Monday, November 26, 2012

Funny Girl



When someone compliments me on a peculiarity, I don’t know how to respond.  I suddenly become self-conscious and my mannerism becomes an affectation.
Someone will compliment my laugh.  They’ll used words like sexy, bawdy, and brazen (Really? Oh, go on!), and vanity takes over.  My sexy becomes a snort, my bawdy chuckle a toothy bray, and my brazen come-on morphs into something creepy and unintentional.
I am no better off when someone calls attention to the way I walk.  I’ve been told I have a self-assured gait, a sensuous samba, and a feminine air when I move. (Well, goodness me!) This usually goes straight to my already inflated ego, and I lose all semblance of “graceful” and “alluring.” I gambol ostrich-like, all hips and haunches.  I mince, teetering and stumbling like my shoes pinch, and worse yet, I amble side to side like a mama ape foraging in the jungle.
None of my peculiarities are intentional, honest.  They are just a product of who I am, so when someone asks me to be funny, I go blank.  I start babbling and my aphasia kicks in. 
I feel like a sham, unworthy of any compliment.  I feel I should do something so as to deserve the compliment (and not lose the few people who like me).
It all boils down to this – my confession:  I am not intentionally trying to be “funny ha ha.”  I do not know why I laugh or walk or speak the way I do.  The nuns in elementary school tried their best to tame my goofy laugh.  My mom gave up correcting my “wiggle and strut,” and half the time I say what pops into my head before considering the consequences.
The truth is I have always just been plain “funny odd.” I have never truly fit in anywhere, so I stopped trying.  It is just me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Five Best Books on the Craft of Writing for 2012



Since there is a big difference between writing a story and crafting a story, I purchased several books on the subject in 2012, but these were the five I kept near me when I wrote. I refer to them often and wanted to share them with you.

The Art of Styling Sentences, 4th Edition, by Ann Longknife, Ph.D., and K. D. Sullivan.
This is a sophisticated workbook for writers who want to master the twenty basic sentence patterns (and the punctuation that accomplishes each). I can write a sentence well, but I wanted to improve my knowledge on craft. 

A Dash of Style: the Art and Mastery of Punctuation by Noah Lukeman.
This book dedicates individual chapters on the many varied ways to use: the period, the comma, the semicolon, the colon, the dash, the parentheses, quotation marks, the question mark, the exclamation mark, the use of italics, ellipsis, and the hyphen.  Not only is it a great reference, but it offers some new creative approaches.

Toxic Feedback:  Helping Writers Survive and Thrive by Joni B. Cole.
This is a great book on how to critique work so that it encourages writers to improve their craft; it emphasizes critiquing versus criticizing another person’s work. In the process, the one offering the critique also perfects his/her own work.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.
This inspirational book discusses the difference between successful, published writers and those who wish to be writers - procrastination, fear, lack of commitment, etc., and what to do about it.

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark.
My favorite of all five, this book actually offers a “checklist” that refines the work of any writer. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Grandma’s Dining Table




Twenty five years ago my first husband and I bought a new home with four bedrooms and three baths, but my favorite part of the house was the enormous room you walked into from the front door. It had no dividing wall but the design was to use half of it as a formal living and the other half as a formal dining.
From the beginning I decided to make it into one huge dining room that would catch the eye when everyone walked in through the front door of my home.  
My three children were very young, but I envisioned them grown and married. We counted five at the time, but one day we would grow to eight, maybe more if we factored in grandchildren, so I bought a table that sat a family of twelve.  My husband thought it silly to look that far ahead and convinced me to buy only ten chairs.
The room looked magnificent – the long, majestic table, the ten chairs, the buffet, a couple of real ficus, and a few other nice pieces of furniture – I was pleased.
The table lasted longer than the marriage, and it has gone with me to every house since then. There were homes where it didn’t fit and times when it would be more economical to just get rid of it, but I refused to surrender my dream of family.
It has been used for homework by two generations and survived an unfortunate homework accident long ago.  Every time I change the tablecloth, I run my hand over the scar and smile at the memory.  
My grandsons use it in their play, hiding underneath it by lying on the chairs or pretending it is a cave. They help me set the table and hunt throughout the house to find extra chairs. I love that the chairs don’t match.
It has served many holiday and birthday meals and has witnessed a lot of laughter and heartwarming conversation. That table embraces my hopes and dreams.
This Christmas, it will sit fifteen people.  Fifteen of my most favorite people. We’ll sit five, elbow to elbow on each long side, and two at each end.  The baby will be in his new high chair, banging on the tray with a spoon or a rattle.
Four others will be too far away to join us, and one will be in heaven watching down, but if they were here, we would just put the kitchen trestle table to use.  It can sit another eight.  The more family, the merrier.   All are welcome at my dining table. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hit and Run, Misdemeanor



I live off a state highway, not on some meandering country road but on a busy five-lane free-for-all. Six days a week, paper thin econo cars play chicken with semi trucks carrying full capacity loads.  Commuters late for work and hot doggers in their show room, cowboy trucks barrel by, unaffected by the rules of courtesy or the laws of the state of Texas.
HoneyBunch says it wasn’t always like this.  When he first bought this property back in the 80’s, he could count the total traffic that passed in one day on both hands.  To see the traffic slow like that nowadays, I’d have to get up around 3:00 AM on a Sunday morning.
We witness several speeding tickets a day, one fatality a week, and two Hit and Run, Misdemeanors a year.  Luckily, those hit and runs only take out mailboxes.  Drivers will veer off the road or lose control of their vehicles and our mailboxes end up in the property next door.  All we will find the next morning are a bent post (or what’s left of it), tire marks, and our mailboxes and their contents socializing with cornstalks or cotton plants. The perps who caused the mess never stick around.
Because of all this, I am extremely careful when retrieving the daily mail.  I stay off the shoulder and wait in the grass along our property line until I see my chance, then I sprint out like a pit crew mechanic at the Indy 500.  There’s always some clown in a truck who finds it funny to honk at me as I hurry to get back onto safety.
I was coming home one evening at dusk and had to turn across the traffic onto my drive.  I was in the middle turning lane waiting for the thick flow of cars and trucks to thin out, when a young man in a white truck grew impatient.  He decided to pass everyone and charged up the middle lane towards me. Instead of stopping and merging back onto his side of the road when he saw me, he sped up.  He was bound and determined to pass everyone up, no matter the cost.
I braced myself for the high speed head-on collision.  The traffic slowed, horrified at what they were about to witness.  The punk took advantage of this and veered back on to his side of the road, barely missing the front left corner of my Jeep’s hood.  My car rocked from the gale force he created.
We were all so close, the two drivers in the front cars in the two lanes (a woman and a man), the young hoodlum, and I, that we saw each other clearly.  Except for the smirk on the hotshot’s face, we all looked like characters in an Edward Munch painting, our eyes bugged out and our mouths dropped open.
The traffic moved on, but it took me a while to find the strength to tootle up my drive.  I hope that young man got to his destination with time to spare because he took several years off my life that day.
Yup, I live on a state highway.  It was once a meandering, peaceful country road.  It now resembles the streets of Le Mans during racing season. Like everything else in our lives, we are all in one big hurry to get somewhere. No time to slow down; no time to stop and render aid.