Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Karma, Kalispell, and Settling Back In

Getting settled back into an apartment after being on the road for five months has its dual impressions. It’s nice to be stationary for more than a few days at a time, but at the same time it presents its own set of limitations, expectations, and curses.
When you’re on the road, if you don’t appreciate the music played by those at the next “home” site, you pick up and move the car to another site. That’s not possible with an apartment. If the neighbors fight a lot, we would have had the same recourse and the same dilemma in an apartment. The police seem an awful resort to call upon, but…
So far we’ve found ourselves with great neighbors downstairs from us. He’s helping us move in our stuff from storage. Anyone who lives above the ground floor knows what a bonus that one is.
The odd part about that is that last December Jo and I were downtown finishing up some last minute preparations just before leaving on the road. She’d just taken our Kalispell Clock snowstorm photo and we’d gone to the library for a few minutes. When we came out, we were approached by a younger man who desperately needed a lift back to his apt. complex. Seems he lived in the same one we did.
Of course, we gave him a lift. He would have frozen if he’d tried to walk home. His mother couldn’t come back to pick him up for a couple of hours. We made a stop at Wal-Mart on the way home. He came in with us to stay warm. We all made it home without incident.

And now that younger man is determined to show his appreciation for our act of kindness. What’s that old statement about “what goes around comes around”? We didn’t have a clue that it would possibly come back so quickly or be so wonderfully timely.
We’re taking it slow with the bringing our stuff in. We need the time to get things put away. And since I had a wee accident a bit over a week ago and bummed my knee, I’m no use whatsoever in the moving experience, except for feeling guilty that I can’t help.
We definitely don’t want me trying to bring anything up or down the concrete stairs. I’m not stable right now on level ground, so helping is out of the question. As a result, my cane and I sit, trying to remain out of everyone’s way. Putting my office/bedroom together and getting it back up and running is going to take a bit more time than originally planned, I’m afraid.
On top of all that, I haven’t yet found the power cord for my desktop computer. I have everything else but that one cord. Until I can find that I can’t get myself into my big computer. Thank God for a little brother who loves me and is generous.
The cable guy came this morning to connect the internet. Guess what! It still isn’t working. Oh, the service comes in but our computers aren’t recognized by it and the security key we use isn’t recognized by the system as viable. So here we sit with more computers than many small businesses and we can’t use the internet that’s flowing into the apartment. Whew! Finally found the problem. Almost had a coronary there for a minute.
How’s that for irony. We’ve been pulling the net in from the open air for nearly three weeks and still can’t get regular net in the apartment. It’s great having a business across the street with public wi-fi that we can use, but we’d like to have our own now. God willing we’ll have that problem taken care of before noon.

There you have a peek at our day so far. I’ll leave you with one piece of advice. Kindness comes around unexpectedly and from the oddest corners. Remember our downstairs neighbor? One of his predecessors in that apartment helped us move in to the previous apartment we had here. Now you have the rest of the story.
Until later,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordplay and the Writer

What can you do with an oxymoron?
The average writer can take almost any oxymoron and use it for the basis of a good story or article. Take this one, for example:
Why do we sing "Take me out to the ball game" when we are already there?
Think about this for a moment. Okay, here’s one option. What about writing a short story about a kid going to a ball game, who asks that question of his father. The child’s father can’t answer the question to his satisfaction. The boy asks a few people sitting close by, none of whom have a ready answer, either.
At last he meets a slightly older boy who’s obviously standing with his father. The older boy looks at him as asks, “What do you think they do it?”
The young boy looks around at the spectators, along the bleachers to his own father who’s avidly perched on the edge of his seat. He remembers the smiles on everyone’s faces while they sing that old favorite and the laughter at the end. He sees how energetic people are as they watch the game.
The boy turns back to the older one and says, “They’re celebrating a day off work, aren’t they? They all get to come here and play.” He’s so pleased that he finally understands why adults do something in particular.
One oxymoron, one possible story.
Here’s another easy one that can create an interesting article for adults or children.
Doesn't "expecting the unexpected" make the unexpected expected?
This question creates an interesting puzzle. Since the word “expecting” negates the other verb tense “expected,” the result should be a null action. But, is it? If you ask any good Boy Scout, the Scout Motto demands that very action on the part of each member. Always being prepared means to be prepared for whatever comes, much of which will be the unexpected.
An article discussing that very motto and its implications could work for all ages and both genders. Examples of preparedness along with examples of unexpected events can be used to educate about such things as disaster pre-planning. There are more than enough good examples of disasters from the news over the past three months. The subject is a timely one.
A writer can sometimes turn something as innocuous as an oxymoron to their benefit. Using a simple reference point can make a writer’s life much easier when in need of a short piece to use as filler and still get paid for it.
I’d like to hear the types of subjects others use for putting together small articles. What kind of odd triggers do you use? Drop your experience in a comment and share with the rest of us.
Until later,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Headlines, Toed-lines, and the Gut

Curious or just confused?
Each day, whether delivered on the ether, on television, or in the daily paper we are inundated with headlines of things that happened near and far. What we do with those headlines is an individual choice.
Most people discuss the story and its impact, or the story and its cause. Implications run the gamut of pros and cons. There are those who obsess on the story, especially if it involves a celebrity. Some dismiss the news almost as soon as it’s been heard.
On the sidelines sits the writer. Headlines represent a wealth of story ideas, research possibilities, and general interest. So many gems of plot potential exist in the average bold print of the front page, including those headlines that mislead the reader in some way. If you don’t believe me, watch Leno for his take on headlines. He tantalizes his audience once a week with bold-print words from local papers sent to him by viewers.
Okay, that takes care of headlines. How about those toed-lines? What’s a toed-line, you ask. It’s the line of distinction a person doesn’t cross for the sake of self-interest.
Remember those headlines mentioned about celebrities? Here’s an example of how someone couldn’t toe the line.
It was reported this morning on Yahoo! that CPS visited Mariah Carey when she and her husband brought her new twins home from the hospital. It had been reported to the agency that drugs and alcohol had been used in the hospital room after the birth of the twins. Is the allegation true? No. It’s believed that a chance remark made about beer and breast milk production by someone in the room had been overheard and misinterpreted by a passerby.
The headline, to be sure, impelled any reader interested in the entertainment industry to read further. Yes, readership of the magazine increased, but to what end? Money? Perhaps not. What did the good-Samaritan receive for making the accusation? Self-satisfaction, maybe?
The magazine checked the facts. The person who began the story by reporting a falsehood to CPS obviously didn’t check those facts before jumping to a misjudgment and creating the subsequent distress for new parents and their families. In the end it’s unimportant that this happened to celebrities.  
What’s important about this story is that it happened to any new parents. For the average new parent, it’s unlikely that a national magazine would investigate the truth of the allegation. Instead, lives would/could be permanently damaged, if not destroyed.
Us Magazine toed the line. The accuser didn’t. What about the writer who reads this story for an explanation of that headline?
This is where the gut comes in. Here’s a fantastic opportunity for an article, story, or book. There are slants, angles, and genres waiting to be utilized for such a juicy premise. Women’s fiction, horror, non-fiction expose, and YA fiction all vie for possible avenues of use.
The Gut tells the writer whether to use the story, how much of it to use, the angle, slant, etc. that will work the best for whatever purpose desired. That gut reaction depends on the writer's moral stance, experience, and preference. It also depends on timing. If the need for extensive research exists for a proposed use, the writer may choose a quicker use for the information.
I’m not interested in using this premise. It’s not my kind of story. There are many writers who would take it and run with it, though, and rightfully so. It has potential to become a winner.
This example helps define what I call Headlines, Toed-lines, and the Gut. More potential material exists in the daily headlines than any writer has a right to expect. Choosing to use them requires thought and discretion much of the time. Without fail, the Gut will tell the writer what to use and how to use it. All the writer needs is trust in her personal choices.
Tell me how you choose a storyline. Share how you decide when to use headlines in a project.
Until later,

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kalispell, Comparisons, and Creating Books

Any time you’re away from a place for an extended period of time, you take a good hard look at it when you return.
Sister Jo and I returned to Kalispell Monday. Given my poor eyesight, it generally takes me a bit longer to pick up on changes along city streets. This time I didn’t have any difficulty spotting some of the changes.
Our list of notations began before we arrived in Kalispell. They started along the I-90 from the Idaho state line. The high north-country had moved from winter’s grip into its other season—construction.
By the time we entered Kalispell we were mentally prepared for other observations to add to our list of changes.
A car dealership gone from one street, a new building going up on another, the new highway bypass opened up with the requisite stoplight all made for immediate notation. Work begun on the perimeter of the apartment complex parking lot in December had begun again this past week. Winter hiatus was finished evidently.
There were small signs of change everywhere.
One of the things we had to get accustomed to on the road was the fact that change happens quickly, though some flavors linger over distance. We recognized the fact that we constantly remembered certain aspects of the places we left behind. It takes little to recall a place that has affected us in some way. The result is an automatic comparison to where we are now and an evaluation of which is better and why.
The funny part is that even little kids do this “I remember when… and it was… I think I liked it better then.”
So it has been for us throughout our trip. When we returned to Montana, we got to do it again but with many more comparisons. We had all of that knowledge from our previous life here and all that we’d experienced while on the road. I’ve noticed that it makes for a heady combination.
How does one compare the Redwoods with Glacier Park? Which is better—a beach or lakeside? Is there a better?
You see the difficulty, I’m sure. I find myself trying to decide where we found the best food, or whether the people here are as friendly and helpful as those we found in Tennessee, or if I’ll be able to find pine needles here as long as the ones I found in Idaho to make my pine-needle baskets.
On top of all that is the knowledge that we get to travel this mental road every day we work on our book. I have this virtual picture of us sitting around our work area doing an imitation of “This Is Your Life” and arguing about the virtues of each place and how it affected us and why or just what happened at that convenience store we patronized at that last little beach town along the Oregon coast.
I’ve already begun the comparisons. In the end that is part of this process that we must go through in order to put together our thoughts for our book. They are necessary for the writing and the layout design.
I wonder, though, if we all don’t continually write our lives’ books from those small, silent comparisons of things seen, conversations voiced, and people known. Are we, when all is said and done, merely a compilation of comparisons from our years of life?
I know that memoirs are something we all have. The question is—do they make us what we are? You tell me.
Until later,