The Stillness of Writing

I truly did not get the reasons that writing worked for me and my personality so well until the other day. I’ve been using a journal to work through some things and managed to fill it in just over a month. I read this quote in my writing inspiration book by Jonathan Franzen.

“The place of stillness that you have to go to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world.”

Ding, ding, ding! Wow! A light bulb came on in my head when I read that statement. This is what writing does for me–whether I’m writing stories or whether I’m writing in my journal. It doesn’t matter. Putting words together helps me make sense of the world and my place in it. I believe the same is also true of my older son who is starting to follow in my footsteps.

For those of you who don’t write, remember to give the writers in your life that place of stillness. You might be surprised at what they come up with.

Until next time, be real!

A Book Review to Begin the Week–A New American Space Plan

This book is the first non-fiction book I have reviewed, and I’m not sure I can give it justice, but the message of A New American Space Plan by Travis S. Taylor with Stephanie Osborn is so important that I am going to try.

As the title states, the main message of the book is talking about what it’s going to take to get America back into space. The authors discuss the history of the space program from its very beginnings to where we are now and discuss the scientific discoveries the space program has made possible.  Taylor also talks about his experiences on The Rocket City Rednecks television show and how some of the builds they did were similar to what needs to be done to get back into space.  What I especially liked was that they made the science understandable to a layman. If you have any interest in where America’s space program has been and where it could go, I would heartily recommend this book.



Writers are Normal People

Before I went to my first science fiction/fantasy festival last year, I had never met a published author in person. I had this vision of what authors do all day which turned out to be nothing close to accurate. 🙂  They’re normal people just like the rest of us who do normal things although some of what they do as authors could be considered odd. Here is a quote by Mark Salzman as an example.

“Writing is an ideal occupation if you’re a rabbit. It gives you an excuse to stay in your burrow all day, and it allows you to explore problems like anguish and insecurity without having to solve them. You don’t need to have peace of mind to be a writer; in fact, the more troubled you feel, the more you have to write about.”

So, all the things that could be considered normal are all things that a writer could put his stamp on and make it interesting for other people to read. I hope in some small way that I’ve been able to do that with these blog posts.

Until next time, be real!

Reviewing an Old Friend

I have always loved books from the earliest time I can remember. During my childhood, my allowance usually went to buying the latest Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins books, or one of the Little House on the Prairie books. I’m sure there were many more books I bought. Those particular series are just the ones I remember the most. 

When I got to middle school, my reading interests started to diverge, and I became interested in science fiction and fantasy books reading such great authors as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, C.S. Lewis, Anne McCaffrey, George Orwell, and Andre Norton among many others. One particular book I read in the seventh grade was a book by Andre Norton called Dark Piper. It had a tremendous influence on me and lead me to begin writing stories, some of which would properly be termed fan fiction today. 

In recent years, I have been finding some of these books at the library and rereading them and remembering what made me fall in love with them in the first place. I read several other books by Andre Norton, but had not been able to find the book I had so fallen in love with in the seventh grade. Every indication was that it was out of print.  I decided to check again about a month or so back and low and behold, it had been released as an e-book in combination with one of her other works. I just finished reading the first part (Dark Piper) which I’m going to review today.

It was everything I remembered–the richness of the language, the total transportation to a new world, interesting characters, and engrossing plot. I think one of the main reasons it appealed to me was that the young characters in the book had to reach far beyond themselves when they were trapped underground. They did the things that were necessary to get back to the surface and then back to the area where their home was. And then, when they figured out their lives were changed forever, they reached beyond themselves some more. As a teenager, I often wondered if I could do that; do what was necessary to survive. And I find, coming back to this book, thirty plus years later, that I have the same questions. Could I do what was necessary to survive? To protect my own children?  I believe I could, and I would only hope that I would be willing to protect the people around me. I know Ms. Norton is gone now, but I thank her for such a thought-provoking book and for the influence she had on the world of science fiction and fantasy. 

Blogging from the Ballpark–Code of Conduct

I know I touched on this briefly last week when I spoke of the lessons we, as adults, were imparting or not imparting to our teenagers. I thought though it deserved further treatment with events of the last few days.

Most youth sports leagues have something called a code of conduct which states the reasons that a player, coach, or team can be suspended from the league. Here is a link that will take you to several examples of such behavior.

One example that was prevalent in several copies that I looked at was fighting during the game. At the end of last week, two teams in my son’s league were suspended for the last two games of the season for fighting, but would have been allowed to come back for the tournament. Of course, news of the fight and its penalty filtered through the league quickly. We were all surprised as it was understood that the police had been called and that there had been injuries in said fight. Rumors flew as to why the particular penalty had been given, and the reputation of the people running the league started to take a hit. It was discouraging to think that the lessons we were trying to impart to our son were not being supported by the community at large.

This morning, however, it all changed with the news of another fight between two more teams in the league. The penalty was immediate and more appropriate. All four teams were expelled from the league and not allowed to play any further games this year including the games in the tournament. The tournament schedule is going to be reworked, and I am eager to see what’s going to happen. Before my husband left for work, he told our son this was a good lesson for him. There will always be a penalty for bad behavior. It might not come immediately, but it will eventually come.

Until next time, be real!

Custodians of Memory

I saw a quote in my writing inspiration book this morning that particularly struck me. It was by author William Zinsser.

“Writers are the custodians of memory, and memories have a way of dying with their owner.”

I have found this to be very true. We wouldn’t know near what we know about history if people hadn’t taken the time to write things down. You could also say the same about many different subjects. I think I might have previously discussed my grandmother’s memoir in this blog. I have read it in full over the past few weeks and have learned a great deal about her life and about the beginning of mine. You could say that it was eye opening. I say all this to say that writing our thoughts and feelings down for the next generation is important because how else will people hear our story?

Until next time, be real!

Blogging from the Ballpark–Lessons our Teenagers are Learning or Not Learning

The last couple of weeks have been crazy busy with both of my sons having baseball games just about every day. Something happened last night though at the ballpark which made me wonder what kind of lessons that we, as adults, are teaching our kids. One of the umpires of the game, an adult that all the boys are supposed to respect, actually picked an argument with one of the kids on my son’s team about midway through the game and then got mad when the boy wouldn’t respond. The boy had made one statement from the dugout that the umpire took exception to and then the umpire tried to goad him for the rest of the game to see if he would make any more statements. I was impressed  the boy was able to contain himself. What I was not impressed with was the umpire who was the supposed adult in this picture didn’t behave appropriately. Not only was he not concentrating on what he was supposed to be doing as far as the game was concerned (Many mistakes were made on the calls.), any example of good sportsmanship he might have imparted to the kids was totally lost with his bad conduct.

And we wonder why teenagers behave badly today. Maybe we, as parents and other adults in their lives, ought to look in the mirror when we complain about our teenagers behaving badly.

Until next time, be real!

Writing as Therapy

This was the title of one of the sections of my writing inspiration book that I read a few days ago. Needed to have those days to process what was said, and now, I have a few things to say about this. A few weeks ago I was encouraged to journal as part of getting my feelings out for some situations I was going through. I started doing so because I respect this person and was eager to see where it went. Well, it went places I never thought it would. I almost wish I had known this years ago. I have been able to reflect over my life and where I’ve been and where I want to go. This is stuff I will never publish, but knowing it, will help me with the work I would like to eventually publish. That’s why it’s important to me.

Most important, it crystallized my faith. I spent many years telling myself I had faith even though I wasn’t doing anything about it. I made excuses to myself that I really didn’t need to do anything about it because I had been hurt by people in the church.  I didn’t understand my faith wasn’t supposed to be like that because I had never been taught that faith in God and Jesus Christ was not about religion, but about relationship. And since I had never been taught that, I didn’t have good role models for it either. That has changed now though. I am pleased to say now that I know and am fully convinced that I am a child of God, now and forevermore. Hope everyone has a wonderful Monday!

Time for a Book Review–Fair Coin

I was very impressed with this debut from author E. C. Myers. Before I had the chance to actually sit down and read it, I saw some articles on the Internet that said the book had been nominated for some prestigious awards. After reading the articles and knowing that it was in my ‘to read’ stack, I decided to put it at the top of the pile. So glad that I did.

It’s a young adult book, but I truly believe people of any age would enjoy it.  The main protagonist, Ephraim Scott, comes home from school to find his mother unconscious clutching a bottle of pills. It’s the reason she’s clutching the pills though that’s disturbing. Earlier that day, she had identified his body at the hospital. Knowing he was still alive, of course, he decides to investigate his dead double and finds a coin among the double’s belongings. When he flips it, it grants wishes, some of which make his life better while others don’t. Figuring out what the coin is all about takes up the rest of the book, and it was a rollicking adventure that I couldn’t put down.

What I enjoyed most in this book were the realism of the main characters. Ephraim and his friends are all typical teenagers and are solving the mystery along with the reader. I also liked how Myers went from universe to universe portraying the subtle changes in each one well. He builds a complex world that works for the story he is telling, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Four Years Ago Today

I hesitated at first sharing about this here because I knew it was going to bring up a lot of emotions, but then I realized that was the whole point, and I really needed to do so to see how far I had come, and we had come as a family.

We had moved in with my mother-in-law two months previously. She was a widow, and there had been some health concerns so we took a very big risk leaving Michigan to come back to South Carolina. We were glad to do it though, and the delight she took in seeing her grandsons every day was well worth it. (We were and still are homeschooling.)

Back to that particular day. My husband had taken her to the ER the night before, and they had prescribed some medication that he went to the drugstore to get. He told us all goodbye and left. It was a Sunday. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting at my desk working on lesson plans for the upcoming week. The boys were 12 and 9 at the time, and they were playing in the back bedroom. When my husband came back, he went to see his mother, and she had stopped breathing. He yelled for me to get the phone and called for an ambulance while motioning for me to get the kids out of the house. I walked them to the neighbor’s house across the street, and we all waited. When I saw the ambulance come, I went back to the house and listened as the technicians told my husband they could revive her, but that she would never be the same since she had been without oxygen for so long. He told them not to try, and we started doing notifications. I remember standing in the yard waiting for the coroner and then the funeral home to come. It seemed to take forever. While we were waiting, I was making phone calls to family and friends, and I had tears pouring down my face.

Betty was not the typical mother-in-law you read about in the news. She was my biggest cheerleader. She never made me feel inadequate and said I could do anything I set my mind to. When we decided to homeschool the boys seven years ago, she was the first one to tell me it was a great idea and knew I would do a great job. I know she would have said the same thing about my writing. We had a graveside funeral a few days later and then began the process of grieving.

With that, our odyssey to Birmingham began. So much has happened in the last four years–moves, illnesses, surgery, unemployment, miscarriage, and finally, a new home with a new family. I never dreamed four years ago that we would be living in Birmingham, Alabama now or that I would be a fledgling writer. I am so grateful for all the support we’ve received from our friends and family here, especially our Crossbridge family, and from all of my online friends. I especially give glory to God and for coming full circle in my relationship with Him.

In memoriam: Betty Russell–February 1, 1931 – April 5, 2009