Friday, September 29, 2006

Top Peeve of the Week

See all of these books? These are the books piled in the Great Storage Facility of my house. If we used these for fuel, we could go to the moon. If we ate them, we'd be the fattest people on earth. If we donated them to the Smithsonian, they'd not have room to store them all.

So let it be written; so let it be read by Crystal.

I have a serious serial affliction in reading. My husband says that in my entire lifetime I cannot possibly read all of the books I have accumulated. He is probably right ( as he is always right, it seems.)

But I cannot help myself. I love the feel, the smell, the look of books. I love seeing what is revealed inside of them. Even if I get a box of books every single mail day, I still am thrilled, and my heart beats faster, to get them. I have loved books for my entire life, even before I actually have a formal memory. You might say that books are a passion. Most of the books I read these days are from the Christian publishing industry. I know many of the authors, some editors and a few literary agents. I work on the manuscripts of some of these authors in the process of getting them published. I have written and published over 500 book reviews and would have had more, if I hadn't quit to take time to figure out my passion in writing.

When an author, who has just published a book, or will soon, emails me and says, "Crystal, have you received my book yet?" I am helpless to say, "Please don't send me another book." I simply MUST have it. And amazingly enough, for every published book review, I have probably read 50 times that many books.

My peeve this week is not the ever-growing pile of books in my home and life. No. I could never hate a book. I love books. I have donated hundreds of books to church libraries and given them to individuals. I figure I can always find a place for the books after I'm through with them. Books are definitely my passion. And tied up in that passion, I would like to publish my very own book with my own byline. It's that simple. And that complicated.

So, my peeve of the week is this: I cannot settle on one genre that I consider my passion so I will focus in my writing.

I have tried. Experienced authors and editors (and literary agents) have told me to make a list of my very favorite books of all time,and then from that list decide on what to write myself. Kristin Billerbeck, author of many Christian chick lit books and someone I often listen to because I like the way she says it, gave me exercises to reveal to me my passions. I have made lists until I ran out of computer space and paper. "Write the book of your heart," she tells you.

I guess I need more help. I started this blog in order to discern what I wanted to write, and find out what truly drove me in my own passions in writing. Seriously, I have written in every form:

articles,journals, poetry (ick,)sports stories, book reviews, newsletters, newspaper articles/columns,editorials, columns, children's stories,various genres of fiction(historical,Biblical, romance, romantic comedy, mystery, medical thriller, small town,sci fi, fantasy,) memoirs, letters, devotionals, personal experience, humor (ack), women's issues, and health. I write grocery lists, prayer lists,notes to teachers, critiques of novels, and now this blog.

Well-known/published writers tell me that if I write it, it will reveal itself to me. All I can figure out so far is that I love books--all kinds. (I also have a serious addiction to magazines, but that's a peeve for another day.) I try to figure out what I've had the most reaction to when I write, because deep down, I like to get reactions and feedback when I write. Every writer needs/wants readers. So far, I don't have many readers for this blog, but every reader is sincerely appreciated. And I've found what I most like about writing a blog is getting the feedback.

I figure I only have so much time left in my life to narrow down what it is I am truly passionate about that I would devote to my writing time. What is it? What should I write, so that every day when I come to the computer, I'm thrilled to be doing it?

And tied up in all of this is a desire to do that thing that God calls me to do.(Isn't that true for any Christian?) Right now, I know it is this blog, but I have no idea why. I can tell you this--my youngest son one time told me to write about my life, because if I wrote about my life, he would read it. (He likes it when I tell stories about the people in my life, like my dad, who lived a colorful life.) To get a boy to read, I know, is something I desire in my heart-of-hearts. I say this because I still relish the feeling I had when I read books to my 6th graders back 26 years ago. Let me tell you about that so you can help me.

Those kids were hand-plucked from 5 other classes that year to be put into my class because of overcrowding. I was a brand new teacher who really knew nothing and was not experienced enough to deal with their problems. (The teachers who picked them to be in my class dumped on me--even the principal said he was sorry he let that happen.) They were the bottom of the barrel, most of them, and they'd been passed on, regardless of the fact that most of them were failing not only in school, but in life.

I understood one thing--that I had plenty in my own life in feeling rejected and ignored and abused, so I related to them. I could tell you stories all day about these kids. None of them read assignments, much less the books they didn't check out on library day. So, I simply read to them every day right after noon recess. They would groan when I would stop reading to them. Not one went to sleep (which given their lives and the lulling atmosphere I enhanced, you would've thought they would have.)

An amazing thing happened. I turned in the book I'd gotten from the library in our school after finishing it to many complaints and the request, "Read it again!"

On our library day the librarian grabbed me as we were heading back to class, and said, "What in the world are you doing in your class? Every kid in your class wants the book that you just turned in. I don't even think half of them can read it! And not only that, it's the first time they have wanted a book!"

And so it was each time I finished reading to them a book; the library was swamped with requests for that book.

I want to write for those kids. I'm not sure if it is the now adult kids, or if my audience is the kids who were in 6th grade. I try to remember my reading list that year. I can remember only a few titles. I wish I had written down that list and examined what it was about those books that appealed so much to me and to them. Those are the stories I want to tell and to write. I know it is that passion I wish to convey to readers. I want to tell stories that kids like those kids would ask for from the library, even if they could barely read them.

So I'd like to ask some of you to give me feedback over the next week. If Crystal would write it, what would you like to read from her? (If you wouldn't read it, no matter what I wrote, then please don't be mean and say it to my face. Ignoring me tells me just as much and I don't hold it against you.)

I'll post samples of things I have written that I enjoyed writing. If you would be so kind, I'd like for you to read them. Then, if you would, let me know what you most would like to read in this blog, and ultimately, help me figure out where to concentrate my writing energies. If you cannot post to me on this blog, you can email me (and you can find that on my web site.)

I'll have a vote at the end of my experiment so you can choose from my examples. Then, maybe I can focus. I hate not being able to focus. And I really need to clean out the excess in my life. Maybe in this experiment you will discover something about yourself, as well. That would be my prayer.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

If this is Thursday, then PASS THE SALT!

Cara Putnam got her first contract for a novel this past week at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. The title of her new book is tentatively titled Canteen Dreams and is an historical based on the romance of her grandparents during WWII. I was so pleased with this as she is one of my Hoosier writing buddies. Since this is Pass the Salt Thursday where I highlight other people's blogs, be sure to check out her blog The Law, Books and Life. If you check out the comments section from Sabrina Fox's blog, Hijinks from the Heartland, you will see I'm among the predictors of this very thing happening after Sabrina interviewed Cara. I'm really proud of Cara, and she has several more manuscripts that are going to sell, too. (Mark my words.)

I have some friends who are blogging--just started. You remember how it was when you first started blogging? Well, these three people are good writers, and have some really important things to say--unlike what you read here! They are actually FOCUSED. Imagine that!

I have to tell you that I'm prejudiced about them and give a little background. All three of them started off in my SALT critique group. What a great group we are. (I can say anything I want; this is my blog. Ah, the power--but it's true.) SALT stands for Struggling Artists of Literary Talent. It seems so long ago that we got together in that group. Teena Stewart, a brilliant writer and web site owner who does many things well, started the group. Teena is not one of the new bloggers, but I have to tell you about her first.

Teena and I still critique each other some and we have actually written together some columns on surviving parenting teens. (She survived. I'm still struggling through these years.) Most of the rest of the group has gone on to other things, and we now just check in, get advice and brainstorm a little now We also pray for each other. So, you get a bonus today with seeing Teena's site--and they are doing coaching and consulting for ministers. If you are a pastor or in ministry, this is where you go to be equipped, encouraged and to be ministered to yourself. It's a wonderful resource. Also, if you are a writer, you will want to check out their guidelines to write for their ezine.

Now on to the Bloggers

Karen Wingate has written curriculum and VBS materials for years. She is the teaching expert. And now she is sharing tips for teachers in her brand new blog. Already she has a treasure trove of insight and she is just learning this blog thing! She is Training Teachers to Teach Children About Jesus. Check it out if you teach Sunday school or would like to teach or work with children in the ministry.

Nancy J. Ring is a counselor and freelance writer living in Chicago. Her experiences and depth make for a beautiful, insightful and meaningful blog. She has only posted a few blogs and already she has been named for Blog of the Day. Today she talked about Dave Dravecky.

Finally, LeAnne Benfield Martin has joined bloggers with something I rarely see talked about: Christians and the Arts. LeAnne has a wonderful testimony, many hundreds of articles, but she has chosen to promote those who are Christians in art,theatre and poetry, highlighting those things which engage our hearts, minds and souls. LeAnne lives in Atlanta, Georgia and her insight into this art community comes first hand. Her site is a discussion of why Christians should be engaged in the arts, and highlights Christians who have brought the light of Christ to the art world. You really do not want to miss this one, either!

I have such good friends in the writing world. Cara is a new friend, while Karen, Nancy, Teena and LeAnne are "old" friends. (And I don't mean that in their ages, either, though Teena could be as old as I am...ha ha)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Happy 18th Birthday, Bryce!

Birthdays come often at our house because there are several of us. This year Bryce graduates from high school. But a few birthdays ago, he was in Miss Girdley's 1st grade class, posing with her friend's (Bev) giant bear.

Growing up is tough on me, but I'm glad to see him being a strong, good guy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

September 20, 1914:
92 Years and Counting:
Happy Birthday,Pauline

The century was just gearing up when she was born. The farm where she was born is still there in Tennessee and owned by family. If you take a short hike up to the top of the hill, you'll see the family graveyard where generations of my family have been buried. It is still maintained by the family. "Decoration Day" is still in July, and is still considered a family reunion, of sorts.

Her tombstone, which she will share with my grandfather upon her death is already in place with her name, only lacking the date. She had it done when my grandfather was buried back in December of 1972. If you walk down to the bottom of the hill, and across the road, you'll see a creek running out of a cave. It is ice cold and has a rocky bottom.

As a child I remember having the family reunion there,walking up to the family graveyard for "decoration" of the graves, and then, coming back down to eat a sumptuous country spread brought in by aunts and grandmothers, most I recognized. Hugs were distributed widely.Everyone seemed glad to see us. We belonged. Watermelons cooled in the cave with soft drinks. A dipper was hung on a post by the stream, and you grabbed it to drink from the stream as the water rippled out of the cave. Since this is in July on the border of Mississippi/Alabama, it would be so hot, you were drenched in perspiration before you even got out of the car. That coldwater creek was pretty inviting for the young, and probably brought memories for the adults. And Pauline was so familiar with this place. It was "home."

Pauline was child number four of the eight children of William James "Dad" and Sallie Mae (Warren) Pulley. All the others are gone now and she is the only survivor. Her granddaddy was a colonel in the 19th Cavalry of the Confederate States of America. He is buried on the hill.

Each one of my Grandmother's brothers and sisters had nicknames. I don't know who gave them these nicknames or why. Most of the time nicknames have something to do with personality or events in that person's life. You be the judge, as I'm going to share their given names here with you with the nicknames in parentheses. My grandmother's name is Pauline, but I can remember people calling her "Top." Interesting enough, most of these were called by their middle names, instead of the first names, but nicknames won out amongst those who knew them. Some of these people I didn't even know what their real names were until I was a teenager.

Effie Opal (Jinks)
Gladys Leona (Short)
Ernest Clayton (Doc)
Pauline--no middle name--the only one without one (Top)
Early Clifford (Cliff)
Ollie Larken (Lark)
Mary Lois (Head)
James Edward (Ton)

The youngest brother, "Ton," was a good friend to my dad. Ton died from cancer young. I don't remember anyone saying what kind of cancer it was. Maybe it could be cured today. I remember being close to his son, Donald,who was just a little older than I was, and Ton's wife, Ida Dean. These people were special to my dad and mom.

Grandmother had five children and all but my dad are still alive. They all still live in the county where she was born,generations of my family, kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, minutes away from her. She's had five generations photos taken with some of those people. My dad was the only one to leave Tennessee, and never return to live there. He was not buried there. They all had to come here, as he bought a grave site for him and my mother before they died. I have a cousin who ventured to Nashville and stayed. Another cousin lived in Marietta. Georgia, but she now lives back from which she came.

While my grandmother has traveled to Florida, Alabama, Nashville, and to Indiana, most of her life has been spent in the same area where she was born nearly a century ago. Her second husband wanted to live in Florida where the fishing was great and some of his family stayed, but she would not sell her house, and insisted on coming "home." The pull of family and a place to call home is strong in this part of our family. "Miss Pauline" or "Mama" is at home where she lives. The only other place these people would want to be is heaven, and only when their time here is done.

Now she plays Bingo a couple times a week(she has money just for that.)Receives guests in her room. She will go today and get fish at a restaurant called Bradley's where everyone knows her. She'll be in bed by 7 p.m. She has survived much, and is now winding down. But she will always be my "Mama" and it is comforting to me that there is this place in Tennessee where I belong just because of my family there.

Happy Birthday, Grandmother.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Memories of Grandmother and Tennessee

(on the day before her 92nd birthday)

Nothing was better than going to Tennessee to visit my grandparents. My mother's parents were both dead and my dad's parents had been my parents when they needed to be. I'd be shaking, I was so geared up to go visit them. It would take hours on curvy backroads and narrow highways back then to reach Tennessee from Indiana.

When we would come "in" from Indiana on vacations and holidays, it would be pre-dawn because my dad liked to travel at night. When we'd hit the curvy roads after Nashville, I'd always get car sick. As we descended into the valley (and yes, it's part of the Tennessee Valley,)my ears would pop. I would be so excited I couldn't sleep in the car. I would lie on the back seat or on the floorboard of the car, listening to the Nashville stations croon country songs and occasionally my parents would talk. I'd think about the people I would see once we got there and lace all of my memories together into neat little stories in my mind.

By the time we reached my grandparents' house, Grandmother would be excited, too, so she would already be up, cooking. She'd tuck my brother and me under quilts she'd made, so heavy, that we sunk under them into the feather mattress and wonder if we'd be able to breathe. Then, the adults would sit around the kitchen table talking and drinking coffee. It was soothing to drift off to sleep for a few short hours until the sun came up, listening to their gentle voices. Those were the best times of my life when we'd go to Tennessee to see Grandmother and Granddaddy and all of my family. I wanted to live there with them so much, it hurt. And I'd cry for miles when we'd leave to go home.

Grandmother loves to fish, though she can't do it anymore. That was also part of "going home"--camping on my Uncle's lot along the banks of the Tennessee River and heading out to fish from there. Granddaddy had rigged up an old school bus with beds and supplies and parked it there so we could stay all week. My dad would have a boat put into the water, and he pulled up to the dock there. Grandmother could fish as well as anyone. In the evenings, she liked to play a card game called "Rook." We'd have sweet tea, hush puppies and whatever fish that had been caught (and we always had plenty of fish.)

For breakfasts we'd have eggs, bacon, ground sausage, biscuits, country ham, gravy, peaches and my favorite, just for me--pear preserves. Eating was a big part of the gatherings. Dinners would bring dishes from the others in the family and the table would be trembling under several meats,cornbread stuffing, vegetables, cole slaw, banana pudding, creamed (mashed) potatoes, cornbread and plenty of Cokes and sweet tea. There were always Cokes. And she kept candies in a dish in her living room. Mostly, I remember the peppermints and the orange "slices" that were like jelly beans with a sugar coating.

She sewed many of my clothes. I remember one year she made me several outfits from dark green material, purple material and purple plaid material that we picked out before I left to go home. I was the first in my junior high to have the new "gaucho" pants. I thought those outfits were wonderful and everyone asked me where I got them. She also made quilts. All of us have quilts that she made. My wedding quilt has appliqued large red cabbage roses on a white background. She made extra heavy ones for my dad to carry in his truck for his bunk to keep him warm.

My memories flood me this week of Tennessee and my grandmother. While some of my memories here in Indiana were not always pleasant, and life was tough, memories of Tennessee and my grandparents and relatives during that time are all like icing on cupcakes. Sweet and lingering, treasured in the good part of the brain. That is where I will I keep them.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Whatever Monday

This photo was taken before I was born. Notice that they all posed in front of someone's car. I'd have to get an aunt to recall either the color or who this car belonged to. Cars have been an important part of my family since before I can remember. I have a lot of car stories.

As I have been flipping through Tennessee family photos this weekend due to my grandmother's 92nd birthday this week, I noticed a lot of photos taken with cars. We were truly an All-American family. Sometimes my mother went without a new coat or new clothes, but my dad would buy a new or used car. He hauled automobile parts for the auto industry in his 18-wheeler truck (and we have a lot of photos of people standing by his trucks, too.) Cars were always important part of our livelihood as a family and our culture. My grandmother can remember getting their first car and driving wagons before that.

Anyway, I ran across this article on AOL about the significance of the color of the car you choose in your driving personality. You've probably heard it said that red cars get more attention and are caught speeding more often than other car colors. According to this article, it is your personality which would choose a red car that makes for more speeding. Also, my dad used to say it was "bad luck" to have a green car. We were racing fans and no race car driver would choose a green car. Green cars supposedly were in more wrecks. (Yes, we had a green car when I was in college that I was hit head on in on one January icy night.) Ah. Color psychology.

If you cannot choose your car color, then notice these descriptions about the colors you prefer. Maybe it says something about your personality. I know that when my four boys were little, they would sit on my husband's mother's huge front porch (in town on a fairly busy street) and play, "Color of the Cars." It is a simple game. Each person chooses a car color and when that car color comes by you "win." It certainly kept them entertained for hours, but then, in this family, we like cars. I think I could guess what color of car each of my boys would choose, and they probably do match up with these color psychology choices.

From AOL's Money and Finance page article: "What Does Your Car Color Say About Your Personality and Car Insurance Premiums?" Here is what the article says about the choices of car color:

Black cars denote an aggressive personality or someone who's an outsider or rebel.

Silver cars indicate someone who's cool, calm and slightly aloof.

Green cars can often be chosen by people with hysterical tendencies.

Yellow cars signify someone who is idealistic and novelty loving.

Blue cars are chosen by the more introspective, reflective and cautious driver.

Gray cars represent those who are calm, sober and dedicated to their work.

Red cars denote those who are full of zest, energy and drive and who think, move and talk quickly.

Pink cars
are chosen by gentle, loving and affectionate drivers.

White cars represent status-seeking extrovert drivers.

Cream cars are the least likely to be involved in accidents and denote self-contained and controlled owners.

Ok, my favorite car I've ever had was a candy apple red '69 Grande Mustang. Yes, technically it was my dad's car, but it was the car of my choice and I drove it to school. He let me sell it to use the money to go to college (and I had gotten tires for it for Christmas that year. Ah, sigh.) But the big secret? I secretly have always longed for a pink, drop-top Cadillac. (Yes, I like the song Aretha sings and love Elvis, but I'm not Mary Kay.)

So, despite what my children tell you, I am a "gentle, loving, affectionate driver."(Ha!)

What color is your car? And what color would you choose if you had a choice?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Week of Nostalgia

My paternal grandmother, Pauline, turns 92 on Wednesday. She has outlived all of her brothers and sisters, two husbands and one son (my dad.) I can't be in Tennessee, and I don't get to see her very much now. Since both my dad (her son) and my mother (whom she loved and adored) are both dead, she's a link to my past. She still has a sharp mind. She is very thin and a bit feeble, but she still likes a good game of Bingo and likes to eat out. But I have a very special connection to my grandmother.

See, when I was almost a year old, my mother had to enter a tuberculosis hospital. Back then, you were quarantined if you had TB. They did awful surgeries back then. My mother ended up losing one lung and all of the second lung, except for one lobe. She ended up being there for nearly 3 years. My dad had to continue working, especially to pay for her care--and me, well, what was he going to do with me?

No one on my mom's side wanted me,(or could take me,) but my dad's parents jumped at the chance. And they would've raised me if my mother had died. (But mom was pretty strongwilled. Another story.) Grandmother, or "Mama" told my mother she didn't want to give me back when my mother finally got out of the hospital, but as she told my mother, "I promised you I would, if you lived." In the photos when they brought me back, you see my mother beaming ear-to-ear, and both of my grandparents with sad frowns on their faces. They were happy mom lived, but they were heartbroken to give me up.

My mother was in Ft.Wayne, Indiana and my dad worked as a truck driver, driving all over the Midwest in those 3 years--and my grandparents lived and worked in Tennessee. It took a lot of dedication to keep all of these family ties together. A war was being fought for life and family ties--and these people were on the front lines. My dad would visit my mom as much as he could. Occasionally, when she'd get a weekend pass out of the hospital, he'd steal her away to Tennessee so she could see me. She wasn't supposed to do that, but they were both rebels. My grandmother wrote a lot of letters and always made me scribble all over a piece of paper, or sometimes I'd add my scribbles to Grandmother's letter. She would include snapshots of me and plenty of detail about things I'd do.

My grandmother was pretty young when she had my dad, the second oldest child and oldest son. She still had two kids of her five at home, and worked full time. My grandfather ran a lumber business and sometimes loaded up my diapers (well, I was pretty good at that...) and my bottles, and would take me out to chop wood with him. My aunt was only about 13 when I came to stay and she could've resented me, but I don't think she did. My uncle pretty much ignored me, as I took over his "baby of the family" spot.

Aunt Linda was the one who often had to take care of me--and she had to have me in her room. Pretty tough on a teenager. This same aunt is still watching out for my grandmother--and she still checks up on me, even though she has many of her own family and lives two states away. I will always be grateful to my family in Tennessee for taking care of me when it looked as if my mother would die, and I had nowhere else to go. My aunt Linda had to stay home from school to take care of me, which was devastating to her high school experience (and evidently, even back then I was scribbling a lot and marked all over her yearbook.) Sometimes my other 2 aunts would take me home with them for the weekend. I remember their husbands with fondness and miss them. They were all my "mamas and daddies."

I brought with me my little Pekinese dog, Candy. I know it is hard to tell in the photo, but that is my dog. I still love dogs. Candy was with me for 11 years. My granddaddy, whom I called "daddy" like everyone else did, also loved animals, so I figure I got that "dog bug" from him. But grandmother allowed me to keep her, when they could've just done away with her when I came to stay. I don't know that I ever thought much about that until I was looking at this photo today. I have a dog in the house now, and I know how much trouble dogs can be, much less a toddler.

As you can see in the photo, grandmother had the modern conveniences--a washer on her back porch. Laundry day was quite a job. And that's not all. There was no indoor bathroom. Imagine having to potty train a toddler during those days. I was a lot of trouble. Me and my little dog.

And my mother had 5 miscarriages before getting me. I was the baby she had longed for--and she had to leave me with her mother-in-law. My mother had lost her own mother when she was five-years-old. She had lived with my grandmother when my dad went into the army during the Korean Conflict. She really thought of my dad's mother as her mother, too.

At first my dad's family wasn't too sure they liked my mom when he first brought her home to Tennessee and married her. She was a Northerner, and as I would hear my grandmother say about other people from the North--"not o'wer kand of peoples." But my mom won them over, and Grandmother would conveniently forget that my mother was from as far north in the U.S. you could get without going to Alaska. As my granddaddy would say to my mother before he died, "I think of you as one of my own daughters." And so it was.

So, excuse my looking back this week. My Grandmother Pauline, "Mama," has lived almost a century. She has seen a lot of changes in her world (has her own private bathroom now--indoors) and in her family.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jared! How time flies when you're racing around...

No flies in my soup today. They must be straining them out in the kitchen. I could gripe about a lot of things, but I'm just not in the mood. Must be all that joy being slung around.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

If This Is Thursday...Pass the Salt!

On Thursdays I try to season you all with my blogging neighbors, and my goodness, they have become LEGION. Ok, I look in on a few because I'm a friend and I want to catch up with someone (if you can't see your friend, you check her blog.) I admit I just have too many people I like. So, I realized I am going to have to categorize these things because there are so many good ones.

So, today, I want to mention blogs I read for professional development--writing. If you are interested in writing at all, this will give you insight into the complicated and maze-ridden world of publishing. I have been blessed in that I've connected with some of the best people on earth in Christian publishing. These people know PUBLISHING /WRITING /CRAFT, not just Christian publishing.

First of all, Terry Whalin may know everything there is to know about writing/publishing. From articles (he's an ASJA board member) to nonfiction, to co-authoring, to children's books, to book packaging to fiction (he's a fiction acquisitions editor for Howard Publishing)--if he doesn't know it,heard about it, then he will soon. He's a "rainmaker" in publishing, and knows virtually everyone. He is a teacher, too. He always tries to help people and is never stingy with advice.

From his own bio it reads: Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books plus published in more than 50 magazines. He is the fiction acquisitions editor at Howard Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster )and Terry encourages writers (beginners to pros)at Book Proposals That $ell,
21 Secrets to Speed Your Success.
His Book Proposals That $ell is an essential tool to any writer to succeed in selling a book.

I may be a little prejudiced about Terry Whalin because he is a former Hoosier, even graduating from Indiana University at Bloomington (but don't hold that against him if you're an Ohio State or Purdue grad.)

Then, there is Robin Lee Hatcher. From Robin's bio: "I'm a woman whose life is full of wonderful relationships. I'm an author, now working on my 51st novel. I'm a follower of Jesus, doing my best to walk according to His will and not my own."

I met Robin at my first ACFW conference in Houston. (Which is a great Christian fiction writers organization I belong to and Robin does, too.) She is warm and giving of her knowledge of fiction writing and life. To read Robin's novels is to see real people. And on her blog she gives us an insight into the process, the thoughts she has. You can see why she has such depth in her stories. I pick up tidbits of how to balance writing and life from her blog. And she has a lot of interesting things to share with us.

Finally, just because I could go on forever, I'm ending this blog with my friend Jim Watkins--"Threat to Society." From Jim's bio:
"Jim has worked as an actor, author, college professor at Taylor University Fort Wayne, construction worker, door-to-door salesman, dorm dad at Indiana Wesleyan University, editor/editorial director at Wesley Press, factory worker (put raisins in Kellogg's Raisin Bran), graphic designer, hairstylist, magician, minister, online editor for, puppeteer, singer/songwriter, speaker, truck driver,
unicycle dare devil, and Webmaster. In other words, Jim can't keep a job!"

Jim is just being himself when he writes. He writes "insightful and inciteful" articles and books. I read him for a dose of reality and normalcy--and a laugh. But he also teaches on writing and runs the Sandy Cove Christian Writers Conference coming up--soon! At Sandy Cove you can take your writing to the next level.
Sandy Cove Christian Writers' Conference October 1-4, 2006

• Refine your writing and speaking skills
• Be mentored by editors and professional writers
• Network with editors and professional writers
• Expand your vision of how God can use you
• Enjoy His presence on the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay in Northeast, Maryland.

Anyway, Jim has written over 1,500 articles, is an editorial advisor, teaches writing and humor writing, belongs to the Christian Humor Writers and has written quite a few books, including being editor to his latest book on writing, Writers On Writing

His book Writing to Change Lives: Biblical and Psychological Principles for Persuasive Communication was formerly The Persuasive Person and is now completely revised, updated and expanded version of the old one.

As Jim says about it: "Yikes, it was written before the Internet was invented by Al Gore!"

Since it won't be out until early 2007 here is sneak preview of Chapter 7: Using Psychological Appeals.

That should be enough writing homework until next week when I send you to more of my blogging neighbors! Until then...READ!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wednesday Neurotic Health Watch

I live amongst a family of health experts--people who work and have vast knowledge in the health field. I, myself, taught P.E. and have read extensively, and taken a lot of classes in health and fitness. And I read a literal (or literary) ton of books and magazines in this area (and own stacks of them.) This area has been my specialty as a book reviewer, as well. Just last month I reviewed several books on health that I cannot share with you until they are published.

So, now that you know why I have Neurotic Health Watch Wednesdays, let's get to it. I could probably write a whole book on this topic, so this will be more difficult for me than for you. (Endeavor to persevere.)

Yesterday I received my copy of the fitness magazine,Shape. Some of it can be real fluff because it is obviously aimed at women. But women really do "feel better" if they "look" better. Lose 20 pounds--you go out and buy new clothes, get a new haircut and makeover your makeup. You look better and this makes you feel better. I have no beef with that.

The cover of this month's magazine has a gorgeous woman in a skimpy outfit and she looks the picture of health. However, she is not exactly the poster child for having lived a "healthy" lifestyle. This really aggravates me, I want you to know. Having watched my own health over many years, practicing good habits and doing what is right, almost religiously at times, I have to tell you that it is just not fair. It is not fair when someone does a couple weeks of working out or cuts out a Coke (or crystal meth and drinking alcohol) and suddenly is the spokesperson preaching at me for No Donuts at the Office Day and walk more.

Cover girl this month is Fergie, a singer with the music group, Black-Eyed Peas. Her lifestyle has included a crystal meth addiction, clubbing (that would be going into smoke-filled bars to drink to intoxication and staying up all night.) She probably wasn't eating the healthy value meal at McDonald's, either. This does not encourage me at all. Show me the after picture of someone like Ann Wilson of the sister rock duo Heart, who after healthy lattes and moderate exercise lost 100 pounds and probably is living 10 years longer. Fergie is wearing a cashmere top in her cover photo. Ok, tell me--raise your hands--do you workout in a cashmere top? No? Well, why not???

Anyway, I'm looking at her favorite things now: an Annie video, her hairstylist (yeah, like I'm lucky if my hairstylist--me--can get the knot out of the back without tearing a huge hole in the back,) Givenchy Amarige Eau de Toilette, the music she listens to on the treadmill(sheesh,) and Glenny's Soy Crisps. Oh, yeah, she read this book called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy because she is a self-help "book fanatic." Kill me. I cannot relate.(Give me a week or two of her workout, and maybe I will have my own list to post on Neurotic Health Watch Wednesdays.)

Have you ever tasted a soy crisp? This is not a potato chip. It is not a substitute for chips--it is a whole new world. Everyone should eat a bag of soy crisps at least once in your life. They come flavored now. Try it. (Gag.)

Anyway, I am not inspired because even my after picture does not look as good as Fergie's before photo. This just makes me depressed. I do everything I can right, and drat it, someone else just breathes and does everything wrong and lands on the cover of a HEALTH magazine because she changed from crystal meth to soy chips. She's 30. That's another thing....

I had visions of giving you examples of things to try and do to help you to live a healthy life. I mean, we currently are being alerted that Americans are completely unhealthy. We weigh too much, eat too many fatty foods, drink too much alcohol, smoke despite 40 years of warnings and don't exercise but sit on the sofa watching TV and playing video games. We are the worst of the worst in the world, according to most health reports.(Don't believe it.)

Well, I'm telling you, I don't think our habits really help all that much. We are living longer than ever in our history. Our country is the one everyone comes to be "saved" in some miracle (every day miracles!) surgery. I personally think it's our genes. We might get a year or two extra, might look better (if we have healthy genes and a great makeover,) if we choose green tea instead of a Coke. (By the way green tea is now thought to prevent strokes--NOT CANCER. They didn't even get that health benefit right. Go figure. I still like green tea and drink it everyday.)

Ok, if I go by the gene calculator, I'll be dead by 65. Both my parents were dead by that age. If I go by my Grandmother and her siblings on my dad's side, I could live into my 90s. (And if you let my grandmother, she eats strawberries and ice cream everyday--or nothing. She grew up fixing things in lard and making the best lard biscuits and sausage gravy you ever ate!)

Disease is indiscriminate in most cases. You get cancer, why? You get heart disease because you were pre-disposed to it. I had an uncle who was one of those annoying health advocates. He ate a strictly vegetarian, organic diet--no dairy, no chemicals. He worked out, sailed around the world and would come to your house and preach at you for hours about how you "are going to the devil eating that stuff." (He really believed your relationship with God was based on what you ate and he wasn't even Jewish.) Well, guess what? He dropped dead from--yep, you guessed it!--heart attack. No bypass surgery, no lectures about cholesterol and no "stop smoking," like my dad got. He was dead before my dad (who didn't do himself any favors in the health department.) Go figure.

I still believe we need to take steps to feel better, look better and eat better. Health is important. Don't smoke. It is proven that tobacco really DOES hurt you healthwise. Drink water. Exercise. Drop the Big Macs to once a year. (ha) Moderation. Good choices. Don't stress out.

I don't know what to say to Shape magazine. What kind of a message are they sending to young people indulging in all the unhealthy practices Fergie did before she started working out two hours a day and eating soy chips?

Anyway, while you have time--live. Don't be a fanatic like my uncle was(we didn't like him.) Don't live totally unhealthy like my dad did(we cried when he died and miss him.) But find ways to be inspired, live with fun and de-stress. Find joys to fill whatever days you have left on God's agenda and calendar.

Health tip for today: Don't take the drug,crystal meth. I don't care if Fergie is on the cover of Shape magazine this month. (But I'm proud of her for trying to break a bad habit and being public about it.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Whatever Monday

This day in 2001, we in the United States, and yes, in the world,know it as
"9-11" Day. And yes, I remember what I did that day, just as I remember what I was doing the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. (Mostly I remember my mother's reaction.)

I could talk about my perspective, but you are being flooded with these types of stories today. However, being a Hoosier, I will give you a link to an artist's web site. Yes, she is a Hoosier, and you'll find some of her prints on cards and in stores, but she also sells the most fabulous paintings. N.A. Noel lives, and does her art, in Zionsville, Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis. She specializes in African people/landscapes/animals, other animals, Amish portraits and angels. Today she shared with us a letter that was written to her by someone who survived the attack on the World Trade Center. The writer's purpose was to let the artist know how much her paintings meant to her in the aftermath of her ordeal.

And if you go to this site and like the art, you can purchase it online, or you can also send her free ecards to some of your friends.

Mostly, I wanted to share this because sometimes we think we are living insignificant days, doing insignificant things. You never know what the next moment will hold and what you will be required to endure if you live. You can't predict how you will react in the moment or in the following days and years until you must face it and go through it. An artist in Indiana was doing what she loved--painting. She is passionate about the images she chooses to create. In doing so, at least one person, who had to face horrific images in her mind and see people die, even seeing the plane come in to destroy and attack the very principles of our lives,found comfort there in that Hoosier's art.

I think it is important what we choose to fill our mind's eye with in our day-to-day lives. The books we read, the photos and memories we keep, the art, films and TV we imbibe, the relationships we nurture or cast away--all of it comes back to us in moments that test the soul, and as we cope with whatever it is has been laid out for us.

What do you have in reserve when that moment comes for you?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I Did It

I have been trying since the beginning of this blog to add photos. Today is a banner day.

I've been to quite a few places in the United States. A few years ago, we took a trip to New Orleans with two other couples. It was different back then than it is now. The smells of the French Quarter stand out blatantly in my memory--mostly unpleasant smells. But then, the food and the amazing architecture of buildings/houses stand out as pleasing.

One couple we were with lived in New Orleans during the husband's residency in one of the hospitals there. They still had friends living there and so we were able to see parts of New Orleans most tourists are not usually privvy to. One of our trips took us into the very bayou where Forest Gump was filmed. I am a big fan of that movie for many reasons. On our way to our tour, we stopped at this little grocery where Amid and Nazanin said the best muffalottas in New Orleans were made. (They were right. One of the top 20 best things I ever ate!) We ate them in the car. They're a little messy.

We got to take the swamp tour with a man who had lived there all of his life. He was "Cajun" and at night he would go out on his shrimp boat, living the life that was depicted by Forest Gump and Bubba. During the day, he would take tourists on tours of the swamp/bayou he loved. He was not too fond of government people trying to interfere with his business, nor of lawyers. Probably his polite way of warning anyone who wanted to make any political comments on the tour for which we had paid him big cash. We were his captive audience now, and he was gonna have his say. People didn't comment on anything too controversial, or anything, for that matter. Most exclamations were even quiet and whispered.

He really knew the alligators and creatures that lived in the waters there. His survival and businesses depended upon this knowledge. This was in the fall of the year and the alligators were getting ready to hibernate. He'd toss some bread or treat to the alligator swimming alongside the boat to show us that the alligator had already "closed up his throat" and was done feeding. When one smaller alligator persisted in trying to eat the morsel thrown to him, our tour guide laughed and said, "Seeuh dere? He don't know he can't eat. He's a young one."

He also had his own "pet" alligator and her name was Julie. He got her out and walked around with her, asking us if anyone wanted to hold her. Not too many would take him up on it. I can't really remember, but I think I was one of the few who did. She wasn't that big, and of course, since my companions liked to always tease me, they tried to get me to hold her. I had never been that close to an alligator, but I'd caught many a crawdad in the creek, scooped up fish and turtles, and plucked leeches off my legs as a kid. The river and the crick were always places I loved. He could see I was battling in my mind between the possible danger and wanting to do it. He, too, urged me on.

"Julie's good," he said. "I let her live with me in my house."

So, while I did have a couple reservations, I agreed, and he handed her over to me.

Her skin was smooth, soft and leathery, not exactly what I expected. She didn't move at all. He showed me how to hold her safely. I wondered if she just ran around free in his house all the time, or if he kept her most of the time in the box he had her in for the boat trip. By the looks of this man, I figured he let her run free. Being fall, she was pretty docile and wasn't too hungry, so I figured I was pretty safe unless I suddenly had an urge to confess I was an attorney who worked for the government. I had this sneaky suspicion that he knew what to do about these types and maybe had. Who would know what happened to me?

I could see the authorities coming in and everyone saying, "It was an accident. She was a pretty foolish blonde who thought she could hold alligators."

My companions took the photo and I'm thankful they didn't snap it when I shut my eyes. It certainly wasn't one of my bravest moments, but it was one I wanted to experience.

Our tour guide showed us where his deceased family's coffins had floated in the bayou after Hurricane Camille on August 17, 1969. His eyes grew a bit misty as he talked about fishing the coffins out to put them back in their proper place. He remembered Camille, but didn't really elaborate more than that.

Now I think about the people we visited when we went on that trip to New Orleans and just outside of the city. I don't know what happened to them. I wonder if Julie is still there, and if she slipped back into the swamp from which she came after Katrina.

But this moment is burned into my memory. One snapped moment of Crystal History.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Flies in My Friday Soup (Peeves of the Week)

I am a Christian and I know I'm supposed to have grace and a grateful heart (and I do--as much as my ascerbic personality can overcome with God's grace to me,) but sometimes I feel a great need to express my impatience and peevish nature. You will consider me more human and I will have confessed that I'm not perfect.

Though, I still feel great guilt when I confess I'm annoyed because one of the most impressive stories I ever heard (read,) happened to Corrie ten Boom. If you have not read the book, The Hiding Place, then you have missed something every human should read. It is the ultimate modern story of forgiveness, set in a concentration camp during WWII and it's all true.

Many people of my faith often question where the annoyances and troubles in life come from? Are they from God, trying to get our attention or teach us something? Are they from our Enemy, trying to thwart our plans? It is not always clear. When Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem, he figured out that the trouble was from his enemies (and the ultimate Enemy) and they didn't want Jerusalem rebuilt. So, he prayed (and this was always, always his reaction, if you read the entire book of Nehemiah in the Bible,)"Now strengthen my hands."

It's a good lesson to take. So, as I post my Friday peeves, please understand that I am taking the path of Nehemiah and this is a prayer list. Don't you hate it when that happens? You start off complaining through your laundry list and think, "Duh, I should've prayed about that."

When I was teaching P.E. in a small Christian school, I had Miller's Six Rules to Live and Die By for my classes, but I added on a number 7, because kids tend to complain a lot in P.E. classes.

Philippians 2:
14"Do everything without complaining or arguing :15 so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."

Drat. I do want to be a shining star in the universe. But things do not always go well, and people, things and circumstances annoy me at times. Every week. (Oh, you know it--everyDAY!)

So, here's my backhanded prayer list for Friday, going into the weekend:

1. Why can't I upload photos on this blog? (Film at 11.) I may have to change my template. Do you like it without photos? Do you like this template? Decisions, decisions. All I can do is be annoyed. The fly is buzzing and getting ready to dive bomb my soup here.

I'm feeling a great impatience and peeved at some things happening in my house. Not naming any names or putting up photo wanted posters(can't. See Peeve #1,) but...(I have five men in my house--one husband and four boys. It is NOT my husband doing these things.)

2. People who leave the lights on after they go to bed. In the garage, bathroom, hallway, kitchen, refrigerator, microwave....

3. Same person who didn’t lock the door when he came in and he went to bed.

4. Same person who borrowed my stapler in my office, left the light on

5. and left my stapler out and the drawer open--and left the freezer open.

Off to the store to buy light bulbs. It's rather dark in here lately.

(Did I ever tell you that I hate shopping?)

Oh, yeah, pray for me.

(I'm praying for Tim, too, this weekend. He asked me to.)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

If It's Thursday, Pass the Salt

It's not often that I suggest a book I haven't technically read yet. On September 5th Howard Publishing released a book called The Election by Jerome Teel, an attorney from Jackson, Tennessee.

I don't know Jerome Teel personally, but as a reader of manuscripts, I sometimes come across one that stays with me. This was one of those cases. I read quite a few manuscripts, give feedback, and then, sometimes never hear another word about an author or their manuscript. This manuscript had that something special. I'm a fan of John Grisham and so, when I finished that manuscript, I could see the similarities, even in an early form. Teel graduated from the same University of Mississippi law school as Grisham and plenty of political fiction has come out, following in Grisham's footsteps. This book, however, has a strong Christian stance. To top off my interest in the manuscript, Teel lives in my beloved Tennessee and sets his book there. If I were an editor or publisher, I thought, I'd jump at signing this author and his book. I'm pleased that it has been published and I look forward to reading it in the published form. I won't be getting it from my boss at Church Libraries magazine, however. Lin Johnson, editor of the book review magazine, Church Libraries, kept it for herself to review, and has already said, "it robbed me of sleep," the ultimate pronouncement of a good book.

At American Family Association Online, Randall Murphree interviewed Teel. Teel talks about his background and how he came to write his novel for the Christian market. As Murphree's review says about the plot,"Its unlikely hero is Jake Reed, a young lawyer who stumbles upon a diabolical plot that implicates a presidential candidate in a contract murder. Thus Reed finds himself overwhelmed in political intrigue that was far beyond his imagining."

Attorney Reed gets involved in tracking down a murderer when he decides to defend underdog, Jed McClellan. I love an underdog and I love a good political thriller. So, for my first "Feature My Neighbor" Thursday, it is not surprising that I tapped Jerome Teel's blog and somehow managed to drag in the fact that he's a writer who just published his first novel (and that he's from Tennessee.) I'm sure that his editor, Terry Whalin, fiction acquisitions editor at Howard Publishing, can be quite proud of acquiring such a strong first-time novelist. With the 2008 Presidential election looming large, The Election is sure to garner some interest to show how wrong things can go when morals and scruples are left behind on the political trail.

Teel is already working on his next book while publicizing this one (and if you're going to write fiction, that's the way it is.) Get this book, The Election, and then, get ready for his next book, which Murphree ascertained from Teel is "tentatively titled The Divine Appointment. It focuses on a Christian president and his efforts to secure confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee."

Congratulations, Neighbor Jerome. I look forward to reading a lot more from you.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Would You Like Fries with That?

When you stop in a diner, you expect a little side of chat with your chewing. You go in because it’s convenient, you maybe know someone in there, or you just are hungry for an atmosphere where people are. Maybe even pick up a morsel of gossip with Imy Mabel's great homemade pie.

I’ve been messing with this blog since late July. A couple people are still reading. (Thank you, I think. Is it good to encourage writers?) I’ve learned a little about myself, and a little about some of you, and a little about working this blog thing. I learned how to get a photo from the web (look on August 23rd's post,) but not how to load one up from my computer--yet. (Sigh.) I learned how to add a blog URL to my links.(Thank you--you know who you are.)

After learning about the death of Steve Irwin, I realized that I’ve had some adventures of my own in my own life. I’ve seen a few things in my nearly half-century on Planet Earth, and maybe I do have something to say. I even have made up stories in my head that I want to write (and have been.) So, I’ve planned out a menu for weekly entries for the Chat ‘n’ Chew Cafe' on topics that I enjoy thinking about, and maybe you will enjoy it, too. If I miss a day, I'll just go by the planned menu items below, and catch up with the mustard.

Lots of people over the years have told me that if I wrote it, they would read it. Well, I have a feeling that they were just being nice. But, I’m writing it, anyway. Check out the daily specials and maybe leave a tip or two for the waitress (that would be me.)

Mondays: Daily Blue Plate Special : Whatever!

Tuesdays: Newspapers and Books with Your Coffee? (What I’m Reading)
As a former book reviewer, who can't break the habit, I'll point out stuff to read.

Wednesdays: Heart Bomb Special: Neurotic Health Watch
(What in the health world is going on?)

Thursdays: Pass the Salt: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Friends don't let friends drive while blogging, but I'll feature some of my friends' blogs on this day.)

Fridays: Flies in the Soup: Top Five Peeves of the Week (What can I say? I'm a griper.)

Occasional Saturday or Sunday: Hot Apple Pie a’la mode with the Best Coffee. Desserts and donuts are the best part of any diner's menu, right?

Expect a spill or two here and there. (Your bill is on the table. Pay at the cash register. Cha-ching!)

Monday, September 04, 2006

"Crocodile Hunter" Dead at 44

I'm not much for watching TV, but I always watched Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter." You may have now heard about his tragic accidental death while filming for a new program.

John Stainton,friend and colleague of Irwin on the boat at the time of Irwin's death, said, "He came on top of the stingray and the stingray's barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart."

He could've survived the stingray's barb, but not when it impaled his heart. There are already poles up asking, "Was Irwin brave or reckless?" And some will say, "Well, he did some pretty crazy things, what do you expect?" Others around the world who were fans will mourn and say, "It shouldn't have happened." We are truly sad that he will not be here any longer for yet another adventure.

I think our fascination with Irwin started with his obvious delight and love of the "wild" and of that uncertainty with wild animals. He's like the Evel Knievel of this generation. And he was all about "saving" creatures who would take your hand or head off without remorse. He lived fully, the way he wanted to, as with the delight of a child with a new toy. That was the way he loved, lived and died. We loved that about him. While maybe we wouldn't want to swim with stingrays, or capture crocodiles to put them somewhere "safe," we loved it that he was passionate about his job and the life he lived. We long to have those passions in our own lives, too. I mourn that Steve didn't outwit the odds and live to be old. I'm sad that his wife, Terri, and his children, won't have him around anymore.

Most of us live "safe" lives--or we think we do. In actuality we are never safe in this life, despite our precautions. While it is good to practice safe health habits and not do "stupid" things, (and some might even argue that Irwin was "stupid" but I would disagree,)we should live our lives fully as if in the next minute we were going to breathe our last breath. Because we might not live another minute, despite eating "right," living "right," or being "righteous," we need to reach for our dreams and be joyful in our lives that we've been given, no matter what our circumstances. Jesus said that "even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matthew 10:30 NIV)That means several things--1. we are so precious to God, He knows us intimately. 2. We are finite. 3. He is watching out for us with a studied eye. God numbered our days, and life on earth for any one of us could end any time.

Steve Irwin didn't know when he would leave this earth, but he wasn't going to do it before he experienced the things that brought him joy. Mary Lou Retton in her book (with David Bender,) Gateways to Happiness says, "True joy and contentment are within reach for all of us, no matter how bad our circumstances seem." It is something to believe and practice.

And all of this is why, I think, we liked Steve Irwin so much. As they say in old westerns, "He died with his boots on."

Here's to you, Steve.

For an interesting perspective on What Next? check out Joanne Brokaw's piece at

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ellie's Questions: #1 Teachers

1. Who is your best teacher and what is the number one lesson he/she's taught you?

I'm a teacher and though I don't have a classroom full of wiggly first graders or jumping bean physical education students any more, I'm still a teacher at heart. This number one question for us was the most difficult for me to answer because if you are a teacher, you also have the heart of a student. It is hard for me to tell you what the number one lesson I've learned is.

I'm going to focus on writing lessons for our purposes here.

I could say that my mom was my best teacher. And she taught me many things, but telling an intriguing story was one of them. She could keep my brother and I entertained for hours, sitting at the kitchen table, with tales about her life, her father's and mother's lives, and her grandparents.

I had Mr. Rosen in 6th grade who taught me that there were other books than the Christian ones I'd only been allowed to read in my previous school. I was fascinated by Edgar Allen Poe! And you guys are not going to believe this, but until our move and entering public school, I had never heard of Nancy Drew. (I'm not inventing this story, either.)

In junior high my English teacher was a Nervous Nelly Type and she didn't understand me, even though I was one of the few students she invited to her apartment for a "going away" party (she was moving.) She didn't pick me for the school newspaper and I was devastated. But she picked me for the party. Kind of weird. (Became the story of my life--people liked me but never bought my submissions...Alas.)

In high school I took every single English class they offered (was the English Department award winner. Still have the pin. Big wow.) was on the school newspaper as the sports and art editor and won a scholarship in journalism at Ball State University because Mrs. Linda Bragg, our journalism teacher, submitted my work there for the scholarship committee. Mrs. Janet Gough was my library "boss," but she had been an English teacher before that. I loved the library, but she showed me how to not only use it, but direct it. And she trusted me. That was the best gift she could've given me. She let me do a lot of the important work in the library, keep scrapbooks for the pickiest teachers/coaches, and run things, as well as let me take home the electric typewriter in the library overnight (well, she did know where I lived.)She was a perfectionist taskmaster and demanded my best. Still, that sense of responsibility and trust she put into me is what helped me to believe in myself. I needed that above anything else.

Dr. Tom Jones, my pastor and mentor, taught me that I could do anything I was called to do, despite being a nobody, quiet blonde in Nowhere U.S.A. In that same little church, Karen Comer had a writing contest one time, and she chose my piece as the winner (I may have been her only entry, but I forget now,) reading it in front of the entire congregation (which was about 30 people.) She gave me a bound blank journal, which I still have.She taught me that I had a gift for writing and showed me that it was fun to have an audience. I cherished that "award" above even my "Best Actress" award.

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley taught me virtually everything I know about writing (my baseline x-ray,) but the most important lesson was that I could write anything I wanted to. (I'm still trying to figure out what that is, actually.)

Just when I think I have learned the best thing about myself and my writing, teacher Terry Whalin points out another thing that I can learn. I am in a perpetual school of writing by listening to what he has to say.

Stephen King in his book On Writing says: "If God gives you something you can do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it?" He taught me this lesson and also, "When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story," and he learned this from a guy named John Gould. It seems that Stephen King was a bit of a rebel in high school and was in detention for writing an underground newsletter called The Village Vomit (which he had foolishly printed his name at the top as the editor.) His punishment was to turn his "restless pen" to something more constructive--writing sports for the local newspaper and for Mr. Gould, the editor. King told him he didn't know anything on writing sports stories, but his new editor said, "These are games people understand when they're watching them drunk in bars. You'll learn if you try."

So, writing is something you do. All of the above-mentioned people have taught me this lesson. You write: You do it. So, that's what I do.

One of my writing friends who shares a love of lilacs, teddy bears, writing and God (not necessarily in that order) has started her own blog. Check out her Anchors, Signposts & Wanderings by Nancy J. Ring, a published writer who is a lot deeper than I am. You'll discover that she actually has important things to say!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Cheerleading and Other Dangerous Sports
(Happy Birthday, Mom and Arin)
Back to Ellie Kay's Questions--Question Number 2:

2. Who is your favorite cheerleader and how does he/she cheer you on?
(Remember, they don't even have to understand the game)

My favorite cheerleaders in writing are several.

First my husband, because even though he doesn't read my writing, he is always helping me out. He encourages me to do anything I want to try, and has paid for classes, conferences, even a computer. My favorite thing he bought me related to my writing was my first Writer's Market. He wrote inside the cover and let me know he believed in me. I hadn't even asked for one!

Then, my mom always encouraged my reading and writing. She gave me a love of books. She encouraged me in writing for the school newspaper, my cartoons, and even in college. She lived to see me publish some articles as an adult. Everyone would understand the love of God if they had someone like my mother in their life. While she is no longer here praying for me, the reverberations of her powerful prayers will be felt for years. You should have someone who loves and prays unconditionally for you like that, and if you don't, then maybe I'm praying for you.

My husband's Aunt Lola and his mother, Imy, were always available and more than willing to stay with Chris and the boys when I went to conferences. They cheered me on and gave me peace of mind when I'd leave my family (a hard thing to do sometimes.) Aunt Lola died from ovarian cancer a few years ago, but before she did, I had connected her with an author who was writing the book,Hope in the Face of Cancer.(Amy Givler, M.D.)She was able to tell her story of survival, faith and hope before cancer came back again five years later and took her life. That book still gives hope, and Lola would've liked that. She was the master of hope, as she had the One Who gives hope in her life (and now she's with Him.)

My mother-in-law, Imy, is of the best people on earth. I've heard a lot of people talk about their mils, but I never could join in on the criticism festivals. My mother-in-law is as precious to me as my own mom. Oh, and she's a writer. She has kept stories about her life, and it's funny stuff. The whole family is upbeat and faithful.

I can't leave the topic of cheerleaders until I tell you about my husband's sister, Melba, and his aunt, Edie. (I told you they're the best--my husband's family.) I wanted to go to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville last year and then on down to my Aunt Linda's and to my Grandmother's 91st birthday afterwards, since they lived so close. Melba drove down and she and Edie toured Nashville while I did the conference. (You have to know how much I hate traveling by myself.) When we arrived, I was hugging friends at the door of the hotel and introduced Melba and Edie. Edie had written this great journal (fun stuff) and I had published it on my web site and many of my friends at the ACFW conference had read it. My friends immediately recognized them--from the story on my web site.

And Melba and Edie, as they would head out each day on their trips, because they do not know strangers, would talk to ACFW members in the elevator and lobby--even greeting one of my friends from a town close to us (yes, that was you, Sabrina!) Oh, and we had a blast going to my Aunt Linda's house. (It was fun--just wished we had a bigger car to stash all those great shoe bargains we found in Waynesboro. We were taking them out of the shoe boxes and squeezing them into any space we could find. Some of you women would understand.)

I would have long ago given up if not for these people because they are my "Jesus with skin on" people.

I have my favorite cheerleaders online--Terry, my SALT critique group(Wendy, Paula, Nancy,Teena,LeAnne,Marti, Karen,) Janet--and I have made some local writing friends (and if I go naming them all, I'll leave some out.) I've got critique partners and people who check up on me with my writing. But in day-to-day existing, breathing in and out, and having people encouraging me just to keep going at all--these people are my husband, my boys and my family.

Everyone should have a cheerleader in their life. I have many. I hope that I can always be a cheerleader to writers because I've been given so much. It is the one thing I know I can do for other writers (praying over their work and for their concerns, encouraging them) because I've been given so much. If you're reading this, then I probably count you as my cheerleader!