Friday, December 30, 2011

Smoothies Anyone?

The eerie, yet compelling, music of Kitaro fills my ears from headphones purchased at Wal-Mart, music played on a computer bought at Best Buy, while I sit in a rocking chair procured from who-knows-where years ago. My eight-foot counter came from Home Depot and acts as my desk and work space.

Why do I talk about these things? I suppose it comes from the reality that I don’t particularly care where something comes from, how little I paid for it, or how strange it looks so long as it functions in the job I’ve assigned it.

A straight counter top, held up by six long table legs screwed into its underside, is as viable as a desk as it would be to top base cabinets in a kitchen. It cleans up easily and gives ample work room. Uniform file boxes, filled with items not in use, stacked to a convenient height and covered with a tablecloth, functions very well as a table. If I’m going to stack them up anyway, I might as well be able to use them for something.


I think most of us think along these lines at one time or another. I simply prefer thinking like this all the time. And being a writer only encourages the practice.

Why do I say that? Well, examine our daily work for the answer.

We create stories. In other words, we’re cooks disguised as builders. As writers we stake our reputations on our ability to utilize disparate ideas, words, etc. for the purpose of telling stories or relating information. That’s our job in a proverbial nutshell.

Except for the verification of information used within said stories and articles, we don’t care where we got our ideas. We don’t care where they’d been used before for something else. I’m not referring to plagiarism here. I’m talking about taking a bit of information or sparked idea gotten from reading a newspaper, magazine, or another book and putting together our own idea using that information.

An example here is Matthew Bennett’s break-out bestseller for expectant mothers, “The Maternal Journal.” He certainly couldn’t use personal experience for his book since he was male. He could take information found elsewhere, add opinions and insights from obstetric specialists as well as experienced mothers, and tie it all together into an easy-to-follow pregnancy guide. Of course, smart marketing helped sell the book, but the idea was built on a personal question and information gathered from elsewhere.

Writing is hard work within the murky, ever-shifting tides of the publishing industry. There are no clear-cut answers since many of the deciding factors about who’s published and who’s not stems from an editor’s gut reaction upon reading the manuscript.

Yet, above all else, writing is taking tiny particles of dream(s), putting them in a blender half-full with words, adding dashes of character-driven action, a nebulous theme that peaks out at the reader at unexpected points in the story, teasingly rambunctious characters who play with the reader’s mind, and pressing the pulse button until all ingredients are smooth and ready for the palate.

The end result depends on the cook, not on the origins of each ingredient. Like the workability of my office with its countertop, computer, headphones, and workspace, the story has arrived on the reading table because of how I use the makings I can find and how I combine them for that purpose.

How do you cook your stories and serve them up? Care to share? Feel free to tell me how you find your ideas, combine your ingredients, or market your wares. I’m always interested in learning another’s techniques.

Until later,


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Promotions Rethink

Every writer inevitably must turn her mind to promoting her work. That’s something many of us don’t want to think about early in our writing experience. It’s scary, intimidating, and tends to smack of the ego.

Writers talk about publishing and marketing on a regular basis as a rule. Seminars, workshops, and articles instruct writers, regardless of experience level, on the best and easiest ways to pursue this course of necessary work. The stumbling block for some, like me, is when we must take a more intimate role in the process.

For instance, right now I have three poems in an anthology just released this past weekend. “Prompted: An International Collection of Poems” contains 120 poems grouped around ten poetry writing prompts. Forty poets contributed three poems each for this anthology, plus created two strand poems to specific prompts for the book. Our publisher is in England, our poets live around the world, and the Foreword is penned by none other than Robert Brewer of WD’s Poetic Asides fame.

We’ve taken the step to sign over proceeds to the LitWorld charity to promote and develop literacy globally, and we must promote the book. We are proud of our efforts and should be. We have award-winning poets here who are sharing their work.
Something we’re doing must be right. “Prompted…” sits at the top of the New Released Anthologies list on Amazon, and managed to make it there within its first days after release.

You’re probably wondering why I’m concerned about promoting this book. I’m not really concerned about this book’s advertising per se. I don’t mind telling everyone I know about the fascinating choices of poems and the diversity of voices and perspectives on each subject.

The book is a joy to promote, not because my work is in it, but because mine is such a small percentage of the work showcased. For someone in a business rampant with those who seek recognition and fame, I’m one of those who want to have anonymous recognition.

I want my work recognized without having to stand on the corner, hawking my wares. It smacks of insincerity, political arenas, and a snake-oil mentality. Now you see why I didn’t continue to write commercials years ago.

Though I want everyone to buy one of the anthologies to enjoy the work and words of such fine poets as grace its pages, I feel inadequate to the task of promoting it. The worry of whether friends, colleagues, and family will think less of me circle above my head, weighty and menacing.

Is there any real chance that I will lose respect of others? Probably not. Does that answer sooth me. No, it doesn’t, especially right now at the holidays.

However, I will take up the gauntlet, stand on that podium, and say in a loudly ringing voice, “Please show your support for the spread of literacy across the globe, to towns and villages otherwise without a chance, and zip over to and select one copy or more of “Prompted: An International Collection of Poems.”

There! I’ve done it. Now to other networks, other readers, writers, and delvers into the esoteric pages of poetry. Thank you all for listening to one introvert stumble through her first personal book promotion. I’ve met the challenge and come away without any visible wounds. You’ve been most kind to me.

Until later,


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Speed-dating, Christmas Style

The other day while we were doing Christmas decorating, Jo and I were talking about stockings and ones we remembered  from years gone by, whether those we’d received or those we’d stuffed for someone else.

At the time it crossed my mind that Christmas stockings are much like speed dating. You invest a lot of thought, time, and effort into them and come away either feeling good about what you’d done or not, and not having a lot else to show for all your time. It comes down to satisfaction in the end, so to speak.

When I prepare items as stocking stuffers, I wrap them. I know. Call me anal about wrapping presents. I want the receiver to anticipate what the stocking holds for as long as she/he anticipates what’s under the tree.

I also feel that lots of small packages are better than one big package. The only things I don’t wrap are pieces of fruit. Candies are wrapped, too.

Here’s an example. Many years ago my wallet was flatter than Scrooge’s Christmas spirit. Not an unusual occurrence, you understand.

I lived a thousand miles away from my family—also not unusual. That year I really felt the need to send them all something for Christmas. I took what money I could scrape together and went to a discount store, bought a huge three foot stocking and commenced to buying small toys and sample toiletry items that cost anywhere from a dime to a quarter each.

I had three bags full when I finished shopping. I wrapped each one in Christmas wrap I’d saved from previous years. Yes, I was one of those. When I was done, I had that huge stocking bulging at the seams.

I labeled the gifts as either HIS or HERS and wrote a Christmas card to all of the family saying that they could have a free for all with the stocking. I’d put in an equal number of gifts each and for them to choose from the gender appropriate tags.

Shipping that box with its goodies cost almost as much as the contents, but it was worth the sense of satisfaction I’d gained from the exercise.

When Christmas rolled around, I heard from the family and about their appreciation of my stocking. They loved it and still remember it all these years later.

My satisfaction came from giving to them what I could and doing it in a way that was unique. I’d thought hard, worked hard, and invested time and effort in the project because I loved them and wanted to share with them. They were worth my effort.
Now you ask how this was like speed dating. Think about it.

I’d wanted to share myself with someone else for a little while. I’d planned how I would present myself to them on this occasion. I’d spent one afternoon shopping at a discount store, choosing among items on sale, so that I could give all that I could to those whom I’d chosen to receive my gifts, and I’d done it quickly. Getting my gifts to those receivers had cost as much as my gifts in the same way paying for a speed dating event would cost plus the transportation costs to get there.

At the end of the event, I walked away alone, yet satisfied that I had made it through another Christmas, given gifts of my time, thought and self for the appreciation of others.

Isn’t that like speed dating?

Until later,


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The following is a small digression from the norm found here. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was needed more than I realized. Perhaps it was a truth that needed to be shared. Enjoy.

The Blessing

She sat behind her desk, fiddling with the ball point that should be gliding across decorative paper, staring out the window without seeing the scene beyond the pane of frosted glass. The day dragged on as it had since 8 am. Memories held her attention, drawing her back to people and places thirty years before and far away from this cold and dreary place; memories of those gone from this world though never far from daily thought.

Emotional upheaval caught at her throat as she pictured another holiday season, another room, another impending loss. Tears threatened to take permanent possession of her eyes even as swallowing became a challenge. How often did she have to relive those days and nights belonging to the past?

A moment, a day, a lifetime later, the woman turned away from the window to see where she’d left off on her annual Christmas letter to family and friends. In the center of the bright red, beribboned page she saw a portrait; an image she’d not seen smile in so very many years. The sudden appearance of that face broke her resolve to forego crying.

Her mother’s laughing, loving countenance required a release of the building tension that threatened to overtake her again this year.

Had her mother’s spirit found a way to visit long enough to reassure her of the rightness of things? Was this a message instructing her finally to let go? Or, was it merely a sign that her mother was happy where she was?

Did it matter what the exact message was so long as something positive came from it?
The woman found herself smiling at this gift that had been given to her. Whether her subconscious had doodled the portrait or some other means had put the beloved face on the page, the gift was gratefully accepted. She could go on now with the holiday that had become a burden to survive rather than a gift to appreciate and celebrate.

A slow smile began to spread across her face, her throat loosening its muscles and tear ducts turning off their leaks. The time had come to release the unshed grief. Blessings came in myriad packages, she realized.