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Showing posts from July, 2013

Embarrassing Moments

I thought it would be a good idea to give my middle school students a prompt that would force them to use descriptive techniques.  First, we discussed what devices they might use, and they suggested the usual – the figures of speech often mentioned in their grammar books – simile, metaphor, and personification.  Another group of kids suggested incorporating the senses:  sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch.  We were on a roll. I urged them to think of more ideas that would help them “show not tell,” and after some consideration, one child offered selecting the most appropriate point of view, and we discussed how stories change when told from third person or first person POV.  It was only then that I gave them their prompt – they were to write about their most embarrassing moment.  We brainstormed a few ideas, and they giggled at some of mine. I gave them a timeline for this writing project and what components they needed to include for grades, and they set off to work. They

The Death of a Child

I lost a grandson a year ago.  His death was caused by a freak household accident that claimed his life within hours.  No one had time to do more than react and pray for the best. For once in my life I had no words of wisdom for my daughter, no remedy or solution that would make everything better.  I stood by while she heard the words no parent ever wants to hear – her child, her baby, was not responding to everything the trauma medical team was  frantically trying.  Her twenty-two-month-old child was dying. One moment her fearless little boy was bombing around the house playing and climbing on furniture, the next he was injured and quiet. What should have been a boo-boo made better with mommy kisses, ended up a fatality. I try not to relive the horror of that night, but sometimes I struggle to sleep.  I wait until my eyes close from exhaustion and I wake a few hours later with a start.  Sadness and fear chase me in my dreams. I do not dare imagine what goes through my dau

A Shy, Silent Boy

The principal’s secretary interrupted my class and said she would cover my students, but I was needed immediately at the front desk.  Several folks pretended urgent business in the open foyer and watched while a uniformed officer handed me a court summons. I was needed to testify as a character witness in a child custody case concerning the little brother of an ex-student.  I faintly remembered the young man. He had been in my remedial reading class several years previous.  He preferred to read all my Choose Your Own Adventure books than hang out with his friends in the play yard before school.  We talked about the books he liked, and I would purchase as many as I could find of that genre. He would tell me about them and I listened but I never read them myself.  I didn’t find them interesting. His reading level improved that year and as expected so did his grades and his attitude. His other teachers noticed a positive change in him, but when he graduated to the high school, I

Aging Sucks, Revised

I have removed all reflective surfaces in my house, drawn the shades against the sunlight, and use only low-wattage bulbs.  I buy skin lotions by the vat and refuse to go outside during peak ultraviolet hours. I wear only loose, dark-colored clothes, long sleeves (even in summer), and high necklines.  I foster a symbiotic relationship with my internist and dentist, consulting in secret over intimate and, heretofore, chaste body parts that have stopped aging and are starting to erode. I have a love-hate relationship with elastic. I love how it makes clothes easier to slip on and off, but hate that I no longer have any of my own - everything sags and nothing perks.  I am a Boomer and I am aging, and like Dylan Thomas once advised, I am not going gently into this phase of my life.   My lenses are getting thicker along with my waist and behind. My skin is thinning along with my hair and temper. My once sexy voice has slowed to a slower RPM and there is distinct catch in my cadence.  Ins

Learning to Write in Five Easy Steps

1.      Read.  Read something you enjoy, but be aware why you like it and use that to teach yourself.  Never plagiarize, but analyze, study, and try your hand at a mentor sentence. Copy it onto paper, dissect it, and use its structure to form your own creation. 2.     Finish a project all the way through to its finished manuscript form. Have someone read it, but ask them specific things to look for – Where is it difficult to understand? Where was the pacing slow?  What would you edit out?  What would you have added? Listen carefully to their suggestions and consider them while your revise and edit for one last time. 3.     Learn the business.  Unless you are writing to store all your work in the top drawer of your dresser, or to bore relatives with private readings at Thanksgiving, you will need to learn where to market your work.  You will need to learn how to market your work. What editors or agents would represent you the best? Who publishes your genre?  How do you gain

An Old Friend

The Jeep Liberty had six miles on the odometer when I drove it out of the car lot. Twelve years, three batteries, and two sets of tires later, it might be time to move on. I’ve taken good care of her, had her oil changed every three thousand miles, her wiper blades twice a year, but I’ve had to replace all four of the motors on the automatic windows and the back door no longer cooperates like it used to do.   The radio died last month, and the air conditioner and the heater work only on high.  The inside lights come on when they want to, the air bag light never turns off (one of the many recalls this car has been subjected to that the company no longer bothers to honor), and every once in a while that little Aladdin’s lamp on my dash board turns on, but I’ve had that checked and nothing is wrong. There are two pronounced chinks on the front windshield that I had fixed, but the red bomber has weathered many hail storms so if you look at the windshield from a certain angle

A Marine Mom’s Fourth of July

I wrote the following on April 10, 2003.   Back then I used to write a weekly column for a local newspaper. I cut it down a little so I could share it with you for the Fourth of July 2013. The price of freedom is never free.     After three months of sporadic emails, almost non-existent phone calls, and sparse letters, I came home the other day to find a package in my mailbox from my Marine son fighting in Iraq.  I was stunned and delighted to find a padded brown envelope addressed to me.  Inside wrapped in a Ziploc freezer bag, I found a foreign-made throwaway camera, dusty with sand.  The bag was opaque and brittle from use.  Everything I send to him I wrap in these bags.  His life is so Spartan that I am glad he finds uses for them. I sped with the camera to have the photos developed and waited there until the tech handed them to me.  I opened them immediately. Pictures of helicopters, sand, and Hummers - then I flipped to a picture of my son holding an M-60, and it

I love You, Nora Roberts!

Years ago (we’re talking early 80’s), a friend of mine handed me a paperback.  It reminded me of you, she said.  I was flattered until I started reading the story.  The main character was a single mom with more children than money.  I had three kids and I was married (though my husband wasn’t, but that’s another story), so I was curious about the connection my friend saw between the book and me. I returned the book to my friend the following Monday and asked her what she meant. The main character did remind me of you, she said, but you could write like that.  You could be a writer. I was shocked.  Oh, I dabbled in diaries and journals when I was a preteen.  I wrote a few poems in high school and college – over rhymed diatribes riddled in love-angst melodrama, but no one (including me) had ever "seen" me as a writer. I decided to study Nora’s budding career. I became her number one fan.  (We’re talking an Annie Wilkes kind of obsession.)  I bought every one of h