disappeared.

PJ steals my breakfast (3)

I’m grateful for this wee little bird who fills our home with joy and happiness. Sure she’s stealing my breakfast, but she makes us laugh.

August Shower (63)

I love that I live close to Lake Erie and can easily get there in a short drive. Maybe I don’t visit as often as I should, but am thankful it’s there.

Nighttime Visitor (1)

I’m thankful I can still be surprised by things. This deer looked like a statue standing in my yard. It was kind enough to stay put until I got the camera and captured the moment.

New phone trying to take selfie (3)

I finally joined the smartphone generation and am grateful I can take a selfie – a poor one, but at least I tried.

Of course, I am thankful for friends and family, good health and a roof over my head. But the little things? It takes effort to stop and notice. Try it this week. What little things are you thankful for?

Fall is Back Full Force!

Holden Arboretum (1)After a two year absence, fall has made an appearance in Northeast Ohio again. It had become so depressing, I named the season Flinter last year. Get it? Fall and Winter mashed together. We had snow in October, cold, rain then more snow. The end of October was something to fear, not look forward to. The weather continued right into real winter and straight through April. Endless gray days were the norm.

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Then a miracle happened this year. Fall came back! I can’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful colors, the fall trees and scenery. I had to share. My husband and I have gone to parks to enjoy the sun and autumn-like weather. The tree above (with the title) is from a beautiful park – Holden Arboretum. Below I share a few more from that park.

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Holden Arboretum (4) Holden Arboretum (21)

Now on to Garfield Park – a little closer to home.

Garfield Park (4) Garfield Park (7)

And finally my own backyard.

Backyard Nov. 2 (1) Backyard Nov. 2 (8)

Backyard (4)

Hope you enjoyed the show! Happy Fall!

Taking Chances

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Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner

Taking chances.  How many times do you begin something then give up? Mr. Faulkner was right. It may be bad.  But you have a starting point. It can be improved upon, fixed, tweaked, torn apart and redone. That sounds a lot like writing a novel.  And since he was an author, I’m sure that’s what he meant in the quote.

If you feel your first draft is your best, you’re wrong. It’s just the beginning. When you finish your book, the feeling of euphoria envelops you. You deserve to feel that way. You are done. You’ve accomplished a mighty task.

Now walk away. Don’t do anything to this manuscript. Wait a week or two. Then start to read it again. Hopefully you’ll realize it’s just a first draft, a stepping stone to something better.

When I first started writing, I felt as if my book needed to be sent out into the world immediately.  After looking back on some of that work—Ugh! I can’t believe I felt that way. I now read my story at least three times before I have anyone look at it. That can take time, and in this day and age, a lot of us don’t have the patience for that. But if you want something to be good, I think patience needs to be added to your list.

Take chances.

Scary? Yep.

Exhilarating? Sometimes.

Unsure? Always.

But if you don’t take that first step, you’ll never know. You know the old saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”. So go ahead. Take that chance. You may be one day closer to something good.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

Virginia was right. Every author has written a part of themselves into their books. Think about it. If a writer doesn’t share a part of him or herself, like a singer or an actor, the audience doesn’t connect.

How much do you put in your writing? Are you willing to admit a certain character is based on your life? Are some of the scenes based on reality?

I admit some characters are part of me. How could they not be? Others are based on people I know. When it comes to dramatic moments, I may have embellished the stories to make them more exciting for the book.

During a book club meeting, some readers brought up a concern in one of my books. They found it hard to believe that my main character continued to do a certain action over and over again. They felt she should’ve learned her lesson and wised up.

Funny, that storyline came from the real world. Mine. I did that same thing. Over and over. Teens are still learning their way and make different choices than their adult counterparts. Some good. Some not. They tend to believe their peers when they say they will change or listen to their lies as if they were telling the truth.

The readers’ reactions to my answer were looks of surprise. The discussion topic changed. We talked about how we all can relate to poor choices as teens and how you learn and grow throughout life.

Life experiences. They’re part of every author’s story. I think most writers can easily share them in their books.

Secrets of the soul. That’s pretty heavy. I don’t know if I dug that deep yet. But it might make a pretty interesting book.

If you plan on being a writer, listen to Virginia. Look inside yourself. You may be surprised by the stories you find there.

Memorial Day

Dad WWII

Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day. Today is for remembering those who died while serving this country’s armed forces. Veterans Day celebrates all who serve and served in the armed forces.

My dad didn’t die in the war, but he passed away at an early age. Every Memorial Day reminds me to make a visit to the cemetery. When we arrive, seeing all the flags by the gravestones make me proud and sad at the same time.

Dad was very patriotic. Whenever the Star Spangled Banner played on TV, he’d stand and salute or place his hand over his heart. He was a veteran of World War II, serving in Wales and England with a medical unit. His twin brother saw action in Europe. He belonged to the American Legion and had a special licence plate–one I remember to this day–AL1005. When we didn’t finish our dinner, he’d say, “Children in Europe are starving.” My sister and I would giggle, but knew he was quite serious.

So Dad, on this day, I want to tell you, you’re remembered. You were a good father. You served your country. You were patriotic. Thank you for setting the example. And hopefully you can see the salute I give you on this special day.

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The Sorcerer and the Apprentice

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“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

Remember The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? Mickey Mouse played the part of the Apprentice in the Disney movie–Fantasia.  Mickey, the young apprentice of the sorcerer Yen Sid, attempts some of his master’s magic tricks after the man leaves for the night. he puts on the magic hat and commands the broom to do his work–carry water to the cauldron. Only something goes wrong. The broom doesn’t stop. So Mickey grabs an ax and chops it into pieces. Problem solved, right? Nope. The pieces turn into more brooms that bring in more water. He doesn’t know how to control them. Once the brooms start flooding the place, Mickey is over his head.

Sound familiar? We all say, “Oh, I could do that”, when someone else is doing it. “That looks easy” is another comeback. But is it? Mickey thought so, and look how that turned out.

Sitting down to write a book isn’t an easy task. I tried to talk myself out of it. I had an argument going on in my head as I walked to the computer. You can’t write a book. Who do you think you are? The other side of me pushed on. I have a good idea. I’ll start writing and see what happens.

The brooms kept bringing the ideas in and dumping them in my brain. Could I keep up? Sort them all out? Turn them into a book? There was no master handbook, no guide.

Well, what happened was my first published book, Waiting for Dusk. I still had a lot to learn, but I took the first step. I had no idea how many words were in a book when I first started writing, but I did know the genre—Young Adult. I thought I had a good handle of the English language, always getting good grades in the subject. But I had to look up and refresh my memory on many topics. Commas were the worst. So much to still learn!

When I finished the book, I felt proud. When I got my first edits, I cringed. How could I ever master the craft?

I don’t ever want to get overwhelmed like Mickey or in over my head. He couldn’t keep up with those brooms pouring water on the floor. Bucket after bucket kept coming. Thank goodness the sorcerer eventually showed up.

When writing a book, the sorcerer never shows up. I think that’s Hemingway’s point. There isn’t one designated master in the writing world. If there was, people would try to copy and we wouldn’t get diversity. Not everyone likes the same cup of tea.

Some people may rave over the recent bestseller, while others pan it. Writing is subjective. Everyone has their own opinions. So I say, keep writing. Strive to be the master, but never stop learning.