Cheers to the My 500 Words Group!

Cheers to the My 500 Words Group!

We did it! It’s the last day of January, and I have been a part of something I don’t want to end. Jeff Goins and Christine Royse Niles, you are awesome people. All the rest of the people in this group are awesome people, too.

We live where we can’t see any other houses, and we feed deer under the oak and ash trees in the front yard every afternoon – though they sometimes stop by at other times, too. Our farm is six miles from the nearest town, Fouke, which has about 800 residents. On up the road, about a forty minute drive for us, is Texarkana, Arkansas/Texas, with a population of about 60,000. To the south there’s the Shreveport/Bossier City metroplex with about 300,000 people.

As you can see, I’m pretty well isolated as a writer, except for the people I make contact with online. Over the past year I’ve “met” some neat folks online: Janie Sullivan at the Center for Writing Excellence; Linda Yezak, a wonderful author from Nacogdoches, TX; C. Hope Clark, author of the Carolina Slade mysteries, and many others.

I was able to go to Eureka Springs, Arkansas (4-5 hour drive) in October to attend the Ozark Creative Writers Conference, where I met some excellent writers, editors, publishers, and agents. Yes, it was overflowing with talent. Sessions were fantastic, with faculty inspiring and challenging us to continue to improve our craft. Guest speakers entertained and enlightened us. On Saturday night I found myself rubbing elbows at dinner with Jim Pearson, a literary agent who shared many things he’s learned in more than twenty years working with New York publishers.

For me, the year 2013 was a year of wonder, as I leapt with both feet  into my writing career: entering contests, creating a website, beginning work on my World War II novel I’ve been planning for twenty years or so, going on a blog tour! November brought a new challenge, as I joined NaNoWriMo for the first time. At the end of the month I had 53,000 words toward a novel that had only been floating around in my brain occasionally before that. A funny thing happened, though. I fell in love with my characters and their story, and so pressed on through December, adding 30,000 more words.

Then came January – and Jeff Goins with his challenge. What better way to keep myself active with the new novel? At that rate, I should be able to finish the first draft by mid-February, I reasoned. And so I will. I have 93,000 words on this 31st day of January 2014. I have perhaps fifteen to twenty more pages to finish Murder by Any Other Name. That feels really good.

What feels even better, though, is the newfound camaraderie here in the My 500 Words group. Awesome writers. Hilariously funny people. Supportive to the max people. Spiritualists, atheists, and everything in between. People from around the world. I would never have predicted, thirty-one days ago, that I would have found such a group.

Please let’s keep it going, whether we come up with a specific target or just continue to share with and be supportive of each other. I know my life has been blessed by my interactions with all of you, and if it ends here, we will all have lost something special.

So let’s hold on to each other. See you in February. Best regards to all of you! YOU are the best.

Don’t Forget about the Old Folks

An only child, I went everywhere with my parents. I went shopping, to visit friends, and to check on several “widow women” in our community, with Mother. With Daddy I went to places like the barber shop , where I would usually notice one of the barbers motioning to the other men, pointing to me, making a shushing sound to watch their language.

We also went to the stockyards to watch our yearlings sell. I liked those days…the smell of sawdust in the arena, the unintelligible sounds made by the auctioneer. We’d sit in the stands, and as they got closer to our lot, a muscle in Daddy’s neck would knot up with tension, his foot doing a rat-a-tat-tat on the floor.

Check in hand we would leave, usually in very good spirits. Then we’d stop by the drugstore near the hospital to get a cherry coke before we walked across the street to visit whoever was in the hospital that he knew.

Mother was always checking on older people in the community, and all Grandma’s children and grandchildren came to visit regularly. That’s just the way I was raised – having fun, taking care of business, watching out for family and neighbors. But my how things have changed.

We’re all so busy today. We just don’t have time to visit sick people, and besides, they have workers to care for them nowadays, they don’t really need us. Older people don’t stay at home with their families now – they go to retirement centers or nursing homes where we feel sure they’re well cared for, with plenty of company around. They don’t need us. Besides, we’re just so busy.

Daddy died in 1998, and Mother lived until 2006, the last years in an assisted living facility where most of the residents couldn’t carry on an intelligent conversation with her, while her mind was keen as a switchblade.

This woman who’d spent her life putting other people first died feeling like an outcast. She mentioned several times that she’d seen a nephew at a family gathering who said, “You live so close to me now I could walk to your place.” She retorted, “Then why don’t you?” He never did. Everybody’s just so busy.

I developed some health issues about the time she died; I’ve been sort of an outcast myself the past few years. Now I feel the hurt she felt, when not even my son calls or comes to visit unless there’s a reason he needs to do so. Everybody’s just so busy.

Well, it’s time to get less busy. It’s time for people to start caring more about other people, to stop rushing through whatever it is they have to do, not so they can check in on other people, but so they’ll have time to spend the weekend watching football and every night keeping up with what’s happening on Survivor or The Voice. We just gotta know who gets thrown off this week. We have to take selfies so everybody knows we’re out and about having a great time with our friends.

No, we don’t. But as long as we think we do, the elderly, the sick, people we profess to care about, will continue to suffer from the debilitating loneliness and powerful feelings of separation that we have the ability to alleviate. Think on that – before it’s your time to sit in that chair all alone.

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On Waiting…

Waiting. The word resonates with me. Waiting has often led to good things for me.

I waited a lot in 1972, pregnant with our second child, as my husband commuted forty miles to work, one way, on an afternoon shift. Our son was three, and Doug and I had lots of time to wait at night.

I was probably too lenient with him, but I pretty much let him stay up as long as he wanted, because Daddy needed to sleep in, in the mornings, and if I put Doug to bed early, he was up and running at seven a.m. So he helped me wait for Daddy. He had learned to play a few games, and he was a funny little boy, so we didn’t mind the waiting so much.

With my pregnancy that spring, we found something new to do while we waited. I exercised in the living room floor, and he did my breathing exercises with me: whew-whew-whew a la Lamaze.

We also read lots of books. Sometimes I read to him, sometimes he read to me. Sure, I was the only one reading words straight off the page, but he was very expressive. His sentences often were incomplete, but his thoughts weren’t. “Duck on pond” told the story just fine. “Doggy happy. See tail wagging,” did, too.

A voracious reader, I’d pick up a book of my own whenever I had the chance. One book I read that summer, while we waited impatiently for the end of July to arrive, was Waiting for Willa, by Dorothy Eden. The name stuck with me, and I decided that if the baby was a girl I would name her Willa.

She was, and I did. 🙂

Decades later I developed an unusual affinity for the numbers 10 and 11. For about two years every time 10:11 rolled around I was looking at the clock. Mind you, I had no clock obsession. The few times I bought a lottery ticket, I made sure the numbers 10 and 11 were included. I haven’t won yet – I’m still waiting.

In the spring of 2003 Doug and his wife found out they were expecting. They’d been waiting for several years, so it was exciting news. A couple of months later, he called and asked, “You know how you have that thing about 10 and 11?” Yep, that was the due date. That was a very, very long wait. October rolled around, and the doctor revised the date to October 10. Bummer. Right on schedule, we all trooped up to the hospital to “wait” on the 10th. The doctor first predicted Tyler would be there by 7:30 – then 8:30 – then 9:30 – definitely by 11. Minutes crawled by, and everyone else paced the waiting room. I sat serenely embroidering. “He’s waiting for his Nana’s day to get here,” I teased. Then midnight came! Less than half an hour later, Tyler made his appearance. No more waiting – 10-11 had arrived.

See, waiting isn’t so bad.

2014 Is Here!

Happy New Year to all of my friends, old and new!

I hope the coming year brings you all the things the need and a few of the things you want — which, in truth, is what I wish for all of us all the time, but today seems like a perfect time to reiterate that wish.

I’m going to preface the next paragraph with the fact that I realize there are way too many I’s in it. But, hey, that’s what a look back over the past year is supposed to be, right? So I’ll put together a summary this one time, and then I’ll try to abstain until the point where I have something of import to report. 🙂

The past year brought several major changes for me in my writing career. First, I created for myself a writing career. 🙂 Next, I entered several online writing contests and placed 3rd in one and received honorable mention in another. Third, I attended my very first writers conference, the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in October in Eureka Springs. I met some really interesting people who are amazing writers, editors, and publishers. And a learned A Lot!!

Fourth, I started this blog. Fifth, I researched and began writing a WWII-era novel, getting several chapters down on paper before I got sidetracked by NaNoWriMo in November.

Sixth, well, that was NaNo. I set out to write 50,000 words toward a novel, which I tentatively titled Murder by Any Other Name. As of today, I stand at 65,000 words and counting. I plan to have my first draft completed before the end of February.

One of the neatest things that happened was that I made the acquaintance of several people online who are wonderful writers themselves and who do a fantastic job of fostering the art of writing in others.  Janie Sullivan, Linda Yezak, Birgitte Rasine, Jeff Goins, Joe Bunting, and many others, have been inspirations to me this year.

As I look forward to this new year, I am excited at the many possibilities out there, and I’m enthused about moving forward with all my writing projects.

Personally, I need to work on my health. Don’t we all?

By this time next year, I hope to be a published author. I’ll be one year farther along the way at least! Let’s meet back here in one year and compare notes. 🙂