Tag Archives: writing

renewed respect

the house as night falls

Fellow writers, this summer, I am learning to respect and admire people with disabilities even more than I did before. I have a friend who has muscular dystrophy, lives in a big city, and succeeds in taking a city bus to work every day. I’ve been reminded of her pluck every day this summer while I am wheelchair-bound with a broken leg and compression fracture in my back. What challenges she faces for the rest of her life! I only have to survive this for 12 weeks.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges is mental. Most of the time, I have the eight walls of our living room and kitchen/dining room to look at. (My husband moved a bed into the living room for me).

Yet, there are blessings. My confinement presents its own entertainment. I have time to read books. A chipmunk’s antics viewed through our dining room window delights and inspired me to write a children’s story. When my accident happened and I came home from the hospital with a metal plate and screws holding my tibia plateau together, people emailed me—you’ll have plenty of time to write! The thing is: it’s really difficult to use a laptop lying down, and my painful back allowed for only very short sitting time. Only now, after 8 weeks, can I sit long enough to use the laptop for an hour or so. But, I learned I can still write using pen and paper. I wrote the chipmunk story in a small journal a good writing buddy gave me.

I’m discovering the fascinating world visible from our kitchen. There’s a little spider living in a windowsill that I have struck up a friendship with. He crawls around on the screen while I’m standing at the kitchen sink on one leg brushing my teeth.

But most exciting of all – I was sitting in my wheelchair staring out the window daydreaming when I saw a plant grow!! My grandson, Little Dude, and I had started flowers from seed in my sunroom early this spring. Some of them are morning glories which we planted in window boxes under the kitchen windows. One had been curling up tall enough to be visible from inside the house, and as I watched, it popped taller! I saw a plant grow! Maybe as much as a half inch.

I saw that as a miracle.

And it is one that never would have happened if my 80-pound granddog hadn’t crashed into me running full speed and laid me down on the ground on Memorial Day weekend.

So, I am grateful for miracles, and my friend who is spending the rest of her life in a wheelchair—my hat is off to you!

Happy writing, everybody!

Nan

www.nanlundeen.com

 

a challenge

This cow has graduated her Moo of Writing course.
This cow has graduated her Moo of Writing course.

Will you join me in a challenge? In my handbook, Moo of Writing, I advocate a belief in abundance. We can all be like Linus in the pumpkin patch, believing with all our heart that a great pumpkin bursting with the seeds of prolific writing will descend upon us, indeed lives within us every day! I am now throwing down a challenge to myself—and I invite you to join me—to enter a contest. We will pick a theme and write one poem a day every day for the month of April for a total of 30 poems in honor of National Poetry Month. The contest is sponsored by localgemspoetrypress.com, and they want $25 from you by March 25 to enter. If you choose not to enter the contest, but want to participate, send me your poems through this website by May 1, and we’ll choose some to publish here. Usually, I spend weeks if not months on a poem, keeping several in the hopper at once, returning to them to reconsider, putting them through critiquing workshops, mulling them over, sleeping on them. In April, I will allow myself no such luxury of time. Winner of the contest receives $300 and Local Gems Press publishes the winner’s chapbook. I’m excited about the challenge. Time to see how well Moo of Writing really works! Moo/Mu!

writers benefit from belly wisdom

Front Cover

How many tentative, weak personalities do you know who write beautifully? Don’t confuse shy or introverted with “tentative and weak.” I’m talking about the type of person who is muddled about who he or she is. I’m sitting here in my writing room on a country road in Michigan about one-half mile from a pickle factory, and the sound of a laboring truck engine fills the room. He’s pulling two huge loads of cucumbers. I’m wondering if he’s going to make it up the slight incline in front of our house. He powers on. Struggles, maybe, but pulls up the incline and motors on down to the factory where he’ll dump his load into vats full of pungent brine. Sometimes, writing is like that. It takes a bit of extra work—a struggle to maintain equilibrium, to believe you can do it like the truck pulling two loads of cucumbers or the little engine that could. Fortunately, we’re not engines. We can give ourselves a good talking-to, read self-help books, seek support from writers’ groups, and listen to our belly wisdom.

In chapter 5 of Moo of Writing: How to Milk Your Potential, I advise, “The belly is a wise old soul. Some say it has a mind of its own. While intuition resides in a ‘sixth sense’ or as some believe, on a spiritual plane, it also houses itself in ample amounts in the gut.”

Write from your center—your place of power—and hidden fears cannot drive you.

How do you tap into gut power?

 Cultivate your third chakra.

The word “chakra” comes from the Sanskrit language of India and means “wheel.” The tradition teaches that the seven major chakras are spinning vortexes of energy or wheels of light arranged vertically from the base of the spine to the top of the head, governing physical, earthy energies at the base and progressing to spiritual energies at the top, or seventh chakra.

The energy of the core self spins in the third chakra located at the solar plexus (between the belly button and the bottom of the rib cage). It involves the digestion of life experiences and the application of personal power. Each chakra is associated with a color. The third chakra’s color is yellow.

To harness the energies life dishes up for us—to put them to use and be active, not passive, requires a strong sense of self and more than a dollop of ambition. Self-esteem and strength of character revolve around the third chakra.

What is your vision of a writer with healthy self-esteem? I see a person who has fun writing, rather than feeling driven to prove herself, someone with the discipline to keep to a writing schedule and submit work often, and who remains calm and focused even if she receives harsh criticism. A person with healthy self-esteem respects other writers, letting envy and jealousy find a home elsewhere rather than in her own heart. She stays the course because she feels confident.

Visit my website at www.nanlundeen.com, click on “Moo Meditations” and then “Belly Meditation” to learn how to hear what your wise belly is saying.

Happy writing!

to market! to market!

to market! to market! drawn by Cynthia Morgan
to market! to market!
drawn by Cynthia Morgan

Hey, writers, do you hate to market? I’ve heard the old saying that writers hate to market and aren’t very good at it. That’s kind of off-putting. Actually, I’m discovering it can be fun. The reason? There are lots of nice people out there eager to help. Marketing is about building relationships. For instance, I made a cold call at Joe’s Place, an intimate used and new bookstore downtown Greenville, SC, and instantly made new friends after I read them “The Redemptive Red Bra” from The Pantyhose Declarations. Since then, they invited me to read there with two other poets and will host the launch of Moo of Writing 2-4 p.m. Sunday, May 3. Penny Padgett at The Book Shelf in Tryon, NC, is offering Moo of Writing at the Lanier Poetry Festival this weekend and will stock the book, along with my poetry books, on her shelves. As the Page Turns in Greenville carries my poetry. Lucy Walton-Lange, book editor, at femalefirst.co.uk is considering a Moo book review. She said I’d been her first blogger. Visit the site, put my name in the search column, and you’ll find a bunch of Moo columns. Another UK editor, Jonathan Telfer of Writers’ News and Writing Magazine, graciously wrote a blurb for the book cover after he ran my “Find Your Moos” article in the magazine. Many wonderful friends and former Moo of Writing workshop participants plan to come to Moo’s book launch May 3. The next step is to expand the circle online. The book is available through Amazon and Ingram, and this weekend I’m submitting it to Publisher’s Weekly. They’ve started doing book reviews by self-published authors. Yay! They may or may not accept it. They may or may not like it. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, Twitter, here I come!!

Happy writing!

Nan Lundeen

www.nanlundeen.com

the death of coulda-shoulda

Mountain View Cemetery in snow by Ron DeKett
Mountain View Cemetery in snow by Ron DeKett

Trucker stalled on expressway being interviewed on NBC news during snowstorm: “You gotta take what the road gives you. Go slow, be patient, and you’ll make it through.”

I’m sure there’s a country-western song that says, “You gotta take what the road gives you,” and if there isn’t there oughta be.

Do you have couldas and shouldas you’d like to join me in burying? If you’re willing to share, please comment at the end of this blog.

At this stage in my writing life, I look back now and then and wonder at my choices. My love of poetry started in my Iowa childhood when I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses to my mother while she milked cows. In grad school, poetry saw me through tough personal times. Throughout a long journalism career, it gave me an outlet for my artistic freedom, denied by the rigors of objectivity and fairness. My task was to blast out inches to fill newspaper columns. “How many inches?” was a daily question I asked my editors. At times, I felt like an automaton.

When I went freelance for a time, my mother admonished me not to try to write fiction because I’d never make a living at it. Maybe I shoulda been an English teacher? Maybe I coulda been something better than I was?

Now in retirement, I remember a few things I did as a journalist that were useful, such as a series of stories in Michigan revealing contamination of local residents’ well water by a county-owned landfill. Public water lines were laid for those whose wells were polluted. The residents sent me flowers, which I had to give away, of course, but I remember how welcome they were.

Yes, maybe I coulda, maybe I shoulda, but I do know that I dida at least that one thing that was good, so I’m burying the couldas, the shouldas, and I’m happy for what the road gives me. Just today I received an email from a reader I don’t know who asked permission to use one of my poems from The Pantyhose Declarations in a Becoming Women of Wisdom group. She made my day! Here and now, the road gives me a sustaining community of writers and artists who help me believe every day my life is worthwhile.

Moo.

traci barr shares her creative process

traci barr

The poem “Seeing” popped into my head while I was reflecting upon the way I felt about a man who told me he loved me…and then who chose to not act upon his feelings.

I eventually came to believe that he said he was in love with me just for the “thrill” of it and in order to stroke his own ego.

Because he speaks a lot about the subject of love, I wrote this poem in response to what, I thought, was his hypocrisy. In the relatively brief interaction I had with him, my own ideas about love changed quite a lot, and I began to think of him as a used-car salesman.

Sometimes an idea for a poem will start rattling around in my head in a way that becomes very, very distracting.

The only way to make the rattling go away is for me to…write the poem.

the power’s in the details

By Nan Lundeen

The power’s in the details whether you’re writing poetry or prose.

Carolyn Miller describes women who wore white wool sorority blazers and “white bucks with white crew socks rolled down once” in her essay, “Arts and Science,” published in The Missouri Review.

Miller gives us one enormously telling detail—that the sock was rolled down once. She manages to paint an entire milieu with that one detail. Woe to the sorority girl who rolled down her socks twice at the University of Missouri in 1959.

In her poem “Eggs,” Sharon Olds describes her daughter cracking shells, sliding three yolks into the bowl, “slit them with the whisk, beat them till they hissed.”

The power of Olds’s “Eggs” lies in the sound, hissed. The reader understands that those eggs were being thoroughly beaten!

Charles Dickens regales us with his usual brilliance as he describes a moment during Scrooge’s tour of London with the Ghost of Christmas Present. Here are food descriptions: “great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts,” and “ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish onions.”

Reading Dickens is like smelling and tasting Victorian London.

Eudora Welty begins her memoir, One Writer’s Beginnings, with a memory of the house in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was born in 1909. “We grew up to the striking of clocks,” she wrote. She describes a “mission-style oak grandfather clock” that stood in the hall and “sent its gong-like strokes” throughout the house even to the sleeping porch where “midnight could wake us up.”

Welty’s striking clocks place you in her childhood home.

Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk juxtaposes details of the mundane with a dramatic moment in his novel, Snow. An exiled poet traveling as a journalist visits the town of Kars, Turkey. He is researching suicides of girls forbidden to wear head scarves and describes how a sixteen-year-old girl had eaten an evening meal with her family. She cleared the table with her sisters, “giggling and tussling,” and went to get dessert. She then went into her parent’s bedroom and “shot herself with a hunting rifle.”

Pamuk’s matter-of-fact details contrasting with the suicide not only places the reader in the scene, but feeds our curiosity just as it feeds the exiled poet’s. The scene is powerful.

Sandra Redding describes the death of a husband in her story, “Tin of Tube Rose.” A couple are sitting in their living room watching “Charlie’s Angels” when “an empty can of Budweiser came rolling right over to my foot.” When the narrator looks over at her husband Ed in his recliner, she sees him “slumped down just like all the air had been let out.”

I’m not sure what to make of Redding’s rolling beer can, perhaps like Pamuk’s writing, the juxtaposition of the mundane with the dramatic creates a memorable image. Her simile “like all the air gone out of it,” is so apt it hurts.

Have fun choosing potent details for your writing!

Nan Lundeen

The author is grateful to the SCWW’s Quill for first publishing this column.

 

 

honoring our mentors

Eternity by Nan Lundeen
Eternity by Nan Lundeen

Who is your mentor? Message me on Facebook or contact us through the “contact us” link on this site to let me know if you’d like to share thoughts about your mentor on MooingAround.

Jenny Munro honors her mother in her poem, “the typist.” I love how Jenny uses sound—the tap, tap, tap of her mother’s typewriter. Jenny draws a word portrait of her—”Concentrating, with her tongue caught between her teeth,” and shares a few things she learned from observing her role model.

My mentor, Sylvia Barclay, whom I knew in the 1970s in Muskegon, Michigan, generously shared writing wisdom. Whenever I asked how I could repay her she would say, “Pass it on.” That’s what I aim to do with my handbook, Moo of Writing. I was in Muskegon’s library on a hot July day when the sky turned dark. Solar eclipse. I discovered, Sylvia had passed away about the time of the eclipse, which her students found appropriate. A day or two later, I took a yoga class and meditated for the first time. Sylvia stood in my mind’s eye, her mouth pursed in a familiar expression under one of her offbeat hats. Oh, an opportunity to learn what was on the other side. “What’s it like there?” I asked. “Love is all you need to know for now, Nan.” I thought she meant I’d learn more about the afterlife in this lifetime. Hasn’t happened yet. What a gift she gave me. Love really is all I need to know.

 

hot first lines

Contemplating great first lines of literature
Contemplating great first lines of literature.
Photo by Nan Lundeen

Hey! Grab me by the throat and throw me down. Is that an irresistible first line? Again and again we have read writing advice that the first line must grab the reader. But how? Click “what makes a grabby first line?” to gather a few tips. You make us happy when you register and comment on our site because we’re all about building a creative community. Please join us. Welcome!

what makes a grabby first line?

by Nan Lundeen

Whether writers of poetry or prose, one challenge grins at us like the Cheshire Cat—now you see it now you don’t—the arresting first line.

What makes a line that’s memorable in the best of times and the worst of times?

Jane Austen launches Pride and Prejudice with a summary sort of line that also hints to the reader of her acerbic wit to come: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Sometimes the quirky suffices. For instance, “Bird-watching can be dog-eat-dog.” Who could resist reading that? The profile of a bird watcher extraordinaire by Karen Uhlenhuth was published in the Kansas City Star Magazine and compiled in an anthology of the best American sports writing of 1992.

I’m a huge fan of the late Robert B. Parker. Here’s his first line from Small Vices: “The last time I saw Rita Fiore she’d been an assistant DA with red hair, first-rate hips, and more attitude than an armadillo.”

A scene can entice you as in the first phrase of Maxine Kumin’s poem “Cross-Country Skiing.”

I love to be lured under the outstretched wings

of hemlocks heavily snowed upon, . . .

And what of a simple, rhythmic line demanding attention such as Longfellow’s, “Listen, my children, and you shall hear…”

On a dark and stormy night particularly, a spot of humor can reel a reader in, as in Amy Tan’s memoir that begins, “Soon after my first book was published, I found myself often confronted with the subject of my mortality.”

OK, I guess that qualifies toward a curiosity quotient, which I confess is my favorite lead into anything. Another example that rings my curiosity bell—George Orwell’s ” It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

In the Amy Tan example, humor enters with her next sentences: “I remember being asked by a young woman what I did for a living. ‘I’m an author,’ I said with proud new authority.

“‘A contemporary author?’ she wanted to know.”

Perusing first lines, I came upon one that tops my list. Holden Caulfield begins straight off with, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

It’s the voice. And that may be the bottom line for me in exploring what makes a great first line. Whether it’s exposition or first-person or whatever, it’s voice that hooks me. I realize that here’s a writer I’d like to sit with awhile.

What’s your favorite first line?

The author is grateful to the SCWW Quill that first published this column.

memorable rejections

After five years of continual rejections, Agatha Christie lands a publishing deal. Her sales now number $2 billion. Only Shakespeare has sold more.

J.K. Rowling’s literary agent receives 12 publishing rejections before the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The editor agrees to publish it but advises the writer to get a day job.

“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling”—rejection sent to Dr. Seuss.

“Anthologies don’t sell was the gist of 140 rejections sent to authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul, which sold 125 million copies.

“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years,” was advice given to Vladimir Nabokov whose Lolita has sold 50 million copies.

“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level,” reads a rejection of The Diary of Anne Frank.

All of these stories and more are found at literaryrejections.com. The site is a fun read.

I like author May Sarton’s advice to writers: “Hold on, trust your talent, and work hard.”

Here’s another quote, this one from 64-year-old Diana Nyad who conquered the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida on her fifth attempt: “We should never, ever give up.”

And a Nyad quote for those of us still writing after “all these years,” –”You never are too old to chase your dreams.”

Nyad said that swimming “looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

You could say the same about writing. Writing buddies are invaluable, especially when the rejections roll in. Believe in yourselves, writing buddies. We believe in you.

How do you handle rejections? Please register on the site so that you can comment below. If you have trouble registering, please contact us. Thanks and happy writing!

 

call of the wild rose

by Nan Lundeen

Rose by Ron DeKett
Rose by Ron DeKett

Inspiration or perspiration? Perfection or wild and free?

Thomas Edison’s quote that genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration is good news for those of us who slog away day after day hoping to unearth gems of inspiration. I’d venture to guess that most poetry and prose writers know that if you want to be a writer you can’t wait for lightning to strike. No, you have to sit down and actually write.

We also know that once we’ve ridden the waves of creative juices and produced a manuscript, even more perspiration is required to edit, rewrite, and polish. But how much to edit, rewrite, and polish? When is it done? I’ve heard writers say when their books were published, they felt relieved because they could stop rewriting.

The other day, my husband I and went to a flower show. There we saw the most perfect white rose in the entire universe! No, really! It was a Mozart symphony all by itself, every petal harmonious with the others. Homogenous perfection, it stood in a glass vase bedecked by a blue ribbon.

Later that day as I remembered the perfect white rose, a wild rose memory washed over me, a childhood memory of pink wild roses tumbling down the shoulders of Iowa gravel roads, perfect in their disarray. A few details, a metaphor, and a simile gave me a poem. Then the pruning began. But not a whole lot. As much as the perfect rose stirs my heart, the wild roses stir my soul. I can breathe near them; the perfect rose makes me nearly hold my breath.

How much do you strive for perfection as you write? As you edit, rewrite, and polish?

At a writing workshop I heard this advice: there’s a time to expand your work and a time to tighten. Sort of like a bellows. Can you visualize them—those contraptions with handles that breathe air onto a fire? Sometimes writing may need a breath of air. Even during editing, rewriting, and polishing, it isn’t always good to tighten, tighten, tighten. A manuscript might need more elucidation, more flights of fancy.

Robert Frost describes beautifully his Faraway Meadow’s anticipated return to wildness after it has been mowed for the last time ever in his poem “The Last Mowing.” He opens the poem by telling us “the talk at the farmhouse” is that “the meadow is finished with men.” He continues to say, “Then now is the chance for the flowers/That can’t stand mowers and plowers.”

 

The meadow is done with the tame.
The place of the moment is ours
For you, O tumultuous flowers,
To go to waste and go wild in,
All shapes and colors of flowers,
I needn’t call you by name.
 

 What do you prefer—perfection or wild and free? There is a time, I think, to let our words tumble wantonly down the shoulders of roadsides.

 

The author is grateful to the South Carolina Writers Workshop for first publishing this column in the Quill October 2012.

writing credible dialogue – enjoy m.e. corey brown’s guest blog

I hear voices in my head.

Really, all the time. They have very distinct accents and vocabulary, and each has a different tone, melodic or husky, a unique style, slow and confident or abrupt and nervous. Each voice changes very slightly depending upon which of the other voices it is speaking with at the time.

That’s right. The voices in my head speak to each other, not to me. That would just be silly.

It is a very rare voice which does not change depending on its audience. Most do. When speaking to a lover, a rival, a mentor or a sibling, don’t our tones and vocabulary differ a bit? Don’t we tense our consonants around some people, while relaxing our vowels around others? We even express ourselves differently based upon the age of our audience.

Writing dialogue is an exercise in sociology, maybe even a psychological experiment. We as authors must know not only how our character feels about a topic, but also how he feels about the person he is conversing with about the topic. How much can any character truly reveal about her opinion in this situation? Has an opinion even really been solidified?

The voices in my head are fantastic companions, with a wide range of personalities. I exist to place them in situations which are beyond their comfort zones, and among people who test their beliefs and understanding of their worlds, so that they come to know their own true selves to the extent that it is ever possible to do so. And perhaps as I am doing that, I am learning something about my own voice as well.

~Michelle

ME Corey Brown is the author of the fantasy novel Champion of the Moon Glories available on Amazon.com. www.moonglories.com

 

counting meditation

An easy way to rest your mind and prepare yourself for Moo of Writing is to meditate on your breaths. Lie down or sit with your spine straight and your feet flat on the floor. Focus on your breath. When thoughts intrude, let them drift by like fluffy clouds on a warm summer day. One, inhale, two exhale, three, inhale, four, exhale, five, inhale, six, exhale, seven, inhale, eight, exhale, nine, inhale, 10 exhale. One, inhale, two exhale, continue counting your breaths, beginning over when you reach 10. Enjoy your meditation as long as you like. When you are ready, come back to the here and now.