Saturday, October 23, 2010

Writing Sisters

I have been a member of the New Jersey chapter of the Romance Writers of America since 1988 and I have been to every one of their conferences. There are plenty of workshops offered along with editor and agent appointments, but the best part of the conference is the camaraderie with other authors as well as future authors. They are my writing sisters--they understand what it takes to write a book.

What we all need are more people who will read our books. There's a lot of good stuff between the covers. :^)

Reading will improve your vocabulary, make you smarter AND more interesting.

When was the last time YOU picked up a book and read it? Turn off the television and the internet, sit down, open a book, and savor the words.

You don't have to read the whole thing tonight. Just a chapter. It won't take long. Tomorrow night you can read another chapter.

See what we writers do. We work with words. Using them we can make pictures in your head. It's magic. (Well--sort of.)

So please buy a book today, or borrow one from the library. Your brain will be glad you did.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Heroines Are Not Me

I have an imagination and I am capable of making up stories. The books I write are fiction--that means they are not true. There are disclaimers at the beginning of each book that attest to the fact that any resemblance of the characters in my books to actual people is coincidence.

My heroines do not lead boring lives. They are caught up in life-threatening dramas. They are young, beautiful, and can eat lots of salty food because they do not have high-blood pressure--yet.

My heroines are not me.

Yes, I write the stories. My attitudes and opinions are there on the pages if anyone is seriously looking for them.

The truth is that I was a wallflower when I was young. Eventually, I left some of my shy nature behind when I grew up, but I was not and have never been a professional chef, scientist, policewoman, park ranger, journalist, farmer, or secretary.

I simply have a vivid imagination. Maybe it's because I've read too many books. Maybe it's because my parents were creative. Maybe it's because I grew up in an era where we didn't have any electronic games and we had to amuse ourselves. Maybe it's because I don't watch television.

Anyhow, it's great fun. It would be wonderful to be young and blond with curly hair, but I can do without the life-threatening drama. I give my heroines such a tough time!

Friday, October 08, 2010

An Old Idea of Recycling Recycled

Back in the old days, when I was young, nothing went to waste. Thread used to come wrapped on wooden spools, but when the thread was used up we would put nails in the wooden spool, wrap yarn around the nails and use an old crochet hook to lift the loops over the nails so we could make horse reins. Never mind that no kid in Cliffwood Beach owned a horse. The activity kept us amused for hours. From that exercise, I developed a fondness for crocheting, but never for knitting. You can find more information on knitting spools here.

Years later, when my own children were young, I found a wooden spool, tapped some nails into it and showed my daughters how to make long knitted reins. Daughter #1 actually saved the knitting spool I made for her which is the one you see above.

Recently, I was cruising around Jo-Ann Fabric with hubby who was looking for a particular glitter paint to match his latest green accordion. On a rack I saw what appeared to be a giant knitting spool made of plastic. According to the instructions on the package, this giant knitting spool could be used to make a hat.


Since it was almost Daughter #1's birthday, I bought the gadget. Daughter #1 opened it on her birthday and began making a hat immediately. Within days, it was finished. Perhaps Daughter #1 can make everyone a hat for Christmas. :^)

It never ceases to amaze me how some old ideas can be transformed into something new and improved. Of course, I want to make a hat, too.

Friday, October 01, 2010

What Have You Memorized?

I finished reading Two Years Before the Mast. While I’m still not sure about which sail is which, I found the book to be a fascinating history. One of the passages that has stuck in my mind is the one where Richard Henry Dana, Jr. reveals how he kept himself awake and alert on the night watch by reciting from memory an incredible array of facts as well as pieces of literature.

Here is the quote from the book.

I commenced a deliberate system of time-killing, which united some profit with a cheering up of the heavy hours. As soon as I came on deck, and took my place and regular walk, I began with repeating over to myself a string of matters which I had in my memory, in regular order. First, the multiplication table and the tables of weights and measures; then the states of the union, with their capitals; the counties of England, with their shire towns; the kings of England in their order; and a large part of the peerage, which I committed from an almanac that we had on board; and then the Kanaka numerals. This carried me through my facts, and, being repeated deliberately, with long intervals, often eked out the two first bells. Then came the ten commandments; the thirty-ninth chapter of Job, and a few other passages from Scripture. The next in the order, that I never varied from, came Cowper’s Castaway, which was a great favorite with me; the solemn measure and gloomy character of which, as well as the incident that it was founded upon, made it well suited to a lonely watch at sea. Then his lines to Mary, his address to the jackdaw, and a short extract from Table Talk; (I abounded in Cowper, for I happened to have a volume of his poems in my chest;) “Ille et nefasto” from Horace, and GÅ“the’s Erl King. After I had got through these, I allowed myself a more general range among everything that I could remember, both in prose and verse. In this way, with an occasional break by relieving the wheel, heaving the log, and going to the scuttle-butt for a drink of water, the longest watch was passed away; and I was so regular in my silent recitations, that if there was no interruption by ship’s duty, I could tell very nearly the number of bells by my progress.

I know I could not do that. I could rattle off the times tables, the Ten Commandments, and hopefully most of the states and their capitals. I had a knack for memorizing facts when I was young. I did very well in recalling word-for-word the Baltimore Catechism. The nuns figured that out quickly enough and seldom called on me when I raised my hand. While I cannot toss back the answers to all the catechism questions anymore, I have retained most of the basic knowledge of the Church—probably because I still belong to it.

When I got to high school I had no problem in memorizing the periodic table. However, I promptly forgot it once I no longer needed it.

Obviously, back in the old days, people relied on memorization far more than we do today. Socrates believed that people would stop memorizing once they started to write things down.

Today with the internet at our fingertips, we never have to memorize anything. Just type it into Google and you’ve got the information you need instantly.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to think about what I would do if I had to keep myself alert on a night watch, I would probably recite my Rosary—but that wouldn’t take up too much time. I could sing a lot of songs and hymns as well as recite a few short bits of Scripture. There are a few poems I have loved and remember. Having spent much of my career teaching little children, I have committed an inordinate amount of children's books to memory. I suppose I could go through the times tables, the Ten Commandments, and every state with its capital city.

But what else?

What do you have in your memory that would keep you awake and alert on a long night watch?